A month after the 2020 NCAA Volleyball Championship game was originally scheduled, Wisconsin finally takes the court in a quest to improve on a Big 10-winning, national runner-up season. But, not every conference waited until after New Year’s Day to start matches. Let’s whip around the college volleyball landscape and find out what other major players have been up to.
2019 Sweet Sixteen participants: Texas, Baylor (Final Four)
In 2019, the Big XII was the Baylor and Texas show, as Yossiana Pressley’s development put Baylor on the national scene to join Texas with each team splitting the league title at 15-1. In the 2020 portion of the schedule, the pandemic-adjusted schedule meant Baylor traveled to Austin to suffer a pair of 3-2 losses, giving the Longhorns the Big XII championship.
But wait, there’s more Big XII volleyball! Three of TCU’s matches will be played between now and April against Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Texas, along with a Cyclone-Sooner game, will be played this spring before the NCAA Tournament. I don’t know why! Texas is undefeated, TCU is 1-9, and with the tournament field reduced by 16 at-large bids, the under-.500 Clones and Sooners are really putting “for the love of the game” to test.
2019 Sweet Sixteen participants: Louisville
One of the main differences in scheduling college and professional sports is balance. When a pro league releases their schedule, nobody’s up in arms about one team having a cakewalk to the championship like in college. When Maryland and Rutgers joined the Big 10, men’s basketball played more teams once than twice, meaning who and where you played was a factor in who hangs a banner.
Anyway, the ACC played four weekends of back-to-back schedules. Georgia Tech is the only 7-1 team, proving their 2019 NIVC Championship was not a fluke, and their ACC lead is totally not influenced by splitting a series against the only team they played that finished above .500. The ACC isn’t giving the Yellow Jackets the autobid so quickly, as there will be 10 more matches schedule for each team.
2019 Sweet Sixteen participants: Texas A&M, Florida, Kentucky
The SEC had the same approach to fall games as the ACC: Eight games per team, with another 16 in the spring. Kentucky is the leader at the turn, going 8-0 with Mizzou, Florida and Arkansas all at 6-2.
2019 Sweet Sixteen participants: Utah, Washington (Elite 8), Stanford (champions, damnit)
The other conference that adores the Rose Bowl also waited until the spring to start conference play. In a move we can all relate to, the conference hasn’t released any schedule info yet, but Arizona will play at Utah this weekend. Washington has a home match against TBD.
That’s a real “pulling an all nighter” vibe coming from the Pac-12, but I can’t tell if they were always planning on turning in the schedule the day before it was due or just forgot that they enrolled in volleyball until now.
2019 Sweet Sixteen participants: Hawaii, Cincinnati (Elite 8)
The Cincinnati Bearcats, after disposing “we should have been a top-four seed!” Pittsburgh in the Round of 32 en route to the AAC’s best showing ever in the tournament, is picked to finish behind UCF in the AAC Coach’s Poll for the second straight year.
Poor Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors are routinely a seeded team in the NCAA tournament and have one of the highest average attendances. But this season, their conference home of the Big West cancelled fall sports, including women’s volleyball. Plus, their football stadium is closing for the foreseeable future. So if you’re a Hawaii fan... what are the road games you’re excited to go to? “Time to take a five hour flight to San Diego. Weather will probably be about the same.”