Volleyball: Who else is playing at UW Field House Thursday night in first round of NCAA Tournament?
Should Wisconsin defeat Oregon during Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. match at the UW Field House, it will face one of two capable teams in Miami (Fla.) or Iowa State, each set to test the Badgers.Iowa State and Miami will commence first-round action at 5 p.m. in the Field House, a match Wisconsin will watch closely.Miami – 21-9 overall, 14-6 ACCThe Hurricanes have shown glimpses of being a competitive team, but more often than not fall to opponents who put pressure on them.Miami spent the entire season unranked and is 2-2 in ranked matches this season, but hasn’t defeated an opponent in the top 15, let alone faced one. Their best win was a 3-1 victory over No. 17 Florida State, who they’d previously lost to 3-2. But an impressive five-set victory over Wisconsin rival No. 20 Purdue early in the season is nothing to overlook.Junior setter Haley Templeton averaged 10.72 assists per match for fourth-best in the ACC, but it’s a conference that has only three ranked teams — none of which fall in the top 15. Despite Templeton’s ability to distribute, the Hurricanes’ attacking will be matched by Wisconsin’s defense, should they advance.Only four hitters on Miami’s roster average more than two kills per set, while only another two average more than one kill per set. A narrowed focus in hitting is not something this Miami team can afford going into the postseason, especially since they only average 13.33 kills per set.The Badgers are No. 23 in the nation in blocks per set (2.76) and would handle the Hurricanes’ scheme with ease and complete net coverage.On the other side of the ball, there is not much of a presence. Miami finds itself in the bottom half of the ACC in blocks, opponent hitting percentage and digs. Wisconsin is 23rd in the nation in hitting percentage and 19th in the nation in kills per set.Iowa State – 18-10 overall, 11-5 Big 12The Cyclones, despite beginning the season ranked No. 21, failed to capitalize on their strong starting position. But they are a very young and promising team that could last longer than expected.Iowa State is 1-6 against ranked opponents, recording their only win against No. 25 Texas A&M back in September. That experience, however, could make Iowa State the favorite against Miami.All of those six losses came against Nebraska (No. 4), Texas (No. 3 and 5), Kansas (No. 10) and Colorado State (No. 12) — very competitive teams. Having been through matches like these, the Cyclones have been better prepared than Miami, whose highest ranked opponent in 2015 was No. 17 Florida State.The Cyclones’ net presence has made them a formidable opponent. They currently sit with the fourth-best opponent hitting percentage and second most digs in the Big 12. But their blocks are second to last in the conference, which spells a lot of trouble should they face Wisconsin in the second round.Even with an average defense, however, Iowa State’s offense will propel them in later rounds. Eight players average one or more kills per set, and they are ranked No. 45 in most kills per set as a team in the country with 13.94. Freshman outside hitter Jess Schaben averages 3.21 kills per set to lead her team, and will have a lot of defensive focus put onto her.Sophomore setter Monique Harris averaged more than 10 assists per set, but the question remains whether she can continue to produce the numbers she closed out the season with in a tougher environment.PredictionWith the experience Iowa State had during the regular season, expect them to be better prepared than Miami. Despite posting a 1-6 record against ranked opponents, those losses came to four teams within the top 10 and a Colorado State team ranked No. 12. The experience from those games is invaluable and can speed development of younger players in the case of Iowa State, similar to the process at Wisconsin.Not to mention the disparities between the ACC and Big 12.Of the five Big 12 teams in the tournament, two are seeded in the top 10. The ACC only sent three teams to the tournament.Playing in a tougher conference can certainly account for a deflated record in the case of Iowa State and the opposite, an inflated record, for Miami.Iowa State’s offense is also miles ahead of Miami’s in its ability to distribute kills among players, sending the Hurricanes’ sub-par defense running across the court. On the other side of the ball, their skills in digging will supplement a lack of blocks and keep a timid Miami attack at bay.With that in mind, expect Iowa State to await the winner of Wisconsin against Oregon.