So what’s next for the Lady Vols?
The team “postponed” four matches this season due to COVID. The consensus on VolleyTalk seems to be that only matches that might matter for NCAA Tournament consideration would be made up. Since the two teams Tennessee missed out on playing don’t have winning records, I doubt there will be much incentive for the SEC to let them be rescheduled, even though a few more wins might help UT out when the brackets are being decided.
[UPDATE: Maybe make-up matches could happen. Georgia and Mississippi State just announced they’re playing postponed games next week.]
There is an outside shot that UT might be considered for the NCAA Tournament. #1 Kentucky (19-1) and #2 Florida (19-3) are locks. If the NCAA wanted to take another SEC team, the next three contenders would be #3 Missouri (15-7), #4 Arkansas (14-8), and #5 Tennessee (12-8). So how to compare them?
- If you look at their record against only each other: Tennessee went 3-1, Missouri went 2-2, and Arkansas went 1-3.
- If you look at how well they each did against Kentucky and Florida: Missouri won 4 sets, Tennessee won 1 set, and Arkansas won 0 sets.
- If you look at how many wins they have in the more recent spring portion of the season: Missouri has 9, Tennessee has 8, and Arkansas has 8.
- If you look at how many losses they have in the more recent spring portion of the season: Tennessee has 4, Missouri has 5, and Arkansas has 6.
- If you look at their best two wins: Tennessee’s are to #3 & 3, Missouri’s are to #4 & #4, and Arkansas’ are to #6 & #6.
- If you look at their worst two losses: Missouri’s are to #5 & #6, Arkansas’ are to #5 & #8, and Tennessee’s are to #9 & 10.
- What about those cancellations: Tennessee didn’t get to play 4 matches that both Missouri and Arkansas did play and won, while Tennessee won 2 matches Missouri and Arkansas missed out on playing. Assume each team would have done just as well as the others and Missouri remains #3 at 17-7, Arkansas stays #4 at 16-8, but Tennessee moves up one spot to #4 at 16-8, tied with Arkansas and just one game behind Missouri.
So what am I getting at? If the NCAA wants a third SEC team, there are logical reasons they could go after Tennessee over Missouri and Arkansas, with the top considerations being their record vs those two teams and the NCAA’s tendency to look more favorably at recent matches (like the Spring) rather than results from the beginning of the season (like the Fall).
That said, there is a huge elephant in the room. The Tournament will only take 48 teams this year. So it’s very likely that the SEC will only get one at large bid this year. However, some big names in volleyball are calling on the NCAA to expand the Tournament back to its usual 64 team field. If that happens, a Tennessee bid could be more likely.
We’ll all find out together on Sunday, April 4 when the Selection Show will reveal the bracket!
The Lady Vols could be in contention for some league and regional awards, though like with the potential Tournament bid, there will be some stiff competition.
Ava Bell, Madison Bryant, Lily Felts, Natalie Hayward, Morgahn Fingall, and Danielle Mahaffey should get some consideration for All-SEC teams.
Bryant should get a look as SEC Libero of the Year. She won SEC Defensive Player of the Week once, is the conference leader in digs and digs per set, and has a stellar reception percentage — and she did it all without being the libero for the first six matches of the season!
Her competition includes:
- Gabby Curry (UK) – PROS: Won the award the last two seasons; won Defensive Player of the Week twice; her team won the SEC Championship. CONS: behind Bryant in digs per set (5th); not as good as Bryant in reception percentage.
- Elli McKissock (UF) – PROS: won Defensive Player of the Week once; her team came in second in conference. CONS: just behind Bryant in digs per set (2nd); not as good as Bryant in reception percentage; freshman so might be considered for that award instead.
- Raigen Cianciulli (LSU) – PROS: won Defensive Player of the Week twice. CONS: behind Bryant in digs per set (3rd); not as good as Bryant in reception percentage; her team has losing record.
- Madelyn St. Germain (UA) – PROS: won Defensive Player of the Week once. CONS: behind Bryant in digs per set (4th); not as good as Bryant in reception percentage; her team has losing record.
Again, like the NCAA bid, Bryant has a shot at the award, but it is by no means a lock.
I’ll be posting the news about potential awards and tournament bids over the next week or so. And we’ll wrap things up with a recap of what’s been a really weird year for volleyball!
And then please be sure to stick around a little longer. In a couple of weeks I’ll have a major announcement about this site that you’ll want to hear about!