The 2022 DI women's volleyball postseason is finally here, after one of the craziest regular seasons. There was so much parity this season, and then to make the field even more even than it already would be, the NCAA revised its seeding system for this year. Thirty-two teams are seeded across eight seed lines, instead of just the first 16 teams.
We have a crazy bracket — filling it out was fun, but not easy. I wish I could fill out 10 brackets, but I have to release just one. Here is where I landed:
Top left quadrant:
Let's start off with the top-left portion of the bracket, where No. 1 overall seed Texas is. This quadrant is absolutely loaded — maybe even a little more than you would expect for where the No. 1 team is. Texas, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Marquette and Southern California are all here. These are ALL tough teams. Ohio State for one had the potential to win the Big Ten title had they not gone on a four-game losing streak to end the season. They lost back-to-back to Maryland and Indiana before losing back-to-back again to Wisconsin and Minnesota. They looked really off and like an entirely different team than from their mid-season form.
Minnesota on the other hand has been on a TEAR. They had a lot of losses mid-season, but ended on a really high note with wins over Nebraska and OSU. So kind of an opposite situation for the Buckeyes. This landed the two teams really close in seeding, with Minnesota a two-seed and Ohio State a three-seed. The way they both finished this season makes for a really tough quadrant.
I have Georgia pulling off a first-round upset over Towson in this quadrant. The Bulldogs have secured some big wins this season and I do think they are capable of advancing to the second round, but the run ends there against Texas. Georgia Tech vs. Marquette and Ohio State vs. USC in the second round were two really tough matchups to pick. I watched Julia Bergmann and the Yellow Jackets in person and I have to go with my gut there and pick the Jackets to advance over Marquette, and I think Ohio State will prevail over a tough USC team led by Skylar Fields.
Then you get to Ohio State vs. Minnesota, and your guess is as good as mine. Its really hard to not go with the Gophers here. This team obviously has a lot of confidence right now — they are hot at the right time and playing quick and efficient. They just beat OSU in four to end the season. Picking the Buckeyes would mean they get out of whatever rut they have been in lately. They did sweep Minnesota earlier this season when they looked like a different team. Like I said, this one is a total guess, but let’s go OSU and say they get some retaliation from the most recent loss. This team has been knocked out of the tournament in the quarterfinals for the past few seasons, and it has been their goal to change that fate this season. I think most will go with Minnesota here, rightfully so. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they win. But I am going bold, assuming OSU returns to its peak form, and picking them to advance over the Gophers.
Ultimately, though, I have the Longhorns making it to the Semifinals.
Bottom left quadrant:
Let's move on to the bottom-left portion of the bracket where we have No. 1 Stanford, two-seed San Diego, three-seed Kentucky and four-seed Creighton as our hosts. My picks are mostly chalk in the first round aside from picking LSU to take down eight-seed Hawaii. The Rainbow Wahine have been really strong all season, while LSU has been hot and cold. But I couldn't go all chalk and I know the Tigers have had some really big moments this season.
In the second round I picked Houston over Creighton for a slight upset, though they are close. And then finally I have San Diego and Stanford advancing to the regional final. I am not sure this could have been drawn up any better ...
San Diego burst onto the scene this season with multiple top-10 wins to start out the year before they entered conference play. They skyrocketed in the rankings early, and then kind of just maintained that standing despite their strength of schedule decreasing through conference play. Many would argue they did everything in their power — with a 27-1 record this season — to deserve a top-four overall seed. The committee ultimately gave the nod to Stanford instead, who has more losses this season but a stronger schedule and RPI. So back to why this was drawn up perfectly — San Diego has a chance right here to prove the committee wrong. They COULD face off against the team that did get the top-four seed in the Regional Final.
In my bracket, I am picking Stanford. Stanford was one of my early picks for national semifinals earlier this season, long before I knew they would end up as one of the top four teams. I think this is a really talented team with an elite setter in Kami Miner and one of the best opposites in the country in Kendall Kipp (who, by the way, has won a national title). I say Stanford wins it and advances to Omaha.
