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NCAA Volleyball Tournament Preview

After knocking off Michigan Saturday night to claim the outright B1G championship for the first time since 2011, the Nebraska Women’s Volleyball team was awarded the top seed in the NCAA Tournament on their quest to defend their 2015 National Championship.

Three of the top four seeds in this season’s tournament are B1G teams, with Minnesota, a team who took Nebraska to five sets twice, the teams splitting the series, the two seed. The Wisconsin Badgers are the three seed, and the Texas Longhorns are the four seed. The Huskers have beaten all three of the other top seeds.

This year the location for the Regional Finals will be determined after the first weekend. The top remaining seed in each quarter of the bracket will host the second weekend, meaning it’s possible and even likely that all four of the Regionals will be played in the Central time zone.

The first match on Friday night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center will pit the TCU Horned frogs from the Big XII against the Wichita State Shockers from the Missouri Valley Conference at 4:30 PM Central. The Horned Frogs are a wild card, but the Shockers are conference champions. Wichita State is riding a nine-match win streak into the tournament, while TCU has won four of their last six, with the only two losses to the #4-seed Texas and the #5-seed Kansas.

The Huskers start the tournament Friday night at 7:00 PM Central against New Hampshire, though the start could be pushed back by the first match. The University of New Hampshire Wildcats qualified for the tournament by winning the America East Conference Championship. The two biggest name wins on the Wildcats’ schedule are September wins at neutral sites against Boston College and Rutgers, though neither team made the tournament.

The winners of the Friday night matches will face off at 7:00 PM Saturday, also at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. If the Huskers win both matches, then they would host the third and fourth round matches at Devaney as well, as they are the top seed in the entire tournament.

From there, the most likely scenario is you have three B1G teams, Nebraska, Penn State, and Michigan State, at Devaney joined by Washington out of the Pac-12. While the matches still have to be played, the only team that poses a significant threat to those four teams is Pittsburgh, who could face Penn State Saturday night if they can get past the Dayton Flyers.

Nebraska won both matchups with Penn State during the conference season, and beat Michigan State in East Lansing. Washington and Nebraska did not play this season, and the only shared opponent was Maryland, a match both teams won in sweeps. Washington has played well against Nebraska in recent matches, so it will be a difficult road for the Huskers if they’re to make Columbus, Ohio, for championship weekend.

With the change this season, it’s pretty fair to assume that the top four seeds will make it to Columbus. Kansas is the #5 seed and will likely have to play in Austin, TX to make it to the championship weekend for a second straight year. The teams split the season series, each winning on their home court. Stanford is the #6 seed in the tournament, which will be a huge challenge for Wisconsin, but that match should be in Madison.

Stick with for recaps and prognostication throughout the tournament. It does lineup well for the Huskers to repeat, but there are a lot of good volleyball teams looking to prevent that.