NEW YORK -- Michigan State was the No. 4 seed and yet was the favorite in Las Vegas and the favorite in most amateur brackets around the nation.
Virginia? All the Cavaliers had managed coming in was a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs after winning both the regular-season and conference tournament championships in the vaunted ACC.
It turned out America was on to something.
Michigan State outlasted Virginia, 61-59, on Friday night in an East Regional semifinal at Madison Square Garden, earning the Spartans a game against Connecticut on Sunday.
Michigan State (29-8) overcame a horrible start to the second half and then withstood a late run by the Cavaliers (30-7) to advance to the regional finals for the eighth time since 1999 -- all under coach Tom Izzo.
Virginia became the second No. 1 seed to be eliminated, joining Wichita State.
But it was not easy for the Spartans. It was a close, physical, intense battle worthy of the stage.
"It was a classic game," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
Said Michigan State's Izzo: "The place was hopping. It was a hell of an atmosphere out there ... I love the Garden!"
Adreian Payne's three-pointer broke a 51-51 tie for the Spartans.
"I was wide open, so I tried to step up and knock it down," Payne said. "It was winning time."
Then Payne found Branden Dawson for an alley-oop dunk that extended the lead to five.
Joe Harris' three-point basket made it 56-54 with about 40 seconds left, after which Virginia was forced to foul four times to get State into the bonus and to the free-throw line.
Two free throws by Payne made it 58-54. With the score 58-56 and 8.6 seconds left, Travis Trice made both ends of a one-and-one to give the Spartans a 60-56 lead.
Malcolm Brogdon's three trimmed the margin to one, but only 1.4 seconds remained.
Gary Harris made the first of two free throws for Michigan State. After he missed the second, Justin Anderson got off a long three-point try for the Cavaliers, but it was far short, disappointing a heavily pro-Virginia crowd.
"Michigan State's just a very solid defensive team," Joe Harris said. "Very similar to us. They just make everything tough on you; they make you earn every basket."
Dawson led MSU with 24 points. Virginia got 17 points apiece from Harris and Brogdon.
These were the first NCAA tournament games played at Madison Square Garden since 1961.
UConn 81, Iowa State 76: DeAndre Daniels' teammates were going to keep passing him the ball until he cooled off. By the time that happened, it was too late for the Cyclones.
Daniels scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half, and the Huskies (29-8) hung on for a victory to reach the East Regional final a year after UConn was barred from the NCAA tournament.
"DeAndre's a scorer, and once you feel that you have that confidence, the next shot's going to go in," teammate Shabazz Napier said. "We kept feeding him, and he got super hot."
Daniels hit his first six shots after halftime, the only Husky to make a field goal for over 8½ minutes. His 3-pointer gave seventh-seeded UConn a 49-32 lead.
The third-seeded Cyclones (28-8) rallied late, pulling within 67-63 with 2½ minutes left. But Niels Giffey hit a 3-pointer in the corner for his first points since the game's opening moments, and when the Huskies made their free throws in the final minute, the UConn fans packing Madison Square Garden could celebrate.
Dustin Hogue scored a career-high 34 points for Iowa State, but Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim was 3 of 13 for seven points, more than 11 below his average.
The Cyclones, in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2000, were playing their second game without third-leading scorer Georges Niang, who broke his foot in their tournament opener.
They trailed by 16 with less than 7½ minutes to go but nearly came all the way back behind Hogue's scoring inside.
"That's who these guys are, they're fighters," coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Newsday and the Associated Press contributed to this report.