The world of Volleyball Go! is full of entry hazards for No. 6 Hawaii as it embarks upon the annual quest for an NCAA championship. The Goldilocks Incantation — not too hot, not too cold, just right — always is the goal when creating a competitive schedule with enough highly rated teams to stay in the top 16 of the Ratings Percentage Index ranking and host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
The SlideQuake of a wrinkle this year is that the NCAA has done away with preselected regional sites. The highest remaining seed in each of the four regions after the first two rounds will have the option to host the following week.
2016 Rainbow Wahine season preview
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>> Hawaii always has the run of its conference
>> Injuries will cause major shuffles, and concern
>> Depth is a strength at the team’s most vital position
>> Revolving door at middle makes things interesting
>> A strong backcourt gets even stronger
>> Shoji and his assistants might be strength of the team
>> Hawaii is a huge lure for some of the best teams in the nation
That’s not a particularly good sign for Hawaii, where there long has been a huge disparity between the coaches’ ranking and the computer-generated RPI used by the tournament selection committee. The latter has tended to be skewed in favor of the Power 5 conferences, more often than not leaving the other 27 leagues with one postseason bid.
The teams with the top 16 RPI are given the opportunity to host the first and second rounds. Last season, Hawaii was 26-1, and ranked No. 8 in the Top 25, but because of an RPI of 26, was sent on the road to open the NCAA tournament for the 10th time in the past 12 seasons.
The Rainbow Wahine finished tied for fifth after reaching the Elite 8. Despite the wins over TCU, Texas A&M and Penn State during the tournament, Hawaii, ranked No. 7 in the poll, ended with an RPI of 15.
Hawaii won four national championships between 1979 and 1987 but hasn’t reached the NCAA championship match since 1996. Ending that 20-year drought is a goal of the staff, giving them an EndRev (Endure and Reversal) as opposed to an EndFlail (Endure and Flail).
All the Wahine can do is control what they can control … which is the playing court. The preseason tournaments will be a good gauge as to where Hawaii is when the dust settles after Week 3.
It’s also a case of “be careful of what you wish for.” Playing high-RPI opponents is very good, losing those matches not so much.
Hawaii was a unanimous favorite to repeat as Big West champion. The Wahine ran the table at 16-0 — the fourth time in BWC play — and there is no reason that it shouldn’t happen again. The conference schedule is a little kinder for the “lone wolf”: UH plays on consecutive nights three times as opposed to four in 2015.
The VolleyDex is waiting to be filled. Catch ’em all. Ready, set, Volleyball Go!