Tuesday, November 28, 2023

2023 NCAA Women's Preview

Sixth-four teams are alive at the moment, but it sure looks like Nebraska (28-1) and Wisconsin (26-3) will meet for a third time this season to determine the NCAA women's volleyball championship (bracket). Both are No. 1 regional seeds, along with Pitt and Stanford.

Clearly the two dominant teams of the regular season, the Huskers and Badgers split their two B1G matches. Nebraska took an epic five-game tussle from Wisconsin on October 21 in Lincoln. Then, after dropping back-to-back road matches at Penn State and Purdue in mid November, Wisconsin smoked Nebraska on November 24 back in Madison (25-22, 28-26, 25-16); so gloomy was the loss that for the Huskers it really was a Black Friday! In Game 2, the Huskers led 22-19, only to have the Badgers score four straight to lead 23-22. The teams then battled back-and-forth, with UW holding game-points at 24-23 and 27-26, and NU holding them at 25-24 and 26-25.

My Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive (CACOD) metric, which takes a team's own hitting percentage divided by the hitting percentage it has allowed its opponent, multiplied by a conference-difficulty factor, appears below for the 16 nationally seeded teams. In the 12 years the CACOD has been around, no team below 1.91 has ever won the NCAA women's championship. Hence, if precedent holds, only seven teams really have a chance at the title (see column headed by "adjratio").

Oregon looks from its CACOD score to be the most likely non-No. 1 seed to make the Final Four. In addition, the Ducks closed the season winning 10 out of 12, the only two losses coming to Stanford.

I'll close for now with a piece of trivia: Penn State is "the only school to compete in every NCAA Division I Tournament since it started in 1981," a 43-year streak (link).

Saturday, October 21, 2023

No. 1 Wisconsin at No. 2 Nebraska in Battle of the Unbeatens

The top teams of the women's college volleyball season thus far, No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 2 Nebraska will meet tonight in Lincoln (B1G Network, 7:00 Central). The teams have identical records of 18-0 overall and 9-0 in conference. Tickets reportedly were going for as much as $250. Below, I'll comment live on the match. 

Nebraska takes Game 1, 25-22... The statistic that jumped out at me was the Huskers' .727 side-out rate (16/22) to .640 (16/25) for the Badgers (live stats).

Wisconsin dominates Game 2, 25-17. Badgers' 12 blocks in Game 2 alone help hold Huskers to -.077 hitting in the game (12 kills and 16 attack errors on 52 swings).

UW leads 15-10 in Game 3... Now 20-12... Badgers take it 25-20.

Wisconsin with early lead in Game 4, but Nebraska pulls off 5-0 run to lead 9-6... Now 14-10 Huskers... NU 17-16. I'll have to check the statistics later, but Nebraska rarely seems to be setting the middle at all... Wisconsin now ahead 18-17, as Huskers hit some balls out of bounds... 20-18 Badgers... 21-18... Calling a time-out NU coach John Cook looks cooked! New life for Nebraska, as it ties the game 21-all, only to have Wisconsin go up 22-21... 23-all... Kill for Badgers, 24-23... Equalizer kill for Huskers... Lift on UW for 25-24 NU lead. Huskers take it 26-24 on a Wisconsin overpass blocked back down.

Game 5: Badgers off to 5-3 lead... Now 6-5 UW... 8-6 Badgers... 10-8 Wisconsin... 11-9 UW... 12-10 Badgers on Husker service error... Even at 12-12... Time-out... 13-12 Huskers. Swings that were not reaching the floor earlier are now doing so for NU. 14-12 Nebraska... Badger kill to stay alive, 14-13... Match well over the three-hour mark... Per TV announcers, NU hitting .524 in Game 5, UW .500... Nebraska air-mails kill-attempt, 14-all... Huskers challenging whether there was a Badger net violation... And video review shows there was, NU wins 15-13...

Badgers outhit (.217-.130) and outblock (18-7) the Huskers, but get the "L." The teams will play a rematch November 24 in Madison and, quite possibly, will meet for a third time in the NCAA title match.

