NCAA announces 48-team spring tournament, The Citadel plays at Virginia Tech

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A lot of Division I volleyball teams will be left wanting in April when the NCAA conducts its tournament.

That’s because the national governing body announced Wednesday that the NCAA Tournament, normally 64 teams, will have a 48-team bracket.

There are 32  automatic bids — one for each conference — and 16 at-large selections. That means 16 fewer at-large bids. Which also means fewer bids for teams not in the Power 5 conferences. Expect the majority of those bids to go to the Big Ten and Pac-12, as they do every year.

While that’s in the spring, the fall season continues Thursday when The Citadel of the Southern Conference goes to Virginia Tech of the ACC and then on Friday plays at Virginia.

The Southern Conference is one of the 28 conferences that has moved all of its fall sports to the spring, but is allowing teams to play non-conference matches. The ACC, Big 12, and SEC are playing shortened fall volleyball seasons and Virginia Tech is the first team from those conferences to have a match.

The NCAA, which offered no explanation about its tournament except that fall sports will have postseason competition at 75-percent of normal, said regular-season play will begin January 22 and end April 10 with tournament selection on April 11. No format for the tournament was given, nor locations. The NCAA final four was originally scheduled to be in Omaha in December.

From the NCAA statement:

“While no one wanted to see fall championships impacted by the pandemic, the Competition Oversight Committee put a thoughtful proposal in front of the Council which was resoundingly endorsed.  We believe we have an appropriate and considerate plan to move fall championship events to the spring, and I look forward to presenting this plan to the Board of Directors next week,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “The plan gives maximum opportunities to fall student-athletes to participate in NCAA championships, while preserving access to conferences through automatic qualifications.”
In team sports, the brackets will be filled at 75% of their normal capacities.
The oversight committee reviewed recommendations from sport committees and agreed to support maximum flexibility to allow teams to meet specified minimum contest requirements, which the committee already recommended reducing by 50%.
Contests conducted in the fall term for all fall sport championships that will be conducted in the spring will count toward selection into that respective championship. Sport committees are encouraged to consider all data available to them at the time of selections.
The oversight committee may need to revisit this topic if conditions warrant nearer the time the playing and practice seasons for these sports begin, but for now, the committee supports providing maximum flexibility for selection purposes.

The Citadel heads to VT, UVA — The first serve Thursday at Virginia Tech is at 4 p.m. Eastern and the match will be shown on the ACC Network.

The Citadel opened last Saturday with a first-set loss at Mercer, another Southern Conference team. Last season, the Bulldogs went 11-20, 4-12 in the SoCon. Coach Dave Zelenock enters his third season at the military academy in Charleston, South Carolina.

Virginia Tech has a new coach in Marci Byers (see her interview with Emily Ehman here) who takes over after a strong run at nearby Radford. The Hokies, who finished 11-20 in 2019 and tied Wake Forest for last in the ACC at 4-14, return six starters and welcome five freshman. In the preseason coaches poll, VT was picked to finish last.

The Citadel was scheduled to play at Clemson on Friday, but Clemson canceled. Instead, The Citadel will now play at Virginia on Friday. The 6 p.m. match will be streamed on ACCNX. Virginia finished 13-18 last season, 5-13 in the ACC. Aaron Smith enters his fourth season as head coach and ninth overall with the program.

Also Friday — The schedule includes Stephen F. Austin at South Alabama, Mercer at Georgia State, Houston Baptist at Texas State, and SFA vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

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