The Minnesota Gophers volleyball team did enough in the insanely tough night in and night out Big Ten...and the NCAA rewarded them with the #12 national seed when the NCAA Volleyball Tournament Bracket was announced Sunday night. They did not give them any gifts in the rest of the teams headed to Minneapolis however. The Gophers will host Summit League Champions South Dakota led by Lakeville native Elizabeth Juhnke at the Pav at 7PM Friday night while Stanford and Iowa State play the early match at 5430. The two winners will face off Saturday night for the chance to advance to the Sweet 16.
The Gophers ended the season with a pair of wins at Penn State and Maryland to close out the Big Ten season. Minnesota finished 15-5 in the Big Ten this season, good enough for a three-way tie for third place with Ohio State and Purdue. Wisconsin won their third consecutive Big Ten Championship at 17-3, and Nebraska was one game back at 16-4. All five of those teams got rewarded with Top 16 national seeds as the Badgers are the #4 seed, Purdue #6, Ohio State #9, Nebraska #10, and the Gophers #12.
Assuming all the seeded team advance Minnesota would face #5 seed Baylor in the Round of 16 in Madison with the winner facing the winner of #4 Wisconsin and #13 UCLA for a trip to the Final Four in Columbus, Ohio.
Minnesota will have no easy time making it out of the Pav however. Their opening opponent South Dakota finished the season with a 20-9 record winning the Summit League with a 15-3 conference record. They then won the conference tournament to get the conference’s auto bid. Minnesota should in theory not have too much problem with the Coyotes, but you can be sure they will be ready to try and pull off the upset.
The other two teams in Minneapolis will be familiar foes for the Gophers. Minnesota defeated both Stanford and Iowa State earlier this season. The Gophers knocked off the Cardinal 3-1 out in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Eugene, Oregon in September, and the following week Minnesota cruised to a 3-0 sweep of the Cyclones in the Diet Coke Classic at the Pav.
We will have more on the Minneapolis regional later this week.