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No. 4 seed Gonzaga was among the favorites to emerge out of the West Region after No. 1 seed Xavier and 2 seed North Carolina bowed out in the first weekend. However, the Bulldogs' season came to an abrupt end on Thursday as No. 9 seed Florida State handily defeated them 75-60 in the Sweet 16.

So in fitting March Madness fashion, the Elite Eight field has been half-filled through Thursday as follows: No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago, No. 9 seed Kansas State, No. 9 seed Florida State and No. 3 seed Michigan. If you were filling out a bracket the opposite of expected outcomes, you may not come up with a more Cinderella-laden field.

Let's dig into the madness from Thursday and peak ahead to Friday's games with the eight things you need to know:

1. Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean are a Cinderella-in-waiting

Loyola-Chicago and its famous nun mascot, Sister Jean, captivated the hearts of college basketball fans across America this week. But it was Loyola's potent offense that pulled them to within one game of a Final Four appearance.

The Rambler's shot an unthinkable 56 percent from the floor in dispatching the Nevada Wolf Pack by a slim 69-68 margin, thanks in large part to hitting 16-of-22 of their layups,. They scored 34 of their points inside the paint and the Pack had no answers for their run-gun-and-share offense. 

"It comes from spending so much time together in the offseason," coach Porter Moser told CBS Sports after the game. "Grinding together, whether it's conditioning or boot camp. We're a close group. Our culture, our locker room has been great from the beginning. They're unselfish, they share the ball and they believe. It's sincere."

2. Michigan's turned a corner

Michigan's offense opted to play hide-and-seek -- more hide than seek -- during its first- and second-round games.

The Wolverines' offensive woes nearly paved the way for an early exit, too, if not for a Jordan Poole 3-pointer at the buzzer in the second round. However that was quite the opposite on Thursday, as Michigan put up 99 points and hit 14 of 24 from the 3-point line in a 27 point blowout of No. 7 seed Texas A&M. The Wolverines are rounding into form of where they were before the Big Dance, and Mo Wagner's again looking like the player who can drag John Beilein's squad to San Antonio.

3. Kentucky blows a golden opportunity

With the Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds in the South Regional bowing out in the first weekend of the tournament, No. 5 seed Kentucky had its Final Four road paved with promise. The path would be No. 9 seed Kansas State and the winner of No. 11 Loyola and No. 7 Nevada. But ... Kentucky might have consumed whatever poison Calipari cautioned they not digest.

The Wildcats blew their golden ticket Thursday by falling 61-58 to No. 9 seed Kansas State in Atlanta -- a place affectionately referred to as "Cat-lanta" for how Big Blue Nation travels -- sending home a talent-rich team full of promise but unable to maintain a level of consistency in the tourney, just as it was in the regular season.

This team was never Final Four good. At least not consistently. And now in the South, we've got Loyola and Kansas State -- a first-ever No. 9 vs. No. 11 matchup in NCAA Tournament history.

4. Florida State keeps winning

By no metric or eye test would anyone -- other than die-hard Seminoles fans -- peg Florida State as a Final Four contender coming into the NCAA Tournament. They were erratic, inconsistent and unimpressive. But the 'Noles keep finding ways to win in the Tournament, and perhaps their best win of the postseason, a 75-60 defeat of No. 4 seed Gonzaga on Thursday, is a signal that this team is absolutely not a fluke.

The absence of Killian Tillie for Gonzaga loomed large, but FSU took it to the Bulldogs, trailing only 4 minutes and 22 seconds in a near-flawless victory that catapults them into a pivotal Elite Eight showdown with No. 3 seed Michigan.

And finally, the Final Four things to know: Friday's key matchups

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Clemson (7:07 p.m. ET): Kansas has looked plenty mortal this postseason, yet the Jayhawks have a Big 12 Tournament title to their name, and are two wins from a Final Four appearance. Whether that comes to fruition or not may depend on the health of Udoka Azubuike, who has been gimpy in the Big Dance. Clemson's frontcourt should give them a good run.

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 West Virginia (7:27 p.m. ET): Villanova hasn't yet been tested in the NCAA Tournament, as both opening weekend games were decided by 23 or more points. The same goes for its next opponent, West Virginia, which has won by at least 17 in each of its NCAA Tournament games thus far. West Virginia's on-ball pressure and in-your-face defense versus Villanova's veteran-laden backcourt will make this the game of the evening on Friday.

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 11 Syracuse (9:37 p.m. ET): Duke flexed its muscles in the opening weekend by putting the rout on not only No. 15 seed Iona, but also No. 7 seed Rhode Island. Up next is a showdown with No. 11 seed Syracuse and a zone defense that has given the likes of Michigan State, TCU and Arizona State fits in previous days.

No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (9:57 p.m. ET): Big man Isaac Haas isn't expected to play for Purdue on Friday despite a newly-made brace to protect his fractured elbow, but the Boilermakers still have plenty of weapons to take home a W against a talented Texas Tech team. Expect a heavy dosage of Vincent Edwards in this one for Purdue, and an even heavier dosage of Keenan Evans for Texas Tech. The star power in this game will be phenomenal.