Calculated Reactions: de Grandpre and Ratsep finish top-10 in Bucholtz rankings again

If you were around these parts in July, you'll remember the 2009-10 version of these rankings. Now that the 2010-11 season is over, we can once again rank the men's players in the same way.

The methodology is the same as last year's rankings, so to save you the long explanation I'll just refer you to the linked post above. In brief: we rank the best players* by looking at kills, errors, service aces, and blocks vs. the conference and position averages for that player. We also adjust for quality of competition.

* It would be more accurate if we called these rankings "the best all-around hitters" (digs and assists are, after all, ignored completely). Setters and liberos will not rate highly, because their contributions are largely overlooked under our framework.

The rankings have shortcomings and could be improved; however, it's worth noting that of last year's seven all-Canadians, five made our top 10. So there is certainly some agreement on who constitutes the country's best players.

Remember that the idea here is to apply a win value of sorts to each player, so we are estimating that an average (10-10) team, after replacing an average player with Paul Sanderson (+2.7), will go something like 13-7. In a perfect world, the win values for each player on a given team would add up to the overall record for that team, though the numbers aren't always that agreeable.

Here are our top 10:

  1. Paul Sanderson, Brandon (+2.7 wins). This is not a surprise. The best Australian-born volleyballer at a Manitoba university, Sanderson was last year's CIS player of the year, and finished 13th in our rankings. Interestingly, Sanderson's numbers are brought down by his blocks (-4.0 points vs. average) but his serves (+28.6) help counter that. His favourite food is chicken parmesan.

  2. Karl de Grandpré, Laval (+2.7). If you've read this far you know who he is already. #1 in last year's rankings.

  3. Sean Vanthournout, RMC (+2.5). A Paladin in the top 10 of anything is generally rare, but before you write off this entire methodology completely, note that he a) was 37th last year and b) could have been the only real threat on RMC, as our Fraser Caldwell remarked upon seeing these rankings for the first time. (Though he wouldn't rise in the rankings just by having more touches; he would have to consistently be better than average.) According to Fraser, Vanthournout is "big and athletic, but not a world-beater or a particularly good tactician."

  4. Tyler Santoni, McMaster (+2.3). Santoni's the highest-rated middle in the rankings, and he had the highest hitting percentage in CIS this year. 19th last year in these rankings.

  5. Graham Vigrass, Calgary (+2.4). His .397 was second to Santoni's .422, and Vigrass is otherwise all over the leaderboards. 41st last year.

  6. Jay Olmstead, Alberta (+2.4). A perfect example of how position affects ranking in this system: Olmstead was listed as a middle this year, but his rank makes plenty more sense when he is treated as an outside hitter--as we do here, thanks to a correction from a CIS coach.

  7. Rudy Verhoeff, TWU (+2.3). And with that, we already have one player from all four Canada West qualifying teams. Verhoeff (26th last year) and the rest of the Spartans will of course also be playing the CIS championships this year, which start in 11 days in Langley. If only we had someone on this site who a) is a volleyball nut, b) went to last year's national championships in Kamloops, and c) lives in the Langley area. Oh well.

  8. Kevin Tillie, TRU (+2.1). The 2010-11 WolfPack season ended against the aforementioned Spartans this weekend. As for Tillie, he was last year's Rookie of the Year, finishing 14th in our rankings. Not to be confused with Nathan Tilley (or Nathan Fillion).

  9. Lucas Van Berkel, TWU (+2.1). Another second-year Canada West player in the top 10. No wonder they dominate this game. Van Berkel is the third middle in the top 10, and is a block machine. Lucas Van BLOCKel, am I right?

  10. Sander Ratsep, Dalhousie (+2.0). You were probably wondering why it took so long for Ratsep to show up. 6th last year. Unfortunately for Ratsep his season -- and if I'm not mistaken, his career -- is over after the Tigers' loss to UNB this weekend.

Some players jumped quite a bit from year-to-year, leading me to believe that outside factors (your chosen role on the team, your teammates, your opponents' style of attack and defence, etc.) influence this ranking more than I expected. Still, we have a list of 10 pretty good names up there, and soon we'll see how the All-Canadian selections line up against the Bucholtz rankings.

The entire rankings (including last year, men and women) are here. Corrections are welcomed. Volleyball is not my first language and it seems there are about as many different ways to name the positions as there are players in CIS.
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