Parity? Final Four W-L Records 1998 to 2010

During the 2010 season, after Stanford put an end to “The Streak” by soundly beating Penn State in the inaugural Nike Big Four Volleyball Classic Gainseville, Florida, there was considerable discussion about whether there was greater “parity” in NCAA Division 1 volleyball this season. Although that discussion generated considerable heat in some venues (the answer depends, of course, on how one defines “parity,” and there were fiercely differing opinions on that particular question), no concensus emerged. We decided to take a look at how the Final Four teams stacked up in the 13-year period from 1998 to 2010 (an arbitrary choice that did, admittedly, permit us to include all of Penn State’s National Championship teams) in terms of wins and losses, both for matches and for sets.

The results suggest, at least to us, that this year’s Final Four field reflected a more competitive landscape (or, another way of saying it, the lack of one or two dominant teams) than in past years.

For example, looking at the W-L record of the Final Four teams during the 13 year sample period, five of the 13 Champions were undefeated, and four others lost only one match all season. Penn State’s 2010 Champions lost five matches, to rank 12th, edging out Stanford’s 2004 team, which went 30-6.

Looking at the 2nd Place teams, California’s 2010 runners-up are tied with Stanford’s 2006 team for 10th place, both with 30-4 records.

As for the Semi-Finalists, Texas (27-6) and USC (23-6) ranked 20th and 21st, respectively, among the 26 Semi-Finalist teams during the period. 

The picture is pretty much the same for the won-loss records for sets.  During the 13 year period, five champions lost 10 or fewer sets.  Penn State’s 2010 champions rank 11th in fewest sets lost (20), edging only 2001 Stanford (21 sets lost),  and 2004 Stanford (35 sets lost).  Looking at all 52 teams, 2010 Penn State ranks 27th, 2010 California ranks 32nd (23 sets lost), 2010 Texas ranks 45th (34 sets lost), and 2010 USC ranks 48th (36 sets lost). 

Some undoubtedly will argue that this proves it was a weak Final Four field for 2010.  We think it argues parity, but to each her or his own. 

Take a look.  The table is sortable, which means you can reorder the rows by clicking on the arrows at the top of each column.

Won Lost Records (Matches and Sets): Final Four Teams from 1998 to 2010

YearTeamConferenceNCAA FinishWins (Matches)Losses (Matches)Wins (Sets)Losses (Sets)
2008Penn StateBig TenFirst3801142
2009Penn StateBig TenFirst3801148
1998Long Beach Big WestFirst3601088
2003USC Pac 10First3501058
2000NebraskaBig 12First34010213
1999Penn State Big TenFirst36111015
2006Nebraska Big 12First33110114
2005WashingtonPac 10First3219810
2002USC Pac 10First3119512
2007Penn State Big TenFirst34210418
2001Stanford Pac 10First33210121
2010Penn StateBig TenFirst32510320
2004Stanford Pac 10First3069835
2001Long Beach Big WestSecond331NANA
1998Penn StateBig TenSecond3411046
2005Nebraska Big 12Second33210115
2009TexasBig 12Second2929113
2007Stanford Pac 10Second32310124
1999Stanford Pac 10Second3139518
2000WisconsinBig TenSecond334NANA
2008Stanford Pac 10Second3149523
2006Stanford Pac 10Second3049219
2010CaliforniaPac 10Second3049523
2004MinnesotaBig TenSecond33510534
2002Stanford Pac 10Second32510227
1998Nebraska Big 12Semi-finals3229916
2001Nebraska Big 12Semi-finals3129414
1999PacificBig WestSemi-finals323NANA
2008Nebraska Big 12Semi-finals3139721
2000USCPac 10Semi-finals2938720
2004WashingtonPac 10Semi-finals2838923
2006UCLAPac 10Semi-finals33410424
1999Long Beach Big WestSemi-finals3149523
2008TexasBig 12Semi-finals2949424
2006WashingtonPac 10Semi-finals2959226
2007USC Pac 10Semi-finals2959135
2005Santa ClaraWCCSemi-finals2758830
2001ArizonaPac 10Semi-finals2557925
2010USCPac 10Semi Finals2969136
2010TexasBig 12Semi Finals2768434
2004USC Pac 10Semi-finals2367632
2007CaliforniaPac 10Semi-finals2688736
2009MinnesotaBig TenSemi-finals2898841
2003MinnesotaBig TenSemi-finals26118549