For a few fleeting minutes Sunday evening, the possibility of a Sweet 16 without a single mid-major looked increasingly realistic.
Only then did 13th-seeded Ohio erase a five-point second-half deficit, blow past 12th-seeded South Florida and guarantee there will still be a dash of small-conference charm in the second week of the NCAA tournament.
South Florida had taken a five-point lead midway through the second half on a Jawanza Poland alley-oop slam when referees gave Poland a technical foul for hanging on the rim. Ohio's Nick Kellogg sank the two free throws and then buried a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, igniting a 17-4 Bobcats run that propelled them to a 62-56 victory and the program's first Sweet 16 since the field expanded to 64 teams.
Ohio's success stands out even more than usual because it hasn't been the norm among mid-major programs this March.
Fourteen of the other 15 programs in the Sweet 16 are from the six power conferences. The lone exception is Xavier, which hasn't been classified as a mid-major for years because of its charter flights, glitzy arena and large budget.
It's a bit surprising to see the mid-majors struggle this March after Final Four runs from Butler, VCU and George Mason in recent seasons, but there are a few factors that help explain it.Read More »from Surprising Ohio is the last of the little guys