Figured we’d throw a super quick Final Four + Stivrins post together just to wrap up the 2021 season as everyone shifts their attention to the transfer portal and freaks out about the seasonal coaching reshuffle.
Starting with the semifinals, below are the Match Win Probability charts – visually describing a team’s likelihood to win the match, given the current score + games won.
In our first semifinal, Louisville and Wisconsin start out essentially even, with our model suggesting both teams have an equal chance to win the match. Things stay pretty even, with teams trading sets through the first 4 games – with Louisville in the most trouble when they get down 20-21 in the must-win fourth set. They get off to a fast start in the 5th, going up 3-1, but then it’s all Wisconsin from there on out, eventually taking the set 15-9.
Meanwhile in the other semi, while Pitt was the “favorite” given their seeding, Nebraska was decently favored by our model. With about a 40% chance to win the match, Pitt actually takes the first set, bumping their odds up to 60%. From there however, it was all Nebraska, putting on a clinic and taking the following 3 sets -17, -20, -22; a pretty dominant performance given it’s the national semifinal.
Finally we arrive at the national championship. Our model had Wisconsin favored about 60/40 in this one, but it’s Nebraska that gets the jump on the Badgers early on. After taking the first and having a couple set points in the second, Nebraska was on the cusp of running away with this one. Unfortunately for the #GBR crowd, their chances continuously slide until late in the 4th set when Nebraska goes on a nice 5 point run after a kill from Caffey, 3 Wisconsin attack errors, and an unhittable set from Hilley. Forcing a 5th set, Wisconsin starts hot with Nebraska ice cold. 3 kills from the Badgers and 4 attack errors from the Huskers get things off to a 7-0 start. From there, the conclusion was almost inevitable as that type of deficit doomed Nebraska’s chances and sealed Wisconsin’s fate.
stivrins’ impact on nebraska’s championship hopes
Saw the comment on VT about how Nebraska’s chemistry = Stivrins returning from injury and figured this would be a good time to hit publish on this post.
In the chart below, we take a look at how a “Pre-Stivrins Return” Nebraska would have faired (about 5% chance to win the natty) vs. a “Post-Stivrins Return” (about 17.5% chance to win the natty). In this case, we modeled the tournament using two Nebraskas, one using their data from before Lauren returned – the other using their data post-return. Without Stivrins, they were still a contender, but certainly not in the top 3.
What we see is a totally reinvigorated Nebraska; her return more than triples their likelihood of winning the title – and notice how it affects the other teams. Texas, BYU, and especially Louisville and Kentucky are all far less likely to win, given the huge boost in Nebraska’s chances.
Ultimately of course, Nebraska falls just short – scoring only 2 points fewer than Wisconsin in the final (116 vs. 114). But as Husker fans know, the team they supported in the NCAA tournament had a much different look and feel to it than the one they were watching at the beginning of the season. Congrats to both squads for putting on an entertaining championship game and as per usual, settling the debate over which conference is best. #B1G