Postscript: The Wisconsin-Nebraska match drew over 600,000 viewers on the Big Ten Network, an amazing number considering that BTN is generally available only in the home regions of B1G schools and as an added purchase by viewers in other areas.  


The Badgers lead the conference in hitting percentage (for all matches, not just B1G) at .315, with the Huskers in second at .297. The ranks are reversed for opponents' hitting percentage, with NU allowing a microscopic .123 and UW just behind at .143 (conference statistics page).

Nebraska directs most of its sets to outside hitters Merritt Beason (516 attack attempts) and Harper Murray (481 attempts, meaning that the two have nearly taken a combined 1,000 swings on the season. The two have nearly identical hitting percentages on the season, .283 and .285, respectively. In the middle position, Andi Jackson adds a .415 hitting percentage on 224 swings (Husker stats).

For Wisconsin, OH Sarah Franklin carries the hitting load, recording a .292 hitting percentage on 602 swings. Six-foot-nine Anna Smrek patrols the middle, hitting .418 on 316 attempts (Badger stats).

Sunday, September 17, 2023

WSJ Analysis of Wisconsin's Five-Game Win at Florida

My overall impression while watching the ESPN telecast of No. 1 Wisconsin's five-game victory at No. 3 Florida was that the Badgers ran the superior offense, as long as their serve-receipt kept the team in system. Michael McCleary of the Wisconsin State Journal really delved nicely into this issue so I am happy to link to his article. On the Gators' end, it looked like their hitters were highly concerned with UW's big blocking game -- not without reason -- and were conservatively trying to tip a lot of balls over the block instead of swinging away. UF hit .180 on the afternoon and no higher than .216 in any one game (box score). Wisconsin hit only .199 for the match but recorded a .406 in Game 3 and a .286 in Game 5. The teams tied in blocks at 8-8.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Live-Blogging NCAA Men's Championship Match (May 2023)

No. 1 seed UCLA (30-2) and No. 2 seed Hawai'i (29-2) will be getting underway shortly (5:00 Eastern) in the NCAA men's championship match. The Rainbow Warriors will be going for their third straight national title. The teams met once during the season on March 12, with Hawai'i taking a 3-1 victory over UCLA in Honolulu.

Game 1 -- Tied 9-9. Ido David powering the Bruins with four kills thus far... Now 10-10... UCLA leads 12-11 with David up to six kills... 14-12 Bruins, David with seven kills... Hawai'i service error takes us to TV timeout with UCLA up 15-13... Hawaii goes on a run and seems to have the upper hand, leading 23-20. However, Bruins come back for 28-26 win... UCLA (.368, 19 kills, 5 errors, 38 attempts) outhits UH (.275, 16-5-40).

Game 2 -- UCLA leads 13-10... Now 15-10... ESPN2 announcers cite Bruins' block as helping them pull away a bit... Very few stuff-blocks for points thus far (Rainbows 2 [1 solo, 2 assists] and Bruins 1 [1 solo]). However, blocking game can slow down opponent through dampening and deflection... Also per ESPN2 announcers, UCLA siding-out better than UH for the match, 72-62%... Now 19-13 Bruins... Three straight for Rainbows, bringing them within 3... Now 19-17, thanks to some tough serving by UH setter Jakob Thelle, but he serves next ball into net... 21-18 UCLA... 22-20 Bruins... Dimitrios Mouchlias (rhymes with nucleus) with a kill to bring Hawai'i within 22-21... Now 23-22 Bruins... David hits long, making it 23-all... Long rally, UH with multiple swings and finally puts one away, 24-23... Tied again at 24-24... Hawai'i goes up 25-24, but serves into net... Mouchlias kill for 26-25... Alex Knight answers for UCLA, 26-all... Bruins airmail serve, 27-26 UH... Merrick McHenry answers for UCLA, 27-all... Guilherme Voss kill for 28-27 UH... UCLA tip to tie it again, 28-28... Mouchlias hits out of bounds, 29-28 Bruins... Rainbows answer, 29-all... David for 30-29... 30-all... UH block for 31-30... UCLA answers, 31-all... UH kill for 32-31... Hawai'i with multiple swings, Mouchlias puts one away for 33-31 win... 

