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Showing posts from December, 2011

NCAA Women's Final Four Wrap-Up

Illinois entered this past weekend's NCAA Women's Final Four with an interesting proposition. To win the national championship, the Fighting Illini would most likely have to win the championship of Los Angeles. USC stood as the opponent in Thursday's semi-finals, with UCLA up next in Saturday's finals provided the Bruins could handle Florida State (which UCLA did, via sweep).

The Illini passed its first test, besting USC in a five-game classic. On the final point of the Illinois-USC match, shown here on YouTube, the ball crossed the net 20 times, before the Trojans hit it out to give the Illini a 15-10 win in the closing set.

Unfortunately for Illinois, its difficulty in putting the ball away on the final point vs. USC foreshadowed troubles it would have doing so two nights later against UCLA. The Bruins had the upper hand for most of the championship match and won in four, 25-23, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16.

Thanks to a pair of Illini spurts -- outscoring UCLA 12-3 to take G…

NCAA Women's Regional Round-Up & Final Four Preview

This year's tournament has to be right up there for the volume of upsets, near-upsets, and all-around strangeness. UCLA appeared to be floundering towards the end of the regular season, losing three of its last five matches. Florida State, playing in the relatively low-profile Atlantic Coast Conference, certainly didn't seem like Final Four caliber during the season. Yet, the Bruins and Seminoles will be playing each other this upcoming Thursday night in one national semi-final.

The other national semi will feature two teams that each looked dominant for most of the season, but also had some unexpected losses, USC and Illinois. The mighty Big 10 conference, which had six of its member teams advance to the Sweet 16 round, ended Friday night's regional semi-finals with the minimum number of surviving teams it could have, one (because Illinois played Ohio State and someone had to win!).

In the remainder of this entry, I summarize developments in the four regions and discuss …

Round-Up of NCAA Women's Tourney Opening Weekend

The headlines from the first weekend of this year's NCAA Division I women's volleyball tournament would have to be upsets, in general, and the poor showing of the Pac 12 conference, in particular. In the following chart, I summarize the performances of teams from the three major conferences (Big 10, Big 12, and Pac 12), other seeded teams, and any other teams that advanced to next weekend's Sweet 16. You may click on the graphic to enlarge it.


The highest-seeded upset victim was No. 2 Nebraska, which fell at home in Lincoln to former conference rival Kansas State in five games, 25-22, 22-25, 31-29, 22-25, 15-11, in the second round. The Cornhuskers' downfall appeared to be on defense. Offensively, Nebraska hit exactly at its regular-season percentage (.262) against the Wildcats. However, whereas the Huskers held their regular-season opponents to a collective .143 hitting percentage, K-State hit nearly .100 better, registering a .241 evening (box score). The Huskers sti…