We are now about a month out from NCAA selection for the tournament – not just in terms of who gets in, but where everyone goes. And beyond that, which seed are teams given. Who makes it into the top 16 to host in the first two rounds, but who gets the real advantage of a top four seed and hosting in the regionals – assuming they make it there.
Let’s take a dive into some of those candidates at this point, trying to balance who should be in that position and what the NCAA values and will look at during seeding.
Separating at the Top
Stanford Cardinal | 18-1 (10-0, Pac-12) | #2 in VM Top 25 & AVCA | #1 in RPI
- Stanford checks all your boxes. Impressive non-conference with wins over Minnesota and Penn State, only loss to another top team and undefeated leader in a really tough league with all kinds of other ranked schools. So they’ve separated themselves at the top, and assuming they go through the Pac-12 as the champ with maybe even a few losses they should be fine and earn that top four seed for the second straight season to host in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
BYU Cougars | 20-0 (10-0, WCC) | #1 in VM Top 25 & AVCA | #2 in RPI
- It’s quite simple: if BYU wins out they WILL be a top four seed. I would argue that they could probably even sustain an upset loss along the way too, so there’s a great chance they wind up in the top four. Beyond the WCC having plenty of competitive teams – five in the RPI top 50 – the Cougars took care of business in the non-conference, including a win over Stanford. They’ve got both the resume already and a schedule that will lead to their record continuing.
Minnesota Golden Gophers | 16-2 (10-0, Big Ten) | #3 in VM Top 25 & AVCA | #7 in RPI
- The RPI of #7 might be a hit if things were to be selected today because of how much the committee relies on that. In my eyes it wouldn’t matter as they have established themselves as the multi-match leader in the Big Ten. Regardless though, it’s pretty simple for them too. If they win the Big Ten, as they are, they should absolutely be a top four seed. Just playing in the league has already netted them wins at Nebraska, vs. Wisconsin, vs. Penn State, vs. Illinois, vs. Nebraska and more.
Other Top Contenders With High RPIs
Illinois Fighting Illini | 19-3 (8-3, Big Ten) | #5 in VM Top 25 & #6 in AVCA | #3 in RPI
- It seems like Penn State is the better team currently in the running for second in the Big Ten, but in terms of RPI it’s not close. With the committee’s reliance on that RPI, being ranked third there is obviously a huge boon for the Fighting Illini. If they can finish second in the Big Ten combined with that RPI, it might be a lock that they can wrap up a top four spot.
Texas Longhorns | 13-4 (8-1, Big 12) | #9 in VM Top 25 & #8 in AVCA | #4 in RPI
- The Longhorns have been pushed to five a lot in a Big 12 where no one else has really emerged as another first/second round host contender. At the end of the day though in the RPI, all that matters is the win. And although the coaches and VolleyMob doesn’t quite see Texas as a top four team, there’s a good chance they win out in the Big 12. With an RPI of four already, that at least puts them in contention based on the NCAA’s selection criteria. Plus, they downed Kentucky and Florida to show that they at least would have an edge over the SEC champ.
Pittsburgh Panthers | 22-0 (10-0, ACC) | #8 in VM Top 25 & #5 in AVCA | #5 in RPI
- The Panthers have to be a contender by virtue of being undefeated. A fair question though would be if they had a Big Ten or Pac-12 slate, what would the record look like? Still, the Panthers have some nice wins over Cal Poly, Washington and Louisville. It seems as if one or two losses would derail their chances as their biggest trump card is being undefeated. That’ll be a really interesting conversation for the committee because of that, and obviously ranking fifth in RPI is a huge deal that shows they have a legit case.
Wisconsin Badgers | 14-4 (7-3, Big Ten) | #6 in VM Top 25 & #7 in AVCA | #8 in RPI
- The Badgers have some work to do on their RPI but they’re kind of right on the edge in terms of all three rankings. Right now they’d be on the outside looking in, but they are at least in range. If they can make it out of their Big Ten season with just one more loss, they’d have a real chance. Their second half schedule features at Michigan, vs. Minnesota, vs. Michigan, vs. Purdue and at Penn State of the noteworthy ones, so going 9-1 in the back-half would be a huge boost.
Other Top Contenders With Lower RPIs
Kentucky Wildcats | 14-4 (8-0, SEC) | #18 in VM Top 25 & #14 in AVCA | #10 in RPI
- The pollsters don’t really agree that Kentucky should really be in consideration here after flopping in the early non-conference portion. They are worth mentioning though because their RPI is in the top 10 and they’ve got a chance to win the SEC. Really their only chance is finishing undefeated in conference play, but if that happens they would have won 21 in a row with some nice wins over NCAA Tournament teams and Florida. That loss at Texas and the one at USC could hurt if a tiebreaker scenario emerges, and there’s probably not enough firepower in their win column, but they’ll at least be mentioned.
Penn State Nittany Lions | 17-3 (8-2, Big Ten) | #4 in VM Top 25 & AVCA | #14 in RPI
- If you based this on what voters think then Penn State would be the fourth right now, but unfortunately their non-conference slate – outside of the Big Ten/Pac-12 challenge – left something to be desired. Still, they’ve got the old ‘eye test’ on their side, but you wonder if that would be enough to offset their RPI. 14 probably wouldn’t get it done, but if they can finish out at 17-3 in Big Ten play, then maybe they’d have enough rise to get into that spot. It’s imperative with all these Big Ten teams that if Minnesota gets first, any contender gets second as the ‘tiebreaker’ over the other league teams for the fourth hosting position.
Nebraska Huskers | 16-5 (7-4, Big Ten) | #7 in VM Top 25 & #9 in AVCA | #15 in RPI
- At this point the Huskers are more of a long shot. They’d probably have to go undefeated the rest of the way for a chance to host as a top four seed. But if they do, they’ll have a chance at a runner-up Big Ten finish – the importance of which was alluded to above. Still, when you have a top 10 team who has chances in the Big Ten to improve their RPI, and rise in the standings, they’re a threat to at least contend for that fourth spot.
Florida Gators | 18-4 (9-1, SEC) | #13 in VM Top 25 & AVCA | #16 in RPI
- This one also seems like an outside shot. The Gators RPI just isn’t good enough, and playing in the SEC they’ll face some good teams, but not enough to really move the needle. Their only chance is winning out, including at Kentucky on Halloween. The Gators non-conference win in Lincoln too could come in handy too. They need Nebraska to finish as the runner-up in the Big Ten and hope that the discussion comes down to the Huskers and themselves, so that head-to-head meeting would apply as the tiebreaker.
USC Trojans | 15-6 (7-3, Pac-12) | #11 in VM Top 25 & #15 in AVCA | #6 in RPI
- USC has suffered a good amount of losses to be considered, but they also have a plethora of ranked victories. Their tough schedule has led to a high RPI. Still, if they continue to rack up losses it won’t matter. But they come in as a dark horse because with that resume and their remaining schedule, if they can win out or lose just once from here on out, maybe it’s enough to stay on the committee’s top four radar.
UCF Golden Knights | 18-3 (9-0, AAC) | #25 in VM Top 25 & AVCA | #9 in RPI
- Another team waited by their RPI, that should at least get UCF talked about by the committee. They should only continue winning. It probably won’t be enough to raise their RPI as much as needed without a trechorous schedule, but they won’t be left out of the discussion if they win out. Their only real chance would be if USC won out and they could say that they should be in over the Trojans, who they beat head-to-head. It’s unlikely though, but still likely they host in the first two rounds.
Michigan Wolverines | 18-3 (7-3, Big Ten) | #14 in VM Top 25 & #12 in AVCA | #11 in RPI
- The Wolverines haven’t racked up a ton of top-tier conference wins over the other juggernauts in their league, but if they do and can go 9-1 in the second half of league play it’d probably raise their RPI enough to have a legit chance at a top four seed. They’re mainly a dark horse because they’ll have the chance to do that, although they don’t seem to be quite as good as the other Big Ten teams in this race.
Predictions Based on Right Now:
My Picks if Selection was Today: #1 BYU, #2 Stanford, #3 Minnesota, #4 Penn State
Projection of what the NCAA would choose: #1 BYU, #2 Stanford, #3 Illinois, #4 Pittsburgh