Volleyball: Bucholtz rankings, 2009-2010 men

Earlier this year, Rob Pettapiece and I came up with a statistical system to try and determine CIS volleyball players' value above average in terms of points, sets and matches. We started with the women's 2009-2010 season and Rob later tweaked the rankings in response to some questions. Now, we're evaluating the men's 2009-2010 season.

The system works exactly the same way as it does for the women, comparing players' kills, errors, kill percentages, aces and blocks against the average for their position and conference. Positive points are assigned for everything but errors, which receive negative points. That creates a raw (unadjusted) score for each player in terms of points above average, which is then adjusted to create sets and matches above average. These last adjustments were made so that a team's "matches above average" score was as close as possible to that team's W-L record.

Before we get to the results, there's one other important thing to note. This system doesn't consider digs or assists, so it's not intended to evaluate the impact of setters or liberos, and it doesn't consider middle or outside hitters' defensive abilities. We did compare setters and liberos to others playing the same position, so at least they're aren't being graded against a completely different type of player, but many of their contributions aren't covered in these rankings.

Our results line up reasonably well with this year's All-Canadian first team. Five of the seven players there are in our system's top 10. Interestingly, player of the year Paul Sanderson from Brandon is not among them, but he ranks 11th. The outlier is Western's Eric Simon, who still places a respectable 22nd in our system.

Who does our system like? Let's look at the Top 10. It picks Laval's Karl de Grandpre as the best player in the country by quite a bit, worth 3.6 matches above average. He was selected as a first-team All-Canadian. The second-highest ranked player is Max Burt of Dalhousie, who made the second team. Third-highest ranked player Spencer Leiske of Alberta didn't make either team, but he was selected as a CIS championship all-star. Fourth-ranked Gord Perrin of Thompson Rivers was a first-team All-Canadian this year and is a former CIS rookie of the year. Fifth- and sixth-ranked Sander Ratsep and Justin Duff (of Dalhousie and Winnipeg) were both first-team All-Canadians, while seventh-ranked Steven Kung of Toronto was a second-team All-Canadian. Eighth-ranked Frederic Desbiens of Laval was a first-team selection, while ninth-ranked Joren Zeeman of Queen's made the second team. 10th-ranked Josh Edwards of Windsor appears to be the highest-ranked player who didn't receive national recognition, but he did make the OUA first all-star team.

Our results are spread across the country, which seems to suggest that Canada West team dominance doesn't necessarily apply on the level of individual players. In fact, the only teams with two players in the top 10 are an AUS school, Dalhousie. and a Quebec school, Laval. If we look at the top 50 players, OUA actually has the most top 50 players with 21, followed by Canada West with 16, Quebec with eight and AUS with five. The Canada West players seem to be more evenly spread throughout the conference's teams, though; four of the top five AUS players are on Dalhousie, four of the eight Quebec players are on the Laval squad and most of the Ontario players appear to be on the top four or five teams. That makes sense, as many of the coaches I've spoken to think Canada West's edge in results at nationals is more because of a higher calibre of competition than better personnel; the top teams in other conferences may be similar talent-wise to Canada West teams, but they play a lot of games against teams that don't match up to that standard, which can make it difficult for them to advance.

In short, our system appears to largely agree with the All-Canadian selection process on who the best players are, but it has some quibbles about who ranks where. Complete results are available here.
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