The case has finalized for Marquette volleyball.
On Saturday, the #14 ranked Golden Eagles went through a five set thriller with #15 ranked Creighton in the Big East tournament championship match. Marquette came out on the short end of the stick, falling 3-2 to the Bluejays, but big picture, that’s fine. MU is 27-3 this season after winning 12 of their final 13 matches of the season and 25 of their last 27. They went 17-1 in Big East play this year, winning every single regular season contest except for their visit to Creighton.
There is no doubt that this is a team that is deserving of an NCAA tournament at-large bid. We’re way past the point of that being in doubt.
What is in doubt is whether or not that Marquette will be hosting for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
The top 16 national seeds host the first two rounds of the tournament. Coming into the Big East tournament, Marquette was at #12 in the NCAA’s RPI math calculations. Here’s the breakdown on what their records in the various breakdowns was at that point:
vs #1-25: 2-2
vs #26-50: 1-0
vs #51-100: 8-0
vs #101+: 15-0
In the Big East tournament, Marquette faced #89 Connecticut in the semifinals, and picked up the 3-0 win, as well as #16 Creighton in that five set final. That’s 2-3 vs the top 25 then, presuming that no one else moves around, and 9-0 against 51-100.
At the very least, Marquette is in the conversation to be a top 16 seed and host the first two rounds. I am of the opinion that the Golden Eagles have done enough to get one of those spots, and in fact had done enough before getting to the conference tournament. For me, their biggest roadblock is playing in a conference that rates as only the 7th best in the country. If the selection committee wants to find a reason to discount the Golden Eagles, it’s because they played eight matches against sub-150 opponents in league play.
The flip side of that is Marquette’s #9 non-conference RPI. Only eight teams in the country can be said to have had a better performance against a better non-con schedule than the Golden Eagles did, and MU’s willingness to challenge themselves with matches against Kentucky and Wisconsin have to be taken into account.
For long time attention-payers to the women’s volleyball NCAA tournament, there is a slight twist in how the field will be bracketed this year. I’ll let the NCAA explain:
“The committee expressed an interest to seed the top 32 or 50% of the field (versus 25%) in order to generate a bracket with better competitive parity and avoid imbalance with respect to the relative strength of regional assignments. The committee recognizes that seeding 50% of the field would likely create additional travel expense in the bracketing process and would be a consideration for all team sports.”
So now instead of seeding just the top 16 teams, the committee will seed the top 32 teams on a national basis, across eight seed lines. The top 16 seeds will still host a regional and the top four will still host a super if given the opportunity. Seeds one-four will be one seeds, five-eight will be two seeds, nine-12 will be three seeds, etc. Teams seeded No. 17-32 will be the five, six, seven and eight seeds.
To create more competitive parity, the eight seeds will need to travel to one of the four one seeds. Seven seeds will have to play at one of the two seeds, etc. The remaining 32 teams will be placed in the bracket following bracketing policies approved by the NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee. The 16 first-and second-round winners will feed into four regions. When pairing teams, the committee will avoid conference matchups in the first and second rounds of the championship.
In the past, the committee would tab the top 16 seeds, assign them hosting duties, and then throw three other relatively nearby teams at them as their visitors. That’s why we would regularly see Marquette qualifying for the tournament and going to play at Minnesota or Wisconsin or Purdue or Illinois with a potential second round match against one of those top 16 teams. Simple travel was the only real bracketing procedure used after those top 16 seeds.
Now, the field will be seeded out to the top 32, and each 1-4 seed will be paired with a corresponding 5-8 seed in their opening pod. The NCAA’s statement does not seem to specifically spell it out, but I presume that they’re going to try to lean towards simple travel if they can. If, say, Marquette is hosting as a #4 seed, and their #5 seed partner options are Florida, Baylor, BYU, and Purdue, I would presume that it would be the Boilermakers coming to Milwaukee barring one of the other #4 seeds making more sense for Purdue’s travel.
For those of you making plans, the first and second rounds are going to be either this coming Thursday/Friday, December 1 & 2, or this coming Friday/Saturday, December 2/3. As someone with tickets for the Marquette/Wisconsin game on Saturday, I would be in favor of Thursday/Friday for the Golden Eagles, or at the very least, a 7pm Central start time for Saturday.
2022 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament Selection Show
Date: Sunday, November 27, 2022
Time: 6:30pm Central