Just two years ago, Martin Luther College of New Ulm was 0-10 in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, which is among the weaker leagues in NCAA Division III football.

On Saturday afternoon -- in a match-up that couldn't have been predicted back then -- the Knights will play traditional Division III power St. John's in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Knights were 8-0 in the UMAC this season and 9-1 overall, with their only defeat coming against Gustavus in the opening game of the season.

Not only was Martin Luther winless in 2016, but the team was shut out in three of its games and scored only one touchdown in three others.

Martin Luther is the primary college for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and grants degrees in three areas: pre-seminary studies, education and staff ministry/music. Its recruiting base is about two dozen church-affiliated schools scattered around the country, including St. Croix Lutheran in West St. Paul.

Earlier this season, Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse visited New Ulm and wrote this column about the Knights and their new-found football success.

In playing St. John's, Martin Luther will be facing the No. 3-rsnked team in  NCAA Division III, which just completed a 10-0 season with a 63-23 nonconference victory over Thomas More, which brought a 7-2 record into that game.

The Johnnies scored 40 points or more in eight of those games and shut out four opponents. They also sent St. Thomas to one of its two defeats that are keeping the Tommies out of this season's Division III playoffs. Bethel also defeated St. Thomas, and will play host to Wartburg College of Iowa on Saturday.

St. Thomas (8-2) and Wisconsin-La Crosse (7-3), which were ranked in the top eight of the final regional rankings, did not receive at-large bids.

The complete NCAA D-III bracket is here.