Another year, another postseason appearance for the Huskers. The No. 6-ranked Nebraska Huskers are the fifth seed in the NCAA Tournament and are the highest second seed in the tournament.
Nebraska beat out Pittsburgh for the spot, though the Panthers are No. 2 in the AVCA poll and are 28-1 this year. The advantage is not much, but means the committee liked Nebraska’s schedule more than Pitt’s.
Despite being the highest two seed, Nebraska is in the Madison regional. Wisconsin got the last top seed and is the fourth seed in the tournament. The two other top 16 seeds in the region are No. 12 Hawaii and No. 13 Texas A&M.
The Huskers kick off their tournament run on Dec. 6 against MAC champion Ball State at the Devaney Center. The other first-round match in Lincoln is between Northern Iowa and Missouri and the winner of that match will play the winner of Nebraska/Ball State the following day.
Missouri is the first major test for Nebraska as the Tigers swept Michigan and went toe-to-toe with No. 10 Florida, losing the match in five sets. The Tigers already beat Northern Iowa once this season, likely setting up a rematch from the Big 12 days.
If Nebraska advances past the first weekend, the Huskers will travel to Madison, Wisconsin, for the second weekend postseason matches if Wisconsin also advances. If not, the second weekend matches are also in Lincoln.
The second weekend is expected to be in Madison and the Huskers begin by playing ranked teams here. The Sweet 16 matches come from the Hawaii region and the Huskers have three potential tough teams on Dec. 13.
The last three seed, Hawaii, is one of three currently ranked teams from its region. Hawaii plays Northern Colorado before either playing No. 20 San Diego or No. 25 Washington State in the second round. San Diego took Nebraska to five sets, while the Cougars just beat No. 8 Washington.
The road to the Final Four runs through Madison and if Nebraska wants to grab another national title, it will need to finally beat Wisconsin. Barring a major upset, Wisconsin has a lighter path to the Elite 8.
The Aggies grabbed a four seed despite not being ranked and are the strongest team Wisconsin will face in the eyes of the committee. No. 23 UCLA can play Wisconsin in the second round while No. 21 Rice is stuck in the Aggie region.
Wisconsin’s Sweet 16 will most likely come down to either No. 21 Rice or unranked Texas A&M. Rice plays Oklahoma and Texas A&M faces St. John’s in the first round before a second-round match that can see old teams play each other again or mid-majors for a chance at the Sweet 16.
The quality of teams in Wisconsin’s path may not be as good but the Badgers play unranked Illinois State in the first round.The Redbirds won the Missouri Valley Conference while also beating Illinois and UCF and lost to Marquette in five sets.
The Madison region is filled with teams gunning for a big upset and both Nebraska and Wisconsin have dropped unexpected matches. Nebraska fits the bill much better as it is the top two seed but are one of the younger teams within the bracket and have to play its best at all times.
The winner of the Madison region goes against the Waco region winner in the Final Four. For now, the Huskers will turn their attention to Ball State this upcoming Friday at 7 p.m.