2017 NCAA Tournament: First Look At Projected Auto & At-Large Bids

  0 Jared Anderson | November 06th, 2017 | ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, Conference USA, Division I Mid-Major, Missouri Valley Conference, Mountain West, News, Pac 12, SEC, WCC

We’re about three weeks out of the NCAA’s 2017 Women’s Volleyball Selection Show, and though much is still in flux, it’s never too early to start looking towards the projected qualifiers and bubble teams for this year’s tournament.

32 of the 64 teams are selected by automatic conference slots by virtue of winning one of the NCAA’s 32 conference titles in Division I. We’ll start by running through each of those conference pictures below, then make a quick pass at the likely at-large bids that will make up the final 32 teams in the tournament.

Conferences are listed from most 2016 NCAA-qualifying teams to least. Conferences with an asterisk (*) hold a conference tournament to determine their champions and automatic NCAA entrants.


Defending national champs Stanford are in the driver’s seat here, holding a 13-0 record in the conference. With seven conference matches remaining for most teams, things could still break differently, but Stanford currently has a four-game lead on second-place USC (9-4) and four-and-a-half games on Colorado, Washington and Utah. The Pac-12 put an NCAA-high 8 teams into the tournament a year ago, though, so it’s likely all of five of those teams are in good shape, plus Oregon (8-5 in the conference but 15-6 overall and ranked #10 in the latest RPI) and UCLA (8-6 in the conference, 15-8 overall and 23rd in RPI).

Oregon State (16-9) had a rough start to Pac-12 season, but recovered to put themselves inside the top 64. Washington State and Cal might be jockeying for the conference’s last at-large bid(s) despite sitting way below .500 in the Pac-12.

Big Ten

Arguably the toughest conference in the nation this year, the Big Ten has 3 of the top 5 teams in RPI and 5 of the top 10 in the most recent AVCA poll. Penn State and Nebraska are tied at 13-1 for the conference lead, with 12-2 Minnesota (last year’s NCAA runners-up) nipping at their heels. All three of those teams should be locks for the tournament, and so should Wisconsin (ranked #8 by the AVCA) and Michigan State (#9), barring any late collapses.

#22 Purdue is the only other team ranked by the AVCA, but Illinois has a better conference and overall record. Those two should make the tournament, while Michigan and Ohio State are on the bubble, but probably in at this point. Maryland is an interesting case, with a few big wins, but they’re straddling the cut line and sliding with some injuries. Iowa’s probably below Maryland at the moment, but could take advantage of Maryland’s health to nab a late at-large bid.

Big 12

After losing the conference to Kansas a year ago, Texas is in control at 11-0 this season, with Baylor (10-2) in between the Longhorns and the Jayhawks (9-2).

At this point, there’s a clear divide between the top 4 teams in the conference and the bottom 5. Iowa State is 7-4 in the conference and nearly undefeated outside the Big 12, and should be in good shape for a tournament berth. TCU and Kansas State made it last year, but they’re both below .500 and sitting at the bottom of the conference. The only other outside shot is West Virginia, but they’re a bubble team at best right now.


Florida leads the SEC at 12-1, with Kentucky (11-1) also in the hunt, and both are inside the top 5 in the latest RPI. Returning tourney team Missouri should be in decent shape at 16-9 overall. But behind them are a jumble of teams falling between #35 and #48 in the latest RPI: LSU (35), Auburn (38), Arkansas (45) and Texas A&M (48). All those teams probably need a big win streak or a significant upset to earn a bid between now and Nov. 26, but it’s likely we’ll see one or two of them make the tournament.


Pitt, NC State and Louisville are tied for the ACC lead at 12-2. That’s a big shakeup at the top, with last year’s conference champs UNC three full games back. The ACC only had three tournament teams in 2016: UNC, Pitt and Florida State, who are below .500 in the conference and currently a bubble team to make the tournament. The AVCA rankings have no ACC teams in the top 25, and the RPI isn’t kind to the conference either. The other tournament hopefuls might be Miami (#30 in the RPI) and Notre Dame (#39). Then there’s Dukeway out in the RPI but starting to surge.

Mountain West

It was a banner year for the MWC last season with 3 NCAA entrants. This year might not be so high-flying as a group. Colorado State has the conference all-but-locked up at 14-0, and they’re the only team inside the top 80 in the RPI.

Big East*

Last year’s unranked NCAA cinderellas, Creighton is in control in the Big East at 13-1, and sits #14 in the RPI. Marquette, the conference’s other tourney team last year, is 11-3 and 33rd in the RPI. The only other contender is 10-4 Butler, but three teams might be a stretch. Butler’s best chances are a Nov 12 upset bid at home against Creighton or a win in the Big East tournament Nov 24-25.


