March Madness is the perfect stage for teams to exceed expectations.
Because the NCAA men's basketball tournament is not a playoff, but a "one game on one day" contest, high-seeded teams and mid-major programs can burst onto the national college hoops scene by knocking off someone that they are not supposed to beat.
Here are the 10 most overachieving teams in this year's tourney.
I hate to throw you a curve ball right away.
Even though Michigan ended up being ranked No. 10 in the AP, at the end of the regular season, the selection committee didn’t think so highly of the Wolverines. They gave them a No. 4 seed and put them in what started as arguably the toughest region with Kansas, Georgetown and Florida seeded in front of them.
The citizens of Dunk City took care of the Hoyas. All the Wolverines had to do (can you sense the sarcasm?) was beat the Jayhawks and Gators.
And that’s exactly what they did to get to the Final Four.
Sure, Michigan is led by national player of the year contender Trey Burke. And they may have the most talented perimeter unit in the country.
But, before March Madness, the Wolverines were only 4-5 against Top 25 teams and didn’t exactly have a game-finisher's reputation. That’s what makes their come-from-behind Sweet 16 win over No. 1 seed Kansas all the more unlikely.
Now, Michigan will face Syracuse in the national semifinals.
It was a toss-up of whether to put the Orange or the Wolverines as the No. 10 team on this list.
Syracuse's defensive orientation makes its journey to the Final Four slightly more expected.
The Pac-12's college hoops' reputation has been hurting and is in need of repair.
No better way to do it than for teams like No. 12 seed Cal to make a little March Madness noise.
The Bears were fourth place in regular-season conference play. Mike Montgomery’s men didn’t exactly come into the tournament with a full head of steam after losing their last regular-season game and their first and only game in the Pac-12 tourney.
But when the boys from Berkeley faced No. 5 seed UNLV, it was time to take care of business. Cal broke open a game that was tied at half and avenged an early-season loss to the Rebels.
Even though the Bears came up short against Final Four-bound Syracuse in the round of 32, they helped their cause and the conference’s ailing status.
Harvard University is one of the top institutions of higher learning in the world.
Harvard Crimson basketball, on the other hand, has virtually no name in the college basketball world.
But when head coach Tommy Amaker’s No. 14 seed took down No. 3 seed New Mexico in Salt Lake City for the school’s first NCAA tournament win, the young men from Cambridge thrust themselves into collegiate hoops' consciousness.
Even though the Crimson made it into the tournament last year also, this year’s success pushed their national reputation further along.
The only problem with Harvard’s progress is that more and more power conference programs are going to take a shot at enlisting Amaker for their higher-profile, higher-compensation jobs.
Ole Miss had not made the NCAA tournament in Andy Kennedy’s first six seasons in Oxford.
But, after winning the SEC tournament, the Rebels were ready to rock in this year’s March Madness.
It was hard to believe that the selection committee tagged them with a No. 12 seed, but Kennedy’s crew was not going to let that interfere with getting things done in March Madness.
Mississippi’s opening-round game with Wisconsin was thought to be a decree of defeat for the Rebels.
But Marshall Henderson had other plans. After the flashy shooting guard missed 12 of his first 13 shots, he finally found the range to end up scoring 19 points on his way to helping his team knock off the always gritty Badgers.
Even though Ole Miss came up short against a pesky La Salle squad, the Rebels showed that the SEC can do more than dominate on the gridiron.
Iowa State entered this year’s NCAA tournament as the top three-point percentage team in the Big 12.
Rather than just put on a shooting show, the Cyclones wanted to prove that they were not just a novelty selection in this year's March Madness. It didn’t take long for them as the No. 10 seed to display that they were more than a group of excellent shooters.
ISU ran a more-than-respectable Notre Dame team out of Dayton Arena 76-58.
The Cyclones lost a heartbreaker to Ohio State in the round of 32.
Iowa State head coach and fan favorite Fred Hoiberg is calmly and quietly building a dynamic college hoops program in Ames.
Though Atlantic 10 hoops continues to gain respect on the national level, Temple came into this year’s March Madness with something to prove.
The Owls struggled early in the 2012-13 season, going 5-5 in their first 10 A-10 games. But, Fran Dunphy’s team ripped off eight straight wins to punch its ticket to the dance.
Once in the doors, Temple faced NC State, who were the ACC’s roller-coaster team of the year. Picked in the preseason to win the conference, the Wolfpack were erratic and ended up finishing in fourth place in league play.
The Owls jumped out early, building a 16-point halftime lead, and then held on for a four-point victory.
In their round of 32 game against Indiana, Temple gave the No. 1 seed Hoosiers all they could handle, but it wasn't enough. Indiana scored the game's last 10 points, ending the Owls' season.
When Dana Altman was hired to be the Oregon head coach, I predicted that the program would be back in three years.
This is Altman’s third season in Eugene, and the Ducks have maneuvered their way back into the college hoops conversation.
They won the Pac-12 tournament, but were dissed by the selection committee when they were mis-seeded as a No. 12. It is ridiculous for a power conference tourney champ like Oregon to be slapped in the face like that.
The Ducks proceeded to show that seeding does not determine results. Oregon went out in its first two games of March Madness and took apart both Oklahoma State and St.Louis, two trendy picks to make deep runs in the tourney.
In their Sweet 16 matchup with overall No. 1 seed Louisville, the Ducks fell behind early, facing a 14-point halftime deficit. But Oregon did not roll over and concede. It gave the Cards all it could handle before losing by a final margin of eight points.
Watch out! Pac-12 basketball is making a serious comeback.
La Salle had not appeared in the NCAA tournament in 20 years. The Explorers entered March Madness this year as a No. 13 seed with very little tourney buzz.
But, talk to Kansas State and Ole Miss and see if they think that La Salle deserves more respect.
The Explorers beat the Wildcats and Rebels each by two points and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the '50s when they lost to Bill Russell and San Francisco in the 1955 championship game.
Unfortunately, La Salle's accomplishments didn't receive nearly the notice this year because of the mania surrounding Florida Gulf Coast and the fact that the Explorers eventually lost to another mid-major marvel—Wichita State.
There has never been a team quite like Florida Gulf Coast.
The No. 15 seed Eagles were in second place in the Atlantic Sun regular season, but beat Mercer in the A-Sun tourney to gain their conference’s automatic bid.
Virtually no one in the country gave them any hope against No. 2 seed Georgetown. But, the Hoyas didn’t know that they were coming up against Dunk City. The high-flying Eagles didn’t just beat Georgetown. They took them to the proverbial “woodshed.”
FGCU didn’t stop there. It followed up its opening-round upset victory with another convincing win against highly regarded San Diego State.
Can you say "making history?"
Even though Florida Gulf Coast exited the tourney in the Sweet 16, coming up short against intrastate rival Florida, the Eagles left their mark on March Madness.
Its upbeat play and exuberant approach to the game could force other programs to evaluate the way they are “doing business.”
Wichita State had a solid season in the undervalued Missouri Valley Conference. Because they had played well enough all year, the Shockers received an at-large bid and a No. 9 seed on Selection Sunday. All they needed was a ticket to the dance.
After beating Pitt in its opening-round game, WSU pulled off a monster upset of No. 1 seed Gonzaga. But the Shockers weren’t satisfied with two wins and a little PR.
They kept their magical run going by knocking off No. 13 seed La Salle and No. 2 seed Ohio State, putting the Shockers in the Final Four for the second time in school history.
Since the NCAA tournament started seeding teams in 1979, no team that was a No. 9 seed or higher has won a game at the Final Four.
Gregg Marshall and his Wichita State Shockers are ready to make a little more history in Atlanta.