Texas is searching for its first faculty volleyball championship since 2012, and if the Longhorns are to win all of it, they’ll achieve this because the No. 1 general seed within the NCAA event.
Two different 1-seeds, Stanford and defending champion Wisconsin, have mixed for 4 of the final six NCAA titles.
The fourth No. 1 seed, Louisville, reached the nationwide semifinals for the primary time in program historical past final yr and will make historical past as the primary ACC crew to win all of it, however the Cardinals may need to undergo second-seeded Nebraska, which might be no small process.
With this yr’s last 4 (Dec. 15-17) returning to CHI Well being Heart in Omaha, the Huskers are aiming for his or her sixth nationwide title and their first of their dwelling state since 2015.
In the meantime, San Diego is 27-1 and hasn’t misplaced since falling to Louisville in early September, but when the Toreros, a No. 2 seed, wish to preserve surprising the world, they might must face 2020 champion Kentucky in a regional semifinal and nine-time champion Stanford within the regional finals.
Earlier than the regionals start Thursday, we requested our analysts to interrupt down the bracket — which groups have the hardest street to Omaha and what are their predictions for the primary weekend of the event?
Which crew’s seed stunned you essentially the most?
Holly McPeak: Going into the choice present, I assumed both Stanford or San Diego could be No. 4, so it is not shocking that they must play one another to get to the nationwide semifinals. I assumed Nebraska being seeded forward of a streaking Minnesota crew, which simply swept the Huskers and has a greater RPI, was a shock, however the committee advised me that whereas they agreed the Gophers have been the recent crew of late, Nebraska had a fantastic physique of labor the remainder of the season with no dangerous losses to unranked groups.
Courtney Lyle: My largest shock wasn’t a seed; it was the truth that the SEC had essentially the most groups within the event. Seven groups are dancing, essentially the most because the SEC had eight in 2013. We have seen conferences just like the Pac-12 and the Huge Ten reign supreme within the volleyball world for a very long time. I feel it is a nice signal the game is rising everywhere in the nation.
Jennifer Hoffman: I agree with Courtney right here. Not that rankings are a sign of convention power, however solely two of the seven SEC groups are ranked within the prime 25, and losses down the stretch for just a few groups ought to have left a few of their at-large bids among the many first 4 out record.
M.A. Voepel: The NCAA event bubble could be murky in all sports activities, however it usually appears to be actually murky in volleyball. As Courtney and Jennifer stated, seven for the SEC meant the inclusion of groups corresponding to Tennessee and Auburn. The league may need anticipated to get one in (Auburn), however not each. That stated, general there actually weren’t many strange-looking selections, particularly in comparison with some previous years.
Sam Gore: That is truly the primary NCAA event bracket that did not depart me with an enormous query. The Committee did an intensive job, and any preliminary skepticism about one thing was met head on and defined by committee chair Pauline Theros. If I needed to nitpick, I used to be minorly stunned Georgia Tech was not a 4-seed.
Paul Sunderland: I used to be by no means stunned general by the seeding. The committee for years has been broadly criticized … however not this yr. Nonetheless, San Diego earned and deserved a No. 1 seed. The Toreros nonetheless must cope with Stanford, however they earned the No. 4 general seed and the benefit of internet hosting.
Which of the highest 4 seeds has the hardest street to Omaha?
McPeak: As a result of Minnesota is the most well liked crew proper now, I really feel like Texas’ street will probably be difficult. Texas is likely one of the most bodily groups within the nation and Minnesota can match the Longhorns in sure areas. Texas has a particular crew chemistry this yr with all its new gamers, and led by Logan Eggleston, the Longhorns are on a mission to win all of it.
Lyle: Texas has the hardest street to Omaha. The Longhorns may face Ohio State or Minnesota within the tremendous regionals. The Golden Gophers are one of many hottest groups coming into the event, having received 11 of their final 13 matches. Taylor Landfair averages greater than 4.0 kills per set and she or he’s used to battling a giant block within the Huge Ten.
Hoffman: I do not see any prime 4 seeds having a simple street to Omaha. I really feel the event subject had some followers questioning the committee, however general, the way in which the sphere is unfold out, whichever groups make it to Omaha most definitely could have earned it.
Voepel: The Longhorns might find yourself with the toughest Elite Eight match, however may not have an excessive amount of bother earlier than that. So for the whole street to Omaha, there could also be just a few extra potential potholes for Louisvillle, which can must get previous Purdue, Baylor and Nebraska to advance to the ultimate 4. Total, each regional last might really feel like a nationwide championship match when it comes to the standard of play.
