No. 1 seeded and undefeated Louisville has been absolutely unstoppable this season and is only expected to continue its dominance through the tournament. With sweeps against No. 6 Purdue, No. 8 Georgia Tech, and No. 10 Nebraska, along with wins against No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 7 Kentucky, Louisville had proven to be a team capable of making a championship run in December. A well-rounded team, Louisville are currently fourth in blocks and hitting percentage, and eight in opponent hitting percentage. With former second and third team All-Americans middle blocker Anna Stevenson and setter Tori Dilfer, this is a group that every team in the tournament should be afraid to face. Only five teams have had undefeated seasons since 1980. Can Louisville pull off the perfect season?
Fifth in blocks per set, eight in digs per set, and first in opponent hitting percentage, Creighton’s defense carries over much more than offense when facing tougher competition. It had proved this in its sweep of No. 1 Kentucky early in the season, who is now seeded seventh for the tournament. Sitting at 30-3 with a very respectable schedule, Creighton has a tough road ahead with potential games against Ole Miss, Oregon, Kansas, Townson, Penn State, and Pittsburgh.
RPI No. 18 Western Kentucky went unseeded during the selection show this past weekend. Currently sitting at 27-1, its only loss came against Ole Miss early in the season. Although Western Kentucky plays in a smaller conference than other teams on this list, it has still proven it can compete with the best, with big wins against Notre Dame, Kansas, and Rice as well as an exhibition tie with Kentucky. With a sweep of its conference, Western Kentucky only lost three sets from September 11 to November 20. With a great offense, Western Kentucky is currently in the top 15 in assists per set and kills per set, as well as first in the nation in hitting percentage. The defense is anchored by former second team All-American Lauren Matthews, who has helped her team to achieve a defense that is top 10 in opponent hitting percentage. Western Kentucky poses a big upset-threat and teams should not take it lightly.
At a winning percentage of 85 percent, Wisconsin may not be the most impressive team on paper, but a closer look will tell a completely different story. Wisconsin has had arguably the hardest schedule this year, especially being in the Big 10 Conference where you can’t coast through conference play. With a plethora of wins against top teams in No. 14 Penn State, No. 10 Baylor, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 6 Ohio State, and No. 6 Nebraska, Wisconsin has more than proven it can compete and win against top competition, earning a No. 4 seed. With All-American first teamers Sydney Hilley and Dana Rettke, second teamer Lauren Barnes, third teamer Devyn Robinson, there is talent everywhere on the court for the Badgers. This talent has helped the team achieve a top offense, which is currently third in kills per set and assists per set. Wisconsin will not shy away from the moment and knows what it’s like to compete against top talent.
If there’s any way to describe the Pitt team this year, it’s that it’s tough to beat. With only three losses this year, Pittsburgh has had many quality wins, such as wins against No. 23 Rice, No. 18 Washington State, No. 9 Baylor, No. 18 Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Duke, along with handing No. 12 BYU its only loss of the season. With the front row dynamic duo of second team all-Americans in OH Kayla Lund and RS Chinaza Ndee, Pittsburgh has a well-rounded team that should give any team trouble and pose a serious threat, which has earned this team the No. 3 seed.
Perhaps the most underrated team, No. 11 seeded BYU has only lost one game this season, which was to No. 3 seeded Pittsburgh. The Cougars are a fantastic attacking team with a sneaky good defense, which are both anchored by third team All-American Kennedy Eschenberg. BYU is top five in both hitting percentage and kills per set, as well as second in opponent hitting percentage. It’s hard to believe a one-loss team is slated in such a low seed. Thankfully, BYU is in a section of the bracket where it will be facing a team it has already beaten in the second round, since Utah and Utah Valley play each other. The only major threat on the Cougars side of the bracket comes from No. 6 Purdue.