Long Beach State women’s volleyball head coach Brian Gimmillaro didn’t hide his disappointment with the NCAA selection committee.
He shouldn’t either — they were screwed.
After learning the 49ers would be sent to Palo Alto, with the potential of playing the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal in the second round, Gimmillaro sounded frustrated but also not surprised on Sunday night.
“[The NCAA selection committee] continues to do us no favors,” Gimmillaro told the crowd gathered at Legends.
Think about what the NCAA did in this context: The selection committee prides itself on cutting down the cost and travel time for as many of the 64 teams as possible.
Now, look at the first and second round bracket at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion.
No. 25-ranked San Francisco (22-7) will play Duke (24-8) and the winner will more than likely play No. 14-seeded UCLA (20-10), which finished the season ranked No. 9 in the nation. The Bruins will host Louisiana State (18-9) in the first round.
Meanwhile in Palo Alto, LBSU (25-5) will face No. 23-ranked Pepperdine (20-7) Friday at 4:30 p.m. with the highly likely possibility of playing No. 2-seeded Stanford (26-3) in the second round. The Cardinal will face Albany (23-8) in the opening round.
Why is San Francisco — which is 34 miles and just 39 minutes away from Palo Alto — traveling all the way to Los Angeles? The 49ers, meanwhile, will travel 380 miles north (just shy of six hours driving without traffic, according to Google Maps) to Stanford, instead of the 25.6 miles and 31 minutes to Los Angeles.
Why can’t San Francisco and LBSU just be switched?
The 49ers just beat No. 19-ranked Colorado State — which dropped to No. 22 in the latest poll — in four sets to finish the regular season, won 11 of their last 12 matches and were in-and-out of the Top-25 all season. They also were ranked 24th in the RPI, while the Dons were ranked 41st.
“I was wondering if we had lost to Colorado State last night, would we go to Florida and play Florida International? Maybe, I don’t know,” Gimmillaro said, eliciting a few laughs from the crowd. “I don’t know of any good team having this difficult of a schedule, but sports are what dreams are made of.”
The one lingering loss was a costly one to CS Northridge, while LBSU was ranked 23rd in the nation and San Francisco was sitting at No. 25.
“We all hoped that we would [be playing in Los Angeles instead], but since we lost to Northridge we weren’t really expecting it but we definitely were hoping,” freshman outside hitter Caitlin Ledoux said.
The loss knocked the ‘Niners out of the final Top-25 poll before the selection, but does one bad match late in the season erase an entire season’s body of work? Why not wait until the final rankings, which were announced Monday and had the ‘Niners ranked 24th, a spot above the Dons?
LBSU isn’t exactly making its first trip to the Big Dance, either. The 49ers were selected to their 22nd consecutive NCAA Tournament, so it’s not like this is some program that is just happy to be there.
In men’s basketball, the NCAA selection committee would give the edge to a proven program like LBSU, which has won three National Championships and posted the sport’s first undefeated season in 1998.
So, the “reward” shouldn’t be a possible second-round date with the Cardinal. But I give credit to the players, who have taken the news in stride.
“I’m not really surprised. But, it’s a change of scenery; every year we’ve either been at USC or UCLA,” senior setter Nicole Vargas said.
Gimmillaro isn’t backing down from the NCAA’s challenge to pull off an upset and “turn [the sport] on its ear.”
“Stanford is very good. They’re at home, but Long Beach State could get more famous than we are,” he said.