Back Row Attacking in NCAA Sweet 16 and Beyond (NCAA 2023)

Quick update on the previous back row attacking post - with a focus on NCAA Sweet 16 teams and those still alive leading into the Final Four this week in Tampa.

Madi Skinner of Texas is the clear leader in back row attacking, out of the remaining FF teams. With nearly 200 swings, It accounts for a quarter of her in-system attempts - yet she's still hitting for a 0.314 eff, a good 71 pts above expected (given the cards she was dealt). Skinner is only hindered by her usage on the D ball, where she's hitting a measly 0.075. The Longhorns might be using her on the D to help spread the offense or capitalize on a favorable blocking mismatch - but so far this has not been her bread and butter. Skinner on the Bic is ridiculous. She's hitting over 0.400 on the Bic (115pts over expected) and has been tormenting teams all season with her ability to bounce balls from this spot on the court. Texas's fate in the tournament may see a sizable swing depending on how well Skinner attacks against the size of Wisconsin's blockers.

Behind her, with much less usage, fall Stafford and Murray of Pitt and Nebraska, respectively. While they too, are exceptional, they aren't utilized to the same degree as Skinner, Beason, or Babcock. More of a complementary component of the offense, these players do an excellent job of maximizing their chances - but I wouldn't think their back row attacking performances will dictate the outcome of these matches.

Nebraska's Merritt Beason has proven a steady performer in the late portions of sets - with Bergen Reilly going to her late in sets from both the front and back row. Her experience has paid dividends for the Huskers, and while she hits the majority of the balls from the Bic, she has picked up crtiical late match kills on the D ball as well.

Pitt's Babcock, though just a freshman, has been a shining light for the Panthers. Admittedly, she isn't hitting for crazy numbers out of the back row, but when you're hitting nearly 0.400 in system, you don't have to be perfect at everything... Babcock will surely scare defenses in the coming years, as she develops her back row game to match what she's already capable of in the front row.