Wisconsin (16-4 Big Ten, 24-6 overall) will make its third-straight NCAA tournament appearance as the No. 6 seeded Badgers take on Oregon (10-10 Pac-12, 16-13 overall) in first-round action Thursday night at the UW Field House.
“We’re excited about playing, we’re excited about hosting,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said in a Monday press conference. “We’re hoping that we can pack the Field House this weekend, and should be some great volleyball.”
Iowa State (11-5 Big 12, 18-10 overall) will face Miami (Fla.) (14-6 ACC, 21-9 overall) prior to UW’s match with Oregon. Thursday’s winners will advance to the second-round match Friday.
UW’s tournament draw is very different than other brackets because usually higher seeded teams such as UW would not face Power-Five conference teams like Oregon in the first round. The Badgers are up to the challenge and are excited to face a competitive team at the start of the tournament.
“It’s challenging,” Sheffield said. “There are a lot of people that go around and they whine about their situation. Usually, they are not very successful in what they’re doing. We talk about having a mindset of ‘bring it!’ That’s kind of where our kids are at right now. They recognize it’s a different type of first-round match-up than what you would probably anticipate, but I think right away it was, ‘all right, bring it!’”
Not only is Oregon a talented team, but the Ducks play with a different style than most other teams. Many of their coaches also have Final Four experience.
“They overload half the court an awful lot, and they will do it with three hitters, and half of the court may be the half where the setter is,” Sheffield said. “You know they’re going to give you a lot of different looks, you know that they’re well-coached.”
“The other three coaches that are coming here, head coaches, all three of them have experience in the regional final or the Final Four either as a head coach or assistant coach, so they’re experienced coaches.”
UW comes into the tournament with a 12-game winning streak and is playing great volleyball, but Sheffield believes the Badgers can take their game to an even higher level in the tournament.
“I hope we haven’t peaked, but I don’t think so,” Sheffield said. “Purdue might have been the strongest match that we played this year. We probably could have said that a week earlier, maybe a week before that. I think what we’re starting to get is more than just one or two people on their game. Where we’re starting to be — there is quite a few people that are playing well every night.”
The tournament begins with Iowa State facing Miami (Fla.) at 5 p.m. followed by UW’s match against Oregon at 7:30 p.m.
UWBadgers.com contributed to this report.