BYU and San Diego should repeat as tourney teams again this year, it just depends which is the automatic bid and which is the at-large. The two teams are tied at 12-1 at present, each beating the other on the road, interestingly enough. They won’t play head-to-head again this regular season.

The American (AAC)

Last year’s Missouri Valley Conference champs Wichita State joined the American this year, and they lead with a perfect 14-0 record in the conference. That likely puts them into the tournament and leaves defending conference champs SMU in the lurch. But we could see SMU make a return trip along with Temple, third in the conference but holding a head-to-head win over SMU earlier in the year. The two meet up again this week.

Big West

Cal Poly is undefeated in the conference, 22-2 overall and sits 24th in the current RPI plus #23 in the latest AVCA poll. They should win the conference and make the tournament. Struggling for a bubble bid right now is Hawaii, coming off a tournament win last year vs USC. It’s unlikely UC-Irvine makes it without beating Cal Poly or Hawaii over the next two weekends.

Sun Belt*

The Sun Belt has been the picture of parity of late, without a back-to-back champion since Western Kentucky in 2011 and 2012. Last year’s champs Coastal Carolina are currently atop the conference at 13-1, but what really matters is who wins the conference tournament on Nov 16-19. In that tournament, the top 2 seeds get byes for the opening two rounds, putting them automatically into the semifinals. Those spots are currently set to go to Coastal Carolina and Louisiana, but Texas State is actually the highest-ranked program in the RPI.

America East*

Albany are the heavy favorites, sitting at 10-1 and holding a three-and-a-half game lead over the field. The tournament takes place in Albany on Nov 17-18.


VCU leads at 12-0 in the conference and 26-2 overall. Dayton is sneaky good at 19-7 overall and ranked 53rd in the current RPI.

Atlantic Sun (ASUN)*

The Atlantic Sun is very tight this season, which makes predicting the results of the conference’s tournament difficult. Kennesaw State has the best record at present with 11 conference wins and a single loss. But Jacksonville is 10-2 and FGCU 9-3 in the conference, and Lipscomb is the defending champs. Only the conference champ should make the NCAA Tournament.

Big Sky*

North Dakota is the defending conference champ, but Sacramento State has the best record and clinched home-court advantage for the conference tournament. One of those two will likely earn the conference’s only tournament bid.

Big South*

High Point is 15-0 in the conference and should earn an NCAA bid. Radford isn’t too far behind in the RPI (72nd to 50th), but will need an upset conference title to make NCAAs.


The College of Charleston is 13-1 in the conference and the favorites to win the tournament on Nov 16-18. But defending champs James Madison might be CofC’s biggest challengers and should be motivated in the tournament, with an at-large bid unlikely.


Western Kentucky looks like the odds-on favorites with a perfect 13-0 mark in the conference. North Texas is the biggest challenger in the conference tournament, and at #55 in the RPI could be an outside bubble team for NCAAs if Conference USA gets an at-large bid.

Horizon League*

Cleveland State and IUPUI are currently tied for the conference lead at 11-3. The tournament should see one of them make NCAAs and the other go home without an at-large bid.

Ivy League

Without a conference tournament, the Ivy League title will come down to the wire this weekend in the final slate of regular-season matches. Princeton and Yale are tied at 9-3 and split their matches on the year. Princeton has Harvard and Dartmouth to finish the season, while Yale gets Cornell and Columbia.

There’s a very outside chance both could make the NCAA Tournament, but it’s slim. Both are ranked in the 60s in the latest RPI, and most at-large teams will probably be inside the top 50 at least.


Undefeated (in the conference) Fairfield should take the conference title unless an upset happens in the championship tournament.


Miami (OH) and Bowling Green have the best records in the conference, but they’re both in the East Division. That means only one can earn a bye through the first two rounds. The tournament winner should be the only NCAA entrant.


The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is 9-0 in the Northern Divison, but Bethune-Cookman is 7-0 in the Southern. Last year’s conference champ Howard could also be in the mix at the conference tournament.

Missouri Valley (MVC)*

The Missouri Valley Conference has sent 4 and 3 teams to NCAAs the past two seasons, and we could see at least another at-large bid this year. Missouri State is undefeated in the conference, but UNI has the better RPI rank by a hair. UNI has massive upsets of Nebraska, USC and Missouri, so they should earn an at-large bid even if they don’t win the conference. Those two are well ahead of the field, though, so we may only see two MVC teams in the tourney this season, barring a late run by Drake or Illinois State.


Central Connecticut, LIU Brooklyn and Bryant are all tied at 9-3 atop the conference and have clinched berths in the NEC tournament. Only one will move on to NCAAs.

Ohio Valley*

13-1 Austin Peay is the odds-on favorite here, leading 11-3 Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville.

