From the diaries. --PB--
Our beloved Gregory Gazelles (#3 Ranking) take their #1 seed (#4 overall) into the hostile environs of the Gainesville regional, where they are due to take on #3 seed (#13 overall) Florida in the Sweet 16 tonight at 6pm. The winner of this match advances to the Elite Eight to take on the winner of the earlier USC - St John's match.
There's no reason why Texas shouldn't advance from this regional to the Final Four. Although the O'Connell Center can be quite an intimidating venue, Texas did go there two years ago and upset a much higher ranked Florida team on their home court, breaking something like a 44-match home win streak. Texas has struggled a bit on the road this season (all three losses were away), but they proved they can handle diversity in two tough 5-game wins on the road at KSU and Iowa State. And this is not a team that will be easily intimidated.
The other advantage Texas has is its strength of schedule. While they took on tourney-bound teams like Penn State and New Mexico State in their OOC games, then were battle-hardened by a rugged Big XII schedule that included two matches with #1 Nebraska, #12 KSU and a ranked OU squad. On the other side of the coin, Florida had a Kansas-esque OOC schedule, with no ranked teams to truly test them. This was also a very down year for the SEC, which usually has 2-3 other schools ranked to provide a test for the Gators (typically Tennessee, LSU or Arkansas). Florida was upset by unranked Arkansas and Long Beach State squads, albeit both on the road.
I think Texas wins this one in 4.
How the teams match up:
NCAA Tournament seed – 4th
AVCA Ranking – Third
Record – 26-3
Top Hitter – Brandy Magee, MB, .429 and Lauren Paolini, MB, .414
Top Attacker (kills/game) – Destinee Hooker, OH, 4.58 and Juliann Faucette, OH, 4.54
Top Digger (digs/game) – Alyson Jennings, L, 3.67
Top Blocker (blocks/game) – Brandy Magee, MB, 1.30 and Lauren Paolini, MB, 1.25
NCAA Tournament seed – 13th
AVCA Ranking – Seventh
Record – 29-2
Top Hitter –Kelsey Bowers, MB, .361
Top Attacker (kills/game) – Marcie Hampton, OH, 4.49
Top Digger (digs/game) – Elyse Cusack, L, 5.43
Top Blocker (blocks/game) – Kelsey Bowers, MB, 1.34