Reason No. 1,001 to love the NCAA Tournament if you're not a devotee of Kansas or Villanova: Although the odds are stacked heavily against their mid-major teams winning the national championship, the early rounds provide a platform for talent that operates largely below the radar.
Davidson's Stephen Curry in 2008, the George Mason guys Lamar Butler and Folarin Campbell in 2006, and more than a decade ago, Wally Szczerbiak from Miami, Ohio, used the tournament to introduce themselves to those whose hoop viewing is limited to the majors.
Today, the college basketball world knows about Northern Iowa guard Ali Farokhmanesh and St. Mary's center Omar Samhan, a pair of hoop heroes of Arab heritage.
Their shining moments that authored major upsets on Saturday thrusts them into NCAA Tournament lore, as it did for Curry and the like, and now that their teams and not the Jayhawks and Wildcats are moving on, you'll hear plenty about the game's newest heroes as they prepare for the Sweet 16.
Farokhmanesh wasn't just hot with his long-distance shooting, setting the tone with his early bombs as the ninth-seeded Panthers took the game to No. 1 Kansas from the opening moments, but Farokhmanesh was gutsy throughout the game.
Big-time upsets happen when teams take risks, and none was bigger than Farokhmanesh's decision with 36 seconds remaining, and only six seconds into the shot clock.
Northern Iowa led by one and the safe call here is to bleed the clock. But Coach Ben Jacobson trusts his senior sharpshooter who had buried the game-winner against UNLV two days earlier and hits about 38 percent from beyond the arc. Don't be deceived by that figure. When the ball leaves his hands, everybody believes it's splashing in.
So it was at the critical moment. Without hesitation, Farokhmanesh let it fly, and the dagger felled the nation's top-ranked team and tournament's prohibitive favorite.
Farokhmanesh, who finished with 16 points, started his UNI career last year after transferring from Indian Hills Community College. His mom is an Iowan, his dad an Iranian who played on his nation's 1980 Olympic volleyball team.
And after today, Farokhmanesh will never have to buy a meal in Cedar Falls, Iowa, just as Samhan will always live large Moraga, Calif., after his 32-point outpouring against Villanova, in what stood as the weekend's biggest shocker until Northern Iowa trumped it.
Samhan, who is of Egyptian descent and was named for the actor Omar Sharif, isn't news in Moraga, Calif., home of St. Mary's, or the West Coast Conference, where the Gaels usually play second fiddle to Gonzaga.
Not now. St. Mary's thumped the Zags for the conference tournament championship and unless the Bulldogs knock off top-seeded Syracuse on Sunday, the Gaels will have advance deeper into March Madness with a Sweet 16 date against Baylor in Houston next Friday.
St. Mary's had every reason to expect this kind of success.
The Gaels have one of the nation's best inside-outside games with Samhan, who became the first player in more than three decades to lead the conference in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, and guard Mickey McConnell. Entering Saturday he led the nation in three-point shooting at 51.8 percent.
Villanova didn't have an answer for either one, just as Kansas could do little with Farokhmanesh.
Sadly, for the losers, their stars were dimmed. Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds, who carried the Wildcats to the Final Four last year, made two of 11 from the floor and finished with eight points.
Kansas guard Sherron Collins missed all five of his three-point attempts and committed five turnovers.
The pain of the crushing defeats won't soon subside for both seniors. But neither departs without a contribution to the NCAA Tournament story. Reynolds last year, and Collins in 2008, when his steal and three-pointer in the waning moments sparked Kansas' comeback triumph in the national championship game against Memphis.
Now, they'll be joined by Farokhmanesh and Samhan, players who added another layer of memories to the madness.