Everyone knew Nebraska wasn’t the five seed in the NCAA Tournament. It didn’t matter because the Huskers’ draw at No. 5 was favorable enough and Nebraska, of course, took home the title. But maybe that draw was even more favorable than we thought.
At Sunday’s championship celebration, Coach John Cook embarked on a 15-minute retelling of the 2017 season. The whole thing is well worth a read – or a watch, if you prefer – but Cook had this to say about Nebraska’s seeding in the tournament: “The NCAA committee gave us a fifth seed because we lost to Northern Iowa, who beat the champion of the ACC who got six teams in, so I guess that was a pretty crummy loss.”
If that loss really did vault co-SEC champion Kentucky ahead of the Huskers, perhaps the only thing it cost Nebraska was one more weekend at the Devaney Center.
This anecdote from Derek Peterson, who was at yesterday’s celebration, also jumped out to me:
“We’ve had some great teams – two Final Four teams, a national championship team,” Cook said, “but I compared the stats and this team across the board in every statistical category was playing at a higher level than any team in the last five years at Nebraska.”
I looked over at Albrecht and there was a look of shock on her face. She looked at Hunter sitting next to her. They didn’t know. Cook must not have told them.
That led me to go looking for some volleyball analytics. I found some things that will be of interest later, but the topic today is still seeding. And on that front I happened across an interesting post from VolleyMetrics. The site's creator, Alan Reifman, had developed a relatively simple but effective adjusted measure of offensive and defensive efficiency:
Using my Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive (CACOD) rating system (described here), I peg Kentucky as having the 13th-best chance to win the national title. The chart . . . shows the CACOD rating (under "adjratio") for each of the 16 seeded teams. A team's own hitting percentage during the season is one of the major components of the CACOD and the Wildcats' (.321) was one of the best in the nation. However, UK allowed its opponents to hit .207 in the aggregate (the other major component of the CACOD), a fairly high value for elite tournament teams.
Note that in the six years since I developed the CACOD, no team with a value below 1.91 has won the NCAA title. Kentucky (1.55) would thus have to break some major new ground to win the championship.
Based on Reifman’s numbers, Creighton, which had beaten the Wildcats this season, had almost as good a shot at winning the national title as Kentucky. BYU, which lost to Kentucky in Lexington in the Regional Semifinal, had a better shot.
I don’t think anybody considered a Nebraska an underdog in its bracket, but these numbers – and it is just one method – underscore how big of an edge the Huskers may have had.
They also show that, by this method at least, this year’s Nebraska team wasn’t ahead of recent teams in terms of combined offensive and defensive efficiency. So now I’m even more curious about the numbers Cook was talking about yesterday.
There’s still a lot to unpack about this latest title as Nebraska continues to bask in the glow of a fifth national title, which sounds like a good holiday project to me.
The Grab Bag
- In 2008, Bo Pelini made $1.1 million in his first year as Nebraska's head coach. A decade later, Jim Leavitt will make an average of $1.7 million as Oregon's defensive coordinator.
- Here's Michelle Voepel, who has covered a lot of Final Fours, on the Huskers' championship.
- AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco on how his conference teams can hold on to elite coaches in the future.
- ICYMI: Jacob Padilla on Briana Holman's big day, Nebraska picked up a commit over the weekend and Greg Smith caught up with longtime commit Tate Wildeman (Premium).
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.