For Game 2, UCLA hits .349 (21-6-43) to .333 (16-4-36) for Hawai'i... Rainbows' Cole Hogland with 2.5 blocks on the night (1 solo, 3 assists)... TV announcers Paul Sunderland and Kevin Barnett calling Game 2 one of the best -- if not the best -- single games in NCAA finals history... I would go with 2015 Loyola vs. Lewis in Game 5 (if for no other reason than that it was the deciding game)...

Game 3 -- Still tight as ever, 10-all... Now 13-11 UCLA... 15-13 Bruins (on kill by David) at the TV timeout... David with 17 kills on the night (9 in Game 1, 4 in Game 2, 4 so far in Game 3)... 18-14 Bruins, T/O Rainbows... UCLA block gives it 20-15 lead... Block by Hogland (with Chaz Galloway) cuts UH deficit to 20-17... Now 21-19 UCLA... Now 23-19... 24-20, game-point Bruins... UH saves one, but David with a kill to win it 25-21... 

David hitting .371 (20-7-35) through three games... J. R. Norris (.889, 8-0-9), Knight (.385, 11-1-26), and McHenry (.385, 8-3-13) also getting it done for the Bruins... Voss (.625, 6-1-8), Hogland (.667, 6-0-9), Mouchlias (.333, 15-3-36), and Galloway (.333, 8-2-18) pacing Hawai'i.

Game 4 -- UCLA leading 7-5 Tied at 6-6 (call reversal)... 8-7 Rainbows... Good Knight! Big block ties it for UCLA... Norris with back-to-back aces to make it 10-8 Bruins... Now 15-11 UCLA... 15-13... 16-13 Bruins... 16-15 UCLA (pending review of whether spike was in or out)... 17-14 UCLA... 18-14 Bruins, as UH blocker touches antenna with his hand -- in 50 years of watching volleyball, I've never seen that particular violation be committed!  19-14 on another David kill... UH within 19-16... 21-16 UCLA, as Norris records fourth ace... 23-18 Bruins, as program's 20th NCAA title looking highly likely... Now 23-20... Hawai'i serves into net, 24-20, four match points for UCLA... UH saves one... Bruins take next point for championship (25-21) but Hawai'i challenges... Challenge rejected, UCLA wins its first NCAA title since 2006, the 20th in program history...

Final box score.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Chad Gordon Analyses NCAA Men's Tourney Teams' Attacking Efficiency

Over at Off the Block, Chad Gordon has every attacking stat you could want for each of the seven teams in the NCAA men's tournament (UCLA, Hawai'i, Grand Canyon, Long Beach State, Penn State, Ohio State, and King University of Bristol, Tennessee). For each team, Gordon examines:

  • The team's overall hitting percentage (or efficiency) and hitting percentage for each player with more than 100 hitting attempts on the season.
  • How these hitting percentages compare to what would be expected based on situational factors (e.g., the quality of serve-receipt before the ball is set to the hitter, whether the team is attacking after a free-ball). 
  • Hitting percentage and hitting percentage over expected for in-system and out-of-system attacks.
Even though some of the statistical formulations are complex, Gordon offers practical, straightforward conclusions, such as that UCLA's Ido David is "hitting almost 200 points above expectation in-system ... and can be counted on for a quick sideout." Or that, "While [the Hawai'i] middle duo of [Guilherme] Voss and [Cole] Hogland are ridiculously efficient on their limited attempts, it’s the three pin hitters whose consistent play throughout the chaos really shines. Of the three, [Dimitrios] Mouchlias shines the brightest, hitting +.234 over expectation on out of system attempts."

