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Wisconsin volleyball: NCAA Tournament opening rounds preview

The Badgers march to Pittsburgh and the Final Four starts on Friday at the Field House.

UW Athletic Department; @BadgerVB

The Bare Essentials

Wisconsin Badgers are the No. 4 overall seed in the 2019 NCAA tournament, putting a path to the Final Four in Pittsburgh through Madison, Wisconsin. In the first round, they’ll play the Illinois State Redbirds Friday, December 6 at 7 p.m. CT The UCLA Bruins battle the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 4:30 p.m. CT earlier that day. Winners square off Saturday, December 7 at 6 p.m. CT. The complete bracket is here.

Wait, Saturday?!? This Saturday? The One At The End Of This Week?

I’m really excited to run from the Indiana hoops game at the Kohl Center to the Field House and have my attention divided between the latter sets and the ol’ football game in Indy. Swinging the Thursday-Friday games too much to ask for?

Keep women’s hockey in your hearts, they play Saturday night against Minnesota-Duluth too.

Pod Overview

Team Attacking Stats

Team AssistsPerSet KillsPerSet Hitting% AcesPerSet
Team AssistsPerSet KillsPerSet Hitting% AcesPerSet
Wisconsin 13.75 14.48 0.295 1.65
Illinois State 12.98 13.78 0.218 1.4
UCLA 13.1 13.99 0.252 1.26
Notre Dame 12.19 13.04 0.207 1.25

Team Defensive Stats

Team BlocksPerSet DigsPerSet OpposingHitting%
Team BlocksPerSet DigsPerSet OpposingHitting%
Wisconsin 2.48 14.92 0.2
Illinois State 2.33 16.61 0.162
UCLA 2.18 14.83 0.229
Notre Dame 2.21 15.4 0.189


Team Overall 3sets 4sets 5sets
Team Overall 3sets 4sets 5sets
Wisconsin 22-6 17-1 4-3 1-2
Illinois State 22-11 11-1 7-5 4-5
UCLA 18-11 14-9 1-2 3-0
Notre Dame 19-9 5-2 11-3 3-4

Tournament History

Team 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Team 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Wisconsin Elite 8 Sweet 16 Elite 8 Sweet 16 2nd Place
Illinois State Participated DNP DNP DNP Round of 32 (to Wisc!)
UCLA DNP Sweet 16 Elite 8 Sweet 16 Sweet 16
Notre Dame DNP Participated DNP DNP DNP

Friday, December 6th: vs. Illinois State

In a three-day stretch, the Illinois State Redbirds beat Illinois and UCF (both tournament teams) and took seeded Marquette to five sets. They’ve also lost to tournament team Dayton out of conference, and took two of three matches against the Missouri Valley’s other tournament team Northern Iowa, including the title game match to earn the autobid spot. (A bunch of other conferences play conference tournaments. Neat!)

They also got swept by Bradley, ranked No. 161 in RPI. While this is clearly a team that should be taken seriously if they can hang with Marquette just as well as the Badgers did, there clearly are some issues. One that doesn’t show up in the stats - 73 inches. As in, six-foot-one: the tallest player on their roster. In fact, the Redbirds with the most total attacks on the season run 5-foot-9, 6-foot-1 and 5-foot-10. On the Badger front line, Molly Haggerty’s 6-foot-1 is the “shortest.” If the Redbirds can get their digs in and force long rallies... ehh, they’d probably still get blocked out of the gym. Good luck out there!

Possibly Saturday, December 7th: vs UCLA

Hey, someone else had a rough non-conference against great teams too! UCLA got swept by Baylor, Nebraska, Hawaii and UC Santa Barbara, who I mostly bring up to point out that UC Santa Barbara plays in The Thunderdome. The Bruins rebounded somewhat in Pac 12 play, going 13-7, doing things like sweeping Stanford at home and beating USC twice, but then dropping matches against Oregon and Colorado.

I’m trying to guide this preview, but I keep coming back to how UCLA hits at a decent clip - .260 in conference play puts them behind only Stanford - but gives Jenny Mosser 545 attacks while she’s hitting .154. I’m sure if I whipped out Excel I could confirm that Mac May (1054 swings, hitting .280) and Savvy Simo (829 attacks, .268) carry the team enough. (Editor’s note: those are made up names, yes?)

Possibly Saturday, December 7th: vs Notre Dame

ACC member Notre Dame played some of their football rivals in the non-conference, beating Purdue and splitting a home-and-home with Michigan. When they entered ACC play, they ended up with as many top-50 RPI win (Florida State) as sub-100 losses (Miami).

I’m getting whiplash from looking at these ACC stats to figure out Notre Dame’s best attributes, coming off 10 weeks of Big 10 previews. Like, .233 is Illinois hitting percentage, good for seventh in the B1G. It’s also Syracuse’s hitting percentage, fourth in the ACC. Notre Dame is well underneath those marks at .207. I guess their .188 opposing hitting percentage is how they win games? But they aren’t blocking a lot - 2.19 a set is middle of the ACC pack, and No. 11 in Big 10 play.

Tired - Notre Dame is overrated in football. Wired - Notre Dame is overrated in volleyball.

How Can I Watch?

I’m gonna point you to the UW athletic office. There’s currently no TV announced and the Big 10 Network is showing Minnesota-Ohio State hockey Friday. They might slide it in after Indiana - Wisconsin hoops is done, but I wouldn’t hold out a lot of hope.

UPDATE Friday 5:35 a.m. CT: It looks like there is a free stream of the first round game against Illinois State on BTN+.

Radio is always available on 100.9 FM in Madison or Clear Channel’s rebrand, iHeartRadio.