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The Long Beach State men’s volleyball team has been No. 1 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings for the last month-plus, and on Sunday morning the Beach drew the top seed into this year’s NCAA Tournament, which will be hosted at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion May 5 and 7.
The Beach get a bye into the Final Four and will face the winner of UCLA and Pepperdine on Thursday, May 5. If they win they’d face the winner of the other semifinal, No. 2 Ball State vs Hawaii/Princeton/North Greenville; the championship is scheduled for Saturday, May 7.
The good news for the Beach comes after a sweep loss to Hawaii in Saturday night’s Big West Championship, a high-energy that came in front of 7,000 fans on the islands. Hawaii wasn’t likely to get in as an at-large which meant the Rainbow Warriors needed to win Saturday to get in, and they played like it, edging the Beach in a tightly-contest sweep.
Long Beach lost the championship Saturday but all three of the top-ranked teams in the country lost in their conference tournaments, a rarity in college men’s volleyball; with UCLA, Penn State, and LBSU all losing the selection committee clearly opted for the RPI rankings in seeding the Beach No. 1 despite Saturday’s loss. And UCLA got the other at-large leaving No. 2 Penn State on the outside looking in at the seven-team bracket.
LBSU coach Alan Knipe said that he wasn’t concerned about the Beach being left out of this year’s tournament, even though it came down to an at-large.
“If the NCAA is going to publish rankings like the RPI and you’re at the top of that list then you have to feel pretty good about where you’re at, or otherwise what are we doing?” said Knipe, who also said he was proud to once again see two Big West teams in the seven-team field.
“It’s a great day for the conference,” he said. “The Big West has been the top conference in RPI since it started–conferences in that position in other sports get multiple bids without apology. I think our two schools and our athletic departments have invested a lot in making the sport an event and growing the game.”
The Beach are looking for a third NCAA title in four seasons, and are making their 12th-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, including fifth in the last 12 seasons.