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Nebraska Volleyball

Hot Reads: Looking for Value in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament

December 6, 2019
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The NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament got under way Thursday night. The fifth-seeded Huskers begin their tournament trek tonight, facing Ball State at the Devaney Center at 7:00 p.m.

This tournament is typically chalky in the early rounds, but seeding matters quite a bit as strong teams advance. That's an interesting process as RPI is still offered as a guide for volleyball.

And, like most other sports, there are better ways to rank teams. Coach John Cook has said in the past that he places some stock in the Pablo Rankings (full explanation here) so we probably should, too. Those rankings would've made Nebraska a slight favorite against Illinois in the Final Four last year, despite the Huskers having the lower seed.

Comparing the Pablo Rankings to the actual top-16 NCAA seeds in this year's tournament provides an interesting picture. Here are the top-16 teams in the most recent Pablo Rankings alongside their tournament seed.

TEAM PABLO RANK NCAA SEED
Stanford 1 3
Wisconsin 2 4
Texas 3 2
Nebraska 4 5
Penn State 5 11
Baylor 6 1
Pittsburgh 7 6
Minnesota 8 7
Kentucky 9 9
Washington 10 8
Utah 11 Unseeded
Florida 12 10
BYU 13 14
San Diego 14 Unseeded
UCLA 15 Unseeded
Colorado State 16 Unseeded
... ... ...
Hawaii 30 12
Texas A&M 18 13
Western Kentucky 19 15
Purdue 17 16

Some thoughts . . . 

>>Top overall seed Baylor is the most over-seeded team based on its Pablo rank. The Bears (25-1) had a great season, winning a share of the Big 12 title for the first time in program history. The conference, however, lacks the top-to-bottom depth of some others. That said, RPI had Baylor No. 1. It also had Texas at No. 2, which is where the Longhorns were seeded. So it goes.

>>That all feels like a bit of a raw deal for Stanford, third-seeded in the tournament but first in Pablo. The Cardinal face a potential third-round matchup with Utah, 11th in Pablo but unseeded, or BYU, 13th in Pablo and 14th-seeded (or maybe even Illinois). Get past that and it could be Penn State or Pitt to get to the Final Four, both in the Pablo top-seven. Stanford got the more-difficult road of a three-seed, but probably shouldn't have been the three-seed.

>>Speaking of the Nittany Lions, they're probably the most under-seeded team in the bracket. Pablo ranks Penn State No. 5, but it received an 11-seed.

>>That said, the tournament selection committee did a nice job of recognizing the Big Ten for being the meat-grinder that it is. Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue were all seeded higher than their RPI ranking. In all but Minnesota and Purdue's case, however, it was still lower than those teams' Pablo rankings.

>>At the bottom of the Pablo top-16 are three teams Nebraska is plenty familiar with. Nebraska faced No. 11 (unseeded) Colorado State, a defensive stalwart, in its spring match. The Rams' potential second-round match with eight-seed Washington could be interesting.

Wisconsin could draw a tougher-than-it-looks UCLA––15th in Pablo, unseeded––in the second round. The Huskers swept UCLA in the second match of the season.

Then there's San Diego, 14th in Pablo but unseeded. The Toreros took Nebraska to five sets in September and a third-round rematch is possible if San Diego can get past 12-seed Hawaii. Might even be likely. Pablo ranks Hawaii 30th.

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