Well, we're in!
Gathered at the Stacked Pickle on campus Sunday night, the Purdue Volleyball team learned of their berth into the NCAA Volleyball tournament, and where, when, and against whom they'll play. Purdue will play American Athletic Conference champion SMU on Thursday in Austin, Texas, and the winner will play the winner of Fairfield and host #3 Texas on Friday.
After missing the tournament last year with a disappointing end to the Big Ten season, everyone in the program is excited to be back in the field. This year's team had a significantly better RPI and Big Ten record, with nowhere near the bad losses of last year, plus a huge win over #2 Minnesota.
The tournament berth was no surprise to anyone, with an RPI ranking of 35, but what is a surprise is the seed that they earned. Assuming normal tournament seeding, the fact that Purdue is set to play the #3 overall seed in the second round means they're the 30th seed in the tournament. While this lines up reasonably with the RPI of 35, it comes nowhere close to the #17 national ranking, 22-9 record and 5th place finish in the Big Ten (behind Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Penn State), by far the toughest conference in the nation.
Also questionable are the national rankings, records, RPI's, and tournament seeds of the other 8 Big Ten teams that made it in compared to Purdue. I'll list them here and you can draw your own conclusions.
- Minnesota: ranked #4, 26-4 record, RPI 2, #2 tournament seed
- Wisconsin: ranked #10, 24-6 record, RPI 5, #6 tournament seed
- Nebraska: ranked #5, 26-4 record, RPI 4, #4 tournament seed
- Penn State: ranked #8, 26-5 record, RPI 10, #7 tournament seed
- Ohio State: ranked #14, 23-9 record, RPI 17, #12 tournament seed
- Illinois: ranked #21, 19-12 record, RPI 29, #18 tournament seed
- Michigan: unranked, 19-12 record, RPI 31, #19 tournament seed
- Michigan State: unranked, 18-13 record, RPI 54, #37 tournament seed
Knowing these comparison numbers, and that Purdue finished in the Big Ten ahead of Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan State, the seed definitely draws some questions from me. Regardless, we're in the tournament, and if we can handle a tough SMU team, we have a chance for one of the biggest upsets in program history against Texas on their home floor.
Read the team's official release here, check out the full tournament bracket here, and follow the team on Facebook and Twitter. We'll keep you posted here on Hammer & Rails as the team progresses through the tournament.