South Carolina's Final Four Run Wasn't Anything Out of the Ordinary
No matter what happens to this Gamecocks team from here on out in the big dance, they'll be remembered. Because, again, no one saw this coming.
Despite that fact, though, this particular run isn't anything out of the ordinary for the NCAA Tournament. Not to diminish what South Carolina has done, but these stories happen. Probably more often than you might realize.
Since the turn of the century (and counting South Carolina and this year's tournament), we've seen 11 teams who were 7 seeds or worse advance to the Final Four. South Carolina's advancing to the Final Four was actually the third time it's happened for a 7 seed over the last four years alone.
Here's a look at the seed distribution among all Final Four teams over this timeframe.
Naturally, the lower the seed, the lower the odds of making it deep in the tournament. But a solid 11 out of a possible 72 teams since 2000 have been a 7 seed or lower and made the Final Four. That comes out to about 15.28%, or more than one every two seasons.
As a team, South Carolina also wasn't all that bad this year.
We've got a metric we call nERD here at numberFire, and it measures the number of points we'd expect a team to win by against an average one on a neutral court. South Carolina's nERD of 14.18 at this point in the tournament ranks 59th of the 72 Final Four teams since 2000. And their nERD rank among these teams places them near a 3-seeded UCLA from 2006 and a 4-seeded Louisiana State from 2006.
In other words, they've played (throughout the year) and are currently playing (throughout the tournament) a lot better than their seed suggests.
It certainly feels like this is a crazy, unpredictable Cinderella story, but the reason for that isn't because this doesn't happen fairly often. It's because predicting which team will be a particular tournament's Cinderella is a tough, tough task given the pool of 68 teams.
So, no, South Carolina's run isn't anything out of the ordinary. We see these this all the time. Maybe the story isn't finished, though, and they'll truly become an outlier next week.