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.
But it was not easy. It was a close, physical, intense battle worthy of the stage.
"It was a classic game," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
Said Michigan State coach Tom 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-pointer 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 (29-8) with 24 points. Virginia (30-7) got 17 points apiece from Harris and Brogdon.