The 2021 NCAA women's volleyball tournament is underway, with a few matches having taken place last night (the seeded teams who played advancing) and the bulk of the matches on tap for late this afternoon and tonight.
After many seasons of seeing the same teams atop the seeding, year after year, the last couple of years have seen a changing of the guard. Penn State and Stanford are in the field but unseeded, something that would have been unimaginable a few years ago. USC is not even in the field.
Last year, Kentucky captured the NCAA title as a relative newcomer on the elite scene and this year, another team from the Bluegrass State, Louisville, is the top national seed. Given that the Cardinals went 28-0 on the season (including wins over fellow national seeds Pittsburgh, Purdue, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and Nebraska), it would be hard to seed them anywhere else.
However, according to my Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive (CACOD) rating (explained here), which I introduced in 2011, Louisville comes out only as third best. The following chart lists the 16 seeded teams in order of their CACOD.
No team with a CACOD lower than 1.91 has ever won the championship, so I've inserted a dividing line to separate the likely contenders from the rest (although just because something hasn't happened before, that doesn't mean it can't happen).
The top two teams in the CACOD are BYU (28-1 with the only loss occurring at Pitt) and Texas (last year's national runner-up and owners of a 25-1 record this season, the only loss coming in a split of a two-match series at Baylor).
Another team drawing a lot of attention is Wisconsin, with its group of "super-seniors," who are playing in their fifth season as a COVID-19 allowance. This group includes 6-foot-8 middle Dana Rettke and setter Sydney Hilley. The Badgers, who went undefeated last season until falling to Texas in the national semifinals, have not been as dominant this year, losing twice to Purdue and once to Maryland, and barely escaping at Minnesota.