(Update from after the NCAA bracket announcement. Kyle Walton got 63 of the 64 teams right. He only missed on having Illinois in and leaving UNLV out and just the opposite happened. Walton also had San Diego as a top-16 host but not Penn State, and again, just the opposite occurred. All in all a pretty strong bracket by Walton, who did not have the benefit of being on the NCAA committee and being in that room in Indianapolis with all the information.)
Jerry Palm? Joe Lundardi? They’ve got nothing on Kyle Walton when it comes to volleyball.
Walton, VolleyballMag.com‘s resident bracketologist, is head coach at Division III Transylvania in Kentucky and loves to project the Division I field.
His final version follows.
Later Sunday, at 8 p.m. Central on ESPNU, the NCAA will release the actual field of 64. Soon after VolleyballMag.com will have stories, analysis and reaction.
Not being sure what the NCAA is going to call the respective regionals, we simply named them No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4. We also paid attention to the NCAA’s philosophy of trying to keep teams in their respective regions when possible.
NO. 1 SEED REGIONAL
(1) Nebraska vs. Howard
SMU vs. Northern Iowa
(16) Kansas State vs. Lipscomb
Wichita State vs. Utah
(9) Florida vs. Alabama State
Florida State vs. Cleveland State
(8) UCLA vs. Fairfield
Pittsburgh vs. TCU
Big Ten-champion Nebraska earns the No. 1 overall seed even after the loss to Minnesota. Nebraska finishes the year 11-1 vs. top-25 teams and 15-2 vs. top-50 teams. That, coupled with being the defending champions, earned the top seed. SMU, the 2 seed in this pod and winner of the American Athletic Conference, will face off with Northern Iowa, which was 24-9 (1-3 vs T25, 5-6 vs T50) and is an at-large from the Missouri Valley.
Kansas State, the No. 16 overall seed with a 20-9 record, will face Lipscomb, the automatic qualifier from the Atlantic Sun conference. Another MVC team, tournament champion Wichita State, plays Pac-12 at-large Utah, the 2 seed in the pod.
Florida is the No. 9 seed in the tournament with a 25-3 record (4-3 vs T25, 4-3 vs T50). The perception of Florida this season was that it played a tough schedule, when in reality the Gators played four non conference opponents (Oregon, Nebraska, Florida State, Michigan State) that are at-large selections. Of those four, only two were in the top 25. The Southeastern Conference schedule of only playing Kentucky and Missouri once hurt the RPI hopes of all three teams. ACC runner-up Florida State will be the 2 seed in this pod and play against Cleveland State, the automatic qualifier from the Horizon League. Florida State is 24-5 (1-4 vs T25, 4-4 vs T50) this season and falls roughly in the 26-30 range of teams when you rank them all out.
The Pac-12’s UCLA is the overall No. 8 seed after going 23-6 (6-2 vs. T25, 9-5 vs. T50). UCLA lost the showdown with Washington earlier this week, which placed it as the third team in rank (Stanford, Washington) from the Pac-12. Big-12 at-large TCU 14-12 (2-7 vs. T25, 5-10 vs. T50) is the 2 seed in this pod. ACC at-large Pittsburgh 22-8 (2-2 vs. T25, 5-3 vs. T50) is the 3 seed.
NO. 2 SEED REGIONAL
(2) Wisconsin vs. LIU-Brooklyn
Dayton vs. USC
(15) San Diego vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Arizona vs. Cincinnati
(10) North Carolina vs. High Point
Penn State vs. Coastal Carolina
(7) Washington vs. American
Boise State vs. Illinois
Big Ten at-large Wisconsin earns the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament for going 27-2 (8-3 vs. T25, 14-3 vs. T50). The 2 seed in their pod is Dayton, the automatic qualifier from the Atlantic 10 that finished 30-1, best record in the nation. Dayton plays Southern California from the Pac-12. USC finished 18-12 (3-5 vs. T25, 5-10 vs. T50). Pac-12 at-large USC is one of the last four teams in because its RPI is 48 but given its record against the top-50 teams, it was easy to put the Trojans in. The 4 seed is LIU-Brooklyn, automatic qualifier from the Northeast Conference.
San Diego of the West Coast Conference earns the 15th seed overall with a 24-4 record (3-3 vs. T25, 3-3 vs. T50). USD will see automatic qualifier Texas A&M-Corpus Christi from the Southland Conference. The 2 seed in that pod is Arizona of the Pac-12, which had an 18-13 record (5-8 vs. T25, 8-10 vs. T50). Arizona plays Cincinnati, the 3 seed in this pod with a record of 22-9 (1-3 vs. T25, 3-6 vs. T50) an at-large from the American Athletic Conference.
ACC-champion North Carolina is the 10th seed overall. The Tar Heels play North Carolina neighbor High Point, the automatic qualifier from the Big South. Penn State is the 2 seed in this pod with a 21-9 record (3-7 vs. T25, 6-8 vs. T50) and plays Coastal Carolina, the automatic qualifier from the Sun Belt Conference.
