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Virginia Basketball: Magic Numbers as of 2/20

Two more impactful games (BC/Syracuse, UNC/Duke) are in the books so its time to take a look at where Virginia stands.

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get into the update, I want to address some discussion about my method for calculating our magic number. I guess I sort of stole the "magic number" term and repurposed it for my needs. To clarify, my intention here has always been to say how many wins Virginia needs to guarantee certain seeds in the ACC tournament. I don't personally care about scenarios that take other teams losing. They come into play when the happen (as they did last night with BC defeating Syracuse and tonight with UNC upsetting Duke), but they don't matter to me right now.

That said, I'll admit that there is a standard (or at least de facto standard) way of doing Magic Numbers that is as follows:

MAB = G + 1 - WA - LB


MAB = The Magic Number for Team A to finish ahead of team B.
G = The total number of games in the season (or conference slate).
WA = The number of wins that Team A currently has
LB = The number of losses that Team B currently has

This obviously doesn't take into account tie-breakers, though, and its really intended only to be used to calculate the frontrunner's magic number. Go read the Wikipedia article if you want. It explains it fairly well, including the problems with it. I'll just say there are benefits to both ways of doing this.

From now on, I'm going to list both numbers ("mine" and "theirs") to either avoid confusion or introduce more. I guess we'll see which one!

So now for the numbers. As a reminder, Virginia is already guaranteed to be, at least, tied for fourth place in the ACC with Pitt. Virginia holds the tie-breaker, so they're guaranteed the double-bye in the ACC tournament that goes along with the #4 seed. Though technically, the magic number formula says that our magic number for 4th place (being ahead of Pitt) is 1. So there's that.

Magic Number for 3rd place: One (me), Two (them). Sort of.

For me, this is straight-forward. We need one more win to guarantee that we finish ahead of North Carolina. If we go 1-3 the rest of the way and they win out, we would be tied with them. But because we have the tie-breaker with them, we would take the third seed.

The formula method says our magic number over both UNC and Duke is two. Since we lose the tie-breaker to Duke, that's accurate for them. Notsomuch for UNC.

Magic Number for 2nd place: Two (me), Two (them). Yay! Agreement!

As I mentioned, we don't hold the tie-breaker with Duke, so we need to ensure we finish ahead of them and at least tied with UNC to finish in second. That means two more wins by Virginia to guarantee it.

The formula also says two, kind of, because it says two for both UNC and Duke.

Magic Number for ACC Regular Season Championship: Four (me), Five (them)

Even though Syracuse lost to Boston College, it didn't really change our magic number in my mind. We need to win out to guarantee we finish ahead of Syracuse. There are some scenarios in which we don't need to win out, but to guarantee it, we need to win all four games.

The formula says five. That is either because it doesn't take into account tie-breakers or because one of our wins would also be one of their losses (thus making one of theirs redundant). Kind of depends on how you look at it I suppose.


Bottom line, Virginia continues to control its own destiny in the race for the ACC regular season championship.

Go Hoos!