This was the pathos regional, the one with a story to tell.
In fact there were two of them, and the action today in the NCAA Midwest regional at the Metrodome certainly provided more than a couple of interesting vignettes.
In the day's first game, the North Carolina State Wolfpack of Jim Valvano -- a man and a team familiar with Cinderella -- ended the dreams of upstart Arkansas-Little Rock, 80-66, in double overtime.
Then, in an even more emotion-wrenching second game, fifth-ranked Michigan lost, 72-69, to Iowa State, coached by Johnny Orr, who left Ann Arbor, Mich., six years ago.
"The NCAAs are a survive-and-advance situation," said Valvano. "All you can do is try and survive and hope that you're playing on the last day of the season."
With their victories today, North Carolina State and Iowa State are at least assured of going as far as Kansas City, Mo., where they'll meet on Friday in a Midwest semifinal.
In the other game, Michigan State will face Kansas.
The chance for an all-Big Eight matchup between the Jayhawks and Cyclones came about because of some late-game heroics by Iowa State freshman Elmer Robinson. At one time, the Cyclones led by 11 points, but they couldn't sustain it. With his team ahead, 64-61, with 2:56 remaining, Robinson, a 6-foot-5 forward, missed the front end of a one-and-one.
The basketball bounced back into his hands but then he soon lost it out of bounds. Thirty seconds later, Michigan's Roy Tarpley scored on an offensive rebound to cut the margin to one.
A little more than a minute after that, Robinson more than made up for his double miscue. With Iowa State inbounding the ball from midcourt, he snuck away from his defender to the basket, caught a perfect pass from guard Jeff Hornacek, then dunked the ball to put the Cyclones ahead by three.
At the 1:04 mark, Robinson added two foul shots that effectively clinched the victory.
"If I had to lose, I couldn't have lost to a better guy," said Michigan Coach Bill Freider, a former assistant to Orr. "I love Johnny Orr."
Orr was barely able to keep his composure throughout a postgame news conference.
"This was the biggest win in my career," said the man who coached Michigan into the 1976 championship game against Indiana.
"When I came here people thought I was nutty. And to beat Michigan . . . I feel sorry for Bill, I know how he feels. I'd rather not have played them but we had to."
Before his game, Valvano had expressed concern about facing the Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock, champions of the TransAmerica Athletic Conference and winners over Notre Dame in the first round here.
"You don't want to play the schools with the hyphens," Valvano said. "Every game is the end of the world for them."
N.C. State could have been in trouble with 14 seconds left in regulation, when guard Nate McMillen fouled Arkansas' Ken Worthy with the Wolfpack ahead by 56-55. After taking a timeout, the North Carolina State players tried to further unnerve the Trojans' senior guard by walking past him one by one and smiling.
The ploy didn't appear to work; Worthy made the first shot. However, the second rimmed out and neither team was able to score in the remaining time.
Arkansas had N.C. State on the ropes again in the first extra session. The Trojans scored the first five points to move ahead by 61-56. Even after the Wolfpack had rallied to tie the score at 64, Arkansas had another chance.
They were working the ball around the perimeter for the final shot with less than 20 seconds to play when N.C. State's Chris Washburn intercepted a pass.
Arkansas-Little Rock didn't get a third chance. The teams exchanged baskets but then N.C. State scored 14 straight points to take control of the game.
Leading the way was forward Bennie Bolton, who scored four of his game-high 24 points during the spree.
"I split my pants in the first game and I lost my jacket in this one," said Valvano afterward. "I should be naked by the time of the regional finals."
Arkansas-Little Rock Coach Mike Newell was fully dressed but only had a trip back South to look forward to.
"We had our chances," he said. "At the end of regulation, we hit one and miss one. In the overtime, we throw the ball away making a silly pass. You can't do that in the NCAAs."
But Arkansas-Little Rock forward Pete Myers was happy enough just to have learned that lesson.
"No one would have believed that we would beat Notre Dame or gone into double overtime against North Carolina State," he said. "We're not ashamed of what happened today."