Drukarev: NCAA volleyball tournament shows no postseason format is perfect
Like many of you, I’m not a huge fan of the BCS system. Championships should be decided on the field, not by an arbitrary ranking system.
I’m in favor of a solution that allows the best two teams to play in a national championship game, while also treating every other school fairly — noble stuff, I know.
Many have argued that a football playoff selection committee is the best way to achieve that goal, that a group of athletic directors and football coaches would be most qualified to accurately assess the resume of postseason candidates.
We’ve seen how effective selection committees can be if managed properly. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which features the highest-profile selection committee in sports, generally gets it right. Perhaps more importantly, the selection process is transparent — media members are invited to NCAA headquarters each year to participate in a mock selection process. After the tournament brackets are released, the selection committee chair is usually made available for interviews and explains the decision rationale.
None of the above can be said of the NCAA volleyball selection committee. Although it’s charged with roughly the same task as the basketball committee — picking the most deserving teams in the nation (minus automatic qualifiers) to play for a championship — the selection committee reaches new levels of incompetence each year.
The problem starts with the committee’s failure to understand the concept that different leagues play different levels of volleyball. It’s the reason why an 11-1 football team from the SEC garners far more national respect than a 12-0 team from Conference USA or the Mountain West.
Yet in the volleyball tournament selection committee’s eyes, the Pac-12, which is widely regarded as the premier volleyball conference in the nation, deserved no special treatment for playing a rigorous league schedule. When the 2011 tournament bracket was announced on Sunday, the Pac-12 was shafted. Each conference team was ranked well below its standing in the latest coaches poll and only three league teams were selected to host regionals.
USC, ranked No. 1 in the last poll, is the seventh seed. UCLA, ranked fourth, is the ninth seed. Stanford ranked sixth, is the 11th seed. Cal, Washington and Oregon, ranked 10th, 11th and 13th, respectively, are all [email protected]@http://www.pac-12.org/SPORTS/Volleyball/[email protected]@ @@http://www.uclabruins.com/sports/w-volley/recaps/[email protected]@ @@http://www.gostanford.com/sports/w-volley/spec-rel/[email protected]@
The volleyball selection committee’s incompetence has become so apparent that Duck coach Jim Moore no longer bothers to filter his thoughts. The Ducks, who finished with a 21-9 record that included victories over five teams ranked in the top-7 at the time, must endure a long flight to Hawaii to play their early round [email protected]@http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPID=234&DB_OEM_ID=500&[email protected]@
“I think it has to do with a committee that doesn’t understand volleyball very well,” Moore said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. I think it’s absurd, but it certainly doesn’t surprise me.”
After the Ducks were snubbed from the tournament last year, Oregon’s treatment doesn’t surprise me, either.
I can only imagine the public’s reaction if football teams got similar treatment. I know the national outrage would top anything we’ve seen directed to the BCS.
That’s why college football fans shouldn’t be so quick to condemn the BCS. There’s no foolproof college sports postseason format that we know of today, particularly one that would work in the complex environment of major college football. And for all of its faults, the BCS does manage to keep the football regular season interesting and does, at least in most years, match the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the championship game.
College football deserves a better postseason than what the BCS provides, to be sure. But as the volleyball tournament selections shows, not every postseason alternative is better than the current system.
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.