Six Big Ten women’s volleyball teams advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament and all six played Friday night. Both Penn State and Nebraska swept their opponents to advance to Saturday’s round while Minnesota and Michigan moved on by defeating Big Ten foes Purdue and Michigan State , respectively.
Seven Big Ten teams are headed to the postseason, tied for the most of any conference in the country. Three teams will host first and second round play this weekend including the number one overall seed, the Penn State Nittany Lions. It has been a grueling schedule for every conference team and now we get a chance to see if the parity of the Big Ten has prepared these squads to make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.
With the Big Ten Title reclaimed by Penn State this past weekend what remains to be decided in the regular season’s final week is whether or not an eighth Big Ten team is headed to the postseason and which conference members will be hosting the first two rounds of the tournament.
There is little doubt that the Big Ten has the most passionate and largest fan bases of any conference in the nation. Six of the top ten teams nationally in average attendance this season reside in the Big Ten, including four of the top five. Nebraska has the most dedicated fan base in the country with 175 consecutive sell outs of the NU Coliseum, the longest sell-out streak of any women’s collegiate sport.
The Purdue women’s volleyball team gets a five set win on the road over Illinois, 3-2 (26-24, 20-25,21-25,25-20,15-9).
The difference 48 hours can make is striking. Late Friday night, Nebraska’s Big Ten Title chances seemed distant and the message boards were offering scenario after unlikely scenario for why the No. 4 Huskers had fallen to No. 20 Ohio State in four sets. On Alumni Night in front of more than 60 former Husker players, Nebraska saw their 39-match regular season home winning streak come to an end in part because of a tentative effort by the home team and a season-defining display by the visitors.