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    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Magic 8 Review

    Now that the first week of March Madness is over, and tonight the second week starts, it is time to look back on the Magic 8 and see what's happened.

    Every year Grant Wahl, sportswriter for Sports Illustrated, comes out at the beginning of January with his "Magic 8" -- the 8 teams from which the national champion will eventually come.

    Now, these are not necessarily the most talented eight teams, or the teams with the best records, and he's picking them almost a full three months before the NCAA tournament. Pretty impressive that every year since 2000 except 2003, he's accurately predicted the national champion.

    So, on January 16, 2008, Wahl selected these teams as his "Magic 8":

    1. Georgetown -- WRONG. the "class of the Big East" got an overrated #2 seed. It's easy to be swooned by Roy Hibbert, but let's be honest, they won close games all year with glaring weaknesses. I saw one look at the bracket, and knew well underrated Davidson would send them packing. #2 vs. #10 was more like #4 vs. #5.

    2. Indiana -- WRONG. Hard to blame anyone on this one. I knew Sampson would get canned when all the stories hit the presses, but I never thought they'd fall apart like they did. Indiana wasn't even close to the same team after Sampson that it was before.

    3. Kansas -- CORRECT. They're still around, and looking more and more like the team to beat. Perhaps I should have taken them to win it all. Unfortunately for them, #5 Davidson or #1 Wisconsin will meet them in the Elite Eight. Neither will go down without a fight.

    4. Louisville -- CORRECT. I didn't believe this pick when he wrote it -- given that BYU had beaten Louisville and taken UNC down to the wire. I just didn't think they were amazing. When the bracket came out, I thought they were done for; having to play through Tennessee and UNC to reach the Final Four. But I was wrong. Louisville's playing killer ball, and that's bad for my bracket. Very bad.

    5. Memphis -- CORRECT. But I doubt they'll be correct much longer. This isn't hatin' Memphis. They're good. Real good. But I saw them lose to Tennessee and they never fixed that weakness -- free throw shooting at the end of games. Unfortunately for them, they get Texas in Houston, and this shootout at the OK Corral will end with dead Tigers everywhere.

    6. Tennessee -- CORRECT. Something about them just doesn't look right these days. Some writers say it's the point guard play, and maybe it is, but I think they have The Malady. The Malady is this deadly airborne disease that starts to infect teams about March, and may become epidemic. It's characterized by symptoms of lackadaisical play, and absence of that killer instinct necessary to win a two week long tournament. You see it with BYU every year in the first round, and Texas A&M showed it for the last five minutes of their game against UCLA (before being robbed). Tennessee had it against Butler, but got lucky and survived. They won't against Louisville, and there goes the other half of my ESPN brackets.

    7. UCLA -- CORRECT. For some reason they have a charm around them. How many games have they won because of wrong calls this season? 4? Including the last game against Texas A&M? Everyone seems to think they have the easiest road to the final four (go Western Kentucky!), and that may be true given the money they've OBVIOUSLY slipped under the tables to refs, but I almost put Xavier down on my bracket. They're like Wisconsin -- good enough to be a #1, but not flashy enough to ever get it.

    8. Xavier -- CORRECT. Well speak of the Devil! Xavier has the mix of teamwork and experience that should get a lot more credit during March Madness than it has. Will they beat West Virginia? It will be hard, but I think so. Will they beat UCLA and the referees in the Elite Eight? That's a tall order. One or the other, I'd say yes, but both? Two against one just isn't fair in this fight. UCLA's charmed life goes on.

    So, in my imperfect mathematical ways, how's he doing?

    Well, out of the original eight, six made the Sweet 16. Not bad. 75% remaining.

    Odds by region of reaching the Final Four:
    East -- 75%
    South -- 25%
    Midwest -- 25%
    West -- 50%

    But since not all teams are created equally, let's look at Vegas Watch's predictions:

    Instead of the East having a flat 75% chance of one Magic 8 team reaching the final four, we can add up their percentages and see that there's actually a 90.6% chance.

    So, the revised regions are:

    East -- 90.6%
    Midwest -- 61.9%
    South -- 37%
    West -- 79.5%

    So, there's a 90.6 x 61.9 x 50 = 28% chance that an East/Midwest Magic 8 reaches the finals, and a 37 x 79.5 x 50 = 14.7% chance that a South/West Magic 8 reaches the final. Therefore, there's a 2% chance that a Magic 8 wins it all.

    I'm hoping for a Wisconsin v. Xavier final.

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