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Live-Blogging NCAA Women's Championship Match (December 2022)

Texas leading Louisville 21-18 in Game 1. The Cardinals got off to a 3-0 lead, but ever since, the Longhorns have led consistently by anywhere from 1 to 4 points... Now 22-19 Texas... Logan Eggleston pacing the Horns with .538 hitting (8 kills and 1 error on 13 attempts)... Claire Chaussee leading Louisville with .429 hitting (7-1-14)... Anna DeBeer with only three swings thus far for the Cards... 24-21 Texas... Eggleston with her 10th kill (10-1-16, .563) to give Texas the opening game 25-22... Eggleston ends up with more attack attempts (16) than her teammates combined (14)... Longhorns, as a team, hit   .533 with only two hitting errors (18-2-30)... Cardinals not bad offensively, either, hitting .400 (15-3-30)...

Longhorns open up 3-0 lead in Game 2... Now 7-4 UT... Louisville only has one block for a point, which occurred early in Game 1... Only thing Horns struggling with is serving, with 7 errors on the night... Longhorn lead now 9-6... 11-6... Game 2 on the verge of getting out of hand for Louisville (if it hasn't already), with Texas leading 15-7... Cards with four straight points, closing to 15-11 on team's second block... Horns end Louisville rally, 16-11... Texas takes Game 2, 25-14, to put itself one game away from a national championship...

Louisville leading 7-5 in Game 3...  9-6 Cards on kill by DeBeer, who is now hitting .364 (6-2-11)... Another De Beer kill to make it 10-8 for UL... Texas with mini-rally to tie it 10-10... Chaussee kill (9-5-32, .125) makes it 12-10 Cards... Horns with three straight for 13-12 lead... Louisville hanging in, 16-all... UT with next two points, 18-16... Big roof for Texas (its 9th block on the night) to increase lead to 19-16... Now 20-16... UL still not going away, closes within 20-18... 20-19... 21-all... 22-21 Louisville... Texas not getting good swings lately, but ties it 22-22... Chaussee kill for 23-22 Cardinal lead... DeBeer kill for 24-22, an 8-2 Louisville run from down 20-16... DeBeer hitting .316 (9-3-19) on the night, matched closely by teammate Aiko Jones, .318 (8-1-22)... Texas stays alive in Game 3, 24-23 Cards... Chaussee hits long, letting UT tie the game 24-all. UL challenging call of no-touch... Challenge denied, so 24-24... Net violation Louisville (otherwise would have been Cardinal point as Eggleston hit ball long), match point 25-24 for Texas... Longhorn ace closes it out, 26-24, for three-game sweep and national title...

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Live Blogging NCAA Women's Elite Eight Saturday (December 2022)

A long day of volleyball is over and we have our Final Four teams for next week: Louisville, Texas, Pittsburgh, and San Diego. For the first time since the NCAA began overseeing the women's volleyball championship in 1981, there will not be any team from the Big 10 or Pac 12 in the Final Four (historical list of teams).  

Three of Saturday's four matches -- Oregon-Louisville, Pitt-Wisconsin, and USD-Stanford -- went to five games. One thing that stood out to me is how the Pitt-Wisconsin match appeared to be uniquely arduous in terms of the number of spike attempts compared to the two other five-game contests. Between them, the Panthers and Badgers took 402 swings (Pitt 203, Wisconsin 199), well above the number in the Oregon-Louisville (304; 152 each) and San Diego-Stanford (328; USD 166, Stanford 162) matches.

San Diego-Stanford: The Toreros and Cardinal have gone to five games... USD leading 8-6... Now 9-8 Toreros... Stanford ties it 9-9, but USD wins great rally to lead 10-9... Another exciting rally goes to San Diego for 11-9 lead... 12-9 Toreros on stuff block... USD closes it out 15-9, winning the final six points (from when it was 9-9) to advance to the Final Four... San Diego was very steady in its game-to-game hitting percentages. With the exception of Game 3 in which it hit .143, USD was right around the .300 mark in every game (.303 in Game 1, .371 in Game 2, .304 in Game 4, and .294 in Game 5). Stanford, on the other hand, was up and down: .394, .219, .333, and .217 in Games 1-4, before hitting .000 in the fifth (3 kills and 3 errors on 18 attempts). Granted, fifth games are only up to 15 points instead of 25 in the other games, but the Cardinal's 3 kills in Game 5 were well below their kill totals of the first four games (16, 13, 14, and 17).

