Nov. 24, 2009
By Shawn Sell
Last week, longtime University of Cincinnati volleyball coach Reed Sunahara admitted to being nervous about his team's chances to earn an NCAA Tournament at-large berth, instead hoping his squad would win the BIG EAST's automatic bid by capturing the league tournament. Despite a valiant effort, the Bearcats will be on pins and needles when the tournament field is unveiled on Sunday, Nov. 29.
At the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville last week, the Bearcats made program history by advancing to the BIG EAST Tournament final for the first time for a battle against the host Cardinals. In spite of a spirited comeback after falling behind two sets to none, Louisville went on to claim the league's automatic NCAA Tournament bid. Even though his squad made it to the final, shouldn't that be enough for Sunahara to feel good about his team's NCAA chances?
"No, I am still nervous," he says with a laugh. "Anything can happen, but what matters is this weekend and what we do against Miami (Ohio). If we lose, I think we are done. Hopefully, we will play as hard as we can and see where we are after that."
UC's RPI would seem to be favorable as it stands at 43 after the BIG EAST tournament. The Bearcats' resume includes a 3-1 mark against teams ranked 26-50 and a 6-4 record against squads listed 51-100. According to Sunahara, the selection committee gives preference to teams with multiple quality wins and few, if any, bad losses.
"They look at how many good wins you have compared to how many bad losses," he says. "I can't say what is going to happen now, but I think we have had our share of good wins, but some bad losses, too. If they go by RPI, then hopefully we have a good shot. But if they don't, I don't know what the formula is. It's a crapshoot, but I think it's about 50-50 for us."
Unfortunately for UC, one factor that may play against them is the BIG EAST's history in the NCAA Tournament. Just once since the Bearcats joined the league in 2005 have more than two members made the tournament. With Louisville assured one bid and Notre Dame, the regular-season champ and owner of a an RPI of 14 likely to grab another, UC will have to play the waiting game to see if its season will continue.
In the meantime, the Bearcats (24-10) will have one last chance to add to its resume when they host local rival Miami at 2 p.m. Saturday. A win against the RedHawks will also push the Bearcats to the 25-win plateau for a second straight season, a feat not accomplished by the program since 1995-96.
The NCAA Tournament field will be revealed live on ESPNEWS shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday.