It is November, and Wichita State's volleyball team is racking up RPI-boosting victories almost every weekend. Each Tuesday, when the NCAA releases its power ratings, brings more good news.
What a luxury that is for the Shockers and the Missouri Valley Conference. With three teams in the top 40 and four in the top 50 of the RPI, the MVC can look forward to selection day for the NCAA Tournament with excitement instead of dread.
"The Valley doesn't have as many land mines," WSU coach Chris Lamb said. "The last three years, it seems like the RPI has told the story. Once you get in the low 50s, it's time to start worrying. The teams in the 40s, I think, have been getting in."
WSU can strengthen that NCAA resume on Friday against Northern Iowa (26-2, 16-0). The Panthers wrapped up the MVC title on Saturday and are No. 6 in the RPI.
WSU, winners of nine straight matches, should hold steady in the 20s when the RPI comes out today. The Shockers defeated Evansville and Southern Illinois over the weekend to improve to 20-5, 13-3 in the MVC. They entered the weekend at No. 22 in the RPI, boosted by a string of top-70 victories. WSU moved up two spots after beating then-No. 41 Creighton and then-No. 68 Drake. The week before, a win over then-No. 33 Missouri State bumped the Shockers to No. 24 from No. 29. Since that loss, Missouri State moved up to No. 32, even after dropping a match to Drake.
Those numbers indicate the MVC should earn multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament.
In 2009, No. 45 North Dakota State, No. 46 Cal-Santa Barbara, No. 47 Miami (Fla.), No. 48 Oklahoma and No. 49 Furman earned at-large spots. No. 50 Georgia Tech did not.
It's enough to make one feel confident about WSU's at-large changes for the NCAA Tournament.
"I'm not complaining," Lamb said.
Credit non-conference wins with helping the MVC, and WSU did its part. The Shockers went 4-1 against non-conference teams in the top 100. Overall, the Shockers are 3-4 against the top 50 and 10-4 against the top 100.
That makes scoreboard watching fun.
"It's something Lambo definitely wants us to pay attention to," junior Camri Zwiesler said. "A number of the girls, they check up on it. We'll text each other and say so-and-so is playing so-and-so on TV, and you need to watch this. We're trying to get a feel for how everybody else is doing."
It also makes it impossible not to think about a spot on that bracket. The Shockers are in great shape for an at-large bid, or they can win the automatic bid later this month in the MVC Tournament.
"I've never been to the NCAA Tournament, so every minute of the day I'm, 'We have to get there, we have to get there,' " Zwiesler said. "We're going to get there. We've just got to win out."
For the second straight week, WSU received votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association top 25. The Shockers received three points. UNI remains No. 12.
Setting up the tournament — The top four teams are decided for the MVC Tournament. The seedings are undecided for three of them.
UNI owns the top seed. WSU needs to split this weekend against Northern Iowa and Bradley to grab the No. 2 seed. It can finish no lower than third. Missouri State and Creighton will also finish in the top four.
Either Drake or Illinois State will finish with the fifth seed, while Evansville and Southern Illinois can grab the final spot in the six-team field.
The tournament runs Nov. 25-27 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.