Top right quadrant:
Now for the top-right portion of the bracket where we have the 2021 reigning national champions. This one is pretty loaded as well — remember we have a lot of parity this season. UCF, Penn State, Florida, BYU and Pitt will play out of this quadrant.
Washington could be a good second-round matchup for the Badgers, but with how Wisconsin has been playing, I think they get through unscathed. After losing the combo of Dana Rettke, Sydney Hilley and Lauren Barnes from last year's championship team, I was not sure how well the Badgers would bounce back this season. Even toward the beginning they registered a few unexpected losses. But wow, once this team hit conference play it was like a spark went off. They finished the season on an 18-0 win streak and won the Big Ten title, and I think this is undisputedly the best team out of the Big Ten in the tournament. Danielle Hart has been a consistent leader for this team all season long and they certainly have the potential to go back-to-back.
Wisconsin-Penn state and Florida-Pitt are two incredible potential matchups. The Badgers and Nittany Lions would be playing for the THIRD time this season, the last one Wisconsin barely got the win in five. The Nittany Lions are another team that has had really strong points this season as well as their fair share of losses, but if Kaushauna Williams gets going, this could be a tough team in the tournament. There is potential for upset here, but I am sticking with Wisconsin.
For Florida vs. Pitt — let’s go with the Gators. I wanted to go for another upset here since one and two seeds all around in the regional finals are unlikely, and I think the Gators are capable. Taking down Pitt will not be easy, but Florida has beaten some top-tier teams this season. The Gators have a really impressive setter in Alexis Stucky and some big time arms on the pins as well as a strong presence in the middle. A great coach with ample postseason experience in Mary Wise tells me an upset is possible here. Ultimately, though, I have the Badgers heading back to the national semifinals to see if they can pull off the 2-peat.
Bottom right quadrant:
Last but certainly not least, the bottom-right portion of the bracket. In the first round I have Kansas taking down Miami (FL) for the upset. The Jayhawks were able to push the Longhorns to five this season, that alone is impressive. Oregon vs. Arkansas could be a great second-round matchup, but I am taking Brooke Nuneviller and Mimi Colyer. That combo has been lethal this season, and a matchup against Nebraska could be SO much fun. The Ducks could even win it. With Nebraska, I wouldn't be surprised if they were upset in the third round, but I also wouldn't be surprised if they advanced to the national semifinals. So a tough pick here.
I did pick Rice to upset Baylor in the second round. Baylor swept them already this season, so a risky pick for sure. But I can see them coming out strong looking for vengeance.
So take a look at my first- and second-round picks here, but what I really want to highlight is the potential for Nebraska vs. Louisville in the Regional Final. Now talk about a matchup you don’t get to see, typically, between two powerhouse programs. Dani Busboom Kelly has brought Louisville to so much success and would be facing her alma mater. Please don't make me choose.
My gut told me to instantly pick Louisville — I watched them play in person and I think they can win a championship. Claire Chaussee is a special player and everyone on the court is just incredible. Over two months ago my semifinal picks were Texas, Louisville, Stanford and Wisconsin — little did I know they would be the top four seeds. But we typically see a big upset in the tournament, a chalk final four is few and far between.
Nebraska would get the chance to play for the championship right next to home in Omaha, and we’ve seen them take down great teams. Think back to Texas last season. I think this match could go either way, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Louisville win it in three. But I had to pick eventually, so let's go with Nebraska.
National semifinals and championship
Now that would leave me with these four teams heading to Omaha — No. 1 Texas, No. 4 Stanford, No. 3 Wisconsin and Nebraska. What a great national semifinal scene. Nebraska and Wisconsin would have to face for the THIRD time this season in yet another rematch of last year's title game. Again, I am going with the Badgers. And Texas and Stanford would have to face off. The Cardinal certainly could win it, but I think this year's Texas team is special.
That means I have Texas and Wisconsin advancing to the title match. Texas to me is the Wisconsin of last season. They have been knocking on the door for a title for YEARS now, Logan Eggleston feels just like 2021’s Dana Rettke. She came back for a championship when she has already accomplished almost everything else. Is it the year Eggleston and team gets it done? They have it all, the depth is unmatched, and I think the motivation will be higher than ever. Let’s go with the Longhorns.