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Jacob Myers | NCAA.com | November 13, 2018

This is how low a team can be ranked in RPI and still make the NCAA volleyball tournament as an at-large bid

Twitter | @MichStVB ncaa volleyball teams Michigan State in 2015 was ranked 54th in RPI yet still made the NCAA tournament.

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.

Year Team Conference RPI Record
2017 North Carolina State ACC 49th 20-11 (15-5)
  Charleston CAA 46th 27-5 (15-1)
  LSU SEC 45th 20-9 (11-7)
  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)
  TCU Big-12 49th 19-9 (9-7)
  Oregon Pac-12 48th 16-13 (10-10)
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)
2013 Miami ACC 51st 19-11 (12-8)
  Arizona State Pac-12 49th 19-13 (8-12)
  Colorado Pac-12 48th 17-13 (9-11)
  Cal State-Northridge Big West 41st 23-6 (13-3)