Pittsburgh-Wisconsin: Panthers with an early 3-1 lead in the opening game... Pitt with back-to-back stuff blocks for a 6-3 lead... Badger hitting error makes it 7-3 Panthers... Wisconsin on 5-1 run to close from down 18-11 to within 19-16. Last five Badger kills from five different players (Smrek, Orzol, Crawford, Franklin, and Robinson)... Pitt attack error makes it 19-17... and another makes it 19-18... Last call overturned and Panthers' Serena Gray awarded a kill, 20-17... Courtney Buzzerio follows with another Pitt kill, making it 21-17 Panthers... Now 22-18... Reversal says last Pitt attack was not good, 21-18 Panthers... UW wins next five consecutive points (6-0 run in all) to take 23-21 lead.. Pitt ties 23-all, but two Wisconsin kills close out game 25-23... Badgers hit .163 (15-7-49) in Game 1 with 4 blocks (8 joint/assisted credits in the stats divided by 2), whereas Pitt hits .059 (11-8-51) with 3 blocks (6 joint/assisted)... Roughly 50 swings for each team in one game (shown in red above) is amazing... In today's first match, Louisville and Oregon each took 152 in a five-gamer (see below)...

Panthers trying to hang on in Game 2, their 22-15 lead having been cut to 22-18... Last call (a Devyn Robinson kill) now reversed into a hitting error, Pitt now up 23-17... Badgers respond with two straight kills to close within 23-19... Pitt takes Game 2, 25-21...

The teams split Games 3 and 4, the Panthers taking the former 25-21 and the Badgers taking the latter 25-19 to force a fifth game... With the exception of Game 4, Pitt has held late leads in all of the games, with Wisconsin mounting late runs either to overtake the Panthers (Game 1) or to at least make it closer (Game 2). Game 5 followed this storyline, with Pitt going up 11-6 but Wisconsin reeling off six straight points to lead 12-11 (all six points on kills, four by Julia Orzol). The teams trade the next two points, leaving UW up 13-12, but the Panthers take the last three points (all on kills, two by Courtney Buzzerio) to win the match and advance (play-by-play sheet).

Pitt ended up taking 203 total swings (with 67 kills and 23 errors for a .217 hitting percentage), whereas Wisconsin took 199 swings (with 74 kills and 21 errors for a .266 hitting percentage)... The Panthers, in part at least, made up for their hitting disadvantage by outserving the Badgers: Pitt amassed 8 aces with only 4 errors, whereas Wisconsin had 4 aces and 9 errors...

Ohio State-Texas: Longhorns looking to go up two games to one, leading 19-9 in the third. Previous game scores were 25-18 Texas in Game 1 and 25-21 Buckeyes in Game 2... The Horns' Logan Eggleston, featured in this ESPN.com article, thus far hitting .429 (12-3-21) on the evening... UT finishes off Game 3 25-13...

Ohio State not going away easily, as Buckeyes trail only 23-21 late in Game 4... Now 24-21 and match point on Eggleston kill... Another Eggleston kill closes out the game and match, 25-21... Eggleston finishes with .341 hitting percentage on the night (20-5-44). Among Buckeyes with 20 or more swings on the night, the hitting percentage leader is Emily Londot (.216, 14-6-37)...