Gore: Though I feel Texas is the very best general crew within the subject, its street to the nationwide semis is filled with potential obstacles. Georgia Tech could be actually good when it good points momentum, and Julia Bergmann can take over a match. Ohio State and USC are each loaded with expertise as effectively. That stated, Minnesota presents the largest problem earlier than the Texas quarterfinal begins. The Gophers completed robust within the Huge Ten, and I at all times really feel the caliber of competitors Huge Ten groups play is a constructive intangible in NCAA event play. With this additionally being Hugh McCutcheon’s last season, there’s an emotional element in play as effectively. Make little question, Texas can get by its quarter, however will probably be a well-earned, hard-fought effort.
Sunderland: Texas. Julia Bergmann and Georgia Tech await down the street, and Minnesota is wholesome, scorching (7-1 within the final eight) and has Taylor Landfair rolling.
Which low-seeded or unseeded crew has the very best probability to make a deep run within the event?
McPeak: This can be a powerful query. USC has the potential to upset someone as a result of the Trojans compete effectively, however they’ve been battling some critical accidents. Washington is a senior-heavy crew that has tons of NCAA expertise and will make a future if it catches hearth.
Lyle: I am excited to see what Auburn can do. The Tigers went into the season trying to acquire expertise and develop the completely different weapons they’ve. Now Auburn is within the NCAA event for simply the second time, dancing with nothing to lose. That makes for a harmful crew.
Hoffman: Auburn is younger and performs fearlessly. The Tigers had excessive highs and low lows all through the season, however that by no means appeared to have an effect on them. Akasha Anderson and Kendel Kemp are forces to be reckoned with, and Auburn is positioned to take this event unexpectedly.
Voepel: No. 7 seed BYU had just one “dangerous” loss — 3-2 at Pacific in October — and will have a rematch with No. 2 Pitt within the second spherical. The Cougars misplaced to Pitt 3-1 in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 3, and will relish one other shot on the Panthers.
Gore: I’ll go together with Kansas or UNLV. Each groups are underrated and have the items to tug off some upsets.
Sunderland: BYU and USC are each able to a run. The Cougars are wholesome now with the return of setter Whitney Bower. For the Trojans, Texas switch Skylar Fields and prime setter Mia Tuaniga can carry them. Setters make the distinction, particularly this time of yr.
Who’s the event’s must-watch participant?
McPeak: I feel there are such a lot of particular gamers that it’s laborious to select one. Madi Skinner has developed into the most effective six rotation left-side attackers within the nation, and her counterpart Logan Eggleston is a four-time All-American on a mission. Taylor Landfair of Minnesota is a dynamic attacker who can take over a match as effectively.
Lyle: Logan Eggleston of Texas has completed just about every part besides win a nationwide championship. Her teammates wish to win it for her — that tells you what sort of particular person she is. Eggleston is must-watch TV for her highly effective swings, her nasty serve and simply her pure drive.
Hoffman: I do not hear sufficient about Brooke Nuneville from Oregon. She’s thrilling to observe but additionally does it on the defensive finish and generally is a spark for the Geese.
Voepel: If you happen to love the large hitters, you will take pleasure in watching 6-foot-5 reverse Kendall Kipp of Stanford. She was a freshman on the Cardinal’s 2019 nationwide championship crew, when Kathryn Plummer was Stanford’s star. Kipp is averaging 4.31 kills per set and was simply named the Pac-12 participant of the yr. She is the thirteenth Cardinal participant to win the convention’s prime honor, and the primary since Plummer received it back-to-back in 2017-2018.
Gore: There are two must-watch gamers that give followers immediate highlights each match: Texas’ Logan Eggleston and Georgia Tech’s Julia Bergmann.
Sunderland: There are such a lot of must-watch gamers, however let’s begin with Wisconsin’s Devyn Robinson. She is explosive and could be unstoppable — simply ask Nebraska and Ohio State. Subsequent is Claire Chaussee of Louisville. She’s this yr’s Jordan Larson award winner as the very best all-around participant within the nation. (OK, so what if I made that up?) Lastly, Rice setter Carly Graham is exclusive and led the Owls to a sweep over San Diego in final yr’s event.
Which groups will make it to the ultimate 4?
Hoffman: Minnesota, San Diego, Wisconsin and Louisville. December is the very best time of the yr. Let the video games start.
Voepel: Texas, San Diego, Wisconsin, Louisville. But when Nebraska, Creighton or each make it, the vitality within the constructing will probably be by the roof.
Gore: The 4 that win all their matches! Sorry, I could not resist! I am delighted to say this yr’s NCAA event is filled with potential upsets, so let’s take pleasure in the way it all performs out.
Sunderland: Let’s get right down to it. Wisconsin is taking part in at an unimaginable stage and Louisville is getting more healthy by the day with Anna Debeer returning. I will choose Stanford by a whisker over San Diego (which is the actual deal). Lastly, to not be boring, however Minnesota over Stanford. It is a lengthy shot, however Minnesota is Texas’ kryptonite primarily based on type.