The fact just 47 out of 8.15 million brackets in the ESPN Tournament Challenge correctly named Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State in advance as Final Four teams suggests to me that we have some surprise entrants ticketed for Atlanta.
Sure enough, a closer look reveals that -- the No. 1 overall seed Cardinals notwithstanding -- this is a group of teams that beat the odds and the tendencies. If you've been reading along with me this season, you know that the "average" Final Four team from a major conference reaches a national semifinal after having outscored its league by 0.13 points per possession. Rick Pitino's team cleared that benchmark with ease (plus-0.17), but the Wolverines (plus-0.10), Shockers (plus-0.10) and Orange (plus-0.07) have all outperformed the examples set by previous teams that played at the same regular-season level. So, yes, those 47 people with a correct Final Four really did have uncommon foresight. History was most certainly not on the side of 75 percent of these teams.
In light of that fact, I thought it would be interesting to break this down a little further, and look at exactly how surprised we should really be that these teams made it this far. For instance Nate Silver has noted correctly that a national title for Wichita State would qualify as the biggest upset we've seen in the modern era. This is true, and in terms of recent seasons in particular, it's also a nice euphemism for "even more surprising than Connecticut's title in 2011." To follow through on such observations, I'm going to compare each of these four teams to the performances recorded by recent programs that also made it this far.
When we make such a comparison, here is what we learn.