A visit to Sean Blanchflower’s University Challenge site reveals that the two semi finals will be : -
St. John’s , Oxford v. Imperial , London
Emmanuel , Cambridge v. Manchester
Well, after all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune which were fired willy nilly in the quarters, what can we reasonably say about the teams who are left ? They are all battle hardened. They can all grit it out when they have to, and they all have demons on the buzzer.
I’ve been looking at the cumulative performances of the four teams. St. John’s have played 4 matches, while all the other teams have played five. So I’ve worked out their average scores across all their matches. This gives us –
Emmanuel – 252
St. John’s – 230
Imperial – 211
Manchester – 190
There’s hardly anything in it at all on paper. Still, lets look at the prospects for the two matches. Its probably only fair that the two teams who won two quarters in a row and went straight through were kept apart from each other. Likewise, you wouldn't really want to match two teams who played each other in the quarters. SO this gives us an inevitable line up for the semis, and for the first match St. John’s v. Imperial. Now, you could look at it like this : - St. John’s tied with Manchester in their match in the quarters, and went through on a tie break. Manchester beat Edinburgh by a tiny margin to go through to the semis. Imperial beat Edinburgh by a huge margin in their first quarter final match. So based on relative performances, Imperial would actually seem favourites on this score. This offers Imperial some good hope. However, like so many things, it will come down to individual performances on the night. Whoever has the best buzzer work, and whoever is the most clinical with bonuses will get to the final. It’s a very close call. I want Gilead and the guys from Imperial to win – but St. John’s will be a very tough nut to crack.
As for the second semi final – oh gawd, I don’t want to say this, but the heart says Manchester while the head says Emmanuel. Yet again, it’s a fascinating prospect, though. Manchester were unlucky to tie with St. Johns and lose on the tie breaker in their 2nd quarter final match. Still, this seemed to knock their confidence a little in the next match against Edinburgh, which was a tough old scrap which needed plenty of grit. As a team, all four of Manchester provide their share of starters, with captain Jakob Whitfield leading the way. They’re a well balanced team, without huge gaps of knowledge in any particular discipline. As for Emmanuel, though, they possess a candidate for the title of best individual player of the series in their captain Alex Guttenplan. His buzzer speed is excellent, and his coverage of different fields of knowledge is extremely good. Now, don’t make the mistake of thinking that Emmanuel are a one man team, because they are not. Harris, Hastings and Scott of Emmanuel all contribute their share. For example, in their last match against Imperial, Alex Guttenplan didn’t really wake up until the second third of the contest – his team had kept them in it up to that point. However, it is a fact that Emmanuel did lose to Regent’s Park in their first round match , so they can be vulnerable. On quarter final form, though, you'd be a brave man to put money against Emmanuel.
Put a gun to my head and ask for a prediction, then I’ll go for a St. John’s v. Emmanuel final. But I’m still supporting Manchester and Imperial.