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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, May 25, 2024
Wisconsin Volleyball vs Illinois

Badgers' road to the Championship

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — time to dance.

The NCAA announced the women’s volleyball tournament bracket Sunday, giving the Wisconsin Badgers the No. 3 overall seed and a No. 1 seed alongside not-so-friendly faces Nebraska, Stanford and Pittsburgh. 

Going into Selection Sunday ranked No. 5 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings, the Badgers dominant sweep Friday of the undefeated Nebraska Cornhuskers moved them into the top four, bumping Pitt out of the third spot and Texas out of the top four. 

While the Badgers are coming into the tournament on a high, they have a long and turbulent road ahead in their pursuit for another championship ring. 

As a top seed, Wisconsin gets a home court advantage for the first two rounds and will host the Jackson State Tigers at the UW Field House this Thursday. If they beat the Tigers, the Badgers will move on to play either the Miami Hurricanes or Northern Iowa Panthers on Friday. Having swept the Hurricanes in September, the Badgers should feel confident in their third round prospects. 

Some familiar Big Ten competitors lurk later in the bracket, namely No. 3 seeded Purdue and No. 5 seeded Penn State, both of which upset the Badgers in back-to-back away games in November. 

Out-of-conference teams like Kansas and overall No. 6 ranked Oregon, who beat No. 4 Pitt in a five-set thriller in September, will also put their names in the hat in earlier rounds. If the Badgers are able to push through these trials, they’ll find themselves in the Final Four. 

Wisconsin sits opposite the Stanford Cardinal in the official bracket, meaning the two teams will meet in the Final Four if they compete against each other during the tournament. The teams have a storied history, but the Cardinal most recently had the last laugh when they swept the Badgers in the 2019 National Championship. 

A rematch gives Wisconsin a chance for redemption — that is, if the Cardinal stay consistent while facing battle-tested competitors like Texas, Tennessee and BYU. 

On the other half of the bracket are top-ranked teams Louisville, Kentucky and Arkansas, but they sit behind giants Nebraska and Pittsburgh, both of which have handed the Badgers some of their most devastating losses in recent history. 

Wisconsin and Pitt faced off in the Elite Eight in 2022. Despite being ranked second to the Badgers, the Panthers pulled off a five-set upset and eliminated Wisconsin from the tournament. The two have yet to play each other again since but have developed a rivalry of sorts. 

Then, of course, there’s Nebraska. 

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The Huskers and the Badgers have been in a tug-of-war this season, fighting for undefeated records and No. 1 rankings since September. A third matchup, if it comes to fruition, would solidify which team claims Big Ten dominance this year. 

If the Badgers can make it through these trials and tribulations, they’ll be victorious on Dec. 17th. But the dance is long, and only time will tell. While we can hope and guess, the tournament is anything but predictable, and that’s the beauty of it.

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