The NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament begins Thursday night on campus sites around the country. It is a 64 team field. The top 16 teams are seeded and host first and second round matches (sub-regionals). The remaining 48 teams are placed according to conference affiliation first and proximity to first-round sites second. (The Tournament tries to avoid conference matchups in the first or second round.) Regionals (Sweet 16 and Elite 8) will take place at predetermined sites - San Diego, CA; Lexington, KY; Austin, TX, and Des Moines, IA. Regional finals are December 12 on ESPNU/WatchESPN. The National Semifinals and Finals are Dec 17 and Dec 19 in Omaha, NE, on ESPN2.
Kansas is hosting for the fourth year in a row. This year, the NCAA has waived the rule requiring a minimum number of seats in order to host a sub-regional, a requirement that the Jayhawks do not meet on their homecourt in the Horejsi Center. However, due to the waiver, that's exactly where the Lawrence sub-regional will be played, and you can bet the Jayhawks are excited to finally have a real home-court advantage in the post-season.
KU's overall record (26-2, 14-2) was good enough to claim sole possession of second place in the Big 12, the third straight year KU has finished second. Their only two losses on the season came at the hands of the #3 Texas Longhorns. Kansas finished ranked #9 with an RPI of 8.
The Jayhawks will face Furman in the first round of the Tournament. The Paladins qualified for the Tournament as the tournament champions of the Southern Conference after finishing second to Chattanooga in the regular season. They are 21-8 (12-4), unranked in the AVCA Poll, and finished the regular season at #84 in the RPI.
The other matchup in the Lawrence sub-regional features Missouruh taking on Missouruh State. The Tigers (26-5, 14-4) earned an at-large bid and finished #25 in the AVCA with an RPI of 18. They finished tied with #22 Kentucky for second in the SEC.
Missouruh State (24-10, 13-5) finished third in the Missouri Valley regular season and fell to Wichita State in the title game of their conference tournament. The Bears are not ranked, but come in with an RPI of 34, obviously good enough to earn them an at-large bid.
Should seeds hold, the Jayhawks will likely have to go through two perennial Pac-12 powers to reach the Final Four in Omaha. 8-seed Stanford (22-6, 16-4) and top-seed Southern Cal (30-2, 18-2) loom large in KU's bracket. Not only that, but since Kansas was placed in the San Diego region, they would have to take on these schools in California.
Kansas has the talent - and now the experience - to make some noise in this tournament. With a core of seven sophomores on the roster, the Jayhawks are significantly improved from a year ago. KU had six players earn All-Big 12 recognition, including three first-teamers, two of which were unanimous. In addition, Anise Havili was named Setter of the Year and Ray Bechard was named Coach of the Year - his third in the last four years.
The action starts on Thursday (Dec 3) at 4 PM with Missouruh and Missouruh State, with Kansas and Furman scheduled for a 6:30 PM start. The winners will meet Friday evening at 6:30 for the right to go to San Diego.
Good luck getting a ticket. The Horejsi Athletics Center lists a capacity of 1,300. According to KU Athletics:
Due to the size of Horejsi and the NCAA policies regarding ticket allocations for visiting teams, tickets to the first and second rounds are extremely limited.
Volleyball season ticket holders have the opportunity to request up to two (2) tickets. Requests will be filled based on Williams Education Fund membership level and priority points. Non-Williams Fund member season ticket holder requests will be assigned thereafter if tickets are available.
We may not be able to accommodate all requests.
So, if you can find your way in, it's sure to be an incredible atmosphere. If not, you can still catch any and all of the matches via 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.