After an impressive win over the West Virginia Mountaineers (11-19) in Austin yesterday, the #5 Texas Longhorns (20-4) waited just over 24 hours to learn their fate during the NCAA Selection Show. Despite a recent move up to #3 in the RPI, and undefeated and former #1 ranked BYU falling in their last game to Loyola Marymount earlier this week, Texas did not receive a top four seed that would have entitled them to host a regional. Instead the tournament’s top four went to #1 Stanford, #2 Minnesota, #3 Illinois and #4 BYU. Given recent developments, the selection committee certainly grappled with the BYU and Texas seeding but in head-to-head earlier this season, BYU beat #1 Stanford and Texas was defeated by the Cardinal team twice.
As the #5 seed in the NCAA Division I Tournament, Texas has home court advantage as they host Stephen F. Austin University (32-2) at 7PM on Thursday, November 29, with the winner facing that of Rice vs. Texas State on Friday. If Texas were to win their first two matches in round one they would face the winner from the first round crew out of Pittsburgh (Michigan, Navy, Iona and Pittsburgh) in Austin for round two. Looking even further down the road, if Texas were to advance past rounds one and two, they land in the BYU regional facing the winner out of that bracket to then be whittled down to only one team heading to Minnesota for the finals.
The Texas Longhorns ended their regular season play against the Mountaineers (25-11, 25-22, 25-18) with their highest hitting percentage of the season at .457 and limiting West Virginia’s offense at .190. Outside veteran hitters junior Micaya White (Frisco) and senior Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani (Los Angeles, California) led their team in kills with 15 and 13, respectively. Senior middle blocker Morgan Johnson (Desoto) also posted a stellar night with 9 kills and 6 blocks. Freshman setter and recently named starter, Jhenna Gabriel rounded out the highs with 41 assists.
The prognostication on how the tournament ends begins now that we know the landscape. BYU may be vulnerable showing some unexpected weakness in their last match with a loss against an unranked team and down one star player after an ACL tear just a few weeks ago. #1 Stanford beat #2 seed Minnesota earlier this season while the #3 Illini lost to the Golden Gophers earlier this season. Finally, only two teams with true freshman setters have advanced to the finals leaving Texas with history stacked against them but they are likely none too pleased about how the seeds shook out which is always a good motivator to pull the upset.
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