Thursday, December 19, 2019

Preview of NCAA Women's Final Four (2019)

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 out of bounds) balls they actually blocked. These proportions showed that each team blocked 8% of their aggregate opponents' spike attempts they could have blocked (ranging from .080-.087).

Where the teams differed more dramatically is in the number of opposition spike attempts they allowed: Minnesota 4453, Wisconsin 3834, Baylor 3428, and Stanford 4070. At first glance, at least, even when Baylor and Wisconsin (relative to Minnesota and Stanford) don't score kills, they appear to pressure their opponents enough to take them out of system and prevent them from mounting attacks.

*The other being the Michigan Wolverines.

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