*An NCAA bracket in PDF format is located in the LINKS box to the right.
EUGENE – After making four straight NCAA trips for the first time in school history, the No. 24 University of Oregon volleyball team (19-11, 7-11) fell just short of a fifth invitation in the 64-team tournament field announcement Sunday.
The tourney field was composed of single automatic qualifiers from each of the 31 nation’s conferences and 33 at-large teams.
“It’s terribly disappointing for our players, and I truly thought we deserved an opportunity to play in the tournament again,” sixth-year Oregon head coach Jim Moore said. “I feel especially sad for someone like Heather Meyers who is a senior and played her heart out all season long, and her career for that matter. She doesn’t deserve to go out on this type of note. Looking back, we achieved more than what most people thought we could with how young we were against a conference as deep as the Pac-10. Unfortunately we weren’t selected, but we’re going to have to move on. I expect our players will have extra motivation to come back next year and again give it their all.”
Ranked between 11th and 24th all season long in the AVCA Coaches Poll, Oregon was the only team ranked top 25 this week that did not make the field, while 11 of the other 14 teams outside the top 25 that received votes were issued invites.
Since the debut of the 64-team tourney format in 1998, UO became the first Pac-10 program not to receive an NCAA bid that posted at least 17 wins, while only twice before had teams with 16 wins not qualified (Arizona, 16-14, 2008; Oregon State, 16-16, 2003).
Conference-wise, the Big Ten sported the most team qualifiers (8) and tied its league record. The Pac-10 was tied for second-most with the SEC with six, and the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 both sported five teams in the field.
For comparison's sake in this week’s national rankings, the Pac-10 boasted seven teams in the top 25, compared with four from the Big Ten, and three each from the Big 12 and SEC.
Overall, the top four of the 16 seeds announced went to Florida (1), Nebraska (2), Stanford (3), and three-time defending champion Penn State (4).
Based on past qualifying history for Pac-10 teams, the Ducks appeared to solidify their qualifying chances this weekend after a 3-0 sweep at Washington State and 3-0 loss at No. 13 Washington. However, the NCAA RPI system dropped the Ducks eight spots in the national standings to 55th (while every team ranked through Kentucky at 46th received either automatic or at-large bids).
In months prior, UO beat three teams in the NCAA tourney field – then-No. 7 Washington, American and Portland State. In contrast, all 11 of Oregon’s losses were to NCAA qualifiers, including nine to teams ranked top-15 at that point and another that stood top-25.
Comparing the schedules of other at-large advancers, head coach Jim Moore couldn’t be accused of a creating a soft, 30-match schedule, especially for a roster composed of five freshmen, six sophomores, and one senior (while its lone junior missed the last 2/3 of the season with a broken metatarsal bone).
Glancing at the Ducks’ 2010 slate, 16 of the team’s 18 conference matches were against returning NCAA qualifiers, and the ‘Conference of Champions’ sported six teams ranked top 15 nearly all season.
In its school-record 14-0 non-conference start, UO beat two other teams that received votes in the preseason polls – Florida International and Santa Clara – on the road, and FIU and Tulane were NCAA tourney qualifiers in ’09. Santa Clara has earned NCAA tourney bids 11 of the 12 prior years, and American and Siena had combined for 11 NCAA trips (7/4) the eight prior seasons.
Unfortunately, those aforementioned teams’ RPI’s unexpectedly sunk this season (FIU 93rd; Tulane 139th; Santa Clara 151st; Siena 273rd) and hurt Oregon’s RPI. Oregon’s other non-conference opponents’ RPI’s follow: Portland State (110), Fresno State (150), Portland (165), Sam Houston State (194), Seattle (212) and UC Riverside (260).
The Pac-10 also appeared to suffer from a West Coast RPI bias itself, as only three teams ranked top 25 in the index – Stanford (2), USC (8) and California (10) – followed by UCLA (27), Arizona (36) and Washington (37).
Comparing overall records, UO’s 19 wins were two better than at-large advancer Kentucky (17); three other at-large selections – Mississippi, Northwestern and Virginia Tech – also sported 19 overall wins; and the remaining 29 at-large teams all posted 20 wins or more.
Breaking down the at-large selection pool, teams were selected in consecutive fashion on the RPI index for the first time ever, until the field was finally filled with Kentucky (with a RPI of 46).
For comparison’s sake, the previous six years since 2005, the selection committee had compared various at-large teams via all the multi-point at-large criteria (instead of just RPI), and had skipped past various teams to eventually select squads rated 62nd or worse in the RPI three times (including 93rd in 2004, 66th in ’05 and 62nd in ‘09). The other three years, it had also passed over selet teams to still pick others in the 51-57 range. Before 2005, at least one at-large team rated 65 or lower in the RPI had always been picked.
Regardless of its postseason snub, Oregon claimed its fourth straight +19-win total or more after posting 20 (’09), 25 (’08) and 22 (’07), and only one other Duck head coach has achieved the feat - Karla Rice (1973, 24; 1974 24; 1975, 19; 1976, 26; 1977, 24).
Last year, UO was seeded 14th in the 64-team field - its third straight top-16 nod – and sports a 5-4 NCAA tourney record under Moore thanks to NCAA Third Round ‘Sweet 16’ trips in 2007 and ’08. For comparison’s sake, Oregon was 1-4 all-time in its four prior NCAA tourney trips in 1984, ’86, ’87 and ’89.
