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 (17-7)
USC (16-9)
UC Irvine (15-10)
Loyola (19-7)

Quick breakdown: The race for the final at-large bid is down to three teams — UC Santa Barbara, UCLA and USC. While UC Santa Barbara holds the edge in the RPI and strength of strength criteria categories, the one area that could significantly hinder its hopes at an at-large bid. The Gauchos are 2-7 against projected teams under NCAA Tournament consideration — the worst record an at-large bid candidate. UCLA is 5-4 in this category and could potentially surpassed UC Santa Barbara in the RPI with a deep run in the MPSF Tournament. USC remains in contention for an at-large bid but will need to beat UCLA in the MPSF Tournament semifinals to strength its case for the at-large bid. Pepperdine as the MPSF regular season champions is projected to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. If the Waves lose in the conference tournament, they will likely receive the final at-large bid. Along with the at-large bid race, one of the most contentious decisions this season could be the play-in match. Pepperdine and UCLA are projected to play in this match due to the NCAA’s 400-mile travel policy. Road teams for the NCAA Tournament have the option to fly at the NCAA expense if their match venue is located more than 400 miles away. If the match is less than 400 miles, the NCAA will only reimburse the road team’s travel expenses for driving. Pepperdine and UCLA would be the only non-top-two seeds teams within 400 miles of each other.