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Wisconsin vs. BYU: NCAA Tournament how to watch, game preview and open thread

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The Badgers battle the Cougars in the Sweet 16 on Saturday night!

Mark Kuhlmann/NCAA Photos

The No. 1-seeded Wisconsin Badgers (16-0 overall) volleyball team are in the Sweet 16 for the eighth straight season (and 18th overall) and will take on the No. 16-seeded BYU Cougars (17-1 overall) on Saturday night. Wisconsin opened the NCAA tournament with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-15) sweep of Weber State in the second round on Thursday while the Cougars similarly swept UCLA.

If you’re curious as to why this is the only Sweet 16 matchup taking place on Saturday, BYU has a long standing tradition of not competing in any sports on Sundays.

The Cougars came into the tournament after winning the West Coast Conference title for the seventh time since 2011. As a team, BYU is hitting .309, putting away 14.5 kills per set. Defensively, BYU is averaging 2.5 blocks per set and 15.7 digs per set.

Senior Kennedy Eschenberg, a 6-foot-5 middle blocker, leads the team with .456 hitting percentage and 1.59 blocks per set. For the third straight year, she was named WCC Defensive Player of the Year. Whitney Bower, a 5-foot-9 sophomore setter, was named this year’s WCC Setter and Player of the Year, with 10.90 assists per set.

How to watch/listen

TV: no TV tonight

Streaming: ESPN3, 7 p.m. CT,

Radio/Satellite: 1310 AM, Jon Arias

Live stats: Here!

Arena: CHI Health Center Convention Center, Omaha, Neb.

Fun facts (according to the media guides)

  • BYU and Wisconsin have split the four matches played between the two programs since 1990. The two teams met in the second round of the 1999 NCAA Tournament, with the Cougars winning the match 3-1 to advance to the Regional Semifinal. The Badgers came away the victors of a five-set thriller in the most recent matchup played in 2008.
  • Wisconsin hit .408 against Weber State on Thursday, its third time this season over .400.
  • Senior Dana Rettke ranks second in the Big Ten and No. 6 nationally with a hitting percentage of .459.
  • The Badgers used a balanced scoring attack, with five players putting away seven-or-more kills, and 11 team blocks to advance to the Sweet 16.
  • Redshirt junior Danielle Hart recorded a season-high nine blocks against the Wildcats to up her season average to 0.96 blocks per set. Freshman Devyn Robinson stopped a career-high five blocks, averaging 0.93 blocks per set on the year.
  • With her final dig in the second set against Weber State on Thursday, senior Lauren Barnes picked up career dig No. 1,000. The 5-foot-6 libero finished with a match-high 19 digs to bring her career total to 1,002, including 490 digs at Wisconsin. Barnes has recorded 10-or-more digs in five straight matches.
  • UW also ranks third nationally in hitting percentage, 12th in kills per set, 13th in blocks per set (2.63), 15th in opponent hitting percentage, 20th in aces per set and 21st in assists per set (12.96).
  • Sophomore Izzy Ashburn leads the Badgers and ranks second in the Big Ten with 0.49 service aces per set.
  • For BYU, senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon averages a team-best 3.92 kills per set.
  • A 5-foot freshman libero, Madi Allen, leads the team with 4.18 digs per set.
  • The Cougars are in the midst of their ninth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance (33rd overall NCAA Tournament appearance), including the seventh time in those nine appearances that BYU has been seeded. The Cougars have also reached the Sweet 16 in eight of the last nine years.
  • BYU is ranked in the top 10 nationally in three major statistical categories: No. 4 in assists per set (13.60), No. 5 in hitting percentage (.309) and No. 6 in kills per set (14.47).