The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament needs to include 64 teams. Scrap the planned 48 team format, do it today. To be fair, the decision to only have 48 teams was made months ago and, as we all know, this is a fluid year with lots of changes. This would be one more change, but one we could celebrate.
Earlier this week Kelly Sheffield, University of Wisconsin’s head coach Tweeted:
When we were told 6 months ago there’d only be 48 teams in @NCAAVolleyball tourn. this year, we were just happy to have a season. I’m watching 68 BB teams compete. Our entire tourn. will be in one location-there’s the cost savings. @ncaa should do right thing & increase VB to 64.— Kelly Sheffield (@KellyPSheffield) March 22, 2021
Coach John Cook, Head Coach at University of Nebraska and former U of Nebraska head coach Terry Pettit agreed with him.
The NCAA's decision to cut the DI Women's Volleyball Championship to 48 teams because of Covid was before they decided to play the entire tournament in Omaha. Volleyball is the most participated in women's team sport. Showcase women with 64 teams. There is still time to do it.— Terry Pettit (@TerryPettit1) March 21, 2021
Coach Cook called the decision a “no brainer” and pointed out that he thinks that this is an opportunity for the NCAA. “The NCAA is under a lot of fire right now, especially with women’s sports, so they’re going to pay a big price. I think this would be one way they could start showing that women’s sports are important.”
Let me break this no brainer down for you both by the numbers and by using logic to look at the situation. Spoiler alert: No matter which way you look at it, there should be 64 teams.
First, by the numbers: if there are only 48 teams, 32 conferences receive automatic qualification so that leaves only 16 spaces for teams that did not win their conference. I ran a couple scenarios. In every scenarios at least five top 30 teams are left out of the tournament. Five top teams don’t even get to play for the championship!
Those 16 space fill quickly and we never even consider some teams that are worthy of consideration.
Big Ten - Assume Wisconsin wins the automatic. #4 Minnesota, #5 Nebraska, #9 Ohio State, #10 Purdue and #11 Penn State (5 of 16 at large bids)
PAC 12 - Assume Washington wins the automatic. #12 Utah, #13 Washington State, #16 Oregon and #17 UCLA (now 9 of 16 at large bids)
SEC - Assume Kentucky wins the automatic. #7 Florida and #24 Missouri (11 of 16 at large)
ACC - Assume Louisville wins the automatic. #19 Pitt and #22 Georgia Tech (13 of 16 at large)
B12 - Texas has won the automatic bid. #6 Baylor (14 of 16 at large bids)
West Coast Conference - Assume BYU wins the automatic - #20 Pepperdine and #21 San Diego (16 of 16 at large bids)
Done! That is it. We didn’t even look outside these six conferences for at large bids.
We left out #23 Notre Dame and #25 Florida State from the ACC. We couldn’t invite #30 Marquette even though they split with conference opponent #27 Creighton. Creighton gets in as the conference champ in this scenario but Marquette doesn’t. #32 Arizona was the first to beat then #7 Stanford this year, but they are not in the tournament.
If we use logic to look at the situation: Both men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are happening right now with a 68- and 64-team format respectively. Take those proven-effective rules and guidelines and implement them in Omaha. The volleyball championship mitigated risk by planning the entire event in one location. Also, obviously, volleyball is significantly less of a contact sport than basketball. So the on court risk is simply lower, by any measure.
The decision made six months ago is completely changeable. Assess the current situation NCAA and make the best decision for now. Absence of a decision is also a decision. The NCAA needs to answer the question: Why are there only 48 teams in the volleyball tournament?
Check out Coach Cook’s comment’s for yourself: