After Sunday, the field had shrunk to 16 — leaving surviving participants overjoyed .
The 2003 tournament saw all the top seeds advance to the next round without breaking a sweat. But many second-seeded and mid-ranked teams either stumbled into their regional semifinals or fell short.
The first two rounds saw a few games go to overtime, but there weren't any true "Cinderellas" this year to advance to the round of 16. However, Butler is this year's tournament darling. The 12th-seeded Bulldogs advanced to a regional semifinal for the first time in school history with a 79-71 stunner over Rick Pitino's fourth-seeded Louisville on Sunday.
And, many thought Auburn shouldn't have made the NCAA tournament. Look at the 10th-seeded now. They stunned second-seeded Wake Forest 68-62 in the East regional to advance to the round of 16 for the second time in five seasons under coach Cliff Ellis. Auburn also made the regional semifinals under Ellis in 1999.
The tournament also saw the Big East make a strong statement. Only four teams qualified to play in this year's tournament and all of them are going to their regional semi-finals.
The Big 12 will send three teams (Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas) to the round of 16.
In the next round, a match-up of perennial powerhouses and coaching greats will be exciting to see. Roy Williams and No. 2 Kansas take on Mike Krzyzewski and No. 3 seed Duke in the West Regional semifinals Thursday night at Anaheim, Calif.
The No. 5 seed Notre Dame will face No. 1 seed Arizona in the round of 16 out West. This could be a wide-open, high-scoring game, and the fifth-seeded Fighting Irish have the 3-point shooters to keep up in Matt Carroll, Dan Miller and Chris Thomas.
Here is a recap of Sunday's second round games:
The No. 1 seed Kentucky continued their dominance over opponents with a 74-54 destruction of No. 9 Utah in Nashville.
Kentucky has been unbeatable the last three months and stretched its winning streak to 25 games. The Wildcats will face No. 5 Wisconsin in the Midwest region's semi-finals. It will be Kentucky's 18th appearance in the Sweet 16.
Defending champion Maryland will be making a return trip to the Sweet 16. In Nashville, Tenn., the No. 6 seed Maryland defeated No. 3 Xavier in the South bracket.
Maryland jumped ahead of Xavier right from the start. The Terrapins shut down David West early and beat the Musketeers to reach the round of 16 for the third straight year. They will face No. 7 seed Michigan State in the South region's semifinals.
The other No. 1 seed of the tournament, the Texas Longhorns, advances to the Sweet 16 as they beat No. 9 seed Purdue in the closing minutes of a game that ended with a score of 77-67 in Birmingham, Ala.
Considered by some to be the best guard in college basketball, T.J. Ford scored 21 points and added nine rebounds and eight assists for the Longhorns.
Texas will play in San Antonio in the South bracket against an impressive performing No. 5 seed Connecticut.
For Rick Pitino, his trip to the NCAA men's basketball tournament ended faster then he wanted.
His No. 4 seed Louisville was defeated by No. 12 seed Butler 71-79 in the East region's second round stunner because the Cardinal's trapping defense was unable to help them in the loss.
Butler's Darnell Archey's brilliant shooting and Brandon Miller's deft ball-handling pushed the tiny Indiana school to the next round where they'll play Oklahoma in Albany, N.Y.
As the other Indiana team, the Hoosiers dream of a 2003 men's basketball championship came to an end Sunday in a Boston beating.
The No. 2 seed Pittsburgh Panthers defeated No. 7 seed Indiana 74-52 in the Midwest region to advance to the NCAA men's basketball tournament Sweet 16.
Pittsburgh is in the NCAA's round of 16 for the second straight year.
The Panthers scored the last nine points of the first half to break open a tight game on their way to a victory. Jaron Brown scored 20 points for Pittsburgh and Brandin Knight added 17 points, seven assists and five steals. Tom Coverdale had 23 for the Hoosiers.
Last season, the Hoosiers entered the NCAA tournament seeded fifth and made a surprising run to the championship game, where they lost to Maryland. Unfortunately for Indiana, the magic couldn't be duplicated this year.
The No. 3 Syracuse advances as one of the 16 teams in the next round of the tournament. Syracuse beat No. 6 Oklahoma State, 68-56, and will face Auburn in the next round.
Syracuse will be joined by three other teams from the Big East — Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Notre Dame. So far, the Big East is 8-0 in the tournament.
The No. 7 seed Michigan State earned the right to take a trip to San Antionio to play Maryland in the NCAA's South bracket's semifinal. Michigan State defeated No. 2 Florida 68-46.
Freshman guard Maurice Ager scored 16 points to help the Spartans win in a rematch of the 2000 title game, also a Michigan State victory.
The No. 10 seed Auburn beat No. 2 seed Wake Forest in the East regional second round game.
Feeding off their underdog status one more time, Auburn was the team that many felt shouldn't have been invited to the tourney, the Tigers stunned Wake Forest for a place in the Sweet 16.
Marquis Daniels led the way, returning from a five-minute spell on the bench in foul trouble to score seven of his 18 points in the final four minutes. Reserve Lewis Monroe scored Auburn's last four points from the foul line to finish with 12.
Auburn will play Syracuse in Albany for the next round.