How good are the 2023 NCAA tournament teams?

Photo courtesy of UCLA athletics

T.J. Breshears | Founder & Creator at VBelo

As the official NCAA men’s volleyball championship bracket was released, the common refrain from sports pundits (myself included) was that this field is stacked. The top teams have been the top teams all season and they just continue to find impressive ways to win. But, how good are these teams, really?

The selection committee tries to answer this every year with a set list of metrics they can use – things like strength of schedule and head-to-head results. We can’t forget the often despised RPI.

No one metric can completely capture how strong or weak a team is. That doesn’t mean that we can’t try though. Enter: VBelo.

Elo (not pronounced like the 70’s English rock band) was formulated to try and measure how strong one opponent is compared to another in a sport (or closed system). If you are familiar with chess rankings or competitive gaming rankings (i.e., League of Legends) then you know elo.


VBelo is a project to try and measure D-I men’s volleyball teams in a helpful way. It is just one metric in a sea of statistics, but it still helps us compare teams.

So where do our seven teams stand in terms of VBelo?

Graphic by T.J. Breshears

At the top, Hawaiʻi and UCLA are in a virtual tie, separated by only seven points. On a neutral court, this equates to a less than 0.5% advantage. To say that these teams are evenly matched, in terms of strength is an understatement. They are elite level teams.

Not to be outdone, Penn State and Long Beach come in with the third and fourth highest VBelo of any team in the country. The average VBelo of all 57 teams in the country is 1600 so both of these quads are leaps and bounds above average.

Graphic by T.J. Breshears

Even at the “bottom” of the bracket, all of the teams are above average. The average of the seven teams in the tournament is a whopping 1863! A rating of 1863 is just behind Long Beach for the fifth highest VBelo rating of any team in the country.

Last season, the VBelo average for tournament teams was just 1790. The fact that this year is 70 points higher points to the incredibly high level of volleyball that we can expect.

One of the prominent uses of elo models is to create projections of how likely one opponent is to win against another opponent. If we take all of the teams and put them head to head (at George Mason) right now, here is the likelihood of each team winning.

Graphic by T.J. Breshears

Since VBelo is updated after every match, these percentages will change as the tournament progresses. 

If nothing else, it is clear that we are in store for a great tournament. If all goes well, this may be the last time we have a seven team tournament, so why not go out with an incredible lineup of teams.

[Editor’s note: T.J. Breshears is the Founder & Creator at VBelo. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of Off the Block ]