NCAA D1 Women’s volleyball round of 16 preview
The GIST: The weather outside may be frightful, but the natty volleyball court is delightful, with 16 squads meeting at the net tomorrow to determine who’s still in the running for a natty championship under the tree.
- Regionals, which include tomorrow’s round of 16 followed by Saturday’s quarter-finals, are hosted by the remaining top-seeded teams in each of the bracket’s quadrants. Since all four No. 1 squads remain, the four regionals will be hosted by Texas, Stanford, Wisconsin and Louisville.
The contenders: The No. 1 Texas Longhorns continue to lead the way but, while they should easily manage No. 4 Marquette tomorrow, they’ll have to face either No. 2 Minnesota or No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday to book their ticket out of Austin. Given the Big Ten’s volleyball dominance, each of those squads could go all the way when the final four hits Omaha’s court.
- Speaking of the Big Ten, defending champ No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers must vanquish No. 4 Penn State in yet another all-conference round of 16 matchup. After that foe, it’s regional cruise control for the 20-game win-streaking Badgers.
- No. 1 Stanford, whose regional consists of weaker squads, should easily end up on top, while No. 1 Louisville, who’ll probably oust No. 4 Baylor tomorrow, will likely need to beat trophy-contender No. 2 Nebraska on Saturday to advance out of the weekend.
The dark horses: Even though the SEC had a holiday miracle of seven squads entering the tournament, only two, Nos. 3 Florida and Kentucky, remain. Kentucky, the 2020 champion, faces an easier path than the Gators, but both are true long shots to make a deep run.
- A more-likely underdog surprise? No. 5 Houston. While we’re not placing any bets, the Cougars showed incredible grit thus far and, honestly, there’s nothing like a Cinderella story.