Monday, November 13, 2017

9th Annual SFA All Conference Teams


If you scroll to the picks, argue with me and don't read the following paragraphs and bullets then don't expect me to listen to you for very long.

·        This list was published before the official All-Southland Conference teams.  This was published on Monday, November 13.  The conference released the official lists on Wednesday, November 15 (edit:  Tuesday, November 14.. they released it a day earlier!).

·        I don't do this the way the conference does.  I have claimed for years - staunchly - that coaches have WAY too much control over the official lists.  Get a coach or SID to explain to you how they vote, then go read the tiebreaker rules for conference tournament seeding, then ask me for a syllabus to an advanced calculus class and you decide for yourself which procedures are most unduly complex.

·        I view these as individual awards, not team awards.  I outright reject the reasoning that the order of the standings should dictate how many picks should show up on these lists or that the Player of the Year, Setter of the Year, Coach of the Year, etc. HAVE TO or SHOULD come from the best teams.  If you want to see what a team award looks like, click here or here.  We are honoring INDIVIDUALS here.

·        I am a numbers person.  I teach statistics for a living.  I take notes, talk to coaches, SID's, use my impressions when SFA plays opponents, but in the end we here at the blog live my one mantra:  In God We Trust.  All Others Bring Data.  Numbers matter.. a lot. If you don't like statistical analysis in sports, then your picks won't look anything like mine. I'm happy to defend my reasoning.  Just know you are going to get numbers, if you ask.

And now for the stuff that  I have written for 8 straight years but still need you to know if you are reading this:

Like in previous years, I suspect I will periodically comment on this article over the next week.  People love to debate this stuff and I'm fine with that.  After all, trying to decide who to honor is a noble pursuit and I can appreciate the passion that other fans have for their picks and reasons.  I will indicate updates at the bottom of the post with boldface time stamps.  

Recall,  I actually pick "teams". The conference does not do this. Typically, the conference puts 12 girls on the first team, six girls on the 2nd team and has 6 to 9 girls listed as honorable mention for a total of 24 to 27 girls recognized. I will have three teams of seven for 21 girls honored and then a list of the players I considered for the lists and "just missed".

As I have said each of the last eight years: "There are seven starters each night for any particular team, so we will pick seven girls per team. Each team is required to have a setter, libero, two middle blockers, two hitters and a seventh player that can either be MB or OH."

2017 SFA All-Southland Conference Teams and Awards:

First Team:

RS Samantha Anderson, UCA
OH Haley Coleman, SFA
OH Bailey Banks, HBU
MB Taylor Cunningham, SHSU
MB Blair Gillard, HBU
S Kristyn Nicholson, AMCC
L Channing Burleson, NSU

Second Team:

OH Brittany Gilpin, AMCC
OH Jessica Wooten, HBU
RS Danae Daron, SFA
MB Kaitlyn Grice, UNO
MB Megan Nash, UCA
S Elizabeth Armstrong, UCA
L Lexus Cain, SFA

Third Team:

OH Reagan Rogers, NSU
OH Jordyn Vaughn, Sam Houston
OH Brooke White, Sam Houston
MB Shanna Spree, McNeese
MB Makenzee Hanna, SFA
S Ann Hollas, SFA
L Angela McGownd, McNeese

Just Missed (in order of position played):  OH Tomar Thomas (LU), OH Abbie Harry (UCA), OH Corin Evans (SFA), OH Autumn Lockley (UIW), OH Keegan Nelms (McNeese), MB Lauren Walker (ACU), MB Lorin McNeil (ACU), Kayla Davenport (HBU), MB Sarea Alexander (UIW), S Jaclyn Ward (Sam Houston), L Madison Woods (AMCC), RS Madison Green (AMCC)

Player of the Year:  Samantha Anderson, UCA
Setter of the Year:  Kristyn Nicholson, AMCC
Libero of the Year:  Channing Burleson, NSU
Newcomer of the Year: No Pick
Freshman of the Year:  Lorin McNeil, ACU
Coach of the Year:  Debbie Humphreys, SFA

Yes, I agonized over my Player of the Year pick.  Yes, I almost just picked co-Players of the year and bailed out.  Yes, I have a defense of picking a three rotation player for the honor.  Yes, the conference has had three rotation players win the award before.  Yes, this year was weird compared to others in recent memory.  All of this is going to be addressed in an update tomorrow.

In my opinion, the following four players are candidates for 2017 Player of the Year:  Anderson, Coleman, Nicholson and Banks.  If I were voting the way the coaches do (which again, is really bizarre) my ballot at the top would be:

1. Anderson, UCA
2. Coleman, SFA
3. Nicholson, AMCC
4. Banks, HBU
5. Gilpin, AMCC

..and no, I don't see those five as terribly far apart.



Update:  Tuesday, November 14 11 PM:

The official SLC All-Conference lists got released a day earlier than normal.  For the third straight year, I am super impressed with the voters.  I thought the official choices were outstanding and the fact that the conference as a whole picked Anderson will reduce my line of defense that I had planned for this space.  Instead, let me mention a few things that came to mind late last night and during the day today as I contemplated things, talked to people around the league and read social media and emails:

  • Just to be 100% clear:  I ALWAYS post my lists AFTER the league has finished voting and BEFORE the league announces the official winners.  Someone - in a very erroneous, yet flattering way suggested that I might have influenced the actual voting.  My response to that is:  "As If".  I do discuss this stuff with the folks at SFA and I do keep in regular contact with various coaches and SID's, but I can assure you, I never release my lists to coaches/SID's before they are printed here and I laugh at the postulate that I would influence a coach making picks.  That just isn't going to happen.  But, just to be above board, I wait until the voting is closed before I post.  The voting closed Monday at Noon.  I posted my lists Monday at 10 PM.

