How ‘bout them Gauchos? The #7 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos waltzed into Provo, Utah and took care of #2 BYU Cougars in four sets (25-21, 23-25, 26-24, 25-22) in the first round of the MPSF Tournament. It was the first loss of the season in their home gym for the Cougars and the second consecutive win for UCSB over BYU in the playoffs since it happened back in 2005.
But that wasn’t the only upset in the MPSF Tournament. The #5 49ers of Long Beach State knocked off the #3 Stanford Cardinal in five sets (26-24, 25-27, 25-23, 19-25, 15-13).
This could create quite the dilemma for the one at-large bid that is granted for the Final Four. Assuming it comes from the MPSF, who has the leg up? This debate will be thrown out the window if USC for some reason doesn’t go on to win the tournament, because let’s be honest, even if they lost to UCLA this past weekend they would have had that at-large bid.
So for the sake of argument, let’s say the Trojans win the MPSF. There are a couple of points to discuss here:
We can’t forget the teams still in it besides USC: Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. If one of those teams goes on to win in dominating fashion in the semifinals and puts up a strong fight in the finals that might sway the committee to put them in instead of the disappointing BYU Cougars or Stanford Cardinal.
2) Comparing BYU and Stanford. The Cougars have been ranked 2nd in the AVCA Top-15 Coaches Poll in every week but one since February 7th while Stanford has fluctuated from the 2-5 spots in the same time span.
As far as head-to-head match-ups, the Cardinal swept the Cougars in a two-match weekend series way back in mid-January and that’s been it. I’m not sure how much stock can be put into two matches played over three months ago. However, when comparing two excellent teams every little thing counts.Another argument to consider is the rust factor. While Stanford last played at Pacific on April 16th and easily took care of the Tigers, BYU hasn’t played in two weeks prior to the quarterfinal match. The reason it’s an easier sell that it was rust was because entering the match, BYU was riding a seven-game winning streak while Stanford has been pretty much trading every win for a loss for the past month anyway.
So if it does indeed come down to those teams obtaining the at-large bid, I’d give the edge to BYU. The only part of the argument that’s not in their favor is the aforementioned head-to-head match-ups, which were so long ago that I’m not sure it’ll be enough in the eyes of the committee. However, keep an eye on the rest of the tournament because one of those teams can go on a tear in the next two matches to impress enough to steal a spot.
Isn’t this exciting!? No more March Madness, it’s April Madness!