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.]
It was an unusual spring for U.S. collegiate volleyball, thanks to COVID-19-related adjustments, with the women's championship (typically decided in December) and the men's championship (typically being decided five months later) being held only two weeks apart. The women's final was played on Saturday, April 24, 2021, with the men's on May 8. Having nearly three months to digest these matches, I present my analyses of the championships below. WOMEN'S For starters, here's a sentence I never expected to write in my lifetime (I'm 58): The Kentucky Wildcats are the new NCAA women's volleyball champions .* UK stopped Texas in four games, 20-25 , 25-18, 25-23, 25-22, to claim what really is the 2020 championship (the 2021 title will be determined this coming November). True, Kentucky was the No. 2 seed. However, previous high seeds from outside the power conferences (Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12) have rarely lived up to their placements**, so I remained skeptical.
The NCAA women's tourney is now down to 16 teams , who will play on Sunday (except for Wisconsin vs. BYU on Saturday). Fourteen of the 16 national seeds have advanced this far. The two exceptions are Western Kentucky, which upset No. 15-seed Washington State in five games and will now face No. 2-seed Kentucky; and Pitt, which swept No. 14-seed Utah and will now take on No. 3-seed Minnesota. In my tournament preview (previous posting below), I identified Western Kentucky as a leading upset candidate, based on the Hilltoppers' ratio of nearly 3 (2.91) between their own season-long offensive hitting percentage (.355) to the hitting percentage they defensively allowed their opponents (.122). (WKU's conference-difficulty adjustment in Conference USA was 1.00, so the Hilltoppers' ratio statistics is not changed by multiplying by 1.00.) Another team on my radar was High Point, whose ratio was an even more gaudy 3.29 (=.296/.090). Multiplying by the Big South adjustment fac
Typically, the NCAA women's tournament is held every December. Against the backdrop of COVID-19, however, this has not been a typical season. Back in September 2020, the NCAA moved forward on a plan to shift several fall championships to spring, including women's volleyball. Some conferences (such as the Big 10 and Pac 12) opted to delay their entire women's volleyball seasons from fall 2020 to winter/spring 2021. Others (such as the Big 12) stuck to the usual framework and played the bulk of their schedule in fall 2020, but added some 2021 matches to stay sharp for the national tourney. The SEC played a little less than half of its conference schedule in the fall and a little more than half of it in the spring. Throughout this makeshift season, of course, numerous matches were postponed or cancelled . The regular season has now been played and here we are, ready for the NCAA tournament. Only 48 teams (down from the usual 64) will participate and the tournament will take