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FiveThirtyEight Tackles Women's College Volleyball

The website FiveThirtyEight, which offers quantitative analyses of politics*, sports, and culture, today turns its attention to women's college volleyball. The article is not as statistically laden as a lot of other FiveThirtyEight pieces, but has some numerical analysis. Mainly, the article looks at leading teams' returning talent, presenting the percentage of each team's total kills, assists, digs, blocks, and aces from last year that are accounted for by players returning this year. For example, of the 1,791 total kills Cardinal hitters recorded last year, 85.1% were collected by players returning this year.

*The website's name comes from the number of electoral votes in U.S. presidential elections.
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Previewing the 2019 NCAA Women's Season

ESPN-W previews what it considers the top women's college volleyball teams and players in this upcoming season... Meanwhile, here is the AVCA pre-season national poll. Defending NCAA champion Stanford is a near-unanimous pick to repeat, while five B1G teams make the top eight (Nebraska 2, Minnesota 3, Wisconsin 5, Illinois 6, and Penn State 8). Texas (4) and Kentucky (7) complete the top eight.

Long Beach State Repeats as NCAA Men's Champ

Having taken three months to digest this year's NCAA men's title match between Hawai'i and Long Beach State, I'm ready to provide my statistical analysis. These teams were ranked as the top two squads entering the national final and they were extremely evenly matched.

Long Beach State* and Hawai'i  played three late-season matches leading into the NCAA tourney -- the final two matches (here and here) of the Big West conference season (played in Long Beach) and in the final of the conference tournament (in Honolulu). All three matches went five games and all three were won by the home team.

The Beach hosted the NCAA final round and the home-court advantage held true to form. The final went four games instead of five, but each game was close. Ultimately, Long Beach State successfully defended its national title, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-23 (box score).

For the second straight year, it was the T. J. DeFalco show for The Beach, as the 6-4 senior hitter was unstoppable. …

Stanford Tops Nebraska in First Five-Game Championship Final in Nine Years

This year's NCAA women's championship match, completed in mid-December, featured a five-game thriller in which Stanford defeated Nebraska, 28-26, 22-25, 25-16, 15-25, 15-12 (box score). It was the first time an NCAA women's final went five since the classic 2009 tussle in which Penn State came back from two games down vs. Texas to win its third straight national title.

Stanford was the No. 1 seed in the tourney and No. 2 in my own Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive (CACOD) metric. Interesting, Nebraska, though only the No. 7 seed in the eyes of the NCAA Selection Committee, finished first in the CACOD. The final thus presented an attractive match-up, indeed!

Not everything went according to plan. Stanford junior Kathryn Plummer, the 2017 and 2018 AVCA and ESPN-W national player of the year, was kept in check in the final, hitting only .153 (19 kills, 10 errors, 59 total attempts). Frosh middle-blocker Holly Campbell paced the Cardinal attack, hitting .483 (15…

Prognostic Value of Seeds in NCAA Women's Tourney

The NCAA website has an article on how women's volleyball teams' seeds predict how they do in the tourney. Data are from 2000-onward, which is as long as teams have been seeded 1-16. Two findings I found interesting were as follows (quoting from the article):

Since 2000, the tournament’s No. 1 seed has won the national championship six out of 18 times.

Stanford [No. 11] in 2004 and No. 9 UCLA in 2011 are the only teams seeded lower than No. 6 to win a national championship.

The article also contains a chart at the bottom, listing the final four teams every year from 2000-onward, their seeds, and their ultimate national finish.

2018 NCAA Women's Tourney Preview

With this year's NCAA women's tournament getting underway tonight, it's time for my annual Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive (CACOD) ratings of the leading teams (explanation). In a nutshell, the CACOD takes each team's season-long hitting percentage, divides it by the aggregate hitting percentage it has allowed its opponents, and then multiplies the result by an adjustment factor for difficulty of conference. Relevant numbers for this year's seeded teams are shown as follows (with the actual CACOD ratio listed under "adjratio"). You can click on the graphic to enlarge it.

The first thing that jumps out at me is that Nebraska is grossly under-seeded (No. 7), relative to its CACOD rating (best in the nation at 2.49). The Cornhuskers' defense, allowing a microscopic .130 opposition hitting percentage, is key to the high CACOD rating, along with the 1.25 adjustment factor for playing in the Big 10. And what a Big 10 season it was, with fiv…

Strange Start to 2018 NCAA Women's Season

The women's college volleyball season is only three weeks old, so the Top 10 teams in the AVCA pre-season poll shouldn't have too many losses at this point, should they?

Well, as shown in the following chart, the number of Top 10 teams who are still undefeated is... ONE. The number of these teams with three or more losses is... THREE.

TeamGood Wins Over...Losses To...1. StanfordPenn St.,
MinnesotaBYU2. NebraskaOregon (18),
Creighton (14)Florida3. TexasOregon, Florida,
KentuckyWisconsin4. Minnesota?Oregon, Stanford5. Kentucky?Creighton, USC,
N. Iowa, Texas6. Penn StateOregonStanford7. FloridaNebraskaTexas, USC,
N. Arizona8. BYUStanford, USC---9. WisconsinTexasBaylor10. USCKentucky, Creighton,
FloridaC. Florida, BYU,
And it's not merely the number of losses by Top 10 teams. It's to whom. Florida losing to Northern Arizona? Wisconsin losing to Baylor? USC losing to Central Florida and Marquette?

I cannot say with certainly that this is the most upset-laden first …