NCAA Tournament Update: Seeds of Discontent (The Unseeded and Unheeded, but Not Done Yet)

                                2011 Division 1 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament: the Big Dance with the Huge Ball

NCAA Tournament Central

NCAA Interactive Tournament Bracket

One-and-Done for the Below-64 RPI Tournament Teams (One Exception – Conspiracy Theorists Pay Attention!)

To start with, Penn State downed Liberty last night 3-0. But the question that interests us most today is how much have the NCAA’s tournament selections/brackets affected the tournament so far?

A little history (for the sane among you who don’t know all of this already).  When the seedings and brackets were announced for the 2011 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Volleyball Tournament, the Blogisphere (and much of the volleyball community) went absolutely crazy — we mean, ALL CAPS WE ARE OUTRAGED THE FIX IS IN crazy.  Mechelle Voepel captured the mood (or arguments in favor of the outrage) quite well in her article “5 burning questions for NCAA tourney“:

Take a look at this year’s NCAA tournament bracket for women’s volleyball, and you might just wonder if somebody hacked into the organization and inserted a gag bracket as a prank.

Your first clue? USC’s seed. Here’s a program that is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, took the regular-season title in what’s historically the toughest volleyball conference in the country, and has lost just two matches since Labor Day. And those losses were at three-time NCAA champion UCLA and at six-time champion Stanford.

You see No. 7 next to USC — which went to the Final Four last year and has won three NCAA titles — and think, “Oh, very funny. Now where’s the real bracket?”

. . . But that’s not the only injustice: Take a look at the Honolulu Regional, which has six of the top 18 ranked teams according to last week’s coaches’ poll — including those ranked first (USC), second (Nebraska) and third (Hawaii).

Yes, that region has not just Pac-12 champion USC, but also Western Athletic Conference champ Hawaii, which at 29-1 is the No. 10 seed. And Big Ten champ Nebraska, the No. 2 seed. And West Coast Conference champ Pepperdine, the No. 15 seed. And last year’s national runner-up Cal, whose six losses were all to other Pac-12 teams. 

By the way, the Bears are unseeded, despite the fact that they spent time ranked No. 1 this season. Cal isn’t one of the 16 best teams in the country? Really? It’s incomprehensible.

So, that’s a fair sample of the criticism of the seedings (and we’re not disagreeing).  But how did it play out overall?  Clearly, Penn State got a big break in its bracket.  As shown in the table below, its 1st round opponent (Liberty) had the fourth-lowest RPI of any team in the tournament – 145.  But to the 16 seeded teams (12 of which had 1st round opponents with RPIs under 64) the RPIs of their 1st round opponents didn’t seem to matter one bit.  Every one of them won their 1st round match — including the four that didn’t have 1st round opponents with RPIs of 64 or lower: #4 seed Iowa State, which beat Milwaukee (RPI 50) 3-0; #13 seed Minnesota, which beat North Dakota State  (RPI 42) 3-0;  #14 seed Tennessee, which beat Duke (RPI 43) 3-1; and #15 seed Pepperdine, which beat Missouri State (RPI 44) 3-0.

Oh, and unseeded California (RPI 29)?  It lost in the 1st round to North Carolina (RPI 31), which in turn lost in the 2nd round to #15 seed Pepperdine (RPI 16).  And Nebraska?  It defeated Jackson State (RPI 217 – the lowest in the tournament) 3-0, but followed that with a 3-2 loss in Lincoln to Kansas State (RPI 26) in the 2nd round.

We aren’t saying the brackets are all equal.  They aren’t.  Obviously, Penn State’s 2nd round opponent — Delaware (RPI 79) isn’t anywhere near as tough as Kansas State.  And we aren’t saying the Selection Committee made ideal choices, or even good choices — they probably didn’t — or should rely so heavily on RPI — they probably shouldn’t.

But if the Nittany Lions beat Delaware, their Sweet 16 opponent is likely to be #9 seed UCLA (RPI 15).  If they don’t beat UCLA, it won’t matter who preliminary round opponents were.  And if they beat UCLA, then it still won’t matter.  They’ll likely be facing Texas, and the challenge of defeating two elite opponents on the road in consecutive matches for the first time this season.  If they can’t do that, there season is over.  If they can, they’ll have earned their trip to the Final Four.

