After not dropping a set in the first round, the Big Ten saw its first casualties of the post-season--one not a surprise, and one much more shocking. The third round finds two B1G-B1G matchups, so at least two more conference teams will be ending their season today. Read on to see who the candidates are, but first, catch up with last Saturday's games.
If you want to see what happened in the first round and a few second round games, check the last edition of Net Results.
If you want to see the tournament bracket, click here.
Second Round Matches
#1 Nebraska 3 -- TCU 0
After an uninspiring tournament debut against New Hampshire, the Huskers looked better against the Horned Frogs of TCU. Though the first set was close, the Huskers won 25-22, and never looked back, winning the next two sets 25-12 and 25-16. The second set featured an impressive 11-0 run on the back of libero Justine Wong-Orantes' serving. Nebraska also notably won the first set thanks to Kadie Rolfzen's head:
#2 Minnesota 3 -- Hawaii 0
The Gophers remained in steamroller mode, and bounced the Rainbow Wahine from the tournament with scores of 25-17, 25-17, and 25-19. The home court once again remained the Gophers' friend (they are undefeated there in 2016), as Sarah Wilhite collected a double-double on the night, and the team gathered 55 digs and hit .348. Hawaii was no doubt sad to see their run in the tournament over, but took a little souvenir of Minnesota home with them to the islands.
#9 Michigan State 2 -- Arizona 3
A fairly surprising second-straight second-round exit by the Spartans in the tournament brings MSU's season to a disappointing end. Arizona is not a bad team, but as well as MSU was playing to end the season, the expectation was that they would make it to the second weekend. It was not to be, however. After winning the first set 25-17, MSU dropped the next two 16-25 and 19-25. But they rallied in the critical fourth set, winning 26-24. Unfortunately, Arizona took the fifth 15-10. The loss is especially surprising given that it was in East Lansing, the home venue that has been friendly to the Spartans this season (MSU dropped only two matches at home prior to this loss).
#16 Penn State 3 -- Pitt 1
Unlike the football team, the Nittany Lion volleyball team was able to best Pitt this year. The Panthers came out strong, besting Penn State in the first set 25-20. But PSU had the last laugh, winning the next three sets 25-16, 25-13, and 25-18. Three different Nittany Lions had double-digit kills for the evening, helping Penn State advance to the Sweet Sixteen yet again.
Ohio State 3 -- #14 Kansas State 2
Perhaps the match of the round, Ohio State won this one with pure grit in a five-set grinder. Far from home in Columbia, MO, the Buckeyes got off to a great start, taking wins in the first two sets 25-20 and 25-22. But Kansas State came back from the break and won two close sets of their own, 22-25 and 23-25--it doesn't get a lot tighter than that. But then, it did. The fifth set, with the teams only playing to 15, saw 11 ties and four lead changes, including 9-9, 10-10, 13-13, 14-14, and 15-15. But then, OSU buckled down, won the last two points, and are off to Madison for the Sweet Sixteen. Nice job, Buckeyes!
Up Next: Third Round
Regionals are coming up today, and the good news is, most of them are televised! Yay! The bad news is, they're also at really weird times, so it may be hard to watch. The world is an imperfect place.
#1 Nebraska vs. #16 Penn State
Time: Friday Dec. 9 at 12 pm (ET) (blech)
TV: ESPN U
Well, I'm not sure this is a very enticing matchup for either team. It's definitely not for Nebraska--no matter how "down" a year PSU is having, no one wants to play them three times in a season. Nebraska beat them both other times in 2016, but it's a tough task to take them down a third time. For PSU, it's not ideal because even though Nebraska has wavered at times in the past few weeks, they're still the #1 seed in the tournament, and aren't going to be an easy out playing in Lincoln. But, them's the breaks, as they say. These teams know each other very well at this point, and so this could be a highly entertaining match, and the stakes couldn't be higher.
#2 Minnesota vs. #15 Missouri
Time: Friday, Dec. 9 at 8:15 pm (ET)
"TV": ESPN 3
In this matchup of eight-letter teams starting with M and featuring double letters, Minnesota, hosting the regional, is a heavy favorite, in spite of Missouri's co-championship of the SEC. These teams got a favorable playing time, but pay for that privilege by not really being on TV. The Tigers bring a feisty offense to challenge Minnesota's defense, but the Gophers' extremely fast style of play will likely challenge Missouri even more.
#3 Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
Time: Friday, Dec. 9 at 2:00 pm (ET)
TV: ESPN U
Ohio State's valiant win in Columbia, MO earned them a tough trip to Madison to face Wisconsin in Round 3's second all-B1G matchup. The third-seeded Badgers are hosting a regional for the first time since 2000, and are in their fourth straight Sweet Sixteen. The Badgers should be heavy favorites here, but as OSU proved in the last round to Kansas State, no one should overlook them--do they have any more upset magic left in them?
#12 Michigan vs. Creighton
Time: Friday, Dec. 9 at 6:30 pm (ET)
"TV": ESPN 3
This matchup in Austin, TX has the potential to be a very interesting one, and a very difficult game for Michigan. Creighton made a splash last weekend by ousting #5 seed Kansas, and boasts an excellent defense. The Bluejays won the Big East (not the Missouri Valley, as I incorrectly stated last time) without dropping a match in conference play, but are only 4-5 against top 25 competition. This should be a fairly evenly matched pairing, and could be a close, hard-fought affair.
That's it! The number of teams is quickly diminishing, and Saturday's Elite Eight matches will whittle them down further for the final championship weekend.