Oregon-Louisville: The Ducks (No. 10 national seed and No. 8 in my Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive metric) are off to a fast start in Game 1, leading the Cardinals (No 2 national seed, No. 3 CACOD) 13-8... Oregon, whose .298 regular-season hitting percentage was second only to Texas (.337) among the top 16 national seeds, is currently hitting .500 (13 kills and 3 errors) on its first 20 spike attempts vs. Louisville... Match has tightened up, UO leading 17-16... Tied at 20-20... Cards up 23-22, in good part based on five Duck service errors... Louisville takes the first game 25-23 on -- what else? -- an Oregon service error (No. 6)... Ducks (.344, 17-6-32) outhit Cards (.280, 10-3-25), but still lose...

Game 2 also tight, with Cards leading 16-14... Ducks on the verge of tying the match, leading 24-22... UO prevails 25-23... Oregon follows up with 25-13 blowout in Game 3. When one team hits unbelievably well in a game -- Oregon, at a .500 clip (15-2-26) -- and the other team registers as many hitting errors as kills -- Louisville, with a .000 hitting percentage (7-7-27) -- a rout is the likely result and that is what we saw in Game 3...

The teams are mainly trading points at the start of Game 4, UL now up 10-8... Anna DeBeer pacing Cards with four kills and a joint block in this game... A DeBeer hitting error and kill by Oregon's Morgan Lewis tie the game 11-11... Still very close in this game -- a DeBeer kill ties it 16-all... 20-18 Louisville, as Aiko Jones contributes a kill and a solo block for the last two Cardinal points... Three straight Brooke Nuneviller kills put the Ducks ahead 21-20... DeBeer with a kill to tie it 21-21... Oregon now closing in on a victory, as Lewis kill and DeBeer error make it 23-21 UO... Duck service error (team's 13th) cuts lead to 23-22... Claire Chaussee kill for Louisville ties it 23-all... Mimi Colyer kill takes UO to match point at 24-23... Colyer error ties it right back up 24-24... Chaussee again to put Cards up 25-24... Lewis ties it 25-all, but Chaussee yet again for a 26-25 UL lead... Colyer stuffed to give Cardinals a 27-25 win and send the match to a fifth game...

Through four games (cumulatively):

  • Louisville 7 aces (5 by Elena Scott) and 11 service errors; Oregon 3 aces and 13 errors
  • Louisville 9 blocks (5 solo and 8 joint/assisted); Oregon 6 (0 solo and 12 joint/assisted).
Game 5 underway, score tied 2-2... Four straight Cardinal points (from down 2-3 to ahead 6-3)... 7-3 Louisville... Karson Bacon with a kill to end the Oregon drought, 7-4 Cards... Ducks cut their deficit to 7-5 but then commit their 14th service error, 8-5 UL... Two more Cardinal points (including DeBeer kill) make it 10-5 (8-2 run by UL)... DeBeer kill extends Cardinal lead to 11-5 and current run to 9-2... Another DeBeer kills makes it 12-5 (10-2 run)... Yet another DeBeer kill makes it 13-5 (11-2 run)... DeBeer misses on spike attempt, 13-6 UL... Oregon attack error give Louisville eight match points at 14-6... Jones kill closes it out, 15-6, Cards to the Final Four... Cards record their best single-game hitting percentage of the match in Game 5 at .350 (9-2-20), with Ducks' hitting going into negative territory (more errors than kills) at -.095 (3-5-21)... The following graph shows the teams' game-by-game hitting percentages... 

For the match overall, Oregon outhit Louisville .250 (64-26-152) to .217 (56-23-152). Both teams hit well short of their cumulative regular-season hitting percentage (Oregon .298, Louisville .289). The Cardinals allowed their regular-season opponents to hit only .148 and thus allowed the Ducks to hit more than .100 higher in this match. Oregon allowed its regular-season opponents to hit .207 and kept Louisville to around that level (.217). If one were looking only at hitting percentages, one would think Oregon won the match! Also, in Games 1, 2, and 4, the teams were pretty even in hitting percentage, so other factors such as serving likely played a role... 

2023 NCAA Women's Preview

Sixth-four teams are alive at the moment, but it sure looks like Nebraska (28-1) and Wisconsin (26-3) will meet for a third time this season...