FloVolleyball Weekly Notebook: Tickets Punched

It’s our last weekly update of the regular season. Here are the top headlines and storylines leading up to Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show.

Tickets Punched

Thirty-two conferences grant automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament for their champions—either a regular-season champ or tournament winner. 

Over the weekend, 20 conferences finished their postseason tournaments, so we wanted to list out for you the teams that will be playing in the NCAA postseason by virtue of victories in those contests.

America East: Albany

American Athletic: UCF

Atlantic 10: Dayton

Atlantic Sun: Kennesaw State

Big South: Winthrop

Colonial Athletic Association: Towson

Conference-USA: Western Kentucky

Horizon League: Northern Kentucky

Metro Atlantic: Fairfield

Mid-American: Ball State

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference: Howard

Ohio Valley: Southeast Missouri

Northeastern: Sacred Heart

Patriot League: American

Southern Conference: Samford

Southland: Stephen F. Austin

Southwestern Athletic Conference: Alabama State

Summit League: Denver

Sun Belt: Texas State

Western Athletic Conference: New Mexico State

Three more leagues host postseason tournaments this weekend—Big Sky, Missouri Valley Conference, and Big East—while nine send their regular-season champion to the big dance. Of those nine, five conference winners have already been determined, based on their records to date and the number of matches remaining: 

Atlantic Coast Conference: Pittsburgh

Big West: Hawaii

Ivy League: Princeton

Mountain West: Colorado State

West Coast Conference: San Diego

The remaining four conferences—Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC—feature close races for their top spots and champions have yet to be determined.

Saving The Best For Last

Well, not everyone is saving the best for last, but there certainly is no shortage of tough matchups for the final week of play before the NCAA Tournament begins, especially in the four Power Five conferences with titles still up for grabs.
Start with the Big Ten. Wisconsin currently tops the standings with a 17-1 league record, and Penn State is just one match back at 16-2. And in a delicious coincidence of scheduling, these two powerhouse programs will face off for the second time this season on Friday night. No. 5 Wisconsin then finishes out the season against Rutgers, but No. 7 Penn State will have to recover quickly from whatever happens Friday to play No. 8 Minnesota on Saturday.

Since it’s pretty safe to assume that Wisconsin won’t lose to Rutgers, the Badgers have at least a share of the Big Ten title locked up. Penn State can secure the other half of that share if it wins both matches this weekend. Nebraska and Minnesota, each currently sitting at 15-3, only enter into the conversation if Wisconsin somehow does lose to Rutgers and Penn State.

In the Big 12, it’s Baylor and Texas fighting for the automatic bid—although naturally with these two Lone Star State powers ranking No. 1 and No. 3 respectively in the latest RPI, both will get into the NCAA Tournament regardless. Baylor has two matches left to play, traveling to West Virginia Tuesday and then hosting TCU on Saturday. Texas ends the season versus Iowa State in Ames on Saturday. 

If both squads win out, which they likely will, Texas would earn the automatic bid since the Longhorns swept Baylor at home and then lost to the Bears in five sets on the road and therefore have a 5-3 sets advantage in head-to-head contests. 

The competition in the Pac-12 is between Washington and Stanford, with the title being the Cardinal’s to lose. If Stanford can win its matches versus Washington State on Tuesday and Cal on Friday, then the reigning national champs will secure their third league title in a row.

Keep an eye on how Washington State, Cal, and Arizona State do in this final week. Cal, ranked 45th in the latest RPI, faces a really tough final week taking on Stanford and Washington.  Washington State, ranked No. 25 in the AVCA poll, sits at just 56th in the RPI and also faces the conference’s top two teams to finish out the regular season. At 50th in the RPI, Arizona State plays USC and Arizona before Sunday’s selection show and will definitely be a team on the edge of getting in or missing out and needs every win it can get.

The SEC match I’ll have my eye on this week is Texas A&M versus Florida on Saturday. The Gators are locked in a tie with Kentucky for the SEC’s automatic berth, and A&M, which already upset Kentucky this year, could certainly play spoiler for Florida by handing them a last-minute loss. 

But again, this is all just for conference titles. Kentucky, Florida, and A&M (ranked No. 13 in the RPI) are all getting into the NCAA Tournament regardless of this week’s results.

Wisconsin & Baylor: The Nation’s Hottest Teams

Coaches always talk about peaking at the right time, and while both Wisconsin and Baylor have had fantastic seasons overall, they’ve also managed to put up some impressive results in the past seven days. 

Baylor beat Texas in five sets last Wednesday to put itself back on top in this week’s AVCA poll and NCAA RPI. The Bears not only redeemed a sweep at the hands of the Longhorns from earlier in the year but also beat Texas for the first time since 2001. That night, Baylor also set a new attendance record, packing 7,357 fans into the Ferrell Center, a great sign for the Bears since they will no doubt earn a top four seed and be hosting the first few rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Baylor followed that victory up with a sweep of K-State over the weekend, improving to a program best 13-1 in the Big 12. 

Wisconsin, for its part, swept Nebraska on Sunday, marking a season sweep of sweeps—i.e. the Badgers won both meetings with Nebraska in straight sets. Led by Molly Haggerty’s 16 kills and Dana Rettke’s 12 kills with zero errors for a .480 clip, Wisconsin hit .331 as a team. On a night when they didn’t give up a single point on serve receive, the Badgers scored four aces on Nebraska. 

Upcoming NCAA Volleyball Matches Live on FloVolleyball:

Friday, Nov. 29, 2019

Wisconsin vs. Penn State 6:30 PM ET

Purdue vs. Michigan State 7 PM ET

Minnesota vs. Rutgers 7 PM ET

Indiana vs. Michigan 7 PM ET

Ohio State vs. Iowa 8 PM ET

Maryland vs. Nebraska 8 PM ET

Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019

Wisconsin vs. Rutgers 7 PM ET

Minnesota vs. Penn State 8 PM ET

Illinois vs. Northwestern 8 PM ET

Maryland vs. Iowa 8 PM ET

Ohio State vs. Nebraska 8 PM ET

Indiana vs. Michigan State 8 PM ET

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