Each year, the NCAA tournament opens the collective eyes of the basketball world to a number of smaller programs that have quietly become legitimate threats to the small collection of historically dominant schools.
Once in a while, a school like George Mason will come around and go on a Cinderella run, only to fall back down to earth the following season.
But in other instances, lesser-known schools such as Butler, and to some degree Memphis, have managed to parlay magical runs to the Elite Eight or Sweet 16 into future Final Four appearances, thereby cementing themselves as elite basketball programs.
It takes a few years to truly break into the upper echelon of college ball, but here's a look at some of the schools that have taken that first step at this year's edition of March Madness.
No. 4 Michigan 78, No. 5 VCU 53
This season has been a renaissance year for the Michigan Wolverines. A basketball program that was left for dead after the Fab Five era had rebounded to become a national power once again.
And now, behind the play of the Wolverines' trio of stars in Trey Burke, Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan has booked its first ticket to the Sweet 16 since 1994.
Sure, Michigan has made the tournament in four of the last five seasons, but making it beyond the round of 32 is a big accomplishment for this program, especially given that with Burke, Robinson and Hardaway all potentially leaving for the NBA, this run will be a major recruiting tool down the road.
In VCU, Michigan stared down a worthy opponent, built up a 15-point lead at halftime and never looked back.
They will be a scary opponent in the next round.
No. 12 Oregon 68, No. 5 Oklahoma St. 55
Oregon is certainly one of college football's most successful programs in recent memory, but its basketball team has lagged far behind and is making its first NCAA tourney appearance since 2008.
However, after capturing the Pac-12 crown over UCLA, the Ducks booked their ticket to the Big Dance, and once they got there, they not only knocked down a talented Cowboys squad, they buried them.
The win over Oklahoma State shows that while Oregon certainly didn't receive any favors from the selection committee, the Ducks didn't allow it to faze them and defeated a quality opponent in decisive fashion.
Regardless of whether or not Oregon can eliminate No. 4 Saint Louis, the Ducks' consecutive signature wins over UCLA and Oklahoma State will serve as a reminder to the sports world that football isn't the only sport the Ducks can play.
No. 12 Ole Miss 57, No. 5 Wisconsin 46
For the Rebels, who hadn't made a tournament appearance since 2002, the upset win over Wisconsin was an important one for a program that has longed to emerge as an SEC power.
Against Wisconsin, Ole Miss broke through Wisconsin's typically solid defense, and despite Marshall Henderson's 6-of-21 shooting, the Rebels found a way to win against one of the Big Ten's elite teams.
What was even more encouraging was that the Rebels fought back from a three-point deficit at halftime and took the game by storm down the stretch.
Now, with a looming matchup with No. 13 La Salle, if the Rebels can manage a victory over a fellow underdog, they'll be making the program's second-ever Sweet 16 appearance.
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