Big Ten Leads Nation With Seven Teams Tabbed For 2003 NCAA Championship
Nov. 30, 2003
Park Ridge, IL - Seven Big Ten volleyball programs, more than any other Conference in the country, have been selected to compete in the 2003 NCAA Championship, it was announced today. It marks the second-highest number of NCAA postseason participants in League history, behind the record total of eight, set in 1999 and 2002. Big Ten champion Penn State earned the Conference's automatic berth, while Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Wisconsin all earned at-large invitations. Big Ten teams will be competing against the 64-team field for a trip to the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas, site of the 2003 National Semifinal and Championship matches.
Postseason play will get underway on Thursday, December 4, however all seven Big Ten teams will tip off their NCAA matches beginning Friday, December 5. Three Conference programs were awarded top-16 seeds for the event and were among the four League teams selected to host first and second-round action. Penn State (28-4, 17-3 Big Ten) was tabbed as the No. 11 seed and will play Robert Morris in State College, Pa., on Friday. The Nittany Lions are one of just four programs, along with UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and Stanford, to have earned a berth in all 23 NCAA Volleyball Tournaments. Penn State reached the National Championship match in three consecutive Tournaments, from 1997-1999, and captured the Big Ten's only national title in 1999.
Minnesota (22-10, 15-5 Big Ten), the No. 13 seed, will take the floor on Friday in Minneapolis against Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Golden Gophers are making their fifth-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Championship and have advanced to the Regional Semifinals in three of the last four seasons.
Fifteenth-seeded Illinois (24-6, 15-5 Big Ten) will return to the NCAA Championship after a one-year absence with a match against Murray State in Champaign on Friday. The Fighting Illini are appearing in the Tournament for the sixth time in 10 years.
Michigan State (19-11, 11-9 Big Ten) will host First and Second-round play in East Lansing, squaring off against Dayton in Friday's opening round. Ninth-seeded Nebraska and Valparaiso will also compete in MSU's facility. The Spartans have taken part in 10 straight NCAA Championships and reached the Regional Semifinals last season before falling to eventual National Champion USC.
Wisconsin (21-10, 13-7 Big Ten) will travel to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, to line up against Arizona in the first round. The Badgers were the most recent Big Ten program to appear in the National Championship match, having reached the final against Nebraska in 2000. Wisconsin has appeared in the NCAA Tournament each year since 1996, posting a 16-7 mark (69.6 pct.) over that span.
Michigan and Northwestern will travel the farthest to begin their postseason quests. The Wolverines (20-11, 12-8 Big Ten) face Colorado in the opening round in Berkeley, Calif. With its first-ever postseason appearance coming in 1997, the Maize and Blue have now been selected to play in the NCAA Championship five times in the last seven seasons.
After not making a postseason appearance from 1984-2001, Northwestern (18-14, 9-11 Big Ten) will be taking part in its second-consecutive NCAA Championship. The Wildcats earned berths in each Tournament from 1981 to 1984 before returning to NCAA action last year. Northwestern will be taking on Washington, the No. 12 seed, on the Huskies' home floor in Seattle on Friday.
Teams winning both matches will move on to regional play on December 12 and 13. For the first time, there are pre-determined regional sites (Gainesville, Fla.; Lincoln, Neb.; Long Beach, Calif. and Honolulu, Hawaii). The regional winners will advance to the semifinals and final hosted by the Big 12 Conference and the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau in Dallas, Texas on December 18 and 20.