You really should watch B1G volleyball.
Don’t ask why.
- It’s back to being a fall sport after last year’s COVID-related move to the the spring.
- BTN has upped its coverage.
- The B1G is the dominant conference. [The US Women’s team just won their first-ever Olympic gold medal and was heavy with B1G talent.]
- With many extra-year returnees, the talent level is off the charts.
Enough reasons for you?
Last year in (very) brief
Somehow a year in which the B1G placed six teams in a 48-team tournament, all six made the Sweet Sixteen, three made the Elite Eight, and one made the Final Four, counted as a bit disappointing. THAT is what expectations are like among the B1G elite.
#1 Wisconsin made the Final Four before bowing out to #4 Texas in the national semis
#3 Minnesota was upset by unranked Pittsburgh in the Sweet 16
#5 Nebraska lost to #4 Texas in the regional finals
#7 Purdue lost to eventual national champion and #2 Kentucky in the regional finals
#9 Ohio State lost to #8 Florida in the Sweet 16
#13 Penn State lost to #4 Texas in the Sweet 16
As you can see, only UW and Minnesota lost to lower-/non-seeded teams, but Texas/UW was really a tossup and Pittsburgh was woefully under-seeded.
At the risk of being a homer, the real story overall was the discrepancy in performance by conferences that played in the fall (Big 12, SEC) and those that didn’t (B1G, Pac 12).
But perhaps that’s all the motivation the B1G teams need to place multiple teams in this fall’s Final Four and/or take home a national title.
The preseason top 25 is out and should look familiar with respect to B1G schools.
Michigan and Illinois both received votes.
While the preseason poll is more of a reflection of “program strength + last year” than even CFB or CBB, it did show less deference to traditional power status than the B1G preseason poll (see cover photo), which has PSU third.
So, bottom line, expect 6-8 B1G teams to get tournament bids, with 5-6 landing in the top 16 (i.e., a top 4 seed, and home court advantage the first two rounds).
In terms of names you should get to know if you don’t already, check out the preseason all-B1G team.
If you wondered why UW was the unanimous choice to win their third straight B1G title, seeing that they have two grad returnees as unanimous selections to the all-B1G squad should provide an answer. Also, while you don’t get better by losing Molly Haggerty, almost everybody else returns for the Badgers (plus some intriguing options from the transfer portal). Of particular note, Dana Roettke will be seeking to become the first five-time All-American in NCAA history.
However, even though UW is a clear favorite, each of the other five ranked schools have major talent. PSU has three on the all-B1G squad. OSU, Purdue, and Minnesota have a unanimous choice. And Nebraska, with Lexi Sun, should...no idea who didn’t vote for her.
Finally, note that the B1G actually gave a damn about scheduling. Unlike the frequent Delaney-bot 9000 approach to wrestling, clear thought went into the conference season. With apologies to the other eight schools, observe the following about the six ranked schools.
They each play eight matches against each other (three teams 2x, two teams 1x)
- Wisconsin has five home and three away (missing OSU and PSU on the road)
- Nebraska has three home and five away (missing Minnesota and OSU at home)
- Minnesota has five home and three away (missing Nebraska and Purdue on the road)
- Purdue has four home and four away (missing Minnesota at home and PSU on the road)
- OSU has four home and four away (missing UW at home and Nebraska on the road)
- PSU has three home and five away (missing UW and Purdue at home)
A small home/road discrepancy, but pretty damn balanced overall!
Additionally, my math may be slightly off, but I believe that 22 of these 24 matches are guaranteed to be on BTN, ESPNU, or ESPN2.
Because it’s not CFB or MBB, some of the coverage still leaves a little to be desired and the composite schedule is far from user-friendly. Hopefully you can make out, though, that there is a marquee matchup this Friday night: #7 Minnesota vs. #10 Baylor (9:30 Eastern, in Madison as part of the B1G/Big 12 challenge)
Fortunately, BTN has provided a pretty good schedule of their coverage. If you click the link (do it, dammit!) you’ll see that there is a triple-header this Saturday!
Kansas State @ #5 Nebraska (5:00 Eastern)
#10 Baylor @ #2 Wisconsin (7:00 Eastern)
TCU vs. #7 Minnesota (9:30 Eastern)
Also, as the next dispatch might not drop in time, mark your calendar as follows for this outstanding matchup:
Wednesday, September 1: #1 Texas @ #7 Minnesota (BTN, 8:00 Eastern)
Expect a weekly update on the B1G VB season. If it’s just me, it might be pretty bare bones. However, I know we have contributors here who cheer for more than football, and I will (continue to) work on them to throw in their team-specific views.
Also expect to see regular coverage/reminders on Don’t Watch This; Watch That. (MNW also thinks you should have more B1G VB in your life).
No excuses. Watch great volleyball!