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Preview of Women's NCAA Final: Texas vs. Stanford

My last posting, on the Final Four teams' success rate this season in five-game matches, turned out to be useless for the semifinals, as neither match went the distance. Maybe tonight's final will...

Things haven't exactly gone as expected. The vaunted Big 10 conference (abbreviated B1G), which had the three highest national seeds -- Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin -- has no finalist. Also, this year will be the first in the six years I've compiled my Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive (CACOD) measure that a national title winner will be below a score of 1.94. The two finalists are close though, Stanford at 1.91 and Texas at 1.79.

I found Stanford's four-game semifinal win over Minnesota surprising, but the Cardinal had defeated the Gophers, also in four, way back on August 28.

My reaction to the other semi, which also involved a rematch from the regular season, was: What the hell happened? Defending national champion and this year's No. 1 nati…

Final Four Teams' Records in Five-Game Matches

There seem to have been a lot of five-game matches this year, both in the regular season and in the NCAA tournament. Some of the Final Four teams went five in roughly a quarter of their matches this season. Here's how the remaining teams fared in five-game matches:

Texas: 4-3 overall; 2-1 home; 2-2 road

Nebraska: 4-1 overall; 2-0 home; 2-1 road

Stanford: 4-4 overall; 1-3 home; 2-1 road; 1-0 neutral
Included in Stanford's record is a win over visiting Cal Poly. How did the Cardinal even let Cal Poly take the match to a fifth game?Minnesota: 5-3 overall; 4-0 home; 1-3 away
Interestingly, the Gophers closed B1G conference play with four straight five-game wins, all at home.

2016 NCAA Women's Tourney Preview

With this year's NCAA women's tournament getting underway today (brackets), I'm back with my Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive (CACOD) measure to forecast teams' success. The CACOD simply divides a team's own hitting percentage during the regular season by the overall hitting percentage it allowed its opponents, and then multiplies the resulting ratio by an adjustment factor to reward being in stronger conferences (details here). Teams that hit well and don't allow their opponents to do so will get the highest CACOD scores.

I have been calculating the CACOD for the past five years. The following table (which you can click to enlarge) shows scores for all teams making the Elite Eight during that time frame. Again, CACOD scores are based entirely on regular-season play (i.e., NCAA-tourney games are not factored in), so they can be judged for their prognostic efficacy.


The table tells us three main things, in my view:

No team below a CACOD of 1.94 ha…

Hitting Percentages vs. Different Numbers of Blockers Up

How much of an advantage is it for a hitter to go against one blocker instead of two? Or against two blockers who have not closed ranks (i.e., a  split block) instead of two blockers who are side-by-side with no gap between them? The following analysis, a collaboration of Volleymetrics (the blog where you are now) and Volleymetrics (the statistical-analysis consulting firm owned by Giuseppe Vinci), addresses questions such as these.

After several conversations, Giuseppe agreed to share some of his data with me for analysis. Given my location at a Big 12 school, we decided to explore data from women's play in this league (2015 within-conference matches only). Far and away, most spiking attempts occurred against two blockers side-by-side (10,615). The next most swings took place facing one blocker (2,712) or a split-block (1,182). Attempts against zero (409) or three (273) blockers were relatively rare.  Here are the average hitting percentages against each type of blocking scenario…

2016 Olympic Wrap-Up

The 2016 Summer Olympics concluded a week ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I would like to offer some statistics and closing thoughts on the women's and men's indoor competitions. The U.S. captured bronze medals in both, but could have, and perhaps should have, won a pair of gold medals.

WOMEN'S PLAY

For women's and men's play alike, there was a 12-team field, with teams divided into two pools (A and B). The U.S. women finished atop Pool B, with a 5-0 record. The top four teams in each pool advanced to an elimination tournament to determine the medal-winners. Accompanying the U.S. from Pool B were the Netherlands (4-1), Serbia (3-2), and China (2-3).

The four teams to come out of Pool A were host Brazil (5-0), Russia (4-1), Korea (3-2), and Japan (2-3). Presumably, the teams were seeded to even out the strength of the two pools as much as possible. However, when the elimination round began -- with the fourth-place team in one pool playing the first-place squad fr…

U.S. Women's Olympic Team for Rio

With the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro just one day away, there is much anticipation among volleyball fans regarding the various competitions within the sport. Kerri Walsh will be seeking her fourth straight gold medal in women's beach volleyball (this time partnered with April Ross, rather than longtime partner Misty May), but we'll save that topic for another day.

The present entry is about the U.S. women's indoor team, which is seeking its first Olympic gold medal in program history. After a shocking setback to Brazil in the final of the 2012 London Olympics, the U.S. women won their first major international title at the 2014 World Championships. The Americans then took third at the 2015 World Cup.

There appear to be several top contenders on the Rio hardwood, besides the U.S., including home-team Brazil, China, Serbia, and Russia. Don't be surprised to see semifinal and final matches coming down to decisive fifth games!

The followi…

NCAA Men's Tourney: If BYU and UCLA Meet in Final, Bruins' Serving Could Be Crucial

We're now down to the Final Four of men's NCAA volleyball, with two semifinal matches tonight -- No. 1 seed BYU vs. No. 4 Long Beach State, and No. 2 seed UCLA vs. No. 3 Ohio State -- and the final on Saturday (link to bracket). In the event of a BYU-UCLA final, which is no certainty, my preview below will be useful. If not, it will have been purely an academic exercise.

BYU and UCLA have played three times this season, in a pair of regular-season matches in Los Angeles (here and here) and in the MPSF conference-tournament final in Provo. The Cougars have taken all three contests, each in four games. In each of these matches, Bruin serving errors have played a seemingly large role in determining the outcome. UCLA committed 15 service errors in the first match, 20 in the second, and 27 in the third. I find this unbelievable, but in the three matches combined, the Bruins missed one-quarter of all their serve attempts (62 misses on 246 serves, which is .252)! (These and other sta…