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How the Big 12 Boosts UCF Volleyball’s Resume (and the AAC Did Not)

UCF’s 2023 schedule gets tougher as the season progresses

Photo: UCF Athletics

First, some news: The UCF Knights Volleyball team is projected to finish 9th in the Big 12 this year, per the league’s coaches.

Even after coming off five straight conference titles in The American, the losses of McKenna Melville and Amber Olson, let alone the change of head coach from Todd Dagenais to Jenny Maurer, had to factor into the coaches’ logic here.

But there’s another factor at play that I wanted to examine a bit more closely.


Volleyball was the first Knights team outside of Football to reveal its full schedule for the 2023 season, and that enables us to show how the move to the Big 12 dramatically helps all of UCF’s sports.

First, let’s take a look at the 2023 slate, now that it has been fully revealed:

2023 UCF Volleyball Schedule

Date Day H/A Opponent 2022 RPI Last Season
Date Day H/A Opponent 2022 RPI Last Season
Aug 24 Thu N Navy 140 3rd Patriot League
Aug 25 Fri N Syracuse 97 11th ACC
Aug 26 Sat A UAlbany 269 5th America East
Aug 31 Thu H FIU 220 7th C-USA
Sep 1 Fri H Mississippi State 65 8th SEC
Sep 2 Sat H Wake Forest 93 8th ACC
Sep 3 Sun H Alabama State 218 T-1st SWAC, L NIVC 1st Round
Sep 7 Thu H Florida State 31 5th ACC
Sep 9 Sat H North Texas 120 4th C-USA
Sep 14 Thu A Purdue 27 6th Big Ten, L NCAA 2nd Round
Sep 15 Fri N Illinois 84 7th Big Ten
Sep 21 Thu A Cincinnati 164 5th American
Sep 22 Fri A Cincinnati 164 5th American
Sep 28 Thu H Oklahoma 106 8th Big 12
Sep 29 Fri H Oklahoma 106 8th Big 12
Oct 4 Wed A Texas Tech 67 7th Big 12
Oct 11 Wed H West Virginia 172 Last Big 12
Oct 14 Sat H Kansas State 78 6th Big 12
Oct 20 Fri A Baylor 14 2nd Big 12, L NCAA Sweet 16
Oct 21 Sat A Baylor 14 2nd Big 12, L NCAA Sweet 16
Oct 26 Thu H TCU 35 3rd Big 12, L NCAA 2nd Round
Oct 27 Fri H TCU 35 3rd Big 12, L NCAA 2nd Round
Nov 3 Fri A Houston 17 T-1st American, L NCAA Sweet 16
Nov 4 Sat A Houston 17 T-1st American, L NCAA Sweet 16
Nov 9 Thu H BYU 21 2nd WCC, L NCAA 2nd Round
Nov 10 Fri H BYU 21 2nd WCC, L NCAA 2nd Round
Nov 18 Sat H Texas 1 Won Big 12, National Champions
Nov 22 Wed A Iowa State 29 4th Big 12, L NCAA 2nd Round
Nov 25 Sat A Kansas 26 5th Big 12, L NCAA 2nd Round

A few observations:

  • UCF’s Big 12 schedule is heavily backloaded. The first seven conference matches are against teams that did not make the NCAA Tournament last year. The last 11 are all against teams that did make the NCAAs, including Texas, who won the national championship.
  • Of UCF’s 13 matches against 2022 RPI Top 40 teams, only two are in non-conference play.
  • The average RPI of UCF’s opponents (based on 2022’s final rankings) is 85. Last year’s opponents? 134.

This highlighted something I was genuinely curious about but never dove deep into: To what extent has UCF’s schedule — particularly in conference — hurt its RPI in previous seasons, but is now helping it with the move to the Big 12?

I ran the rolling averages of UCF’s schedules for the last five full seasons (excluding the 2020/Spring 2021 COVID year, because the RPI was all messed up), plus the 2022 final RPI of this year’s schedule. Here’s what that looks like:

UCF Volleyball Opponents’ RPI Rolling Average (2018-2023)
2020 excluded because COVID

In each full season from 2018-2022, the average combined RPI of the opponents UCF played went down as the season progressed.

But in 2023? Check out those trend lines. Based on the schedule and final RPIs from 2022, UCF’s average opponents’ combined RPI will go up as the season progresses. That’s probably the first time that has ever happened in UCF history.

What this highlights to me are two things:

  1. Just being in the Big 12 helps UCF’s schedule, RPI, and thus, chances of getting to the NCAAs as an at-large — assuming, of course, that they play well enough to become a factor.
  2. Just being in The American hurt UCF’s resume, seeding, and other factors relating to making the NCAA Tournament.

We always knew this was the case (go back and listen to Eric Lopez and me over the years on the podcast), but to see the data born out in such stark contrast is, well, clarifying, to say the least.

We’re going to keep an eye on this as other sports release their schedules, but for now, bear this all in mind as the Knights’ first Big 12 season gets underway.