Dec. 6, 2012
Six Big Ten Teams Continue Tournament Run: Big Ten teams are set to compete in NCAA Championship regionals this weekend, with six squads advancing to the tournament's Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season. The six regional qualifying teams also marks the most of any conference. Michigan squares off against Michigan State in the Berkeley Regional, while No. 4 seed Nebraska plays No. 13 Washington in the Omaha Regional. The West Lafayette Regional feature three conference teams, as No. 1 Penn State takes on No. 16 Kentucky, and No. 8 Minnesota plays Purdue. The regional semifinals are scheduled for Friday, with the finals following on Saturday. All four Big Ten regional semifinal contests will be streamed live on ESPN3.com, while the regional finals can be seen live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com.
Opening Rounds By The Numbers: Big Ten teams have compiled a 13-1 record through the first two rounds of the NCAA Championship. Five teams swept their way into the second round, while the other two won in five sets. Six squads then won their second-round contests, giving the Big Ten the most Sweet 16 teams of any conference.
B1G Wins over Top Seeds: Four seeded-teams have suffered setbacks in the NCAA Championship, with the Big Ten knocking off three of the these squads. Michigan State took down defending national champion and No. 7 UCLA in four sets, Purdue defeated No. 9 Florida State in five sets, and Michigan eliminated No. 10 Louisville, 3-1.
Recapping Rounds 1 & 2: Michigan earned a five-set win over Tennessee before taking down 10th-seeded Louisville, 3-1. Michigan State defeated San Diego in five sets and eliminated defending national champion and No. 7 UCLA in four sets. No. 8 Minnesota swept Liberty and defeated Creighton, 3-1. No. 4 Nebraska swept Maryland Eastern-Shore and Northern Iowa, while Ohio State swept Notre Dame but fell to No. 16 Kentucky, 3-1. No. 1 Penn State swept Binghamton and Bowling Green, and Purdue defeated Colorado State, 3-0, and No. 9 Florida State, 3-2, en route to the Sweet 16.
Big Ten Claims AVCA Regional Honors: Big Ten volleyball standouts collected numerous AVCA Division I Regional Awards on Tuesday, with 21 players earning All-Region honors. Penn State head coach Russ Rose was named the Mideast Region Coach of the Year, while Penn State newcomer Megan Courtney reeled in Mideast Region Freshman of the Year laurels. Earning All-Mideast Region accolades were Michigan's Jennifer Cross, Michigan State's Lauren Wicinski, Minnesota's Tori Dixon and Katherine Harms, Nebraska's Lauren Cook, Gina Mancuso and Hannah Werth, Northwestern's Stephanie Holthus, Ohio State's Mari Hole, Penn State's Micha Hancock, Deja McClendon, Ariel Scott and Katie Slay and Purdue's Ariel Turner. Additionally, six players received honorable mention status -- Michigan's Lexi Erwin, Michigan State's Kori Moster, Minnesota's Ashley Wittman, Nebraska's Meghan Haggerty, Ohio State's Emily Danks and Penn State's Courtney.
Familiar Faces: Two of the eight regional semifinal tilts will feature Big Ten matchups, as Michigan takes on Michigan State in the Gainesville Regional, and No. 8 Minnesota visits Purdue in the West Lafayette Regional. It will be the 13th and 14th time that two Big Ten teams have met in the NCAA Championship. The West Lafayette Regional final could also feature a Big Ten matchup. With a win on Friday, No. 1 Penn State would face the winner of Minnesota and Purdue.
Big Ten in the NCAA Championship: Penn State enters the 2012 NCAA Championship looking to earn its sixth NCAA crown, and fifth national title in the last six seasons, having won in 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. The Big Ten sent seven squads to this year's national tournament, tying for the lead among all conferences. The Big Ten has sent seven or more teams to the NCAA Championship in three of the last four years.
Awards Season: The Big Ten announced its All-Conference teams and individual award winners following the conclusion of the regular season, 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 Ratings Are In: Eight Big Ten teams held top-40 rankings in the final national RPI of the regular season. Three Big Ten squads have earned spots in the top nine, with No. 2 Penn State leading the way. Nebraska follows at No. 5, while Minnesota checks in at No. 9. Ohio State and Purdue also hold top-30 rankings, as the Buckeyes are 25th and the Boilermakers are 29th. Michigan checks in at No. 31, followed by No. 36 Michigan State and No. 37 Illinois.
Where We Rank: Five Big Ten volleyball teams appeared in the top 25 in the final regular season AVCA Division I Coaches Poll, including No. 1 Penn State. Nebraska checked in at No. 10, while Minnesota moved to No. 11. Ohio State was No. 14 and Purdue was No. 22. Michigan and Michigan State also received votes in the poll.