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KU Volleyball: Final Four Preview and Open Thread

Jayhawks are truly on an unprecedented roll this season; how far will they get?

Kansas Volleyball has advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Volleyball Championship for the first time in school history.  RCT has you covered; let's break it down.

Who's Playing

For the first time ever, the Final Four features only teams that hail from the Central time zone.  There are only two conferences represented, and for only the 4th time since the Tournament began 1981, there is no representative from the Pac-12 (fka Pac-10) Conference.

(3) Texas vs (2) Minnesota will be the first matchup, followed by (9) Kansas vs (4) Nebraska.

When do they play

Thursday, Dec 17, Texas vs Minnesota, 6:00 PM CT, ESPN2

Thursday, Dec 17, Kansas vs Nebraska, 8:30 PM CT, ESPN2

Saturday, Dec 19, Winner vs Winner, 6:30 PM CT, ESPN2

How to Watch

All three matches will be broadcast on ESPN2.

All of the matches are available live streaming online.  NCAA.com is streaming the entire tournament.  You can get to any matchup you want to see by finding it on the interactive bracket.  Matches should also be available on ESPN3 through the WatchESPN app or website.  No blackouts should apply.

Alternatively, you can always listen to radio play-by-play at KUAthletics.com/radio.  Fans can also monitor the action by following @KUVolleyball on Twitter and Instagram.

The Breakdown

Minnesota

The Minnesota Golden Gophers were invited to the Tournament as the champions of the Big 10 Conference, finishing one game ahead of Nebraska.  They are 30-4 (18-2), finished at #4 in the final AVCA coaches poll of the regular season, and finished the regular season at #2 in the RPI.  That was good enough to earn them the #2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Minnesota has knocked off Jackson State, Marquette, Illinois, and Hawaii to advance to the Final Four, losing only one set in the process.  Of Minnesota's four losses on the season, none were to an unranked opponent.

Texas

The Longhorns (29-2, 15-1) qualified for the Tournament by winning the Big 12's automatic bid.  They finished #3 in the final poll with the top RPI in the country.  Texas got the #3 seed in the Tournament, but also received a pretty friendly draw, as they got to play the first four rounds of the Tournament on their home floor.

Texas has dispatched Fairfield, Purdue, UCLA, and Florida on the way to their fourth consecutive Final Four.  Texas only lost twice this season, early in September to Florida and in a stunning upset in Fort Worth to a mediocre TCU squad in late October.

Nebraska

The Cornhuskers (30-4, 17-3) earned an at-large bid after finishing second in the Big 10.  The Huskers finished #5 in the final AVCA poll with an RPI of 4, good enough to get the #4 overall Tournament seed.  They defeated Harvard, Wichita State, BYU, and Washington to advance to the Final Four, dropping only two sets along the way.  That's of note, because Washington finished the season as the top-ranked team in the final AVCA poll.

Nebraska may have dropped four matches so far on the season, but all were to teams ranked in the top 20.

Kansas

And finally, our scrappy squad of Jayhawks (30-2, 14-2) qualified for the Tournament as at at-large after finishing second in the Big 12.  Kansas finished the season ranked #9 with an RPI of 8, earning them the #9 overall seed in the Tournament.

The Jayhawks only lost two games all year long, both to Texas.  Kansas is only 2-2 against the top 25 this season, but maintained a tough enough schedule to keep their RPI in the top 10.  Also, one of those top 25 wins was against the tournament's top seed, Southern Cal.

In addition to the Trojans, KU has also dispatched Loyola Marymount, Missouruh, and Furman en route to Omaha.

What to Expect from the Jayhawks

Honestly, I have no idea.  I expected them to get to San Diego (Sweet 16).  I did not expect this.  We'll find out real soon if KU is just happy to be there or if they came to play, because punching USC in the mouth and eventually knocking them out of the Tournament proved that Kansas can play with anyone in the field.

In a stat I'm sure you've heard several times already, Kansas has never defeated Nebraska in volleyball (0-86-1).  The theme for KU Volleyball this year has been #Unprecedented.  Knocking off the Cornhuskers would truly make that accurate.

I've said since conference play began that if Kansas will stay within themselves, trust each other, and play their game, they can hang with anyone in the country.  If they can avoid a slow start and avoid service errors, they will give themselves a chance - and hey, they're playing with house money, no one expected them here.  Let's see what happens.