After finishing the season with an exclamation point by sweeping Penn State in Lincoln, the Nebraska Cornhuskers Womens' Volleyball team earned the #4 seed overall, leaping over the Pac12 co-champions Washington Huskies who were ranked #2 in the AVCA Coaches' Poll for the week.
The Huskers will host Harvard, Kansas State, and Wichita State December 4th and 5th at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The Huskers will face Harvard, the Ivy League Champions, before taking on the winner of the Kansas State-Wichita State match. Kansas state is an at-large bid while Wichita State is the Missouri Valley Conference Champion.
The Huskers are the top seed in the Lexington, Kentucky Regional. The winner from Lincoln will take on the winner from Provo, UT to advance to the Regional Final. Last year, the BYU Cougars ended Nebraska's run and ultimately made the Final Four before falling to Penn State.
Overall, the Lexington regional shapes up to potentially pair Nebraska against Washington once again. Washington would potentially have to get past two B1G teams to make it, playing Michigan State right off the bat, and then, if it all goes chalk, facing Ohio State in the Regional Semi-final.
Overall, the B1G has nine teams in the tournament, the most of any conference. Nebraska, Minnesota, Penn State, and Wisconsin are in the top seven and Ohio State's 12 seed makes five seeded teams for the conference. As Minnesota Coach Hugh McCutcheon said, the B1G is a gauntlet and is critical in preparing teams for the tournament.
It's set up for the Huskers to make a deep run in the tournament, but there are dangerous match-ups or potential pitfalls along the way.
Kansas State knocked Nebraska out of the tournament in 2012 in Lincoln in the Colosseum and the Big XII Champion Longhorns were one of only four losses for the Huskers this year. The Big XII has great teams, including the Kansas Jayhawks whose only two losses this year came against those Longhorns, so Kansas State poses a threat based on conference experience and history.
It's also likely that the Big Red will have to play either BYU or Arizona just to advance to the Lexington Regional Final.
It's likely that the Final Four will have at least two B1G teams. The path to Omaha is set up pretty well for Nebraska, whose defense really keeps them in a lot of matches, so it's likely that the Huskers will come out of the Lexington region. Minnesota is my pick from the Des Moines Region.
The Austin Region shapes up well for a battle-tested Texas team, though either UCLA or Wisconsin poses a big threat to that team in the region. The San Diego Region is the least clear with USC as the #1 seed, but having potential pitfalls in Big XII runner-up Kansas and familiar Pac-12 foe Stanford as potential opponents in the Regional final. Creighton's also not to be taken lightly.
Here's the full bracket:
It should be an exciting couple of weeks of volleyball. Nebraska has played well enough in the current ten-match win streak to compete for a National Championship, particularly in Saturday night's sweep of defending National Champion Penn State. If the team can keep up their consistency and focus, even when the momentum swings to their opponents, Nebraska SHOULD be playing in Omaha on the 17th, and maybe even the 19th, of December.