The NCAA Tournament is finally here and the first round matches begin on Thursday. It's always interesting to check out which teams earned one of the 16 seeds in the 64-team playoffs. As usual, there are a few questionable choices, but there don't seem to be any glaring controversies with the chosen teams as the seeds seem relatively true to the final AVCA Coaches Poll.
Who can forget last year's debacle when top-ranked USC was inexplicably seeded seventh despite a terrific season, the No. 1 rank in the AVCA poll and the hottest hand going into the playoffs. That seeding may have cost them the championship in the end. This year they caught a bit of a break. For some reason USC was ranked 13th in RPI, but were ranked No.4 in the nation in the last AVCA poll. The Trojans sit one seed higher at No. 6 even though they lost in four to the Bruins last week in the last match of the season.
I have no problems with the top four seeds - Penn State, Stanford, Texas and Nebraska - they each deserve to be exactly where they are. When you get to the lower seeds though, there are a few surprises. Kansas was ranked 20th in the last AVCA poll but pulled a No. 11 seed in the tournament despite losing the last three matches of the season, two of the losses to unranked teams.
Washington was ranked No. 5 in the AVCA poll, but received a No. 13 seed in the tournament, probably due to their No. 16 RPI ranking. Kentucky, who was not ranked in the AVCA poll received the No. 16 seed despite being ranked 19th in RPI. Louisville was ranked ninth on the last AVCA poll and was fourth in RPI so they might have deserved a higher seed than No. 10.
Some of the top ranked AVCA poll teams that did not get a seeding are Hawaii, Dayton, Ohio State and BYU. Hawaii nearly always suffers in the seeding due to the relative weakness of the Big West conference. But after being ranked in the top ten all season long, having been as high as No. 6 and never lower than No. 9 in any of the polls, they deserved a seed.
All in all, this is shaping up to be a very good tournament with no clear frontrunner for the championship. Several teams have a legitimate shot this year so we should be in for some very good volleyball. Bring on the first round!