The Trojans were using suffocating defenses — holding 12 of their 15 opponents to 60 points or less — to contend for just their second NCAA tournament berth since 1990. They ultimately won the Sun Belt and earned a No. 12 seed in the tourney, where they shocked Purdue in the first round before falling to fourth-ranked Iowa State two days later.
MORE: What is a Mid-Major?
No one was talking about Little Rock on Jan. 11, 2016. Heck, they weren't even talking about them until the bracket revealed their No. 12 seed, when they suddenly became a trendy 12-5 upset pick. Though the Trojans didn't make a deep tourney run, they still went from unknown to beloved dream-crusher.
Who is next? Instead of waiting until March to learn about the next mid-major darling, take a look at four teams who could pull off upsets in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
After a big step forward in year two under head coach Dan D'Antoni, Marshall is taking another stride in year three, this time flirting with the tourney as an offensive juggernaut.
The Herd (11-6, 4-0, Conference USA) average a shade below 90 points per game and have scored less than 80 just twice all season. They shoot 48 percent as a team, including 39 percent from deep, and have three players shooting at least 83 percent from the line.
Old Dominion would love to spoil Marshall's first tourney berth since 1987.
The Monarchs, 10-6 overall and 3-1 in Conference USA, lost to the Herd on the road in early December, 90-86, despite recording 15 offensive rebounds. Thus far, ODU has invoked its will on opponents with terrific defense and relentless rebounding. They rank fifth nationally in scoring defense (59.1 points per game) and eighth in offensive rebounds (15.1).
Like Marshall, their most impressive game of the season was a loss, 66-60 to Louisville in November. The Cardinals were held to 29.7 percent shooting.
UNC Asheville's plan for another NCAA tournament berth: grand larceny.
The Bulldogs force an average of 18 turnovers per game, a staggering number not inflated by inferior nonconference opponents. In four conference games, they have forced 71, including 24 in a win over Liberty.
Three of their six losses have come by a total of seven points, including a two-point defeat at Ohio State in which they frustrated the Buckeyes into poor perimeter shooting and 13 hard-earned turnovers.
Fort Wayne's 2016-17 season is about more than an upset of Indiana.
Of the 14 teams averaging 10 or more three-point field goals per game, only two are also ranked in the top 15 in three-point percentage, UCLA (No. 3) and Fort Wayne (No. 1). That perimeter firepower allows them to average 90.5 points per game, fourth nationally. The Mastadons have failed to reach 80 points just four times and tied a program record with 20 three-pointers against Oral Roberts.
If Fort Wayne wins the Summit and meets a team or two with loose perimeter defense, look out.