Looking ahead to this weekend, the first and second rounds follow will be held Thursday-Saturday, December 2-4 at 16 sites around the nation.
The following week, four-team NCAA Regional third and fourth rounds will be hosted on Thursday-Saturday, November 9-11 in Austin, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Seattle, Wash; and State College, Pa. The NCAA semifinals and final follow on Thursday and Saturday, December 16 and 18 in Kansas City, Mo.
The Pac-10 looks to defend its status as the nation’s premier volleyball league that goes back to the first NCAA Championship in 1981 when USC beat UCLA for the national title – one of five times that the Pac-10 has swept the top two places nationally.
Altogether, four league teams have combined for 13 of the 29 national championships held in that stretch - Stanford (6 - 1992, '94, '96, '97, 2001, '04), UCLA (3 - 1984, '90, '91), USC (3 - 1981, '2002, '03) and Washington (1 - 2005), and the Pac-10 has also claimed 13 runner-up nods.
In the national semifinals, the Pac-10 has had at least one team every year except twice, including 12 tourneys with two teams and thee years with three of the four teams.
The Conference’s depth is further proven by the fact in the 13, 64-team tourneys since 1998, the Pac-10 has advanced at least six teams on 11 occasions, and a league-best eight advanced twice in 2002 and ’09.
More information on the NCAA tourney is available at the www.NCAAsports.com website.
NCAA Tournament Selections By Conference (*Automatic qualifiers)
Big Ten Conference (Regular Season) | *Penn State, Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue, Michigan, Northwestern, Indiana, Ohio State)
Pacific-10 Conference (Regular Season) | *California, Stanford, USC, Washington, UCLA, Arizona)
Southeastern Conference (Regular Season) | *Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, Ole Miss, Kentucky)
Atlantic Coast Conference (Regular Season) | *Duke, UNC, FSU, Miami, Virginia Tech)
Big 12 Conference (Regular Season) | *Nebraska, Texas, Iowa St., Missouri, Oklahoma
Missouri Valley Conference (Tournament) | *Northern Iowa,Wichita State, Creighton, Missouri State
Big East Conference (Tournament) | *Louisville, Cincinnati
Big West Conference (Regular Season) | *Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State
Mountain West Conference (Regular Season) | *Colorado State, New Mexico
Sun Belt Conference (Tournament) | *Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky
Western Athletic Conference (Tournament) | *Utah State, Hawai'i
America East Conference (Tournament) | *Albany
Atlantic Sun Conference (Tournament) | *Lipscomb
Atlantic 10 Conference (Tournament) | *Dayton
Big Sky Conference (Tournament) | *Portland State
Big South Conference (Tournament) | *High Point
Colonial Athletic Association (Tournament) | *Delaware
Conference USA (Regular Season) | *Tulsa
Horizon League (Tournament) | *Butler
Ivy Group (Regular Season) | *Penn
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (Tournament) | *Niagara
Mid-American Athletic Conference (Tournament) | *Ohio
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (Tournament) | *South Carolina State
Northeast Conference (Tournament) | *Sacred Heart
Ohio Valley Conference (Tournament) | *Austin Peay
Patriot League (Tournament) |* American
Southern Conference (Tournament) | *Georgia Southern
Southland Conference (Tournament) | *Texas-San Antonio
Southwestern Athletic Conference (Tournament) | *Alabama A&M
Summit League (Tournament) | *North Dakota State
West Coast Conference (Regular Season) | *San Diego
CURRENT AVCA COACHES POLL #132 (11/23)
Rk Tm. (1st Pl.) Pts W-L Prev NCAA Seed
1 Florida (50) 1480 27-1 1 1
*2 California (9) 1418 25-3 4 7
3 Hawai’i (1) 1359 28-2 3 15
*4 Stanford 1319 24-3 2 3
5 Nebraska 1273 27-2 5 2
*6 USC 1196 25-4 6 6
7 Penn State 1156 26-5 7 4
8 Texas 1097 23-5 8 9
*9 UCLA 996 21-8 10
10 Illinois 900 22-6 9 8
11 Northern Iowa 867 30-2 12 5
12 Dayton 762 27-3 13 14
*13 Washington 748 21-8 11
14 Colorado State 666 25-4 15
15 Minnesota 614 24-8 19 10
16 Iowa State 571 20-8 T-16
17 LSU 546 25-6 T-16 13
18 San Diego 483 23-5 14
19 Michigan 392 23-7 20
*20 Arizona 376 20-11 22
21 Tennessee 289 24-6 21 11
22 Cincinnati 271 29-5 18
23 Tulsa 170 29-2 24
24 Oregon 142 18-10 23
25 CS Fullerton 88 26-5 NR
Duke 24-6 12
Purdue 21-10 16
Others Receiving Votes (and appearing on two or more ballots): St. Mary's (Calif.) 58; Duke 57; Oklahoma 53; Purdue 29; Pepperdine 26; Northwestern 17; Long Beach State 16; Cal Poly 15; Ohio State 14; Louisville 10; Missouri 10; Middle Tennessee 7; North Carolina 3; Wichita State 3
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