Football is over, and for this Husker, mercifully so—it means there is even more time to focus on volleyball! Nebraska was a bit “disappointing” this year—but for them, that means they were only ranked in the bottom half of the top ten instead of the top half, so you know, it’s not exactly hard times for the Devaney crew. As usual, they battled it out all season with a handful of other great teams, and the Big Ten is looking to have another strong showing in the NCAA tournament, beginning this weekend.
How Things Ended
Wisconsin won the conference this year on the strength of knocking After a rough start (they were only .500 after eight matches) the Badgers righted the ship, finishing conference play with only two losses (Ohio State in four, and PSU in five). There was a log-jam for second, with Nebraska, Penn State, and Minnesota all finishing with 17-3 conference records.
As of today, here are the AVCA rankings for Big Ten teams:
#8 Penn State
(see why this is a tough conference?)
Special shout-out to Rutgers for winning two conference games this year. That sounds like shade, but it’s actually not—prior to this, they’d won only a SINGLE match in conference play since joining the Big Ten, and that was in 2015. So this was actually a significant achievement for the beleagured team. They beat Northwestern in five and swept Iowa (lol). So, sincere congrats to the women from Piscataway—that’s tough sledding.
While the Big Ten didn’t have quite as strong of a finish in the polls as years past, they still fared well when it came to tournment seeding. Here’s the bracket.
Baylor snagged the #1 seed, and in their region, we have:
- #16-seed Purdue hosting Wright State. It’s the first time hosting for Purdue since 2011, so bully for them. Read more about it at our sister site, Hammer and Rails. (Friday, 6pm central, ESPN3
- Unseeded Michigan will take on Northern Kentucky on Friday night in Lexington, KY. (6pm central, ESPN3)
#2-seed Texas hosts a regional featuring:
- #7-seed Minnesota will host over the weekend, and face off against Fairfield on Friday night at 7pm. (ESPN3)
Of all the Big Ten teams, Minnesota probably has the most favorable regional, though my colleague White Speed Reciever disagrees, and is worried about facing Texas again. That’s a challenge for sure, and Iowa St./Creighton and Florida will likely present challenges before that, but realistically, if you want to win it all, you were probably going to have to take a shot at Texas anyway.
#3-seed Stanford’s regional features:
- #11-seed Penn State is hosting as well and squares off on Friday night against Princeton (6:30pm central)
- Unseeded Illinois takes on Utah, who finished the season ranked #17 and may perhaps offer the most interesting match of the opening round, Big Ten-wise. The Illini were one of the last four teams selected for the tournament, and now have to prove in Provo that that selection was not in vain. (Friday, 5 pm CST)
#4-seed Wisconsin Hosts a Regional! Here’s how that’s looking:
Wisconsin plays Illinois State at 7:00pm CST on Friday night in a match that should pose little drama or difficulty for the Badgers (am I trying to jinx them? Maybe.) ;)
#5-seed Nebraska is hosting (for the 16th straight year!) Ball State on Friday night at 7:00 pm CST. Obviously, there’s a lot of volleyball to be played before it becomes an issue (including a potential third-round matchup with Hawaii, which would be no cakewalk), but the Huskers haven’t gelled into quite the world-beaters of previous seasons and Wisconsin is probably the last team they’d like to see in the tournament. As Jesse Collins says, “Wisconsin has us figured out.” Indeed. The Huskers have only dropped four matches this season, but two of them were to Wisconsin and both were sweeps. It’s not, as they say, ideal. However, lots of volleyball to be played, and if you want to win it all, you have to beat who is put in front of you.
So what do you think? Are you excited to watch some Big Ten volleyball in the tournament? Where do you think your team will finish? I’ve said all year this Nebraska team looks like a Sweet 16/Elite 8 team, and the bracket hasn’t changed my mind about that. Will Minnesota finally break through this year? Can Wisconsin go all the way? Let us know in the comments!
Which Big Ten team will make it farthest in the tourney?
This poll is closed