  • All 18 of the official first and second teamers honored by the conference made my top 3 teams. That's the first time that has ever happened.  Usually there are one or two major differences that I get to rant about in follow-up posts.  I feel cheated that I don't get that chance.  Hahahaha. (Jessica Pancratz, 2012, anyone??)  In fact, I call this the "Pancratz Principle" when I talk about it with others... I don't get to apply the Pancratz Principle in 2017 due to all the agreement.

  • The conference top 5 were my top 5... just in a different order.

  • Blair Gillard should be higher on the official lists.  Then again, everyone knows I am President of the Blair Gillard Fan Club, so I am bound and sworn to vote for her for first team.

  • Either Brooke White should be higher or Reagan Rogers and Jordyn Vaughn should be lower on the official lists.  Their stats show differences but if you proportionally weigh kills per set, attack percentage, digs per set, blocks per set and even factor in team strength (which I don't but I am led to believe most do), then their weighted contributions are basically the same.  I don't get the separation at all.  They are all great players, but I think people get a little carried away and overweight kills per set.  I'm giving away a post I am going to write later in the week, but let me tell you that the average starting outside (left side) hitter in the league hit .178 this year.  Rogers hit .160, Vaughn hit .177 and White hit .182.  Hmmmmmm.

  • By the way, for the OH's.. I weigh offense at roughly 75% of the "score" and defense 25% of the "score".  Something close to that is what I mean by "proportionally weigh" in the paragraph above.

  • The league once again is slightly biased against good players making the official lists from middle-to-end-of-the-pack teams .  Kaitlyn Grice put up numbers worth of better than Honorable Mention.  We, as a conference, need to stop this trend.  Makenzee Hanna is literally one of my favorite people and I am thrilled she got recognized on the 2nd team, but fair is fair:  Grice is the only MB is the conference to finish in the Top 6 at her position in kills per set, attack percentage and blocks per set.  Grice and Hanna had the same attack percentage.  Grice was 2nd in blocks per set for all MB's. Hanna was tied for 9th.  Grice was 6th in kills per set for all MB's.  Hanna was 10th.  Hanna was two slots from making first team and Grice didn't make either.  Conclusion:  Team Bias.  Once we figure out these aren't team awards we will have come a long way in improving the process.

  • Fact you didn't know until now:  Every Southland player that finished in the Top 40 in the NATION in a "per set" statistic that goes along with their position got some sort of honor on the official lists...... except libero Angela McGownd of McNeese.  Don't worry McGownd.. I've got your back.

  • I even got the "No Pick" right.  I, of course, wasn't aware - as the conference announced - that no newcomer had been nominated on the ballot at any school.  Then again, if we didn't have "nominations" it would guarantee that someone would win the award.  I didn't make a pick because I wasn't sure if certain players were eligible or not based on their transfer status.  Official voters are not allowed to vote for anyone they please.  Instead, they must vote only for the players than are nominated by head coaches.  This ridiculousness is also part of the "Pancratz Principle".

  • You don't have to believe me, but on my original draft of the lists I had Hannah Brister of Northwestern State as my Freshman of the Year.  Sunday night, I looked at all the freshman again and changed it to Lorin McNeil in the final draft.  The other person I strongly considered was libero Madelyn Miller of UIW.

  • More coming on this sort of stuff later.. but you probably know that OH's have higher kill per set numbers on average than right sides.  You probably also know the RS's have higher attack percentages on average than 6-rotation outsides.  What if I told you that I took all the data from both positions this year and created a correspondence between the two so that you could "adjust" for these facts... so that you could compare a RS to a 6-rotation outside on these two stats?  Haley Coleman's .268 is truly outstanding for a 6-rotation outside.  But, if you adjust Samantha Anderson's .338 and translate it down to the "OH attack percentage scale".. you know what you get?  This year .338 as a RS translates to .266 as an OH.  That says that Anderson's .338 is actually JUST AS REMARKABLE as Coleman's .268.  Now, if you scale Anderson's kills per set number of 3.44 up to the "OH kills per set scale", you get 4.16, which would EASILY lead the league.  Anderson's kills per set number is far more remarkable than Coleman's attack percentage when adjusting for position played. Not to mention Anderson led her position in all of blocks per set, kills per set, and attack percentage.  Not to mention Anderson was the only player in the league to finish in the Top 10 in both attack percentageand kills per set.  Not to mention Anderson was the only non-MB to finish in the Top 10 in blocks per set in conference only matches.

  • For those that might have picked Bailey Banks over both Anderson and Coleman... you have a good case for sure.  Here's one that makes Banks shine over those two... if you define a "bad match" as 8 or fewer total points and a "great match" as 16 or more total points, then here's the tally: Bad Matches: Banks 4, Anderson 5, Coleman 7.  Great Matches: Banks 14 (!!!), Anderson 9, Coleman 6.