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NCAA FIRST AND SECOND ROUND SCHEDULE
First Round – Friday, Dec. 3
4:30 p.m. – Kansas State vs. Florida State
7 p.m.* – Campbell vs. Nebraska*or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the 4:30 p.m. match, but no sooner than 7 p.m.
Second Round – Saturday, Dec. 47 p.m. – First Round Winners
Nebraska’s road to the NCAA championship starts with Campbell University. The Fighting Camels are the Big South conference champions after beating High Point in a five set final match.
You might recall, High Point won the Big Sough last year and then, in a pretty significant upset, won their first round NCAA match against UCF, of the ACC, in five sets. This is Campbell’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Campbell University is in Buies Creek, NC which is halfway between Raleigh and Fort Bragg, NC. It is a private Christian university founded in 1887 and currently enrolls about 6,000 students.
The volleyball team is 21-9 overall and 14-2 in conference. They don’t have any common opponents with Nebraska to offer comparison so we will stretch a bit to see how the teams measure up.
Campbell played USC earlier this year from the PAC 12 and lost in 3 sets (25-23, 25-6, 25-14). Nebraska played Arizona State from the PAC 12 and won in 3 sets (25-20, 25-12, 25-22). Arizona State and USC played in the conference twice. USC won the first meeting in 5 sets and the second in 4 sets.
What does this mean? Nothing, probably, but it’s the only linkage between the Huskers and the Camels this year. Otherwise, Campbell lost a lot of matches prior to starting their conference play.
Nebraska will beat Campbell University in the first round. Don’t stop the presses for that prediction.
The other two teams coming to The Devaney Center on Friday are Florida State (19-9, ACC 10-4) and Kansas State (15-12, Big 12 6-10). Nebraska played Kansas State in August and beat them in 4 sets. Florida State played University of Michigan in August and lost to them in 3 sets. Florida State has a notable win over University of Florida in 4 sets.
This match should be competitive. Kansas State will earn the win and play against Nebraska on Saturday. The Wildcats sets their two outside hitters a ton. They also give their opposite, Haley Warner, a fair amount of sets. She reminds me of Jazz Sweet with her left hand attacks and cross court shots.
Kansas State is not a tough serving team averaging just over 1 ace per set. Nebraska should pass well against them and out match their middles. Nebraska will win this match with focused hard driven serves and pinpoint serve receive passes to run the middle attack.
In the third round Nebraska should meet #7 Kentucky unless (a big unless) Illinois pulls off a big upset. There is a chance, but I think less than 20% that the Illini get the win. So, in all of likelihood, Nebraska faces last season’s National Champion.
This is a very different Kentucky team than last season but still runs a very fast offense. They are led by Alli Stumler and Madi Skinner on the outside. Madi’s sister Avery was a star for UK last season and now plays at Baylor University. Kentucky also gets big contributions from opposite, Reagan Rutherford and middle blocker Azhani Tealer.
This is a tough match up for Nebraska as this Kentucky team fights and fights. It reminds me of University of Michigan and how they came back from 0-2 deficits on teams this season. They just a play hard, relentless brand of volleyball. Nebraska showed some fight in late season matches against similarly-styled opponents Wisconsin and Purdue, but Kentucky wins this one against Nebraska.
Dang, I hope I am wrong but calling like I see. GBR!