Friday, 6 April 2018

University Challenge: Semi Final Previews

Right, just for the fun of it, let’s have a look at the form book for the semis: -  

R1 for
R1 against
R2 for
R2 A
QFs For
QFs Against
Average F
Average Against
St. John’s, Cambridge
Merton, Oxford

.First of all, congratulations to all of the teams who made it this far. I felt, and still feel, that there were too many mismatches in round one, but by the time we got to the quarters, on paper there were no easy matches left.  

In the table above, I put the teams in rank order of my gut feeling of how well the teams have done before I put the figures in, highest weakest, lowest strongest. The figures dseem to bear out my feelings. Quite rightly in my opinion, the two unbeaten teams, Merton and St. John’s, have been kept apart in the semis. St. John’s will play Edinburgh, and Merton will play Newcastle. Let’s have a look at these matches: -  

St. John’s v. Edinburgh 

In a two horse race, either team can win. Let’s acknowledge that before we start. Then let’s be blunt, and say that it would be a major upset if Edinburgh were to defeat St. John’s. Edinburgh are doughty fighters, and they have a fine quizzer in the shape of their captain Innes Carson. But I just don’t see that they have fast enough buzzing to do well enough on the starters to beat St. John’s. As for St. John’s, well, they carried all before them in their first three matches. Their quarter final match against Newcastle was interesting though. Things were very even to the 10 minute mark, then they had by far the better of things for the next ten minutes. It looked like it was going to be another easy win until Newcastle came back strongly. There are two things to note about that. It is possible to beat St. John’s to the buzzer, however they have nerve and resilience in a tight game too. So even though Edinburgh had their best match against Bristol to qualify for the semis, I think St. John’s will be too strong for them.  

Merton v. Newcastle 

This one is rather more intriguing. Merton are many people’s favourites to win the series, and there are good reasons for this. They have two of the top buzzers of the series in Alex Peplow and Akira Wiberg, and captain Leonie Woodland is certainly no slouch either. They haven’t had a close match yet. However, it does beg the question, have they ever played opposition like Newcastle yet? Newcastle went toe to toe with the excellent St. John’s team, and took it right to the wire. Newcastle also have some fine buzzers. Although I think Merton are the stronger of the two teams, and although I believe Merton should win, a Newcastle win would not be, to my mind, such an upset as an Edinburgh win against St. John’s.


Jack said...

Agree that a St John's-Merton final is still the most likely option, but I don't think we should be that surprised at Edinburgh and/or Newcastle winning their semi either. All four are proven worthy semi-finalists, whoever wins will deserve the title.

Aethelstan said...

I was pulled up by another correspondant over at Jack's for being a bit harsh on the Johnians. I think this was quite correct, they've delivered good victories against some decent opposition, and Edinburgh will face stern opposition and will need to do better than they did against Merton. But then, somehow they seem to deliver miracles!!
On that note, we saw Newcastle defeat Fitz earlier on this week, on pretty good margins; this is a bit interesting as we know Fitz were no mugs against Merton, who graciously allowed them to lead for a bit. I hadnt thought about that until looking through yours and Jacks deliberations.

Paul Gilbert said...

This is the second year in a row that Edinburgh (with a female scientist in seat 4) have won their second round match on the final question (last year it was a tie-break) then gone on to reach the final 4.

Something I noticed regarding the finals of Mastermind and UC in the last few years is a pretty much negative correlation between the number of females in each:

Season - Females in Mastermind Final - Females in UC Final
2014/15 - 3 - 0
2015/16 - 1 - 1
2016/17 - 3 - 0
2017/18 - 0 - 2*

*assuming no reserve players feature in the remaining matches

In fact, UC this year has more females in the SFs (4) than the 2014/15 series did in the QFs (only 3, none of whom reached the SFs - Paxman actually mentioning this on the show that year).

Anonymous said...

For those interested in random stats, it might be noticed that all four of the semi-finalists won their first quarter-final. I believe that the 2017-2018 season is only the second time that this has happened since the current 37 episode UC format (with 10 QF matches, much maligned by Paxman) was introduced in 2009-10. In 2009-10 the winners of the first four quarter-finals also all got through to the semis. Since then teams have lost their first QF and gone on to win the whole series of course - most recently in 2016-17.

By co-incidence, 2009-10 was, it seems, also the most recent previous season when there have been as many (!) as two women in the final. Finals since 2009-10 and before 2017-18 only had zero or one woman appearing.