The following two tables show the results so far for the 14 lowest RPI teams in the tournament, and for the entire 64 team field (including, where available, their RPI, Pablo Ranking, and AVCA ranking).   The tables are sortable, so you can arrange as you please by clicking the arrows at the top of a given column:


2011 NCAA Teams Teams with RPI Below 64

TeamRegionalRPI1st Rnd1st Rnd Opponent's Seed1st Rnd Opponent's RPI2nd Rnd2nd Rnd Opponent's RPI
Texas StateLexington72L (0-3 vs. Texas)12outout
Central MichiganGainesville74L (0-3 vs. Illinois)31outout
DelawareLexington79W (3-1 vs. American)not seeded9411
Sacred HeartGainesville80L (1-3 vs. Stanford)1118outout
AlbanyMinneapolis85L (0-3 vs. Florida State)1210outout
Moorehead StateMinneapolis86L (0-3 vs. Purdue)56outout
LipscombLexington89L (1-3 vs. Texas A&M)1617outout
YaleHonolulu91L (0-3 vs. USC)78outout
AmericanLexington94L (1-3 vs. Delaware)not seeded79outout
Northern ColoradoHonolulu108L (0-3 vs. Hawaii)107outout
LibertyLexington145L (0-3 vs. Penn State)811outout
NiagaraGainesville148L (0-3 vs. Northern Iowa)65outout
Md.- Eastern ShoreLexington195L (0-3 vs. UCLA)915outout
Jackson StateHonolulu217L (0-3 vs. Nebraska)24outout


