Sixty-four teams started on the road to the NCAA Final Four and all but North Carolina, Utah, Kentucky and Stanford have been reduced to the role of spectators for tonight's semifinals at the Alamodome.
The Tar Heels carry a 34-3 record into a tussle with the Utes (29-3). The opening game sees the Wildcats (33-4) tangle with the Cardinal (30-4).
It has been 32 years since Utah reached the Final Four while North Carolina has made a habit of reaching the NCAA's version of the promised land. The Heels lost in last year's semifinals to eventual champion Arizona, 66-58.
Ironically, Utah defeated Arizona last week in the West Regional final by using a triangle-and-two defense to offset the strong perimeter presence of Mike Bibby and Miles Simon.
Carolina is back for another shot at the title under first-year head coach Bill Guthridge, a longtime Dean Smith assistant who has done an outstanding job of carrying on Smith's tradition of winning at Chapel Hill.
The major cog for the Tar Heels is Associated Press Player of the Year Antawn Jamison, who has registered a double-double in all four NCAA Tournament games. If Utah places too much defensive emphasis on Jamison, fellow forward Vince Carter and guards Ed Cota and Shammond Williams have the ability to make the Utes pay.
UNC's toughest task will be containing Utah's Michael Doleac, who has averaged 21 points in the tournament, five above his average, and Andre Miller, who has averaged 17 points and had the first triple-double in Utah history in the win over Arizona.
Meanwhile, guards have been in the spotlight throughout the tournament for Kentucky and Stanford with the Wildcats' Wayne Turner and the Cardinal's Arthur Lee getting the glory, but the battle between the big men could be even more crucial.
Stanford has Mark Madsen (6-foot-8), Tim Young (7-1) and Peter Sauer (6-7) up front, going against Kentucky's Nazr Mohammed (6-10), Scott Padgett (6-9) and Allen Edwards (6-5) or Jamaal Magloire (6-10).