Fifth-seeded Butler is one victory away from reaching the Final Four, to be played back home in Indianapolis, but must go through a Kansas State team that needed 10 extra minutes and every ounce of grit to fend off Xavier.
On the other side of the bracket in the East Regional, top-seeded Kentucky rode its defense to an easy win over Ivy League upstart Cornell, and now gets a matchup against Big East tournament champion West Virginia in a game that most bracketologists have been predicting since the possibility arose on Selection Sunday.
The other two regional finals will be set Friday night.
The University of Ali Farokhmanesh - you know, those plucky kids from Northern Iowa - will take on fifth-seeded Michigan State in St. Louis, where the winner will face Evan Turner and Ohio State or a Tennessee team that has had an awfully rocky season on Rocky Top.
The other regional semifinals come from Houston. No. 1 seed Duke takes on Robbie Hummel-less Purdue, a team that nobody gave a shot to beat Siena in the opening round, much less reach the round of eight. The winner of that game will face third-seeded Baylor, which knows a thing or two about redemption, or tiny Saint Mary's and big man Omar Samhan.
Take a breather for the next 18 hours or so, then get that clicker finger limbered up and the recliner seat warm. The madness is only beginning. ---
Jacob Pullen came up a big for Kansas State, time after time.
He hit six 3-pointers, including a couple of clutch shots in both overtimes, and his two free throws with 25 seconds left helped lift the Wildcats to a thrilling 101-96 victory over sixth-seeded Xavier and into the West Regional finals.
The No. 2 seed Wildcats will play fifth-seeded Butler, which stunned No. 1 seed Syracuse earlier in the night, for the right to play in its first Final Four since 1964.
Pullen finished with 28 points for the Wildcats, while backcourt mate Denis Clemente scored 25 - including two free throws with 11.6 seconds left in the second overtime that finally put the game out of reach.
Jordan Crawford finished with 32 points to lead Xavier, and hit shot after shot in the final 15 minutes to keep the game close. It was his 3-pointer at the end of the first overtime that sent the game to a second 5-minute session.
Terrell Holloway also came up big for the Musketeers, hitting three foul shots in the closing seconds of regulation to force OT. He finished with four 3-pointers and 26 points. ---
Jason Love hit one of two foul shots to knot the game 94-all, and Kansas State elected to work for a good shot rather than rush it for a two-for-one possession.
Did they ever get a good look.
Jacob Pullen came off a screen and charged up the lane, squaring at the top of the key and letting go yet another 3-pointer that hit nothing but nylon.
Terrell Holloway was fouled at the other end and, as is his custom, he calmly made both of the free throws to get Xavier within one with 25.1 seconds left. The Musketeers will still be forced to foul after the timeout, and the charity stripe hasn't been all that charitable for the Wildcats - they've missed several opportunities to put this game in the books. ---
Dante Jackson caught everybody napping, with a quick inbounds pass to Jordan Crawford, whose short kiss off the glass gave Xavier a 93-91 lead.
It didn't last long.
Jacob Pullen came screaming off a screen and knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Wildcats the lead with just over a minute to go. Pullen has 23 points to match teammate Denis Clemente, while Curtis Kelly has 21 for the Wildcats.
Crawford has 32 points, and Terrell Holloway has 24 for Xavier. ---
Kentucky is known for its explosiveness on offense.
It used defense to reach the round of eight.
John Wall and the Wildcats' bumper crop of freshmen played like seasoned veterans, shutting down Cornell in a 62-45 regional semifinal victory. Kentucky will play West Virginia in a marquee matchup that just about everybody expected, with a bid to the Final Four on the line.
Cornell was one of the darlings of the opening weekend, but the big blue monster of Kentucky made sure to trample the Big Red's glass slipper. With frustrating man-to-man defense and freakish athleticism that prevented Cornell from getting off a shot, the Big Red managed one of its least productive offensive performances of the season.
Kentucky fell behind early, then used a huge run to take a big halftime lead, before the plucky Ivy League school bounced back to get the lead to single digits in the second half. But coach John Calipari's crew proved to be simply too much, rebuilding the lead down the stretch.