2011 NCAA Tournament: Field of 64

RPI Pablo RankingAVCA PollConferenceRegional1st Rnd2nd Rnd
Texas22-41225Big 12LexingtonW (3-0 vs. Texas State)W (3-0 vs. Michigan State)
Nebraska24-42452B1GHonoluluW (3-0 vs. Jackson State)L (2-3 vs. Kansas State)
Illinois27-431107B1GGainesvilleW (3-0 vs. Central Michigan)W (3-0 vs. Marquette)
Iowa State22-543614Big 12MinneapolisW (3-0 vs. Milwaukee)W (3-0 vs. Miami (Fla))
Purdue27-45648B1GMinneapolisW (3-0 vs. Morehead State)W (3-1 vs. Louisville)
Northern Iowa32-1651512Missouri ValleyGainesvilleW (3-0 vs. Niagara)L (1-3 vs. Florida)
USC25-47811Pac-12HonoluluW (3-0 vs. Yale)W (3-0 vs. Tulsa)
Penn State23-781139B1GLexingtonW (3-0 vs. Liberty)W (3-0 vs. Delaware)
UCLA24-8915134Pac-12LexingtonW (3-0 vs. MdES)W (3-1 vs. San Diego)
Hawaii29-110783WACHonoluluW (3-0 vs. Northern Colorado)W (3-1 vs. Colorado State)
Stanford21-71118256Pac-12GainesvilleW (3-1 vs. Sacred Heart)L (1-3 vs. Michigan)
Florida State24-612102321ACCMinneapolisW (3-0 vs. Albany)W (3-2 vs. Cincinnati)
Minnesota18-1113121619B1GMinneapolisW (3-0 vs. North Dakota State)W (3-2 vs. Washington)
Tennessee27-3149915SECGainesvilleW (3-1 vs. Duke)L (2-3 vs. Ohio State)
Pepperdine22-615161118West CoastHonoluluW (3-0 vs. Missouri State)W (3-0 vs. North Carolina)
Texas A&M22-716171227Big 12LexingtonW (3-1 vs. Lipscomb)L (0-3 vs. Kentucky)
Kentucky26-5unseeded132116SECLexingtonW (3-2 vs. Dayton)W (3-0 vs. Texas A&M)
Northern Illinois28-6unseeded14nanrMid-AmericanMinneapolisL (1-3 vs. Miami (Fla.)out
Cincinnati26-9unseeded19nanrBig EastMinneapolisW (3-2 vs. Samford)L (2-3 vs. Florida State)
Florida24-5unseeded20717SECGainesvilleW (3-1 vs. Missouri)W (3-1 vs. Northern Iowa)
Western Kentucky31-3unseeded212624SunBeltGainesvilleL (1-3 vs. Marquette)out
Miami (Fla.)25-4unseeded222025ACCMinneapolisW (3-1 vs. Northern Illinois)L (0-3 vs. Iowa State)
Michigan20-12unseeded232822B1GGainesvilleW (3-1 vs. Baylor)W (3-1 vs. Stanford)
Tulsa27-6unseeded243131Conference USAHonoluluW (3-1 vs. Oklahoma)L (0-3 vs. USC)
San Diego27-4unseeded252420West CoastLexingtonW (3-1 vs. LBSU)L (1-3 vs. UCLA)
Kansas State20-10unseeded263436Big 12HonoluluW (3-0 vs. Wichita State)W (3-2 vs. Nebraska)
Oklahoma21-11unseeded2739nrBig 12HonoluluL (1-3 vs. Tulsa)out
Colorado State23-5unseeded281626Mountain WestHonoluluW (3-2 vs. Oregon)L (1-3 vs. Hawaii)
California26-6unseeded291910Pac-12HonoluluL (2-3 vs. North Carolina)out
Oregon21-9unseeded301413Pac-12HonoluluL (2-3 vs. Colorado State)out
North Carolina23-8unseeded31nanrACCHonoluluW (3-2 vs. California)L (0-3 vs. Pepperdine)
Western Michigan24-8unseeded32nanrMid-AmericanMinneapolisL (1-3 vs. Washington)out
Missouri21-12unseeded33nanrBig 12GainesvilleL (1-3 vs. Florida)out
Ball State25-7unseeded34nanrMid-AmericanMinneapolisL (0-3 vs. Louisville)out
Washington23-7unseeded352111Pac-12MinneapolisW (3-1 vs. Western Michigan)L (2-3 vs. Minnesota)
Dayton25-6unseeded36nanrAtlantic 10LexingtonL (2-3 vs. Kentucky)out
Michigan State21-11unseeded372630B1GLexingtonW (3-1 vs. Arizona)L (0-3 vs. Texas)
Louisville23-8unseeded38nanrBig EastMinneapolisW (3-0 vs. Ball State)L (1-3 vs. Purdue)
Wichita State21-10unseeded39nanrMissouri ValleyHonoluluL (0-3 vs. Kansas State)out
Marquette23-10unseeded40nanrBig EastGainesvilleW (3-1 vs. Western Kentucky)L (0-3 vs. Illinois)
Long Beach State23-6unseeded411823Big WestLexingtonL (1-3 vs. USD)out
North Dakota State26-8unseeded42nanrSummitMinneapolisL (0-3 vs. Minnesota)out
Duke21-8unseeded43nanrACCGainesvilleL (1-3 vs. Tennessee)out
Missouri State22-8unseeded44nanrMissouri ValleyHonoluluL (0-3 vs. Pepperdine)out
Middle Tennessee21-11unseeded45nanrSun BeltGainevilleL (1-3 vs. Ohio State)out
Baylor18-14unseeded46nanrBig 12GainesvilleL (1-3 vs. Michigan)out
Ohio State19-14unseeded483228B1GGainesvilleW (3-1 vs. Middle Tennessee)W (3-2 vs. Tennessee)
Arizona19-12unseeded494032Pac-12LexingtonL (1-3 vs. Michigan State)out
Milwaukee25-4unseeded50nanrHorizonMinneapolisL (0-3 vs. Iowa State)out
Samford29-4unseeded62nanrSouthernMinneapolisL (2-3 vs. Cincinnati)out
Texas State27-7unseeded72nanrSouthlandLexingtonL (0-3 vs. Texas)out
Central Michigan19-13unseeded74nanrMid-AmericanGainesvilleL (0-3 vs. Illinois)out
Delaware20-12unseeded79nanrColonialLexingtonW (3-1 vs. American)L (0-3 vs. Penn State)
Sacred Heart27-7unseeded80nanrNortheastGainesvilleL (1-3 vs. Stanford)out
Albany21-8unseeded85nanrAmercia EastMinneapolisL (0-3 vs. Florida State)out
Moorehead State26-7unseeded86nanrOVCMinneapolisL (0-3 vs. Purdue)out
Lipscomb20-10unseeded89nanrAtlantic SunLexingtonL (1-3 vs. Texas A&M)out
Yale18-6unseeded91nanrIvyHonoluluL (0-3 vs. USC)out
American23-10unseeded94nanrPatriotLexingtonL (1-3 vs. Delaware)out
Northern Colorado22-8unseeded108nanrBig SkyHonoluluL (0-3 vs. Hawaii)out
Liberty20-12unseeded145nanrBig SouthLexingtonL (0-3 vs. Penn State)out
Niagara25-8unseeded148nanrMetro AtlanticGainesvilleL (0-3 vs. Northern Iowa)out
Md.-Eastern Shore24-6unseeded195nanrMid-EasternLexingtonL (0-3 vs. UCLA)out
Jackson State29-9unseeded217nanrSouthwesternHonoluluL (0-3 vs. Nebraska)out