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Plenty at Stake for UCF Volleyball This Week

UCF playing for 5th straight AAC title and possibly hosting the NCAAs

Photo: Noah Goldberg

No. 24 UCF Knights Volleyball took care of business this weekend, sweeping East Carolina and Temple on the road to improve to 25-1. It’s the Knights’ fourth straight 25+ win season, exempting the abbreviated Spring 2021 COVID season.

The Knights have won 13 straight matches and 17 straight sets.

The wins set up one of the biggest and most anticipated final weeks of the regular season in UCF Volleyball history. Here are three things to know this week:

1. McKenna Melville Approaching 2,500 Kills

Noah Goldberg

McKenna Melville enters what may be her final two home matches this week approaching several milestones.

First, Melville is 23 kills away from becoming just the 10th player in NCAA Division I Volleyball history to reach 2,500 career kills, and she’s doing it in an era where it is harder to get kills with rally scoring. She is also just five kills from taking over the #10 spot all-time in Division I history in total kills.

Melville is also 13 kills away from 500 for the season, which would be the third time she has reached that number in her career. To put that in perspective, prior to Melville, the last time a Knight had 500 kills or more in a season was Leyre Santaella Sante in 2000.

Melville is also three digs away from becoming the fourth Knight ever to reach 1,600 career digs, and she’s not a defensive specialist.

The only number that Melville cares about this week is 5: Melville and the Knights are going for a fifth AAC Championship this week. But what do they need to do?

2. Houston Stands in UCF’s Way of AAC Championship

UCF (17-1 in The American) comes into the last week of AAC play trailing Houston (18-0) by a one match with two left. UCF hosts Tulane on Wednesday night while Houston is at USF.

The Knights host the Cougars on Black Friday for a chance to get revenge for the only loss this season, at Houston on October 7th when the Cougars won in four. UCF will need to win both matches and need the Cougars to get upset by the Bulls to win the AAC title outright.

But if Houston and UCF win on Wednesday night, here is what happens, according to AAC tiebreakers, IF UCF beats Houston on Black Friday:

  • If UCF wins out to the final game and Houston wins out to South Florida and then loses to UCF in three sets, it’s a split title, but UCF claims the NCAA auto-bid via set-differential tiebreaker (UCF 4, Houston 3).
  • If UCF wins out to the final game and Houston wins out to USF then loses to UCF in four sets, it’s a split title, but then the tiebreaker is point differential against UCF (which currently is +4 Houston).

If the point differential ends up tied, then the next tiebreaker is record vs. highest common league opponent, which would keep it tied.

Then it’s record vs. all DI opponents, where UCF would have the edge.

  • If UCF wins out to the final match and Houston wins out to South Florida then loses to UCF in five sets, it’s a split title, but Houston claims NCAA auto-bid via set-differential tiebreaker (Houston 5, UCF 4).

The November 25th match-up between UCF and Houston is set up to be the biggest regular season match in AAC conference history, the biggest regular season match ever held at the Venue, and one of if not the biggest regular season matches in UCF’s and Houston’s programs’ history, being the first top-25 matchup ever played at the Venue with Houston ranked 22nd and UCF 23rd.

A possible American Conference title is on the line on Senior Knight, where Melville headlines a historic senior class.

But wait! There’s even more at stake potentially than an AAC Championship.

3. Can UCF Host as a Top-16 National Seed?

UCF Hosted in 2018
Photo: UCF Athletics

Both UCF and Houston are in the mix to host a regional going into the final week. Here is a list of teams in the mix to host:

  • 12 Locks: Texas, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Nebraska, Kentucky, San Diego, Oregon, Florida, Minnesota
  • That leaves seven teams in the hunt for four hosting sites:

Possible NCAA Volleyball Host Schools

Team Record RPI vs. RPI Top 25 Conference Conf Rank
Team Record RPI vs. RPI Top 25 Conference Conf Rank
Marquette 26-2 12 2-2 Big East 7th
Rice 26-3 14 3-3 C-USA 10th
Baylor 22-6 15 4-3 Big 12 1st
Creighton 25-4 16 1-4 Big East 7th
Houston 27-2 17 1-2 AAC 8th
UCF 25-1 18 1-1 AAC 8th
Penn State 22-7 19 4-5 Big 10 2nd
Data as of November 22, 2022

A loss this week likely knocks UCF out of the mix to host. The same applies to Houston. Rice is already in the clubhouse after winning the C-USA Tournament.

If you are UCF or Houston, you likely need to win out and hope for Marquette and Creighton to both lose in the Big East Tournament.

If one of them wins Big East Tournament, you prefer it be Marquette, as that keeps Creighton, with just one RPI Top 25 win, at bay. You are also rooting for Purdue to beat Penn State and Kansas State to upset Baylor.

A new wrinkle to the Tournament this year is that, instead of only seeding the top 16 teams that will host a regional, the committee will seed the top 32 teams across eight seed lines. Here is a statement from the NCAA:

“The committee expressed an interest to seed the top 32 or 50% of the field (versus 25%) in order to generate a bracket with better competitive parity and avoid imbalance with respect to the relative strength of regional assignments. The committee recognizes that seeding 50% of the field would likely create additional travel expense in the bracketing process and would be a consideration for all team sports.”

If UCF does not host, where they go will be a little more unpredictable than in the past. We all find out Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. ET with the NCAA Volleyball Selection Show on ESPNU.