This week, the NCAA announced the 64 teams that will participate in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. We at Volleymob took our best shot at the 64 a week out – so who did we miss?
In terms of teams, Volleymob’s projection went 62-for-64, with just two teams making the tournament that we had on the outs. You can find our 64-team projection here. That took place a week away from the selection show, when just 22 of the NCAA’s automatic tournament bids (given to conference champs) were decided.
We went back over the next week and updated only the teams we had pegged as our “last 8 in and first 8 out.” That references the last 8 teams we included, plus the first 8 teams we found to be outside the cut. With many teams playing twice over that final week, there was some moving and shaking in our final 8, that we tracked every few days. Our final “last 8 in, first 8 out” installment is here.
Who We Missed
Interestingly enough, the two NCAA-qualifying teams we missed were actually inside our original “last 8 in.” But over the final week, we dropped both over some late season losses. Those programs were Baylor and Marquette. Our mistake with them seems to be overstating late season losses in comparison to the committee, which relied more on their overall body of work.
Baylor lost 4 of 6 to end the year, but those losses were of the quality variety. The Bears dropped Big 12 matches to Texas (the eventual #4 seed), TCU (a tourney participant), Iowa State (a tourney participant) and Kansas (the conference champs and national #5 seed). The Kansas loss was even a 3-2 battle that was probably as good as Baylor could have asked for against an elite team. Baylor had already padded its status as a solid program this year with wins over Iowa State on the road, TCU at home and Kansas State at home.
Marquette lost back-to-back matches to Xavier, a team that was well out of the tournament hunt. Xavier won 3-1 at home to end the regular season, then 3-1 on a neutral site to knock Marquette out of the Big East Tournament. But Marquette got credit for going 13-5 in a tough Big East. They also had wins over USC, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Iowa State and Missouri State.
In our own defense (because we Volleymobbers take losses extremely hard), Baylor and Marquette were the top two teams in our “first 8 out” list the day before the selection show.
Who We Overrated
The big surprise was Duke, whom we rated as a very likely participant in our first 64-team field. Duke was 21-9, including 15-5 in the ACC for the season. That was good for a tie for 3rd place in the conference. But the selection committee was unimpressed with the ACC as a whole, only selecting 3 programs from the conference and only seeding one of them (#7 UNC). In addition, the committee picked just one of the three teams tied at 15-5 in the conference. That was Pitt, which had some key upsets Duke didn’t even though the Blue Devils beat the Panthers twice in-season. Plus, Duke was only #64 in the season-ending RPI, while Pitt was #39.
We also had Illinois in as one of our final 8 into the tourney. That would have been a huge stretch for the Big Ten, which had 8 teams make the tournament and would have had 9 with Illinois. A 17-14 overall record probably doomed the Illini, as did a string of bad losses to contenders. Illinois lost a run of 7 straight through the middle of the year, including goose eggs against Nebraska, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Top 16 Seeds
|Seed||Our projection||Actual Seeds|
|14||Michigan State||Kansas State|
Wins over Nebraska and Wisconsin jumped Minnesota to #2 after our projections. Texas over Kansas was a bit of a surprise after Kansas won the Big 12. In general, the Pac-12 fared better than our projections, while the SEC was considerably lower.