The NCAA tournament is the perfect culmination to every season of sports; it is the anticipation of what seed each team will receive, where the athletes get to travel to, and who they get to play. Each team has spent the last few months only playing their conference opponents, and it’s time to prove themselves against the other conferences. No conference would complain about possessing the final four spots in the tournament field. No team that finished 7th in their own conference would complain about being able to defeat one of the top teams in another conference either. While the tournament has as an end to find the best team in the country, some can argue that this is a proving ground for conferences as well. If a conference that isn’t seen as a powerhouse receives two spots in the tournament and both of those teams advance to the “Elite Eight” they have likely changed the view that the whole country has on that conference. On the other hand, if all six of the teams from a “powerhouse” conference lose in the first round, the perception of that conference has changed as well.
Six of the women’s volleyball conferences: ACC, B1G, BIG-12, PAC-12, SEC, and WCC stuck out in terms of quantity of teams in the tournament (33 of the 64) and these six conferences accounted for 53 of the 63 victories. Therefore, even though we don’t have all the data from all the teams we can still get a very good look at how the best teams and conferences performed in the tournament and whether they deserved all the spots that they got. Here is a breakdown of how many teams from each conference got invited to the NCAA tournament.
Using our VolleyMetrics Rating Index, which looks at each fundamental in the most objective sense and rates it on a scale of 0-10, we are able to rank each team in the data set and then average that within each conference to see the strength of each conference. I also included a look at the Top 20 and Bottom 20 of our ranking of 73 teams to help see the conference alignment.
There are a couple of observations that we can make from this table: the first is the high average rating of the Pac-12. This difference can mostly be seen in the bottom 20 column as the Pac-12 only has one team with a very low rating, compared to the three from the B1G. If we only look at the top seven teams from each conference, the difference shrinks to just a .02 rating differential between the two conferences. Statistically these two conferences come out on top and are therefore well represented in the NCAA tournament. To answer the question of whether the Pac-12 should have received the B1G’s ninth bid can be seen in the ratings. The ninth team for the B1G has a rating of 5.91 while the seventh team for the Pac-12 is rated at 5.92. That is a great breaking point as the eighth ranked teams for each conference have a rating of 5.968 and 5.84, for the B1G and Pac-12 respectively.
One may also look at the ratings and suggest that the Big-12 should have gotten one more bid in the tournament. However when you consider the size of the conference (one more bid would have made them proportionally the most represented conference) and the “average” nature of the conference (only 2 top 20 teams), the data suggests that five was a good amount of bids for the conference. Overall, the statistics support the selections of the Volleyball Committee. So now that we know that the data supports the bids let’s see how each conference fared and see whether they were worthy of their rankings. Here is a table of how each conference performed in the tournament.
The tournament records for each conference supported the data. The Big-12 was led by Kansas, and Texas (both rated in the Top 5 of the VRI) who combined to win nine games, reaching the Final Fourand Championship game respectively. The Pac-12 showed its top-heavy muscle as three teams USC (3), Washington (3), and UCLA (2) recorded multiple wins with Stanford also advancing to the second round. However, both of those results can’t compare to how the B1G showed that it deserved all of its bids with all nine teams advancing to the second round. They had six of the last 16 teams, two of the final four, and the National Champion Nebraska Cornhuskers.