The NCAA officially approved the expansion of the beach volleyball national championship, doubling the total number of teams from 8 to 16.
While the expansion of the field has more or less been met with unanimous praise, questions still remain. The format is still undetermined, though it is likely going to be single-elimination for the first round before resuming the traditional double-elimination format it has taken since it became an NCAA championship sport. There is still no official word on how the additional eight teams will be selected, and if there will continue to be a quota on West Coast and East Coast teams.
The language in the NCAA’s release posited that there will be automatic qualifiers, earned via teams winning their respective conference tournaments, similar to the NCAA basketball tournament. If this is the case, it’s likely that six teams will earn berths via their conference championships: Pac-12, Big West, WCC, CCSA, ASUN, and Conference USA. The remaining 10, then, would be additional at-large bids.
“If you’re in the West Coast, it’s still going to be a dog fight,” Mayer said. “There’s a lot of good teams.”
And if the single-elimination opening round format holds true, it places an even higher value on the regular season. Now, not only do you want to punch your ticket to Gulf Shores — you want to ensure the highest seed possible when you do.