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NCAA Volleyball Championship Preview


@BadgerVB; UW Athletics Department

The Bare Essentials

The Wisconsin Badgers have advanced to the third Final Four in program history, where they will face the Baylor Bears in Pittsburgh on Thursday, December 19th at 6 p.m. The Stanford Cardinal and Minnesota Golden Gophers play in the second match at 8:30 p.m. Winners face off Saturday, December 21st at 7 p.m. for the right to be called national champions.

Pod Overview

Team Attacking Stats

Team AssistsPerSet KillsPerSet Hitting% AcesPerSet
Team AssistsPerSet KillsPerSet Hitting% AcesPerSet
Wisconsin 13.76 14.5 0.295 1.61
Baylor 13.69 14.64 0.296 1.12
Stanford 13.82 14.71 0.299 1.39
Minnesota 12.78 13.76 0.267 1.2

Team Defensive Stats

Team BlocksPerSet DigsPerSet OpposingHitting%
Team BlocksPerSet DigsPerSet OpposingHitting%
Wisconsin 2.6 14.99 0.192
Baylor 2.54 14.45 0.161
Stanford 2.87 15.13 0.177
Minnesota 2.87 16.1 0.176

Tournament History

Team 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Team 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Wisconsin Elite 8 Sweet 16 Elite 8 Sweet 16 Elite 8
Baylor Round of 32 Round of 32 Round of 32 Did Not Play Did Not Play
Stanford National Champion Final Four National Champion Round of 32 Final Four
Minnesota Sweet 16 Sweet 16 Final Four Final Four Did Not Play

Team Records

Team Overall 3sets 4sets 5sets
Team Overall 3sets 4sets 5sets
Wisconsin 26-6 21-1 4-3 1-2
Baylor 28-1 21-1 5-0 2-0
Stanford 28-4 17-1 7-3 4-0
Minnesota 27-5 15-3 8-1 4-1

Thursday, December 19: No. 1 Baylor Bears

Tournament Results: Beat Sacred Heart 3-0, Beat Southern Cal 3-0, Beat No. 16 Purdue 3-1, Beat No. 8 Washington 3-1

Previously on B5Q: preview, recap.

Yay, we play a team that’s already beaten us in Madison, but the disappointing feeling after that game has changed drastically as the season progressed. Baylor is this year’s surprise team, as they took a preseason No. 20 ranking and traded it for the top overall seed. Their only blemish is a sweep at Texas, having beaten Marquette, Hawaii, Missouri and just about everyone in the Big XII twice.

Their team is jammed with players who can do one thing incredibly well. Yossiana Pressley is second in the nation at 5.37 kills per set. Hannah Lockin is eleventh in assists per set. Kara McGee gets 1.34 blocks a set, No. 26 nationally.

Where it gets terrifying is that in the last two matches, it hasn’t just been Pressley. Purdue held the star to a .194 hit percentage, but three other Bears had at least nine kills hitting over .400. She got back to form against Washington, but the multi-headed attack was even more lethal against the Huskies, as Pressley, Shelly Stafford and Marieke Van der Mark all had nine kills hitting over .500. Hannah Lockin, that really good setter, had seven kills on seven attacks. Yikes.

If you love gossamer-thin strands of coincidence to feel good about, the last time the Badgers played the top seed of a tournament, it was Texas in 2013 in the national semifinal.

Possibly Saturday, December 21: No. 3 Stanford Cardinal

Tournament Results: Beat Denver 3-0, Beat Cal Poly 3-0, Beat Utah 3-2, Beat No. 11 Penn St 3-0

Sun rises, sun sets, Stanford makes a Final Four. Perhaps the only real surprise is what awards they didn’t win. Two-time national Player of the Year Katheryn Plummer didn’t get Pac-12 Player of the Year due to a injury that kept her out of half of Pac-12 play. They still had the talent to go 9-1 without her, their exact record with her. Like Wisconsin, they have multiple solid options attacking. Obviously, it still starts with Plummer and her five kills a set. Joining that attack is Madeline Gates (2.21 kps) and Audriana Fitzmorris (2.89 kps). Also, they all hit over .300.

Defensively, they have three players notching a block a set and Morgan Hentz digging almost five balls a set.

They’ve played a hell of a non-conference schedule, winning at Penn State, Florida and Nebraska as well as beating Texas in Palo Alto. Funny thing about one of their losses, though...

Possibly Saturday, December 21: No. 7 Minnesota Golden Gophers

Tournament Results: Beat Fairfield 3-0, Beat Creighton 3-2, Beat No. 10 Florida 3-2, Beat Louisville 3-0

Previously on B5Q: home preview, home recap, away preview, away recap.

Minnesota’s already beaten Stanford this year. It was damn close - Minnesota took the first two sets 27-25 close. The third set featured neither team hitting above .050. But, at the end the scoreboard said Minnesota 3, Stanford 1. It was clearly the Gopher’s biggest win of the season, and I’m still scratching my head on how it happened.

They used that same ‘wait, what?’ luck throughout the tournament. They beat Louisville after the other Cardinals beat host No. 2 Texas, a team they were swept by in that same location back in early September. They held off Creighton’s two match points to come all the way back to win.

They’re still a defense-first team, holding opponents to a .176 hitting percentage through their stellar blocking (No. 8 nationally.) Offensively, they really spread around the attack with five players between 213 and 340 kills on the year, with decent attack percentages all around.

Dana Rettke Should Win National Player Of The Year

Nobody else is in the top-150 players nationally in per-set kills, aces, blocks and hit percentage. The mere threat of a Rettke attack slides defenders away from her teammates. Her presence is felt even if the ball is on the other side of the court. She’s the best player from the best team from the best conference. Dana Wrettke, if you ask me.