We have reached the climax of the entire year of volleyball, the NCAA tournament. This is truly where a champion will be crowned and we may see someone leave their legacy on the court. This season has resulted in many different storylines to follow and has caused volleyball fans lots of anxiety.
Ohio State didn’t start off the season quite like they would have desired, dropping two of their first three matches including one to UCLA. However, they responded incredibly to that adversity going 27-1 to end the season (and a current 20-match winning streak), during the which they defeated three of the other five teams in the tournament (Erskine, George Mason, and LBSU).
BYU had a challenging start to their season playing only ranked teams in their first ten matches; not an easy task to face when ranked as the preseason No. 1 team. Part of the way through they found themselves 4-2 after getting swept by LBSU and, much like OSU, responded by ending the season 22-1 (including a stretch of 11 straight sweeps). BYU boasts a solid 5-1 record against the tournament field, the scary part for UCLA is that three of those wins are against them.
George Mason appeared to be one of the teams to beat in the EIVA at the beginning of the year as they earned a preseason No. 14 ranking. That, however, would be the only time that they would see the rankings until they broke through after winning the EIVA tournament. George Mason opened up EIVA play with a win over UCWV in the middle of January but wouldn’t see their EIVA win column move to two until the beginning of March, when they began to catch fire. They would go on to finish the season without another loss in EIVA play, including a solid handling of Harvard and St. Francis in the tournament. George Mason lost to both OSU and BYU in the beginning of the season, but they are a much different team now than they were then.
On top of all the individual drama going on during the season it is interesting to note that all of the top-4 teams in the NCAA tournament spent time as the No. 1 team in the rankings. Since the season is long and teams change and adapt throughout the season we ran the VMRI on only the last two months of matches and here are the results.
You can see that there is a pretty large difference between the top three teams and the bottom three teams (it should be noted that we have very little data on Erskine so the results may not be completely accurate on them). It also can be seen that certain teams excel at different aspects of the game, Erskine is a great serving team, BYU one of the best attacking teams in a long time, and UCLA shows their defensive prowess with solid Block and Dig numbers. You can also see that it appears that one side of the bracket is much stronger than the other. Look at how the top of the brackets head-to-head analysis’ go:
It appears that no matter what happens in the play-in game that BYU will have a very good chance of advancing to the Finals. The bottom side of the bracket is not quite as one sided as really any team could take it.
You can see that there is a still a clear favorite in each matchup but they are much closer than the top half of the bracket. Depending on how the first few minutes of each match go we could be in for some very close matches (Note: We usually like to see a win % of around 85% to be very sure in our predictions).