Trying to predict which bubble teams will receive at-large bids from the selection committee for the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball tournament is a fun, but difficult task. You can consider strength of schedule and key wins and losses and still be way off from predicting which bubble teams are in.
To predict which teams might be in the tournament when the 2018 bracket is unveiled on Nov. 25 at 8:30 p.m. ET, we looked at the four at-large teams in each of the past five NCAA volleyball tournaments (2013-17) with the lowest RPI rankings leading into the selection show. It's a smaller sample size but one way to determine how low a team can be ranked in RPI and still make the NCAA tournament.
Here is what stuck out from the data:
- In the past five years, Michigan State in 2015 had the lowest RPI ranking of an at-large team at 54th. The Spartans were one of just three teams since the 2013 tournament to have an RPI of at least 50 and still receive an at-large bid to the tournament.
- The average RPI ranking of the four at-large teams with the lowest RPI rankings in the past five tournament is 47.05, and the four teams listed below came from conferences like the Big Ten or Pac-12 as well as the Colonial and Missouri Valley.
- We also noticed teams from conferences that don’t historically put many teams into the tournament had to have a much better record than teams in conferences that make up a stronger schedule — which makes sense, given RPI considers record and strength of schedule.
Here are the four lowest-ranked at-large teams, their records heading into the tournament and RPI rankings entering the volleyball tournament presented in reverse chronological order.
|2017||North Carolina State||ACC||49th||20-11 (15-5)|
|Florida State||ACC||43rd||18-10 (12-8)|
|2016||Southern California||Pac-12||48th||18-13 (10-10)|
|Colorado State||Mountain West||46th||21-8 (15-3)|
|Northern Iowa||MVC||45th||24-9 (14-4)|
|Missouri State||MVC||44th||26-8 (16-2)|
|2015||Michigan State||Big Ten||54th||18-13 (10-10)|
|Kansas State||Big-12||51st||17-11 (9-7)|
|2014||Michigan State||Big Ten||48th||18-13 (11-9)|
|Seton Hall||Big East||47th||28-7 (15-3)|
|Santa Clara||WCC||46th||22-9 (12-6)|
|San Diego||WCC||43rd||19-11 (12-6)|
|Arizona State||Pac-12||49th||19-13 (8-12)|
|Cal State-Northridge||Big West||41st||23-6 (13-3)|