Bring on the Mountaineers. ---
Jordan Crawford gave Xavier the lead in double overtime, but Kansas State big man Curtis Kelly came back and answered with a jumper. Terrell Holloway appears to finally be losing his touch from 3, and the miss set up a putback jam by Kelly for the two-point lead.
Kelly appeared to get banged up on the offensive end moments later, leaving the court while holding his right hand. He has 21 points and eight rebounds in a dazzling performance. ---
Kansas State and Xavier might never stop playing.
This time it was the Musketeers' Jordan Crawford who knocked down a 3-pointer from Fresno, with a defender in his face no less, sending the game to overtime knotted at 87-all.
Just like in regulation, after Xavier had made three foul shots to tie it up with 5 seconds left, Kansas State came back the other way and had a chance to win it. But the off-balance jumper by Denis Clemente rattled off the iron before falling harmlessly to the floor.
Time for 5 more minutes. At least. ---
Dominique Sutton has just fouled out with 1:18 left for Kansas State, which came after a missed free throw by Jamar Samuels that would have made it a four-point game. Jordan Crawford, a 77.3-percent free-throw shooter, walked to the line at the other end of the court and knocked down both to make it a one-point game.
A big story in the game has been Kansas State's inability to get to the foul line and trouble making free throws when it gets there, along with Xavier's frequent trips to the stripe and clutch shooting down the stretch.
Samuels was back at the line with 1:01 remaining after a silly foul by Xavier, making both free throws, but Captain Clutch (Holloway) drained another 3 to tie the game.
Jacob Pullen drove to the bucket with 35 seconds left to make it 86-84, and Holloway may have been feeling it a little too much, unloading an ill-advised 3-pointer from the wing that never came close. Chris Merriewether was fouled with 18.1 seconds left. ---
K-State began overtime with four straight free throws, but Terrell Holloway - the guy who hit three foul shots to send the game into an extra session - rattled in a 3-pointer.
Curtis Kelly, a former UConn transfer, answered at the Kansas State end before Holloway drove uncontested to the basket for an easy layup - a microcosm of the back-and-forth nature that the game has assumed for the last 30-plus minutes. ---
Kansas State and Xavier are headed to overtime after a frantic finish.
Jacob Pullen followed a clutch 3-pointer with a pair of foul shots with 9.7 seconds left, and the Wildcats tried to foul with a three-point lead. The referee didn't blow his whistle when Denis Clemente wrapped up Terrell Holloway just across midcourt, instead waiting until Holloway had thrown up a desperation 3-pointer with 5 seconds left.
The foul on the shot gave an 85.2-percent free-throw shooter three gimmes.
Holloway calmly knocked down all three to tie the game, and Pullen raced up court with a chance to hit a game-winner. He got a good look from the wing and let go a 3-pointer, but it clanged off the iron as the buzzer sounded. ---
That's a move you pick up on the playgrounds of Chicago, folks.
With the shot clock winding down in a tie game, under a minute to go, Jacob Pullen pulled up from about 3 feet beyond the arc and knocked down a 3-pointer with a defender right in his face to put Kansas State ahead.
Xavier came right back the other way, without even thinking about calling a timeout, and Terrell Holloway put up a shot that was no good. Jason Love was there for the putback and a timeout was called with K-State on top 70-69 and 15 seconds on the clock. ---
Terrell Holloway's pass to Jordan Crawford in the corner in front of the Musketeers' bench went right between his legs with about 90 seconds left. Denis Clemente missed a deep rainbow 3-pointer and, after Kansas State corralled the loose ball, Jacob Pullen also missed a 3 try.
Crawford got a chance at redemption, but his own 3-point attempt was off. Kansas State has the ball back with 46.5 seconds left in a tie game.
Timeout on the floor. ---
That four-point play by Denis Clemente was only the 10th free throw that Kansas State has shot in the game, while Xavier has gone to the line 20 times.
Kansas State has already lost one player to fouls and has two more with four each, while Xavier also has a player with four fouls. That could be critical down the stretch, especially if this game - which has been close for the last 25 minutes - presses into overtime. ---
Kentucky coach John Calipari is up and pacing, getting a little antsy.
