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Quidditch In Quarantine - The Eighth Man’s US Quarantine Cup

Learn more about the simulated national championship currently in progress by media outlet the Eighth Man.

USQ is doing a four part editorial series on the wealth of quidditch content being produced right now by our community. This is part one. 

USQ and our members alike were heartbroken when it became clear that US Quidditch Cup 13 would need to be cancelled. While necessary for the health and safety of all involved, it was a hard blow to all the teams who worked so hard this season and were excited to prove themselves at the national level. The difficult decision left our members with many unanswered questions. What teams would they have played against? What upsets might have occured? Who would have taken home the championship? 

Enter the Eighth Man, the quidditch community’s go-to media site for analysis and strategy. Unsatisfied with a “what if” outcome, the Eighth Man staff, led by Joshua Mansfield, worked together to create the US Quarantine Cup. The US Quarantine Cup is a comprehensive, Elo-based simulation of every matchup that would have occurred at USQ Cup 13. A more in-depth description of how the simulations work can be found here.

Over the past couple weeks, The Eighth Man has been posting recap articles based on the results of the game simulations, even going so far as to interview team captains regarding their team’s “performance” in each game. Highlights have included Twin Cities Quidditch Club upheaving their fellow Top 10 teams, and Anteater Quidditch, Creighton Quidditch, and SHSU Quidditch making program history by advancing to the Elite 8.

US Quarantine Cup is currently in the semifinals, with coverage posted daily on The Eighth Man’s website, Facebook, and Twitter. In between the intense “gameplay,” we found a moment to (virtually) sit down with Joshua Mansfield and get the inside scoop on the backstory of US Quarantine Cup, its impact on the quidditch community, and what we can expect in the future.

How did the US Quarantine Cup come to be?

So I've been using Elo to run predictive simulations for The Eighth Man for a couple of years now. Generally, these would just spit out a team's probability of winning their pool or a tournament, or getting a bid if they were for regional championships. When USQ announced that Quidditch Cup 13 would have to be postponed (and ultimately cancelled) due to COVID-19, I got the idea to turn this data into a true simulation.

What were some of the challenges of building an accurate simulation for the event?

The biggest challenge was ultimately the speed at which I had to build this program; I ended up using all the data from World Cup VII to Quidditch Cup 12 to build the model. The other big challenge was creating "real" score outcomes for each game. For example, it could originally say "Team A beat Team B by 20 points" but I had no way of saying if that score was 240*-220 or 90*-70. Finding a way to make those scores look realistic took a lot of trial and error and some hand waving (an early model had a winning team's score as 0* - 240), but I'm happy with how that turned out.

What has been the response of the quidditch community so far?

Overall, I think the response has been pretty positive. Ultimately, this project became so fun for me because I haven't played quidditch since February, and wanted at least a little dose of it in my life. I think a lot in the community have echoed that sentiment - even if it comes at the expense of their team being "upset" in the model. It's been great to see team Twitter accounts engaging with the scores and results coming in. I have also loved the live shows that Ethan Sturm and Harry Clarke and company have been able to put together, as well as the graphic design work by Amanda Dallas. Those have really breathed life into this project that would have otherwise just been scores written down on paper.

What do you hope the community might gain from this event?

When we created this project, the initial goal was to create at least a facsimile of something that would reflect the effort that teams have put in this season. We knew that there would be a ton of graduating seniors that were left out there with those "What could have been" questions stuck in their mind, especially for teams that might be historically peaking this year and not be able to show it on the pitch at nationals. 

What’s next after the finals? Can we expect a Quarantine World Cup?

Once this main content is put out, I would like to release the results from the other simulations we ran. There are a lot of teams that were poised to have great runs that haven't necessarily played out in this run, even though they set themselves up for the opportunity to have that success (as some of the other simulations show).

Because this came out so quickly, there are a couple features in the algorithm that I would love to tweak and optimize that were just too complex to put into this one. I would love to play with those numbers and create a better model for World Cup. Since to my knowledge no official format for World Cup was ever released, I would probably try to get a brain trust of international members together to put together their ideal format for what a World Cup structure would look like.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with USQ?

Just a thank you for publicizing and encouraging this virtual tournament so far. This started out as a pet project, so it's fun to see it being spread wide and giving people at least a little fix for the full quidditch experience we wish we could have in our lives right now.

Madison Vaughn is the PR Coordinator for USQ and was previously a member of UCLA Quidditch for 4 years. She misses being the team mom, but is looking forward to being the team grandma with cheers and cookies when quidditch resumes again.