We should have known when UMBC beat Virginia in the first round that this side of the bracket would end up the way it has: with madness reigning supreme. No matter what happens Saturday, at least one team seeded No. 9 or lower will advance to the Final Four.
This qualifies as the most improbable Elite Eight matchup ever: the first No. 9 versus No. 11 Elite Eight game in NCAA tournament history. Though not many expected Kansas State to be here, virtually nobody picked Loyola-Chicago -- not even Sister Jean. Her bracket is busted (and so is yours), but who cares? Loyola-Chicago has become the story in the NCAA tournament. Kansas State could end up beating the two biggest Cinderella teams in this year's field. The Wildcats took down UMBC in the second round.
If Loyola-Chicago wins, it will be because: God is on their side. Kidding, kidding. But it does feel as if there has been some divine intervention here. The Ramblers have needed near miracles to win all three of their NCAA tournament games, starting with a buzzer-beater to take down Miami in the first round. Their three wins have been decided by a combined four points. But this is a veteran team that does play solid defense and is terrific with 3s, hitting nearly 40 percent this season. If it wins, it will be because its D and outside shooters come through again.
If Loyola-Chicago loses, it will be because: It has a hard time against the Kansas State defense. The Wildcats have been suffocating throughout the tournament and did it again in the Sweet 16 against Kentucky. Kansas State scored 24 points off 15 Kentucky turnovers, and that was one of the biggest differences in the game.
If Kansas State wins, it will be because: The defense cited above. Think about how remarkable that win against Kentucky truly was. Kansas State had three players foul out yet still found a way to win. That's because it held Kentucky to 58 points on 38 percent shooting -- including 25 percent from the 3-point line. In three NCAA tournament games, no Kansas State opponent has scored more than 60 points.
If Kansas State loses, it will be because: It can't get much going on offense. The Wildcats haven't been lighting up the scoreboard in the tournament and are now playing a team that is giving up only 62.4 points per game. If Barry Brown Jr. and Xavier Sneed can't get going, it could be a long day for Kansas State.
Florida State and Michigan played their most impressive games in the tournament in the Sweet 16 -- and that includes Florida State's win over No. 1 Xavier to get to this point. After looking shaky in the first two rounds, it felt as if Michigan couldn't miss from 3 in its blowout win over Texas A&M.
Meanwhile, Florida State used its athleticism and depth to overwhelm Gonzaga. Though the Seminoles are playing terrific basketball right now, it hasn't escaped the attention of Michigan fans that they could end up playing a No. 9 or No. 11 seed in the Elite Eight and Final Four to secure a spot in the championship round. Of course, that's the same type of thinking Kentucky fans had against Kansas State, and look where that got the Wildcats.
If Michigan wins, it will be because: It continues on its 3-point tear and rebounds well. In the win over Texas A&M, eight players made at least one 3-pointer, setting an NCAA single-game record, and the Wolverines had the most efficient offense of any team in the NCAA tournament up to that point. Not only that, Michigan had 21 assists -- suggesting again that its offense was humming.
If Michigan loses, it will be because: It has a hard time against Florida State's athleticism and length. Michigan had a hard time against Houston in the second round, in part because it's difficult to contain the frenetic and athletic Cougars. Florida State is not only athletic, it's long and gets contributions from a variety of players. That could be a combination that's difficult to slow down.
If Florida State wins, it will be because: Florida State is in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1993, thanks in large part to its depth, defense and balance. In the decisive win over Gonzaga, the Seminoles' bench outscored the Zags 30-6. But it has been that way all tournament -- the bench has accounted for 53 percent of their total points. The defense came through in that game, too, contesting all 26 Gonzaga layup attempts.
If Florida State loses, it will be because: Florida State hasn't been great this season defending the 3, and that could really hurt the Seminoles against a Michigan team that has found its shooting touch from long range. If Florida State's renewed defensive effort and intensity falters and resembles what it looked like before the tournament began, it's bad news for the Seminoles.