Bracketology: Off the Block’s latest NCAA Tournament projections

Off the Block each week throughout the rest of the regular season and during the postseason will unveil its latest detailed projections to the NCAA Tournament.

The men’s volleyball Division I-II NCAA Tournament is comprised of seven teams. Automatic bids are awarded to the winners of the Big West, ConfCarolinas, EIVA, MIVA and MPSF conference tournaments, and the NCAA men’s volleyball committee selects two teams for at-large bids.

The three-person selection committee meets following all of the conference tournaments to decide the at-large teams and the tournament seeding. The field for the NCAA Tournament is scheduled to be released during Selection Sunday on April 21.

The NCAA Tournament will begin with a play-in match and then two first-round matches. The top-two seeds will receive byes to the semifinals and will play the winners from the first round.

Off the Block is in its ninth season of providing college men’s volleyball bracketology.

PROJECTED NCAA TOURNAMENT FIELD

FIRST-FOUR TEAMS OUT
UC Santa Barbara (15-5)
BYU (12-6)
UC Irvine (14-6)
Stanford (14-8)

Quick breakdown: Geography matters a lot once the teams have been selected and the committee is trying to figure out match-ups for the non-top-two teams. The NCAA traditionally places an emphasis on reducing travel and travel costs for a play-in match. Teams that are located more than 400 miles from the site of their NCAA Tournament match have the option to fly, while teams that are less than 400 miles from the match site are required to drive, which typically is the more economic option. As a result, the play-in match this season could take place between two West Coast teams — such as Pepperdine and UCLA — if they are the only non-top-two seeded teams within 400 miles of each other. If the NCAA Tournament did not have geographic limitations, Princeton and Barton would be projected to meet in the play-in match. However, those two schools are separated by 431 miles, according to the NCAA milage calculation. The Waves are projected to receive the final at-large bid and the Bruins in the play-in match. Pepperdine narrowly edges out UC Santa Barbara for the last spot in the tournament because of its better RPI, strength of schedule and the two head-to-head victories earlier in the season. If the Waves, though, win the MPSF Tournament and earn the conference’s automatic bid, the Gauchos are in position to receive the final at-large bid. UC Santa Barbara holds the advantage in the major selection committee categories when compared to UCLA, which in this projection will earn the MPSF automatic bid.