Sorry for taking the past few weeks off! Happily, my volleyball team didn’t, and finished the season perfectly in order to win a share of the Big Ten title for the third time since joining the conference. Woo! Congrats to Penn State for getting to share the conference championship, even though the Huskers swept them out of their own gym! ;)
Seriously though, both teams finished with 19-1 conference records, which is insanely hard to do, especially in a conference like the Big Ten.
How’d the rest of the conference finish? Let’s find out:
Those Whose Seasons Are Over
Ohio State (8-12, 15-16)
It was a disappointing season for OSU, who was a much tougher team than the record indicates. In a fitting end to the season, the Buckeyes lost a five-set match to Illinois on Senior Night. However, OSU loses only three seniors, so this is a team that should be much improved next season with a lot of returning experience.
Maryland (7-13, 18-14)
Maryland was the surprise of the Big Ten this year, showing substantial improvement from any prior year in the Big Ten. After finishing 12th in the conference last year with only four wins, the Terps improved to 10th place with seven wins. What’s more, they improved from 12 wins last year to 18 this year. In a conference that is tough for upward mobility, this is a notable improvement.
Iowa (7-13, 18-15)
In contrast, Iowa took a small step backward this season after being last year’s Most Improved Team. However, it wasn’t a significant one—but the question for the Hawkeyes next season will be how to find a way to take the next step, rather than stagnating at the top of the bottom third.
Northwestern (4-16, 14-18)
Although posting a modest improvement in the W-L record from last year, Northwestern appears to be stuck in the cellar of the Big Ten. In most of their matches this year, they simply couldn’t match up with most Big Ten competition.
Indiana (1-19, 12-20)
The Hoosiers match up poorly against Big Ten competition, but ended the season by winning a set against #10 MSU. Big things await the Hoosiers next season, as they’ll be playing in a newly constructed arena.
Rutgers (0-20, 5-27)
Here was the upside for Rutgers this season: they won three sets in conference play, after going winless last season. That was about all the upside there was, but that’s what Rutgers will have to try to build on next year. Can they win a match next season, or possibly even pass up Indiana or Northwestern?
The rest of the Big Ten is headed to the Tournament! Yippee! First, here’s how the most recent AVCA poll had our B1G teams ranked:
#1 - PSU (19-1, 29-1)
#5 - Nebraska (19-1, 26-4)
#8 - Minnesota (15-5, 26-5)
#11 - Wisconsin (11-9, 20-9)
#12 - MSU (14-6, 21-8)
#16 - Purdue (12-8, 22-9)
(#26) - Michigan (11-9, 21-11)
(#29) - Illinois (12-8, 21-10)
And now, what you’ve been waiting for... the bracket!
- Penn State is, of course, the top seed in the tournament.
- Penn State, Nebraska, and Minnesota all enjoy home court advantage during the first weekend.
- Only Wisconsin and Illinois face the prospect of seeded opponents during the first weekend, potentially taking on 14th-seeded Iowa State and 11th-seeded Utah, respectively, if they advance past their first games.
- Minnesota is also guaranteed a tough second-round opponent: assuming they dispatch North Dakota, they will take on either proven giant-killer University of Northern Iowa (who beat Nebraska earlier this season with significant consequences for the Huskers), or Louisville, who, under first-year coach and former Husker player and coach Dani Busboom Kelly, improved from a .400 record to an .800 record and a spot in the tournament.
Hopefully, the Big Ten teams can all advance to the second weekend, where the matchups get a lot more interesting—and where only Penn State will have a home court advantage.
We’re not even to the tournament yet, and already there is controversy—namely, because Kentucky received the #4 seed over Nebraska (or Texas, who finished #2 in the final AVCA poll!) This is a big deal, because the top four seeds host not only the first weekend of the tournament, but the second as well. Of course, as a biased observer, I find this complete horsecrap, but what happened was that Nebraska was punished for two opening season losses that were to 25-1 Florida and Oregon, both of which happened while Nebraska was without their starting setter. But what really torpedoed them was an inexplicable loss to UNI before conference play started. Winning the toughest conference in the country apparently counted for little—unlike college football, where an early loss can be overcome with solid play the rest of the season, what happens early can doom a volleyball team.
Here’s what the chair of the selection committee, Lisa Peterson had to say:
Peterson said the four specific criteria in the NCAA guidebook for selecting teams are as follows: 1.) RPI; 2.) common opponents; 3.) head-to-head matchups, and; 4.) significant wins and losses.
"And if you go by those categories," Peterson said, "Kentucky came out ahead [of Nebraska and Texas]."
In short, the Wildcats' victory over Florida -- although they also lost to Florida, with whom they were SEC co-champs -- went a long, long way in their favor, as did victories over Pac-12 schools USC and Utah.
Meanwhile, a statistic such as victories against top-25 RPI teams, where Nebraska (9-3) and Texas (8-2) had a significant edge over Kentucky (4-3), wasn't valued as much as the four stated criteria. Also not taken into consideration is that the Wildcats were swept in all three of their losses -- to Creighton, Kansas and Florida -- whereas neither Nebraska nor Texas lost in a sweep.
Hmmph. Well, the Huskers have exceeded expectations all season long—perhaps they can do it again and shove it down the selection committee’s throats.
Which Big Ten team bows out of the tournament first?
This poll is closed