November 28, 2016

NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball National Championship

The madness has begun, lost in the midst of the beast of College Football and the start up of College Basketball - Let's remember that the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball National Championship starts this week.

I have the direct link to the website below, along with a jpeg of the bracket - Unfortunately, I can't make the bracket photo any larger for this post, but if you are on a tablet or cell, you should be able to 'expand' the photo...(I hope).

A few select comments:

  • 3 of the 4 top seeds from one conference - The Big 10 is big in 2016 - Let's see if all make the Final Four, which is usually the case for the Top 4 seeds in DI VB.
  • Why is this usually the case, you ask?  Because the NCAA does not seed 1 thru 64 (like it does for the Basketballs), which stinks. This means outside of the 16 seeded teams, the other 48 are predominantly in regional pods. 
  • Kansas wins the Big 12 outright, is ranked #4 in the Top 25 and is the #5 seed, while Texas is the #4 seed...hmm...
  • Nothing says NCAA National Championship event like the Kansas 1,300 seat facility they will play the 1st and 2nd rounds at.  Honestly, I have seen high school gyms that look better - This is not the fault of the KU Volleyball program (I have great respect for Coach Bechard and what he has accomplished with the Jayhawks) but rather the NCAA and KU athletics.  I think there is another larger facility on the KU campus?
  • Riddle me this - UCLA tied for 2nd in Pac 12 (still Pac 10 to me, as a UCLA alumni athlete), beat Stanford twice, is ranked 4 spots higher in Top 25 poll and is a #10 seed, while Stanford is a #6 seed?
  • TCU got into the Tournament with a 7-9 conference record and a 14-12 season record - Really?
  • Purdue is right there with the TCU surprise - 8-12 in conference and was selected over 2 other Big 10 teams with better conference records?
  • Kansas State got 4th place in the Big 12 wth a 9-7 record, was not ranked in the Top 25 and received a #14 seed in the tournament?  

My 1st and second round pics are below the bracket..

1st round winners:

Wichita State
Dayton (which went 30-1 this year...)
Penn State
Michigan State
Colorado Stae vs Kentucky - One of the better 1st round match ups.  Kentucky wins but close match.
U of Northern Iowa vs Creighton - Possibly the best 1st round match.  Both teams play a very tough non conference schedule and are used to winning during the regular season.  Creighton beat UNI early in the year and will do it again.  Creighton in 5.
Texas AM vs SMU - Part of the University of Texas post season tournament.  Looks like it should be close match but TAMU just too physical - Aggies in 4.
Marquette vs Washington State - Easy pic is the Pac 12 team but the Cougars have some losses against the bottom of the Pac 12 conference.  This is my upset pic...Marquette in 5 since they are 10 minutes from the 1st round gym.  
Ohio State
Kansas State
Florida State
Western Kentucky
North Carolina
Coastal Carolina
San Diego - West Coast Conference teams are very good and make a habit of beating Power Conference teams.
Purdue - Uses questions about them getting into the tournament as motivation to beat Iowa State.
Hawaii vs USC - I am convinced that the NCAA selection committee does not like Hawaii. Maybe it is that the UH campus has a tropical ocean view, that they enjoy huge attendance, that the weather is beautiful, that Coach Shoji must have taken the last slice of cheesecake during some NCAA Volleyball conference - Hawaii will put together great season records, playing a tough non conference schedule;  and as hey have for years, receive terrible seeds and match ups in the NCAA tournament.  So, this year they have to fly all the way to Minneapolis (at least better than Florida or North Carolina) to play a Pac 12 team.  Granted, USC has had a rough year, with a lot of new players, but come on!  Let's match up 2 of the most successful and longest tenured NCAA women's volleyball coaches in the 1st round and let's put them in Canada to play.  For the VolleyFans of Minnesoooooota, this will be a great match of two traditional volleyball schools and if you have never seen a Hawaii team play (I saw them wayyyyyyy to much having coached in the same conference for 8 years), you definitely need to go watch!  Hawaii in 4.

2nd round winners:

Penn State - But in 4 closer games.
Michigan State
Ohio State vs Kansas State - Grinding it out in the toughest conference this year, should give the Buckeyes some intestinal fortitude at K-State....home court can be good or bad (too many friends and family watching)....Buckeyes in 4 close games.
Florida versus Florida State - Nothing like the two best teams in the region playing each other in the 2nd round....Home court is big positive for the Gators especially since the home court is a shoe box because Florida's traditional facility is undergoing renovations this year.  Florida in 3.
North Carolina
UCLA vs San Diego - As a UCLA alumni, this match scares me.  UCLA is a good but not a dominant team; they play the old school way by grinding out points and games with ball control.  I have seen them play well and them play very not well.  And, San Diego is a very good team (see my comments about WCC above) who is going to be motivated to win at Pauly Pavilion....gotta be a biased alumni here, UCLA in 5.

Final Four Pics:

Nebraska - Penn State and Washington are the toughest opponents in the bracket and I think that the Penn State match in the 3rd round round will be tougher than the match to get to the Final Four.

Texas - The Regional's site (3rd and 4th rounds) are determined after the 2nd round, so we don't know today where teams will play.  I don't think a 1300 seat facility (Kansas) will be able to secure the Regional bid, so it should be Austin which hosts.  Kansas will have a challenge if Michigan State makes it through (again, Big 10 is a grind this year), but the winner will need to travel to Texas. Home court makes it all good for the Longhorns.

Minnesota - This bracket has a lot of good, balanced teams but none of them are at Minnesota's level, especially since MN will be playing at home the entire tournament until they take the charter flight to balmy Columbus, Ohio.

Stanford - For not winning the Pac 12 and being ranked 12th in the Top 25, Stanford might just have the easiest path to the Final Four.  They will play Wisconsin but will it be in Madison or will it be in Palo Alto?  Since Palo Alto may be the only realistic Regional site on the west coast (Nebraska will host over Washington, and barring upsets, all other West Coast teams will not get the host site over a high seeded opponent), I can see the NCAA awarding it to Stanford over Wisconsin (they already gave the Cardinal a higher than deserved seed, so why not let them host over #3 Wisconsin).  But, if the Badgers throw a few cubes of delicious WI cheese toward the NCAA and hosts, then my pick would switch - Home team wins.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner:

Nebraska - Just too much talent and they are not uncomfortable in the National Championship.

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