UC Santa Barbara being the No. 4 seed was a simple matter of the numbers for NCAA men’s volleyball committee chairman Bob Krimmel.
The NCAA released its four-team men’s volleyball championship tournament bracket Sunday pitting UC Santa Barbara against the No. 1 seed USC in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday. It’s one of the few times in the tournament’s 41-year history that two West Coast schools will play each other in the opening round.
“When you follow the criteria it helps place who should fall into what spot and it’s not a cause of where you are looking at the name on the jersey,” Krimmel said. “It’s looking at the statistics that we are provided. There is a wealth of information the committee looks at. That’s the way the numbers played out.”
Krimmel, who is also the athletics director at St. Francis, said earlier in the week that the committee would not deviate from the NCAA’s criteria to select seeding for the tournament. That criteria includes various items such as overall record, head-to-head record, non-conference record and record against other teams under consideration.
The Gauchos (17-14, 11-11 MPSF) became the first No. 7 seed to win the MPSF Tournament and receive the conference’s automatic bid. UC Santa Barbara upset three top five ranked teams in the conference tournament, including USC (23-2, 20-2 MPSF) in the MPSF championship match.
This is the second time in the last 10 years two MPSF schools have been paired against each other in the semifinals. The last time it happened was in 2008 when Penn State won the NCAA championship — marking the second time in NCAA men’s volleyball history a non-West Coast school legally won the national title.
The men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament is comprised of four teams — three conference automatic qualifiers and one at-large bid. It is also the smallest NCAA Tournament field of any sport.
Krimmel said the limited field prevents the selection committee from making an effort to avoid pairing two teams from the same conference against each other in the semifinals.
“It’s something we can’t consider when you only have four schools that you are sending. There is nothing in the criteria about conferences,” Krimmel said. “It hasn’t happened often but it’s not like it hasn’t happened and it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It is the one of challenges when having a four-team tournament. There is the possibility of two teams from the same conference playing in semifinals.”
Penn State received the No. 2 seed and will play the No. 3 seed Ohio State in the other NCAA Tournament semifinals match at 9 p.m. Thursday.
Penn State (24-6, 10-0 EIVA) defeated Springfield College on Saturday to win its 13th consecutive EIVA championship and automatic bid to the Final Four. Ohio State (24-6, 11-1 MIVA) also earned its conference’s automatic bid and became the first time since Ball State in the 1960s to win four consecutive MIVA championships.
Krimmel said the three-person selection committee debated for a long time whether Ohio State or Penn State should be the No. 2 seed. UC Santa Barbara winning the MPSF Tournament, the chairman said, helped Penn State because it changed the teams under consideration for the at-large bid.
“They were extremely close. They are 2A and 2AA. They have very similar resumes,” he said. “It was complicated and we made charts and went down the list of criteria. Really the only difference between No. 2 and No. 3 seed is who will be wearing their white [home] jersey for the match. It is a pride thing, though, and you want to be ranked as high as you can. It wasn’t the case that we said it doesn’t matter because the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds play each other. We said let’s look at everything, let’s look again. We went back and fourth.”
Along with Krimmel, the men’s volleyball committee included Loyola associate athletics director Carolyn O’Connell and BYU associate athletics director Brian Santiago.
Krimmel said the selection process was made somewhat easier Sunday because of USC losing the conference championship match and becoming eligible for the at-large bid.
The Trojans had three fewer losses than any team in the nation. It also was the first team since 1995 to be ranked No. 1 from the preseason through the end of the regular season.
Had USC won the MPSF Tournament and received the automatic bid, Krimmel said the selection committee was undecided who would have received the at-large bid.
“It’s been an amazing last couple of weeks watching the conference tournaments. Two played out as they would have played out on paper and one that was completely off the wall that no one thought could have imagined going into it,” Krimmel said. “That’s what makes college sports so exciting.”
The NCAA Tournament will be played at Penn State. The winners of the Thursday’s semifinals will advance to the championship match at 7 p.m. Saturday.