The 64 teams that made the tournament field for the NCAA DI women's volleyball tournament were announced on Sunday, Dec. 1.
It is pretty much impossible to get a bracket projection correct, especially with this large of a field. But why not give it a go, right?
Here is my bracket prediction:
First up, the top left bracket quadrant.
In this section, the No. 1 seed Baylor will host, as well as No. 16 Purdue, No. 9 Kentucky and No. 8 Washington. I project that Baylor and USC will face each other in the second round, but that Yossiana Pressley will be able to take over the entire match on her own, if needed, and take down Khalia Lanier and the Trojans. I think Marquette will make it to the third round, but not have enough to overcome the Bears, who will be in a hungry pursuit of the title.
On the bottom half, Michigan and Colorado State are my projected upsets. I have Colorado State taking down Washington in what would be a huge upset for them and continuation of their record-breaking season, but then Michigan taking them down to move on and give Baylor a good test in the quarterfinals.
If I had to pick my top four teams I think would make it to the national semifinals, I wouldn't necessarily think that Baylor would be one of them. But, due to their No. 1 seeding, I think they are more likely to make it out of this quadrant of the bracket.
Moving on to the bottom left bracket:
In the bottom left side of the bracket, we’ve got fifth seed Nebraska, last year’s runner-up, No. 12 seed Hawaii hosting, 13th seed Texas A&M and No. 4 Wisconsin.
I pick Washington State to upset both San Diego and Hawai'i. This team is coming off of a huge win over Washington, the second time beating them this season. But, I think this run will be cut off once they match up against Nebraska, a team with a whole lot of tournament experience.
UCLA could put up a good fight against Wisconsin, but I project that it will be Rice and Wisconsin facing off in the third round, and the Badgers moving on.
That brings us to a THIRD rematch between the Huskers and the Badgers. In both matchups this season, Wisconsin swept the Huskers. So surely, they wouldn't be able to do that a third time, right? Well I think they can. I pick the Badgers to move on to the final four teams.
Next, the top right bracket:
Stanford is defending its national title and Kathryn Plummer is back and playing phenomenal. I project that they will easily make it through the first and second rounds. To face them, I can see a BYU-Utah rematch happening. Earlier in the season, BYU defeated the Utes, but this time around, I think Dani Drews and Utah will pull off the upset and move on to face Stanford.
When it comes to that matchup though, I think the Cardinal are just too experienced in the tournament to be upset here, with a senior class that has two national championships.
In the bottom half of this quadrant, we've got Penn State and Pittsburgh. A lot of Pittsburgh fans are disappointed in the Panthers No. 6 seeding, considering they have only lost one match this season and beat Penn State, a top-10 team at the time. They are in pursuit of a magical season that would wind its way to the finals in Pittsburgh, about a mile and a half from campus. I project, though, that the Panthers will fall just short to the Nittany Lions, and miss out on the semifinals, similar to what happened to Minnesota last season when the championship was in Minneapolis.
Penn State has been playing really well toward the end of the season with a big win over Wisconsin, and also have a lot of tournament experience. But, I think the Cardinal will pull through and take down the Nittany Lions by a small margin.
Lastly, the bottom right bracket:
This quadrant of the bracket has Minnesota and Texas, two really strong teams.
I think Minnesota is going to coast past Creighton, and then handle Florida with their starting setter back in the lineup.
On the bottom half, Western Kentucky has only lost one match this season. I think they will make a good postseason run, and exact revenge on Louisville, their only loss on the season.
Then I think Texas will glide through this bracket, and take down UCSB and Western Kentucky in their tracks. And if they're at their best, they will beat Minnesota too. They just have too many threats at every single position. Their blockers are crazy good, and their hitters are executing from all six rotations. When they took down Baylor earlier in the season, they were at their best. If they play like that, no one is stopping them.
The semifinalists and national champion:
The final four consists of Texas, Stanford, Baylor and Wisconsin. You may think this is chalk or boring, but when looking at every matchup, this is who I think will make it out alive. Plus, we are talking about a sport that only has 10 national champions here, and in the past two years, there were three top four seeds in the final four. This year, I predict these top four seeds will make the final four.
Here is where it gets interesting. Baylor vs Texas. Well if you ask me, I think it's easy this time around. Baylor has Pressley, but lack in supporting characters. Wisconsin…. does not. Baylor may have beaten the Badgers earlier in the season, but that was a lonnnnnng time ago.
Then there is Stanford vs Texas. The tournament has seen this matchup before, but I say Texas wins it, with an unbelievable offense to put the Cardinal and Plummer on the defense.
My championship match will see Texas vs Wisconsin. I predicted this pretty early in the season, and I am sticking with it. Wisconsin wins it all. A team that may have six losses, but a lot of heart.