2022 NCAA Volleyball Tournament Bracket Breakdown and Preview

2022 NCAA Volleyball Tournament Bracket Breakdown and Preview

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  • December 2, 2022
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Texas is seeking its first collegiate volleyball championship since 2012, and if the Longhorns are to win it all, they will do so as the No. 1 overall pick in the NCAA tournament.

Two other 1-seeds, Stanford and defending champion Wisconsin, have combined to win four of the last six NCAA titles.

Fourth No. 1 Louisville reached the national semifinals for the first time in program history last year and could make history as the first ACC team to win it all, but the Cardinals may have to go through second-placed Nebraska, and that wouldn’t be an easy feat.

With the return of this year’s Final Four (December 15-17) to CHI Health Center in Omaha, the Huskers are seeking their sixth national title and first in their home state since 2015.

Meanwhile, San Diego is 27-1 and haven’t lost since falling to Louisville in early September, but if the Toreros, a No. 2 seed, want to continue shocking the world, they could face the 2020 champions, Kentucky, must compete in the semifinals and nine-time champion Stanford in the regional finals.

Ahead of Regionals on Thursday, we asked our analysts to break down the standings – which teams have the toughest road to Omaha and what are their predictions for the first weekend of the tournament?

Which team surprised you the most?

Holly McPeak: When I went on the selection show, I figured either Stanford or San Diego would be in 4th place, so it’s not surprising that they would have to go head-to-head to make the national semifinals. I found it a surprise that Nebraska was seeded ahead of a strong Minnesota team that just beat the Huskers and has a better RPI, but the committee told me that while Nebraska agreed the Gophers have been the hot team lately , but had a great body for the rest of the season with no nasty losses to unranked teams.

Courtney Lyle: My biggest surprise was no seed; It was the fact that the SEC had the most teams in the tournament. Seven teams are dancing, the most since the SEC had eight in 2013. We’ve seen conferences like the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, which have long been at the forefront of the volleyball world. I think that’s a great sign that the sport is growing across the country.

Jennifer Hoffman: I agree with Courtney here. Not that rankings are any indication of the strength of the conference, but only two of the seven SEC teams are in the top 25, and losses along the way for some teams should have left some of their free bids in the top four out-lists.

MA Voepel: The NCAA tournament bubble can be murky in all sports, but it often seems really murky in volleyball. As Courtney and Jennifer said, seven meant the SEC included teams like Tennessee and Auburn. The league might have expected to get one (Auburn), but not both. Overall, though, there haven’t been many odd-looking decisions, especially compared to some years past.

Sam Gore: This is actually the first NCAA tournament that hasn’t left me with a big question. The committee has done a thorough job and any initial skepticism about anything was met head on and explained by committee chair Pauline Theros. If I had to be picky, I was a little surprised Georgia Tech wasn’t a 4-seed.

Paul Sunderland: Overall, I wasn’t surprised at all by the placement. The committee has been widely criticized for years… but not this year. However, San Diego earned and earned a #1 seed. The toreros would still have to contend with Stanford, but they earned fourth overall and the benefit of hosting.

Which of the top four seeds has the toughest road to Omaha?

McPeak: With Minnesota being the hottest team right now, I have a feeling Texas’ path will be challenging. Texas is one of the most physical teams in the country, and Minnesota can rival the Longhorns in certain areas. Texas has special team chemistry this year with all of their new players, and the Longhorns, led by Logan Eggleston, are on a mission to win it all.

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Lyle: Texas has the hardest road to Omaha. The Longhorns could face Ohio State or Minnesota in the Super Regionals. The Golden Gophers are one of the hottest teams in the tournament, having won 11 of their last 13 games. Taylor Landfair is averaging more than 4.0 kills per set and she’s used to fighting a big block in the Big Ten.

Hoffman: I don’t see any top 4 seeds that have an easy path to Omaha. I have a feeling the tournament field had some fans who questioned the committee, but overall, given the way the field is laid out, the teams that make it to Omaha certainly deserve it.

Voepel: The Longhorns might end up having the toughest Elite Eight match, but before that they might not have too many problems. So down the road to Omaha, there could still be a few potential potholes for Louisville, who might need to get past Purdue, Baylor and Nebraska to make the last four. Overall, each regional final can feel like a national championship game in terms of game quality.

Gore: While I think Texas is the best overall team in the field, their road to the national semifinals is fraught with potential obstacles. Georgia Tech can be really good when it gains momentum and Julia Bergmann can take over a match. Ohio State and USC are also teeming with talent. However, Minnesota poses the biggest challenge before the quarterfinals begin in Texas. The Gophers finished strong in the Big Ten, and I’ve always felt that the caliber of Big Ten teams’ competition is a positive intangible in NCAA tournament play. Since this is also the last season of Hugh McCutcheon, there is also an emotional component involved. Make no doubt Texas can see through its quarter, but it will be a well-deserved, hard-fought effort.

Sunderland: Texas. Julia Bergmann and Georgia Tech await down the road, and Minnesota are healthy, hot (7-1 in the last eight) and have Taylor Landfair rolling.

Which low-seeded or unseeded team has the best chance of making a deep run in the tournament?

Auburn freshman Akasha Anderson leads the Tigers in kills en route to the NCAA tournament. Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics

McPeak: That’s a tough question. USC has the potential to upset someone because the Trojans are keeping up well, but they’re struggling with some serious injuries. Washington is a high-level team with tons of NCAA experience and could go on a long run if they catch fire.

Lyle: I’m excited to see what Auburn can do. The Tigers went into the season looking to gain experience and expand on the various weapons they have. Now in the NCAA tournament for the second time, Auburn is dancing without losing a thing. That makes a dangerous team.

Hoffman: Auburn is young and plays fearlessly. The Tigers have had ups and downs throughout the season, but it never seemed to affect them. Akasha Anderson and Kendal Kemp are forces to be reckoned with and Auburn is capable of surprising this tournament.

Voepel: 7th-seeded BYU had just one “tough” loss — 3-2 at Pacific in October — and could have a second-round rematch with 2nd-ranked Pitt. The Cougars lost 3-1 to Pitt on Sept. 3 in Provo, Utah and could look forward to another shot at the Panthers.

Gore: I will choose Kansas or UNLV. Both teams are underrated and have the pieces to pull off some upsets.

Sunderland: BYU and USC are both executable. The Cougars are now healthy with the return of setter Whitney Bower. For the Trojans, Texas transfer Skylar Fields and top setter Mia Tuaniga can wear them. Setters make all the difference, especially at this time of year.

Who is the must-watch player of the tournament?

McPeak: I think there are so many special players that it’s difficult to pick one. Madi Skinner has emerged as one of the best six-rotation left forwards in the country, and her counterpart Logan Eggleston is a four-time single-mission All-American. Minnesota’s Taylor Landfair is a dynamic attacker who can also take over a match.

Lyle: Logan Eggleston from Texas has accomplished pretty much everything except win a national championship. Her teammates want to win him over – that tells you what kind of person she is. Eggleston is a TV must-see for her powerful swings, mean serves and sheer drive.

Hoffman: I don’t hear enough about Brooke Nuneville from Oregon. She’s exciting to watch, but does it defensively too and can be a spark for the Ducks.

Voepel: If you love the big hitters, you’ll enjoy watching 6-foot-5 alongside Stanford’s Kendall Kipp. She was a freshman on the 2019 Cardinal national championship team when Kathryn Plummer was Stanford’s star. Kipp is averaging 4.31 kills per set and was just named Pac-12 Player of the Year. She is the 13th Cardinal player to win the conference’s top honor and the first since Plummer won it back-to-back in 2017-2018.

Gore: There are two players to watch who provide instant highlights for fans every game: Texas’ Logan Eggleston and Georgia Tech’s Julia Bergmann.

Sunderland: There are so many players to watch, but let’s start with Wisconsin’s Devyn Robinson. It’s explosive and can be unstoppable – just ask the states of Nebraska and Ohio. Next up is Claire Chaussee from Louisville. She is this year’s Jordan Larson Award winner for the nation’s top all-around player. (Okay, what if I made that up?) After all, Rice setter Carly Graham is one of a kind and led the Owls to a win over San Diego in last year’s tournament.

Which teams will make the Final Four?

Hoffman: Minnesota, San Diego, Wisconsin and Louisville. December is the best time of the year. Let the games begin.

Voepel: Texas, San Diego, Wisconsin, Louisville. But if Nebraska, Creighton, or both make it, the energy in the building will go through the roof.

Gore: The four who win all their matches! Sorry I couldn’t resist! I’m happy to say that this year’s NCAA tournament is full of potential upsets, so let’s enjoy how it all plays out.

Sunderland: Let’s get down to business. Wisconsin is playing at an incredible level and Louisville is getting healthier by the day as Anna Debeer returns. I vote Stanford a hair’s breadth over San Diego (which is the real deal). Lastly, not to be boring, but Minnesota over Stanford. It’s a stretch, but Minnesota is Texas’ kryptonite based on style.

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