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Jacob Myers | NCAA.com | December 10, 2018

NCAA volleyball tournament: How conference championships predict the national champion

Of the four teams remaining in the NCAA volleyball tournament, only two won their respective conferences and earned an automatic bid.

The last time all four national semifinals were conference champions was in 2000. But, more often than not, conference champions advance to the national semifinals over non-conference champions.

We looked at every NCAA volleyball tournament from 2000 through 2017 to determine whether or not conference champions — historically — make the national semifinals, national championship match and win the national championship more than the teams that didn’t win their conferences.

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Since the NCAA volleyball tournament awarding 16 total national seeds in 2000, conference champions have made it to the national semifinals 45 times compared to 27 times for at-large teams. And, with Nebraska last season, conference champions have won 13 of the past 18 national championships.

Conference champions are likely to get a better draw being a higher seed than most at-large bids. Still, only five teams in the past 18 tournaments having won the national title as non-conference champs seems like a significant difference.

To clarify, when we say a team was a conference champion, we are talking about the team that received an automatic bid from its conference. Some conference championships were split; however, we are not including the co-champion that received an at-large bid as a conference champion.

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Here are a few other big picture numbers we noticed and some recent trends:

  • Of the past 18 national runners-up, 11 of them won their conference tournaments.
  • Starting with 2000, nine championship matches have been played between conference champions.
  • It’s likely at least one conference champion will be in the national championship match because only three times has it been played between two non-champs.
  • Of the 27 non-champs to make the semifinals, 18 of those teams were from a conference that had its champion in the national semifinals that same year.
  • Eight times since the 2000 tournament, there have been two conference champions and two non-champs in the national semifinals. Only twice has there been just one conference champion. Never has there been all non-conference champs in the semifinals.
  • Three of the past four national champions did not win their conferences.
Year Seed Team Result Conference champ
2000 1 Nebraska Champion Yes
  3 Southern California Semifinalist Yes
  5 Hawaii Semifinalist Yes
  7 Wisconsin Runner-up Yes
         
2001 1 Long Beach State Runner-up Yes
  2 Nebraska Semifinalist Yes
  3 Stanford Champion Yes
  5 Arizona Semifinalist No
         
2002 1 Southern California Champion Yes
  2 Stanford Runner-up No
  5 Florida Semifinalist Yes
  6 Hawaii Semifinalist Yes
         
2003 1 Southern California Champion Yes
  2 Hawaii Semifinalist Yes
  3 Florida Runner-up Yes
  13 Minnesota Semifinalist No
         
2004 4 Minnesota Runner-up No
  7 Washington Semifinalist No
  8 Southern California Semifinalist Yes
  11 Stanford Champion No
         
2005 1 Nebraska Runner-up Yes
  3 Washington Champion Yes
  15 Tennessee Semifinalist No
  -- Santa Clara Semifinalist Yes
         
2006 1 Nebraska Champion Yes
  2 Stanford Runner-up Yes
  4 UCLA Semifinalist No
  6 Washington Semifinalist No
         
2007 1 Stanford Runner-up Yes
  3 Penn State Champion Yes
  5 Southern California Semifinalist No
  10 California Semifinalist No
         
2008 1 Penn State Champion Yes
  2 Stanford Runner-up Yes
  3 Texas Semifinalist No
  4 Nebraska Semifinalist Yes
         
2009 1 Penn State Champion Yes
  2 Texas Runner-up Yes
  11 Minnesota Semifinalist No
  12 Hawaii Semifinalist Yes
         
2010 4 Penn State Champion Yes
  6 Southern California Semifinalist Yes
  7 California Runner-up No
  9 Texas Semifinalist No
         
2011 3 Illinois Runner-up No
  7 Southern California Semifinalist Yes
  9 UCLA Champion No
  12 Florida State Semifinalist Yes
         
2012 1 Penn State Semifinalist Yes
  3 Texas Champion Yes
  5 Oregon Runner-up No
  -- Michigan Semifinalist No
         
2013 1 Texas Semifinalist Yes
  2 Penn State Champion Yes
  3 Washington Semifinalist Yes
  12 Wisconsin Runner-up No
         
2014 1 Stanford Semifinalist Yes
  2 Texas Semifinalist Yes
  5 Penn State Champion No
  -- BYU Runner-up Yes
         
2015 2 Minnesota Semifinalist Yes
  3 Texas Runner-up Yes
  4 Nebraska Champion No
  9 Kansas Semifinalist No
         
2016 1 Nebraska Semifinalist Yes
  2 Minnesota Semifinalist No
  4 Texas Runner-up No
  6 Stanford Champion No
         
2017 1 Penn State Semifinalist No
  2 Florida Runner-up Yes
  3 Stanford Semifinalist Yes
  5 Nebraska Champion Yes