NCAA volleyball selection committee explains Georgia Tech’s omission

Georgia Tech setter Matti McKissock, here in a match against N.C. State on November 17, 2019, at O'Keefe Gymnasium, was named the ACC's setter of the year and first-team All-ACC on December 2, 2019. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Georgia Tech setter Matti McKissock, here in a match against N.C. State on November 17, 2019, at O'Keefe Gymnasium, was named the ACC's setter of the year and first-team All-ACC on December 2, 2019. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Georgia Tech’s volleyball team was close to making the NCAA tournament, but did not compare well with others on the bubble, selection committee chair Michelle Durban told the AJC in an email Thursday. The Yellow Jackets had hoped to receive an at-large bid after finishing with an overall record of 21-8, winning 13 of their final 14 matches and finishing second in the ACC ahead of three other teams that earned at-large bids and.

“They were part of the ‘first 4 out’ discussion,” Durban wrote of the Jackets. “RPI and significant loss were the main factors when comparing to the other at-large list.”

Tech, which was seeking its first NCAA tournament berth since 2009, has an RPI of 56. The lowest RPI to make the field as an at-large team was Illinois at 50. Every power-conference team through 46 made it into the field, but California at 48 (with a record of 20-10) also was left out.

Durban, the deputy athletic director at Samford, wrote of RPI that “It is part of the criteria that we use and it definitely is a factor.”

Tech’s worst RPI losses were at home to Boston College (RPI: 128) and on the road to Kennesaw State, which had an RPI of 68 but also won the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Illinois, which would appear to be one of the final at-large teams into the tournament, finished the regular season with an RPI of 50 and a record of 16-13, but played a much stronger schedule. Its worst RPI losses were at Northwestern (101), at Illinois State (78 – also the MVC champion) and a neutral-site loss to Colorado (70).

RPI aside, Tech would seem to compare well with Iowa State, which got in at No. 46 in RPI and 17-11. The Cyclones had a stronger schedule, playing four matches against the No. 1 and 2 RPI teams (Baylor and Texas, respectively), but lost at Kansas (119), twice to Texas Tech (90) and at home to LSU (81).

Some Tech fans were confused, at the least, that Florida State, Louisville and Notre Dame all made the NCAA field of 64 despite finishing behind Tech in a tie for third place.

“It is based on non-conference and conference strength of schedule and total body of work,” Durban wrote of the three teams getting selected ahead of Tech. “Georgia Tech had the lowest non-conference, conference strength of schedule and RPI in the group from the ACC.”

Going into the start of the NCAA tournament, Louisville’s RPI is 25, Notre Dame’s 32 and Florida State’s 36. Tech, which will play Alabama A&M Friday at home in the first round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, has an RPI of 56.

By RPI, Tech’s non-conference schedule was measurably weaker than Florida State, Notre Dame and Louisville’s respective schedules. Its league schedule, in which teams play 10 teams once and four teams home-and-home, wasn’t as strong, either.

The combined league record of Tech’s four home-and-home opponents was 29-43, markedly weaker than Louisville’s (45-27), Notre Dame’s (40-32) and Florida State’s (41-31). Louisville and Notre Dame both played Pitt, which won the league at 18-0, twice. Tech finished league play at 14-4 – its highest finish in the league since 2004 – ahead of Louisville, Notre Dame and FSU at 12-2.

Being left out of the field, announced Sunday, put a damper on a regular season that earned coach Michelle Collier ACC coach of the year honors, as well as league awards for outside hitter Julia Bergmann (freshman of the year) and setter Matti McKissock (setter of the year). Middle blockers Kodie Comby and Kayla Kaiser and outside hitters Mariana Brambilla and Mikaila Dowd joined Bergmann and McKissock on the All-ACC team.