The Championship tournament has been selected and now the 3rd season begins. Some thoughts:
Penn State - Amazing. I could not fathom not even losing one game during the entire season especially with rally score to 25. It honestly boggles my mind to sweep every match and they are in the Big 10. Based on their bracket, they should cruise into the Final Four with California serving as a good warm-up on their way to Omaha. If they win it all, they will be and should be without question the best team in the history of NCAA Women's Volleyball.
Nebraska received the Catch 22 seeding. They realistically could have been the #3 seed, but got the 4th spot and have to go through the Seattle Regional and U. of Washington to get to their home court National Championship Final Four. Washington will be tough and has displayed no fear of Nebraska in the past, but sometimes being the home team is tougher than travelling.
Texas with the #3 slot may well get their Final Four shot especially since they are at home the entire time. UCLA will be tough because the Pac 10 is like regular season volleyball marine corp boot camp.
On the surface, Stanford with the 2nd seed may be in the toughest region. It has a number of good teams and traditionally successful programs that are synonymous with volleyball. Hawaii, San Diego, Purdue, Pepperdine, Long Beach State - All of these programs will have no qualms about lacing it up against the Cardinal.
Some good first round match-ups:
New Mexico State vs St. Mary's - Neutral site but very close to St. Mary's.
Tennessee vs Clemson - At Clemson and should be an explosion of orange. I wonder if Coach Patrick is getting the 2 million per year like the brand new football coach.
U. of Northern Iowa vs Iowa State - The instate match up played in the next northern state.
San Diego vs Southern California - Battle of the so Cal private schools.
Pepperdine vs Long Beach State - Kinda makes me wonder why the NCAA will not seed 1 through 64. "Hey we are in the National Championship and we get to play a team we play each year, each spring and on the beach, along with playing club with and against every player on both rosters!!!".
My Pick - Penn State; creative I know, but they just have too much going on and Russ Rose will use the Nebraska site as motivation for his very good team. I think the only team that can match up against them is Stanford because of Stanford's two Outside Hitters (Barboza and Klineman).
Best Elite Eight Match-Up; Nebraska vs Washington in Seattle, too bad we can't get any matches on TV other than the Final Four; I though the switch to rally score and to 25 points was supposed to be the magic pill to fix all our woes.
Dangerous Seed - UCLA at the #14 seed. They have lost a bunch of matches but usually play a schedule that is beyond tough and they were in the Final Four not too long ago.
Sleeper - Wichita State, except they got put into the same quad as #3 Texas in the Austin region. Wichita State only has 1 loss and plays in the extremely competitive Missouri Valley. Thought they would have received a better slot, at least not going up against a top 4 seed until the third round.
Raw Deals - I won't be so callous as to name teams, but there are always a number of teams that should have received a bid and a number of teams that maybe were surprised they even got into the tournament. After being in this sport for awhile and in a few conferences, it can be just a roll of the dice, for which conference administrators really don't have an answer as to why one team got in and another was left out. Rather frustrating for players and coaches not too understand why the at-large selection went against them.
I hope the day arrives when we can all watch the entire NCAA tournament on television. Football, Basketball, Basketball, Baseball, Softball all televise more than just 3 games, but we don't - Maybe the American Volleyball Coaches Association could put pressure on the NCAA for this support rather than getting Beach Volleyball as a NCAA Emerging sport.
Good luck to all involved and hope it is a fun tournament to keep track of.