His Wildcats have missed three straight 3-point attempts, and DeMarcus Cousins missed a pair of free throws. Consecutive jumpers in the lane by Chris Wroblewksi and Errick Peck narrowed the Kentucky lead to 38-30 and had the Carrier Dome rocking.
A basket by Cousins has restored the Wildcats' 10-point lead with 7:37 left. ---
Kentucky's freshmen are getting into foul trouble, and Cornell isn't going away.
John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins have picked up their third fouls in the last couple minutes, and the Big Red are back within 38-28 because of a 7-0 run.
Ryan Wittman, a 42.3 percent shooter from beyond the arc, continues to struggle for Cornell. He missed an open 3 that would have rocked the Carrier Dome, and Jon Jaques has just missed another. The Big Red are 3 of 15 from beyond the arc. ---
Viva Denis Clemente!
The gritty guard from Puerto Rico, and the second cousin of baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, converted a four-point play in front of the Kansas State bench to push the Wildcats back on top, 64-61 with 4 minutes left in Salt Lake City.
Clemente is 8 of 19 from the field for a game-high 17 points. He also has five rebounds and has provided a big boost of energy for a team that had been struggling to keep up with the energy put out by the Musketeers. ---
Jordan Crawford missed his first four 3-pointers, but the Xavier star keeps shooting. He finally knocked one down to get his team within 58-57.
At the other end of the court, freshman Wally Judge became the first player to foul out, picking up his fifth with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game. Chances are he won't be the only player that leaves this one early. Lots of guys for both teams are in foul trouble.
Andrew Taylor made two foul shots, and Xavier is back on top. ---
Kansas State has been keeping the lead at six or seven, while Xavier has seemingly answered every basket with one of its own. The Wildcats still lead 56-49 while trying to avoid another upset in what has become the wild, wild West Regional.
Kentucky has only one basket more than 4 minutes into the second half, and a layup and a follow by Cornell's Louis Dale has the Carrier Dome crowd chanting "Go Big Red!"
Kentucky still leads 34-20 with 15:41 left, but Cornell is doing its best to try to trim the lead back to single digits and make a game of it. ---
Xavier is doing an excellent job of getting to the free throw line, even if it is just 12 of 17 once it gets there. That's been a key to the game because Kansas State leads the nation in free throws (20) and free-throw attempts (30) per game.
The Wildcats had made just 2 of 5 freebies through the first 30 minutes.
Dominique Sutton and Wally Judge both have four fouls for Kansas State, and Jacob Pullen and Jamar Samuels have three each. Xavier isn't immune to foul worries, though. Dante Jackson also has four, and Jamel McLean and Jason Love have three each. ---
Well, bad news for Kentucky fans. CBS has bagged its coverage for now in most regions in favor of the much closer Xavier-Kansas State game.
That might be good news for Cornell fans.
Denis Clemente just hit a 3-pointer and has 15 for the game, giving Kansas State a 49-44 lead with under 12 minutes to go. Brad Redford responded with one for Xavier, but Jamar Samuels converted an and-one inside to keep the lead at five. ---
Nobody's guarding the guards in Salt Lake City!
The Xavier backcourt duo of Terrell Holloway and Jordan Crawford have combined for 23 points, the only two Musketeers in double-figures. Ditto for the backcourt mates of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente for Kansas State, who have combined for 25 points.
Neither pair is shooting that well, but they sure are shooting a lot.
Kansas State has led by as many as 15, but Xavier led at the halftime and is staying right there in the second half. The Wildcats lead 44-43 with 13 minutes left. ---
The halftime box tells the tale for Cornell.
The Big Red have 12 turnovers, which puts them on pace to match their season high of 25 set against Harvard in January - when they won by 36.
Kentucky is no Harvard.
The Wildcats have 17 points off those turnovers, have outscored Cornell 24-6 in the paint and 13-0 on the fast break. Oh, and they're dominating the boards 32-16, with a 6-1 lead on the offensive glass. Point guard John Wall has four points, five assists, two turnovers and one of Kentucky's nine steals.
Cornell may be the Big Red, but right now Kentucky is the Blue Monster