Here we are.
If Wisconsin wins, they will be heavily favored to win the title outright, as their season finale Saturday is a home match against Indiana (4-14), who is tied for 11th.
However, Nebraska has to go from Madison to West Lafayette to take on Purdue tomorrow night (8:00, BTN). Purdue is 14-4 and would clinch a share of the B1G title if they go 2-0 this weekend (the other match is home vs. Indiana) and Nebraska knocks off Wisconsin.
And, of course, if Nebraska wins @UW and @Purdue, not only would that be the most impressive weekend of the season, it would net the Huskers an outright conference title.
This is drama enough, but it could have been really wild—like four teams within a match of each other wild—had the match of year last Sunday broken differently (see below).
But...let’s keep it simple:
Friday, 11/26: Nebraska @ Wisconsin at 4:30 CST on BTN
Saturday, 11/27: Nebraska @ Purdue at 8:00 CST on BTN
Keep reading for an early NCAA overview for the eight teams likely headed to the NCAA tournament
- Wisconsin 15-3
- Nebraska 15-3
- Purdue 14-4
- Ohio State 14-5*
- Minnesota 13-5
- Penn State 12-6
- Illinois 11-8*
- Michigan 10-9*
- Maryland 7-11
- Northwestern 6-12
- Michigan State 4-14
- Indiana 4-14
- Iowa 3-15
- Rutgers 0-19*
[On Wednesday, Michigan defeated Illinois in 4 sets and OSU swept Rutgers, so each school only has one match left.]
Match of the
Wisconsin defeats Minnesota: 24-26, 25-19, 25-27, 28-26, 15-12
Words really can’t do this match justice. It lasted nearly three hours, and featured more wild swings than any match I can remember. Wisconsin easily could have swept Minnesota. But they didn’t and then Minnesota should’ve ended things in four. But they didn’t. I’m going to try to limit the superlatives, but consider:
- Set 1: UW jumps out to leads of 6-0 and 14-6. Katie Myers serves the Gophers back to 11-14. From 20-19 Wisconsin, they alternate points until UW grabs a set point at 24-22, where Minnesota scores four straight—three on kills by Stephanie Samedy, the other on a block that Samedy helped on—to win the set.
- Set 2: Wisconsin grabs an early 8-2 lead, and is still looking pretty good at 17-13. Minnesota closes to 19-21, but the Badgers score four straight—kills by three different Badgers, and a Gophers attack error—to even the match.
- Set 3: Wisconsin scores the first seven points of the set and holds leads of 10-2, 18-11, and 21-15. Minnesota cuts the lead to 19-21, Wisconsin makes it 23-19, Minnesota scores two more, but a Grace Loberg kills give Wisconsin three set points at 24-21. Four points later, the Gophers lead 25-24 and win the set 27-25. Airi Miyabe kills account for four of the Gophers last five points of the set.
- Set 4: This time, it’s Minnesota’s turn to jump out quick, with leads of 6-2, 11-5, and 17-10. And this time, it’s Wisconsin’s turn to rally, scoring four straight to make it 14-17, giving up a side out, then scoring four more in a row to tie it at 18. This is when the match attained greatness. Gophers score three straight, Badgers counter with two (now 21-20 Minnesota). Side out. Side out. Side out. Side out. Julia Orzol kill to tie it at 23. Match point for Minnesota. Dana Rettke kill. Match point #2 for Minnesota. Jade Demps kill. Match point #3 for Minnesota. Julia Orzol kill. Gopher attack error. Devyn Robinson kill. Wisconsin wins set four, 28-26, with their last four kills coming from four different players.
- Set 5: Not quite anti-climactic, but not quite on the level of sets 1, 3, and 4, either. First lead of more than two came when Wisconsin went up 9-6. A Dana Rettke kill gave Wisconsin some breathing room at 13-9. And Minnesota promptly scored three straight to make it 12-13. But a Rettke block and another Gopher attack error gave UW the set and match.
- Stephanie Samedy should be B1G Player of the Year, and I’m not sure it’s close. Against Wisconsin she had 31 (!) kills, while hitting .312. Oh, yeah, she also chipped in 20 digs, second on the team. Ridiculous.
- Dana Rettke was not far off. 21 kills while hitting .372, and a team high 9 blocks. There’s competition, but she may well become a 5-time All-American.
- If Rettke isn’t 1st-team All-American, it’s probably because UW is so deep, and so willing to spread the wealth. Five different Badgers had double-digit kills.
- Sydney Hilley is the B1G’s best setter. That was true before she contributed 65 assists last Sunday, but she also had 16 digs and a key block at 13-12 in the fifth set.
NCAA Tournament Projections
Wisconsin: If the Badgers go 2-0 and win the B1G outright, they’ll almost certainly get a 1-seed and host a regional. Even if they go 1-1, the non-conference wins over #7 Baylor and #8 Kentucky might help them snare the last 1-seed. If not, they’ll be the 2-seed nobody wants to face.
Purdue: Currently ranked #6 and #8 in RPI, the Boilers will host the first two rounds, and then play the regionals at one of the 1-seeds (likely Texas, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and UW). Pittsburgh would probably be the regional of choice.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes are #9 in both the polls and the RPI. They’ll host the first two rounds, the likely face somebody like Baylor or Kentucky in the Sweet 16. [Should the Buckeyes find their way to the Final Four, they’d have home court advantage, as it’s being played in Columbus.]
Nebraska: Currently #11 in the poll and #13 in RPI owing to some non-conference stumbles, a win @ Wisconsin would certain move the Huskers up. However, even if they go 0-2 against UW and Purdue this weekend, they seem likely to get a protected seed and host the opening weekend. The worst case for Nebraska would be a Sweet 16 matchup with Texas, though I’m not sure they’d want a rematch with Louisville either. A road split this weekend might help them lock in a 3-seed, and a better Sweet 16 matchup.
Minnesota: The Gophers are ranked #10, but their RPI is #20, which means it’s far from a sure thing they’ll get to host the first two rounds. A win @ PSU might help seal some home matches, but even if they have to hit the road right away, they’d probably be in the 5-seed slot as a nightmare matchup for Florida State/Marquette/BYU/Western Kentucky. [The RPI was really funky last spring given the paucity of non-conference matches, but in 2019, Purdue got the 16 overall seed and hosted the first weekend with an RPI of 21.]
Penn State: The Nittany Lions have little from the non-conference to help their resume, as evidenced by an RPI of 27 (compared with a #16 ranking). They’re probably going to open the tournament on the road, with a second round matchup against a host school in the UCLA/Miami/Creighton range.
Illinois: The Illini are ranked #23 and the RPI was 30 prior to Wednesday’s road loss to Michigan. That shouldn’t hurt the RPI too much, but they could end up facing a 1 or 2 seed in the second round. They’re capable of doing damage, but that would be a tall order.
Michigan: The Wolverines’ RPI is 37, and that’s not counting the win over Illinois. They should be safely in, but might want to beat Northwestern just to be sure. They’re probably looking at a 7-10 or 6-11 type of matchup, which they could easily win. They’ve beaten Minnesota and Florida State (#13 in RPI) this year, so a Sweet Sixteen appearance wouldn’t be shocking. It would be a surprise, though.