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Underdogs steal thunder in Sweet 16

Kansas State guard Kamau Stokes and teammates celebrate after defeating Kentucky, 61-58, early Friday in Atlanta. (AP)

Kansas State guard Kamau Stokes and teammates celebrate after defeating Kentucky, 61-58, early Friday in Atlanta. (AP)

This Sweet 16 is picking up right where its zany lead-in left off. Two No. 9 seeds and an 11 are in the Elite Eight, and at least one of those underdogs will reach the Final Four.

Fitting for this NCAA Tournament that’s cranked up the unpredictability of March Madness to never-before-seen levels.

Barry Brown’s tiebreaking layup with 19 seconds remaining helped No. 9 seed Kansas State beat No. 5 seed Kentucky, 61-58, in the South Region semifinal in Atlanta on Thursday night.

No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago toppled comeback artists Nevada with yet another player stepping up to snatch a win in the final moments.

And Terance Mann scored 18 points to help No. 9 seed Florida State upset fourth-seeded Gonzaga, 75-60, guaranteeing that the Final Four will have a completely different look from last year.

In the only game won by a favorite, third-seeded Michigan rolled past No. 7 seed Texas A&M, 99-72.

NCAA officials say only two 9s had ever advanced to the regional finals before this tournament. And Kansas State goes in as a bracket favorite against Loyola in the topsy-turvy South, which again bounced its two highest remaining seeds.

In Las Vegas sports books, however, Kansas State and Loyola opened as a straight pick – no favorite, and neither being labeled the underdog anymore in a game for a Final Four berth.

Florida State’s upset run in the NCAA Tournament has stretched all the way to the brink of the Final Four.

Terance Mann scored 18 points and the ninth-seeded Seminoles advanced to the Elite Eight for just the third time in school history with a 75-60 victory over fourth-seeded Gonzaga on Thursday night in the West Region semifinal.

C.J. Walker and Braian Angola added nine points for the Seminoles (23-11), who knocked their third straight higher-seeded opponent in a stunning run out West for a team that went 9-9 in ACC play and lost its conference tournament opener.

Coolly maintaining a lead down the stretch at Staples Center, Florida State ended Gonzaga’s 16-game winning streak and halted the pursuit of a second straight Final Four berth for last year’s tournament finalists.

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