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Showing posts from December, 2013

NCAA Women's Final: Penn State Dominates Early, Hangs on Rest of the Way vs. Wisconsin for Title

Penn State won its sixth NCAA women's volleyball title in school history last Saturday night, stopping an amazingly tenacious Wisconsin Badger squad in four games, 25-19, 26-24, 20-25, 25-23.  The Badgers had lost 3-0 to the Nittany Lions both times in Big 10 play this season (although there were some tight "deuce games" in there). Other Wisconsin losses during conference play (e.g., 0-3 to Michigan and 1-3 to Illinois, both in Madison) made it seem even less likely the Badgers would make it to -- and seriously contest -- the national championship match. But, two nights after shocking defending champion Texas, Wisconsin most certainly did make a serious run for the national title!

Penn State dominated for a stretch, spanning roughly the middle of Game 1 to the middle of Game 2 (discussed below). Once Wisconsin woke up in Game 2, however, the Badgers outplayed the Nittany Lions for most of the rest of the evening. PSU seemed to struggle to play on even terms with Wisconsi…

Statistical Notes Heading into Women's Final Four (2013)

With this year's NCAA women's Final Four getting underway Thursday night in Seattle, today's posting offers some statistical observations. The two semifinal match-ups feature defending champion Texas vs. upstart Wisconsin, and Penn State vs. hometown favorite Washington.

Wisconsin, a one-time power that had missed the NCAA tourney from 2008 through 2012, is now back in an ascendant mode under new coach Kelly Sheffield. Seeded 12th nationally, the Badgers benefited in their part of the bracket from the fact that SEC teams Missouri (No. 4 seed) and Florida (No. 5 seed) were Paper Tigers and Gators, respectively. Having said that, Wisconsin may be the kind of team that can give Texas a tough match (like Michigan in last year's semifinal).

A year ago, I developed a statistic that attempts to measure teams' "grind-it-out" tendencies. To me a grind-it-out team is one that lacks spikers with pulverizing power, but digs opponents' attacks well and avoids hitt…

My Simple Prediction Equation for the NCAA Women's Tourney

Two years ago, I created a very simple prediction equation for the NCAA women's tournament. Each team gets its own value on the predictive measure. To calculate it, you take a team's overall hitting percentage at the end of the regular season and divide it by the hitting percentage the team allowed its opponents (in the aggregate). The result is then multiplied by an adjustment factor for conference strength, as shown here. For any match in the NCAA tourney, the team with the higher value on my measure would be expected to win.

In both 2012 and 2011, my formula did about as well as other, more complicated ranking formulas. I'm not going to do a full-scale analysis for this year's bracket, but I wanted to mention the formula and provide some sample calculations, in case anyone wanted to compute a score this week for his or her favorite team. The necessary information should be available from the volleyball page of a given school's athletics website. Here are 2013 va…