Pac-12-champion Washington is the No. 7 seed overall and plays American, automatic qualifier from the Patriot League. Mountain West Conference champ Boise State is the 2 team in this pod and will play Illinois. Illinois, 17-14 overall and 10-10 in the B1G, is the last team in the entire field. Illinois has one T25 win and three T50 wins and has the advantage of being a Big Ten team.
NO. 3 SEED REGIONAL
(3) Minnesota vs. North Dakota
Iowa State vs. Marquette
(14) Michigan vs. James Madison
Kentucky vs. Miami (OH)
(11) Missouri vs. Murray State
Purdue vs. Northern Illinois
(6) Stanford vs. Princeton
Baylor vs. Hawai’i
Minnesota earns the No. 3 overall seed after going 25-4 (8-3 vs. T25, 11-4 vs. T50) and beating Wisconsin on Saturday. Minnesota will see North Dakota, the automatic qualifier from the Big Sky. The 2 seed in that pod is Iowa State, an at-large from the Big 12, with a record of 17-10 (2-6 vs. T25, 6-10 vs. T50). ISU will face Marquette, which was 23-8 (1-2 vs. T25, 5-3 vs. T50).
The 14th seed is Michigan, a Big Ten at-large that went 22-9 (2-5 vs. T25, 8-8 vs. T50). Michigan plays James Madison, automatic qualifier from the Colonial Athletic Conference with an RPI of 50. James Madison would have been on the bubble for an at-large bid this season. SEC at-large Kentucky is the 2 seed in this pod at 22-7 (3-2 vs. T25, 4-6 vs. T50). Kentucky had a seed wrapped up until this past week’s loss to Tennessee followed by Michigan’s decisive win against Michigan State. Kentucky plays at-large Miami, Ohio, from the MAC, which was 24-6 (1-2 vs. T25, 2-3 vs. T50). Miami was one of the last four teams in.
Missouri earns the 11th overall seed at 24-5 (3-2 vs. T25, 5-4 vs. T50) and a tie for the SEC title. Missouri plays Murray State, the automatic qualifier from the Ohio Valley Conference. Big Ten at-large Purdue is the 2 team in this pod at 18-13 (3-7 vs. T25, 5-10 vs. T50). Purdue earned a 2 seed based on strength of schedule, which will end up as the third toughest this season. Purdue will play the automatic qualifier from the MAC, Northern Illinois. NIU also would have been an at-large bubble team had it not won the MAC tournament.
Stanford is the No. 6 overall seed with a record of 21-7 (4-3 vs. T25, 10-7 vs. T50) and plays Princeton, the automatic qualifier from the Ivy League. Big West-champion Hawai’i is the 2 seed in this pod and will see Baylor, an at-large from the Big 12.
NO. 4 SEED REGIONAL
(4) Texas vs. UTRGV
Ohio State vs. Texas A&M
(13) Michigan State vs. New Hampshire
Western Kentucky vs. Washington State
(12) BYU vs. Denver
Oregon vs. Colorado State
(5) Kansas vs. Samford
Creighton vs. Missouri State
Big 12 runner-up Texas earns the No. 4 seed overall with its 21-4 record (5-3 vs. T25, 12-4 vs. T50) and plays the automatic qualifier from the WAC, UT-Rio Grande Valley. SEC at-large Texas A&M is the 2 seed in this pod at 20-8 (1-6 vs. T25, 2-7 vs. T50) and plays Ohio State. Ohio State, an at-large from the Big Ten, has won some big matches this season — including sweeping Nebraska at Nebraska — but is 5-9 against top 50 teams.
Michigan State is the 13th seed overall with a record of 23-8 (3-5 vs. T25, 7-7 vs. T50). MSU plays the automatic qualifier from the American East Conference, New Hampshire. Western Kentucky is the 2 team in this pod and its strength of schedule (62nd) combined with not having enough wins vs. Top 25 (0-1) or Top 50 (1-2) teams kept it from being a host. WKU plays Washington State, a Pac-12 at-large, which started the season on fire but struggled in the middle of the conference season.
WCC-champion BYU is the 12th seed overall at 27-3 (2-1 vs. T25, 5-2 vs. T50). BYU plays Denver, automatic qualifier from the Summit League. Pac-12 at-large Oregon will be the 2 seed in that pod with a 20-9 record and will face one of the last four teams in, Colorado State, an at-large from the Big West.
Big 12-champion Kansas is the No. 5 seed overall and plays the automatic qualifier from the Southern Conference, Samford. Big East-champion Creighton will be the 2 seed in this pod with a record of 25-6 (0-4 vs. T25, 5-6 vs. T50). Creighton was on the cusp of hosting but 0-4 vs. top-25 teams really hurt. Creighton plays MVC at-large Missouri State. MSU was 26-8 (0-2 vs. T25, 4-6 vs. T50).
Since there are 32 conferences, there are 32 automatic bids. There are, accordingly, 32 at-large bids.
Last 4 In
29. Southern California
30. Miami (OH)
31. Colorado State
Last 4 Out
35. Georgia Tech
Kyle Walton’s first look at the field of 64 appeared here on November 11. Click here to read that version and see the changes since.