December 11, 2008

NCAA Women's Volleyball National Championship Picks

Like everyone else in the college volleyball realm, I will be keeping track of who gets to go make snow angels in Omaha. And, like everyone else, I have my best guesses as to who these teams will be.

First of all, let me preface my selections by saying I am not a roster-match statistics-last 10 games played volleyball guru. Rather these are just my picks from being a bit more aware of college volleyball programs than my neighbor.

The Round of 16:

Penn State vs. Western Michigan - In the upset of the decade....No, Penn State will win and the odds are they will win in three straight. I am still amazed that they have not dropped a game all year (or I guess the correct speak is not a set all year).

Illinois vs. California - Potentially a rather good match, more so since it is in Big 10 country and I really don't see a bunch of folks at State College, PA rooting for the Golden Bears. I doubt this one will be a three straight affair, but I feel California will win. The Pac 10 teams seem to handle the post season well.

Washington vs. Utah - Washington has everything going for them - location, Pac 10 preparation, an opponent who is not from a power conference, history of success - which makes me a bit nervous because they could easily overlook the Utes trying to find Nebraska. The Huskies should win and in 3, but if they were to lose focus, it could be a 5 game loss.

Michigan vs. Nebraska - The match where neither team will have any type of home court/local advantage. I think Nebraska is on a mission to prove to many that their success of the last few year's was not just because of one very tall Canadian - Nebraska wins in 4.

Texas vs. UCLA - My upset special and it would be an upset if the Bruins took out the #3 'Horns at home. Texas is beyond physical, but I chose this match as the upset because UCLA is used to tough matches on the road in the Pac 10, Andy B. (last name too tough to spell) has been winning matches for a long time, they have a really good setter and some players that tasted the Final Four not too long ago. I could easily be wrong and maybe wrong in 3, but I would not be surprised if I am right.

Oregon vs. Iowa State - I doubt many people picked Iowa State to go into MN and win in 4; makes this match a tough call. I will pick Oregon even though it makes me sound like a Pac 10 wannabe, but they did not earn the #11 seed for being average. Like the MI vs. CAL match, this should be a good one to watch.

Hawaii vs. Purdue - A lot of variables in this match. Purdue has gone 5 in both rounds, but both rounds were at home. Hawaii went on the road to sweep both of its matches including Southern California on the USC campus. Purdue is coming from a conference that put 5 teams into the NCAA Championship with 4 of those teams garnering a top 10 seed. Hawaii comes from a conference that only got two teams into the show. My guess is Hawaii because they are used to being road warriors.

Florida vs. Stanford - Both teams sport crazy good records and neither is at home, but Stanford has two outside hitters that seem to be talented; Stanford wins.

Elight 8 - Believing my picks have been perfect on Friday:

Penn State vs. California - Home court, Beth Hodges, Russ Rose, etc., etc., just too much for California - Pac 1o conference or not. Penn State, but not in 3 - shocker!

Washington vs. Nebraska - This will be one very good match up of teams that have talent and coaches that have egos (and have earned the right to have egos!). I think the pressure of being able to play in the Final Four at home (we will call Omaha close enough for the Huskers) is too much for Nebraska and someone (player, coach, manager, trainer) will remember the last big match between these two. Washington in a 5 game battle.

UCLA vs. Oregon - How many times do you have to play a conference opponent? Nothing like travelling to Texas to play another Pac 10 match. UCLA rides the big mojo to shoot into the Final Four! (Non-Upset pick is Texas beats Oregon in 4 after getting over early match/pressure jitters).

Hawaii vs. Stanford - Those two not too bad outsides pack the one-two punch to take the Cardinal (which by the way is a trivia question answer - non 's' ending mascots) once again into the land of the Final Four.

My Disclaimer - I could be completely wrong and I would not be disappointed if I was because this would shake things up a bit and add some fresh air to the usual Pac 10 versus Nebraska/Penn State.

When you watch (if you can watch them on television) or review the stats in-game/post game, the team that has the highest hitting percentage out of their starting outside hitters will win. Folks will rightly look at the overall hitting percentage which also accurately reflects the winner/loser, but try to review the outsides.

Without delving deeply into Stanford's stats the last two NCAA Finals, I had the impression watching Barboza that she was struggling and not hitting a very high overall percentage. In rally score (boo hiss), teams will go as their outsides go.