Nov. 30, 2011
Eight Teams Selected to NCAA Championship: The Big Ten will be well-represented at the 2011 NCAA Volleyball Championship, as eight conference teams were selected to the tournament's field of 64 for the second consecutive season. The eight chosen squads ties a conference record and gives the Big Ten the most tournament teams of any conference in the country. Big Ten Champion Nebraska enters the tournament as the No. 2 overall seed, while No. 3 Illinois, No. 5 Purdue, No. 8 Penn State and No. 13 Minnesota earned top-16 seeds. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State also received bids to round out the Big Ten contingent in the tournament.
Nebraska Clinches Big Ten Title: With its 3-0 win over Iowa last Tuesday, Nebraska clinched its first Big Ten Championship outright. The second-ranked Huskers earned their 17th conference win of the season en route to the university's first Big Ten title as a member of the conference. With the championship, Nebraska also earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
Awards Season: The Big Ten announced its All-Conference teams and individual award winners, with Purdue's Ariel Turner earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Penn State's Katie Slay reeled in Defensive Player of the Year laurels, while Penn State's Micha Hancock was named Freshman of the Year and Purdue's Dave Shondell was tabbed Coach of the Year by the conference's coaches and media. The complete list of All-Big Ten honorees and individual award winners can be found on the following page.
Big Ten in the NCAA Championship: Penn State enters the 2011 NCAA Championship looking to earn its fifth consecutive national title after emerging victorious in each of the past four seasons. Overall, the Big Ten boasts eight national championship teams in Penn State (1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) and Nebraska (1995, 2000, 2006). The Big Ten sends eight squads to this year's national tournament, tying a conference record. The conference has sent eight teams three other times - in 1999, 2002 and 2010.
NCAA Championship TV Coverage: BTN will either broadcast or stream several first- and second-round matches this weekend. Illinois-Central Michigan, Minnesota-North Dakota State, Penn State-Liberty and Purdue-Morehead State can be seen on BTN2GO. Either Illinois' or Purdue's second-round match will be shown live on BTN. If Illinois wins, its match will be shown, but if Illinois loses and Purdue wins, Purdue's will be shown. Nebraska's first- and second-round matches can be seen on NET in Nebraska.
The Week That Was: Four teams put together back-to-back wins to close out the regular season last week, as Illinois, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue each extended their win streaks entering the NCAA Championship. The Fighting Illini defeated Northwestern (3-0) and Iowa (3-1), while the Gophers swept Wisconsin and Indiana. The Nittany Lions took four-set wins over Ohio State and Michigan State, while Purdue defeated Indiana (3-1) and Wisconsin (3-0).
The Ratings Are In: Eight Big Ten teams hold top-50 rankings in the final national RPI of the regular season, with five teams landing in the top 12 to lead all conferences. Illinois continues its reign atop the rankings, holding the No. 1 spot for the seventh time in as many weeks. Nebraska checks in at No. 4, followed by No. 6 Purdue, No. 11 Penn State and No. 12 Minnesota. Michigan holds No. 23, while Michigan State ranks 37th and Ohio State stands at No. 48.
Where We Rank: Six Big Ten volleyball teams appear in the top 25 in the final regular season AVCA Division I Coaches Poll. Nebraska leads the way for the conference contingent at No. 2, while a trio of conference teams joins the Huskers in the top 10. Illinois checks in at No. 7, while Purdue remains at No. 8 and Penn State jumps to No. 9, tying the Big Ten with the Pac-12 for the most top-10 teams in the country. Minnesota again stands at No. 19, while Michigan moves up one spot to No. 22. Michigan State and Ohio State are receiving votes in the poll.
Home Sweet Home: Big Ten volleyball teams continue to attract fans by the thousands, as seven conference teams finished the regular season ranked in the national top 20 in average attendance. Nebraska, which currently holds the longest active home winning streak in the nation at 36 matches, ranks second in attendance with 4,572 fans per match. Minnesota ranks third nationally with 3,991 fans per match, followed by Wisconsin in fourth (3,791), Penn State in fifth (3,301), Illinois in 10th (2,527), Purdue in 11th (2,418) and Michigan State in 18th (2,102).
Statistically Speaking: The Big Ten boasts top-10 performers in nearly every major NCAA statistical category. Penn State's Micha Hancock leads the country in aces per set (0.82), while Purdue's Ariel Turner is fouth nationally in points per set (5.44) and fifth in kills per set (4.83). Minnesota's Mia Tabberson is sixth in assists per set (11.94), while Penn State's Katie Slay is 10th in blocks per set (1.44).
Three's Company: Illinois, Nebraska and Penn State have each earned a No. 1 national ranking this season, marking the first time this season and just the third time since 1982 that a conference has had three different top-ranked teams in one season. The Pac-12 also boasts three top-ranked squads this season, as California, UCLA and current No. 1 USC have topped the poll in 2011. The Pac-10 accomplished the feat in 2004 with Stanford, USC and Washington, while the WCAA did the same in 1984 with Stanford, UCLA and USC.