Patriot League*

13-1 American U will be the likely top seed into the Patriot League tournament, but 11-3 Navy actually has the better RPI spot. Army West Point is likely the only other top contender for the conference title.


Furman sits at 12-2 and leads the conference into its championship tournament, with East Tennessee State the top challenger. Last year’s entrant Samford has fallen off to 7-7 and 5th in the conference


At 13-2, Stephen F. Austin technically leads the conference, but Central Arkansas (12-2) is ranked 25 spots higher in the RPI. Only the conference champ should make the NCAA tournament here.


Alabama State looks like the frontrunner after making the tournament a year ago. They’re a perfect 17-0 in the conference and lead Alabama A&M by 4 games.

Summit League*

Oral Roberts and Denver should be the top two contenders here, with identical records. Denver’s far superior RPI ranking (59th) hints that they should be the favorites over Oral Roberts (112th), but things could go either way in the conference tournament. Oral Roberts stomped Denver 3-0 at home in October, but Denver returned the favor with a 3-0 drubbing at home last week.


New Mexico State looks like the favorites, but last year’s title went to UT – Rio Grande Valley, who are one game back.


With that tour-de-force through the NCAA complete, here’s a look at our early projected conference champs and our first pass at the 32 at-large bids. We’ll continue updating these lists as the weeks go on leading up to the Selection Show on Nov 26.

Conference Champ
ACC Pittsburgh
Big Ten Penn State
Big 12 Texas
Pac-12 Stanford
SEC Florida
America East Albany
American Wichita State
Atlantic 10 VCU
Atlantic Sun Kennesaw State
Big East Creighton
Big Sky Sacramento State
Big South High Point
Big West Cal Poly
CAA College of Charleston
Horizon Cleveland State
Ivy League Princeton
MAAC Fairfield
MAC Miami (OH)
Missouri Valley UNI
Mountain West Colorado State
NEC LIU Brooklyn
Ohio Valley Austin Peay
Patriot American
SoCon Furman
Southland Central Arkansas
Sun Belt Coastal Carolina
SWAC Alabama State
Summit League Denver
WAC New Mexico State
West Coast BYU

At Large bids:

Michigan State
San Diego
Iowa State
Oregon State
Missouri State
NC State
Ohio State
Notre Dame
Miami (FL)
Washington State
Florida State
North Texas

Last 8 In, First 8 Out

Last 8 in:

  • Miami (FL): 30th in RPI, split with Louisville, Notre Dame
  • Washington State: beat tourney teams Colorado and UCLA, took two sets from Baylor. Above .500 in a tough Pac-12, but their closing slate is brutal, including Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State and Washington
  • Florida State: swept Miami 3-0, swept UNC 3-0, beat Baylor, 2-3 losses to Notre Dame and NC State, but a lot of bad 0-3 losses: Louisville, Miami and Pitt. Relatively soft schedule to close.
  • UNC: Beat Louisville and NC State, and lost 2-3 in their other NC State match. They’ll get Notre Dame and Louisville over the next weeks to prove their bid status.
  • Missouri: they seem better than their 44th RPI, with wins over Auburn (41st), Alabama (47th) and Texas A&M (37th). They’ll get Florida twice in the next few weeks, with upset potential that could seal an NCAA bid.
  • Maryland: swept USC 3-0 and beat Purdue 3-2 while going 16-10 despite playing in the ultra-competitive Big Ten. Their closing stretch isn’t easy though: Nebraska twice, Penn State, Iowa and Ohio State, and the team has been rocked by injuries with both their captain and their libero sidelined.
  • Marquette: 18-8 with 6 of those losses coming to likely tournament teams. Swept Creighton 3-0, took two sets from Wichita State and beat Hawaii.
  • North Texas: have been a powerhouse in Conference-USA, going 24-2 with a big win over Oregon State. They get a shot at conference leaders Western Kentucky this week.

First 8 out:

  • Hawaii: took two sets from BYU and UCLA earlier in the year and have won 16 of their last 18.
  • LSU: have beaten the teams they’re better than, but don’t really have a signature win vs a tournament team
  • California: beat Washington State and have lots of upset chances over the next few weeks.
  • Duke: after a rough start, the Blue Devils are heating up. Last weekend saw wins over Notre Dame and Louisville by twin 3-1 margins at home. Remaining matchups vs Pitt, NC State and UNC will go a long way in changing ACC standings.
  • SMU: last year’s AAC champs get a shot at newcomers Wichita State towards the end of the season.
  • Temple: A worse record than SMU, but a head-to-head victory. The two teams will meet again, potentially for conference runner-up.
  • Iowa: they’ve been inconsistent, but have a 3-1 win against Michigan and 2-3 losses to Illinois and the mighty Stanford Cardinal.
  • Yale: it seems like an auto bid is the only thing the Ivy League will get, but maybe the committee will be impressed by a tight race up top.

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