The only thing more surprising than Stanford reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time in six years is the team now standing in its path.
The Dayton Flyers are in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years.
The last time Dayton played in a regional semifinal, Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins was a sophomore at Duke.
The matchup of No. 10 Stanford and No. 11 Dayton on Thursday in Memphis, Tenn., is both an outlier -- the only matchup of double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16 -- and the perfect embodiment of the NCAA tournament.
In March Madness, momentum appears in the most unlikely places and matchups are more important than seeds.
Stanford survived a rough-and-tumble opener against New Mexico, then faced a vulnerable Kansas team playing without star center Joel Embiid.
The Cardinal is still playing while Kansas, Duke, Syracuse and North Carolina are out. Dawkins is still coaching while his mentor, Mike Krzyzewski, is home watching.
Stanford faces a far different challenge in Memphis from the two it overcame in St. Louis.
Unflappable Dayton eliminated in-state foe Ohio State in the final seconds, then stunned No. 3 seed Syracuse.
Flyers coach Archie Miller, the younger brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller -- count on the elder to pass along information about the Cardinal -- has compiled a team that's low on star power and high on moxie.
The Cardinal will have to switch gears while changing roles: After two games as the underdog, it becomes the favorite.
To survive and advance, it must adapt and evolve.
Here's a look at the 16 survivors, power-rankings style (region in parentheses):
1. Michigan State (East): The tournament favorites despite their seed (No. 4), the Spartans are so good that they've had 41- and 26-point performances in the NCAAs, and neither came from their best player (guard Gary Harris).
2. Florida (South): The No. 1 overall seed looked the part in dispatching Pittsburgh. The Gators don't have overwhelming talent, but they are solid inside and out and at both ends of the court.
3. Louisville (Midwest): The bad news: All-American guard Russ Smith is 6 of 19 from the field in two games. The good news: The Cardinals are in the Sweet 16 even though Smith is 6 of 19.
4. Kentucky (Midwest): Big Blue's immense young talent came of age Sunday, toppling undefeated Wichita State in an epic to set up a showdown with hated Louisville.
5. Arizona (West): The Wildcats followed a shaky opening round win over Weber State with a blowout of Gonzaga. Next up is a team they beat by nine points early in the season: San Diego State.
6. Michigan (Midwest): Imagine how good it would be if center Mitch McGary were healthy.
7. Virginia (East): Like Arizona, the top-seeded Cavaliers responded to a wobbly round-of-64 performance with a statement victory, carving up No. 8 Memphis.
8. Wisconsin (West): Advanced to the Sweet 16 with a sizzling second half in which the Badgers outscored Oregon by 20 points.
9. Iowa State (East): The No. 3-seeded Cyclones would be higher on this list if healthy, but the season-ending injury to forward Georges Niang is significant.
10. UCLA (South): After dispatching Nos. 12 and 13 seeds, the Bruins are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008.
11. San Diego State (West): Alive and well thanks to guard Xavier Thames, who has scored 40 percent of his team's points.
12. Tennessee (Midwest): The surging Vols have overpowered three opponents, with an average victory margin of 17 points.
13. Stanford (South): The Cardinal was anything but a finely tuned offense in the late stages against New Mexico and Kansas, but its defense was up to the challenge time and again.
14. Baylor (West): A team with substantial raw talent has found its groove. The top seeds in the West, Arizona and Wisconsin, should be concerned about the Bears.
15. Connecticut (East): Remember when indomitable guard Kemba Walker led UConn to a surprising NCAA title three years ago? Shabazz Napier, who was a freshman on that team, is trying to do the same.
16. Dayton (South): The Flyers don't have any All-Americans, but their roster includes transfers from Georgetown and Ohio State. They have lost two games since Feb. 1, both to St. Joseph's.
For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports.