Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Correlation Between NCAA Women's Teams' Hitting Percentages and Tourney Seeding

As longtime readers of this blog know, I have focused extensively on hitting percentage as a kind of "all-in-one" marker of a team's productivity. Points are what win games and matches, and hitting percentages include a lot of information about points gained (through kills) and lost (through hitting errors), as well as spike attempts that merely keep the ball in play and thus reflect missed opportunities to score points.

If one looks at the seedings of the upcoming NCAA Division I women's tournament and the final regular-season statistics on team hitting percentage, one sees quite a bit of correspondence.

Penn State is the top national seed and led the nation in hitting percentage. Texas is seeded second and finished second nationally in hitting percentage. Florida State is seeded third (a surprise to many, perhaps because the Seminoles did not play many matches against "power-conference" opponents) and was fourth in hitting percentage.

For the 16 nationally seeded teams, I've plotted the relation between seed and hitting percentage, below. (Note that there are also some teams that finished in the top 16 nationally in hitting percentage, but either got into the NCAA field as a non-seed, such as St. Mary's (Cal.), which ranked eighth in hitting percentage, or missed the field entirely, such as Maryland-Eastern Shore, which was sixth).

For readers with some statistical training, the correlation is negative, meaning that smaller seed numbers (where 1 is best) go together with higher hitting percentages. The trend is not quite statistically significant, but with the small sample size of 16, that's not surprising.

I have highlighted two teams -- Washington and Hawai'i -- in underline and italics, as they had hitting percentages above what their seedings would seem to suggest. If the Huskies and Rainbow Wahine do better than what their respective seedings would project, that will further support the importance of hitting percentage (it should be noted, however, that Hawai'i is ranked No. 3 in the nation in a couple of "traditional" coaches' and media polls).

No comments: