Texas Tech professor Alan Reifman uses statistics and graphic arts to illuminate developments in U.S. collegiate and Olympic volleyball. [For archives of this blog and extensive links to other volleyball sites, please click the three-line icon in upper-right corner.]
This year's NCAA women's Final Four, which begins shortly, features the Bears of Baylor, two of the B1G's three burrowing animals -- the Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota Gophers* -- and a color, the Stanford Cardinal. By most accounts, Minnesota would probably be the team considered least likely to win the national title. Anecdotally, in watching some Gopher matches this season, my sense was that blocking was the team's strength. I therefore decided to compare the Final Four teams on their blocks per opportunity. The number of opportunities a team has to score points via a stuff block is the number of hit attempts by opponents, removing the number of spikes hit out of bounds or into the net. Such attempts gone awry can be calculated by taking opponents' aggregate hitting errors and subtracting those errors due to your own aggregate blocks. These calculations revealed all of the Final Four teams to be extremely similar in the proportion of blockable (i.e., not
Baylor and Washington are tied at one game apiece (Baylor 25-20, U-Dub 25-21). Baylor has hit well in Games 1 (.538, 16 kills, only 2 errors, on 26 attempts) and 2 (.355, 15-4-31). Washington had only three hitting errors in Game 2 (.367, 14-3-30). The Huskies' Samantha Drechsel is hitting .625 after two games (12-2-16)... Bears take Game 3, 25-19, on continued torrid hitting (.615, 17- 1-26 in Game 3)... Baylor closes out match 25-18 to take program's first trip to Final Four. Bears hit .444 in Game 4 (16-4-27), .479 for match (67-11-117)... Wisconsin records a 3-0 sweep of Nebraska ( 25-18, 25-22, 25-19 ) for the third time this season to advance... No suspense in the last two matches of the day, either -- not even any deuce games -- as Minnesota sweeps Louisville ( 25-21, 25-14, 25-16 ) and Stanford does the same to Penn State ( 25-22, 25-15, 25-17 ). Stanford's Kathryn Plummer records another high hitting percentage on a high volume of attempts (.512, 24-2-43).
It was a day of upsets and near-upsets and the NCAA women's field winnowed from 16 to eight teams. No. 2 seed Texas dropped the first two games to Louisville, won the next two to even things up, and then fell to the Cardinals in Game 5, 15-12. Three other matches went the distance, with the higher-seeded team prevailing in each case. Utah had given Stanford trouble in the regular season, never winning a match from the Cardinal, but going five games on October 20 and four on November 22 . Friday's NCAA match-up was no different, as Stanford and Utah battled five games, the Cardinal prevailing 15-11 in the decider. Here at VolleyMetrics, we've been keeping an eye on Kathryn Plummer's heavy swing volume for Stanford. Friday night, she registered one of best performances of the season , hitting .389 on 29 kills and 8 attack errors in 54 attempts. Two other five-game survivors were No. 7 Minnesota over No. 10 Florida , and No. 11 Penn State over unseeded Cincinnati .
This year's NCAA women's tournament, which gets underway Friday, features some of the "usual suspects" among the leading teams, but also some newcomers (click here for bracket). The usual suspects include No. 2 national seed Texas, No. 3 Stanford, No. 4 Wisconsin, and No. 5 Nebraska, whereas the upstarts include No. 1 Baylor and No. 6 Pittsburgh. Baylor and Texas, the top two seeds, are both in the Big 12 conference, and they split their two matches this season. Baylor's October 23 loss in Austin was, in fact, the 25-1 Bears' only defeat of the season. Along with Baylor's November 20 win over Texas in Waco, the Bears also own an impressive victory over Wisconsin in Madison, although it was a long time ago (September 6). On my longtime Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive (CACOD)metric, Baylor clocks in at 2.16 (.281 team hitting percentage divided by .156 hitting percentage allowed, with this ratio multiplied by 1.20, the adjustment f