NCAA Tournament Gainesville Regional: Sweet 16/Elite Eight Breakdown

  0 Derek Johnson | December 06th, 2017 | Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, News, Pac 12, SEC

Just 16 teams remain in the NCAA Tournament with two weeks of the season left. Specifically in just the Gainesville Region, four teams are still alive. That all changes this week though, as one will emerge above the rest and clinch a Final Four bid as the regions’ winner.

Winning this regional should be a fight to the finish too, as it is the only one of the four that features all four ranked/seeded teams. That means we get plenty of big-name matchups, as the SEC and Big Ten each go head-to-head with a Pac-12 counterpart.

Below we have team profiles followed by predictions for both Regional Semifinals matches that lead into a prediction for the projected Regional Finals match.

Gainesville Regionals

#15 UCLA at #2 Florida

Common Opponents:

  • Nebraska – Florida won 3-2 (Home); UCLA lost twice, both 0-3 (Road)

Florida Gators

How They Got Here: Florida (27-1, 17-1 SEC) earned an automatic berth after winning the tiebreaker with co-SEC champion Kentucky. In the opening rounds, they defeated Alabama State (3-0) and Miami (FL) (3-1).

NCAA History: 28 NCAA Tournament appearances, Seven Final Four appearances

Team Stats (Bold indicates best mark of four teams in regional/Italic indicates worst):

Conference Rank NCAA Rank
Hitting Percentage .287 2nd 13th
Opponent Hitting Percentage .132 1st 2nd
Assists Per Set 13.22 2nd 23rd
Kills Per Set 14.08 2nd 27th
Blocks Per Set 3.03 1st 6th
Aces Per Set 1.38 2nd 82nd
Digs Per Set 15.91 3rd 98th

Individual Stat Leaders: Carli Snyder paces the offense with 3.46 kills per set and is followed by Rachael Kramer (2.85), Rhamat Alhassan (2.69) and Shainah Joseph (2.53). In total five players have triple digit kills with four over 200, as Kramer has been the most efficient at .434 (also leads the SEC) with Alhassan at .399 and Joseph at .368.

Two setters pace the balanced attack for the Gators in a 6-2 system as Allie Monserez starts most often and leads the team at 7.60 assists per set. Cheyenne Huskey ranks second at 4.26 assists per set.

From a serving standpoint, Snyder has 49 aces, almost double anyone else on the team as her 0.50 aces per set rank atop the SEC. Paige Hammons is second with 27 and Monserez third at 20.

Defensively, Caroline Knop (4.53 digs per set) and Snyder (3.28 digs per set) cover the back row with Alhassan (1.74 blocks per set – ranks first in the SEC), Huskey (1.09 blocks per set) and Kramer (1.08 blocks per set) all above a block per set.

UCLA Bruins

How They Got Here: UCLA (21-10, 12-8 Pac-12) earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. In the opening rounds, they defeated Austin Peay (3-0) and Cal Poly (3-1).

NCAA History: Four-time NCAA National Champions, 12 Final Four appearances

Team Stats (Bold indicates best mark of four teams in regional/Italic indicates worst):

Conference Rank NCAA Rank
Hitting Percentage .242 7th 58th
Opponent Hitting Percentage .190 2nd 100th
Assists Per Set 13.12 4th 37th
Kills Per Set 13.95 4th 35th
Blocks Per Set 2.20 9th 106th
Aces Per Set 1.17 6th 203rd
Digs Per Set 17.10 1st 31st

Individual Stat Leaders: Four players average over 2.50 kills per set, led by Reily Buechler (3.54), Jenny Mosser (2.89), Madeleine Gates (2.87) and Mac May (2.61). Gates is the most efficient hitter with a .349 mark followed by Kyra Rogers (.272).

The Bruins utilize one setter in Loyola Marymount senior transfer Sarah Sponcil, who averages 11.25 assists per set. She was an outside hitter before her time with UCLA though and is plenty versatile with 3.35 digs per set and 0.54 blocks per set as well.

From a serving standpoint, May’s 31 aces (0.30 per set), Buechler’s 29 (0.25 per set) and Rogers’ 24 (0.21 per set) are the top marks.

Defensively, only libero Zana Muno (4.97 digs per set – second in the Pac-12) logs more digs than Sponcil with all-around outside hitter Buechler (2.63 digs per set) in third. In terms of blocks, Gates (1.22 blocks per set) is by far the top performer with Rogers (0.68 blocks per set) in second for consistent players.

#10 USC vs. #7 Minnesota

Common Opponents:

  • Oregon State – Minnesota won 3-1 (Neutral); USC won 3-1 (Home)
  • Michigan – Minnesota won twice, 3-1 (Home) & 3-0 (Road); USC won 3-1 (Home)
  • Maryland – Minnesota won 3-0 (Home); USC lost 0-3 (Road)

Minnesota Golden Gophers

How They Got Here: Minnesota (28-5, 15-5 Big Ten) earned an at-large bid after finishing third in the Big Ten standings. In the opening rounds, they defeated North Dakota (3-0) and Northern Iowa (3-1).

NCAA History: 21 NCAA Tournament appearances, Five Final Four appearances, One Runner-Up Finish

Team Stats (Bold indicates best mark of four teams in regional/Italic indicates worst):

Conference Rank NCAA Rank
Hitting Percentage .287 4th 12th
Opponent Hitting Percentage .198 5th 139th
Assists Per Set 13.77 1st 6th
Kills Per Set 14.70 1st 8th
Blocks Per Set 2.44 4th 45th
Aces Per Set 1.27 8th 131st
Digs Per Set 16.30 1st 71st

Individual Stat Leaders: A pair of Golden Gophers carry most of the offensive load in Stephanie Samedy (4.04 kills per set – second in the Big Ten) and Alexis Hart (3.77 kills per set). While both hit efficiently (.304, .279 respectively), Molly Lohman (.385, 1.95 kills per set) and Regan Pittman (.343, 2.28 kills per set) have the highest rates.

Making things easier for that offense and more efficient is the spark-plug to it all in All-American setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson. She averages a Big Ten best 12.22 digs per set as the lone setter for the system.

Seliger-Swenson also ranks second on the team with 33 digs (0.29 per set) with Lohman (35 aces, 0.31 per set) in front. Hart is fourth with 23 aces (0.20 per set) while Dalianliz Rosado is third (24 aces, 0.21 per set).

Speaking of Rosado, she beholds a team-best (and second best mark in the Big Ten) 4.41 digs per set with Samedy (2.83 digs per set) and Seliger-Swenson (2.69 digs per set) resting behind. At the front of the net, Lohman (1.33 blocks per set) is the top blocker but has plenty of help with Pittman (0.95 blocks per set) and Samedy (0.72 blocks per set).

USC Trojans

How They Got Here: USC (24-9, 14-6 Pac-12) earned an at-large bid after finishing tied for second in the Pac-12. In the opening rounds, they defeated Central Arkansas (3-1) and San Diego (3-2).

NCAA History: 35th NCAA Tournament appearance and 27th straight, 10 Final Four Appearances, Three National Championships

Team Stats (Bold indicates best mark of four teams in regional/Italic indicates worst):

Conference Rank NCAA Rank
Hitting Percentage .251 6th 40th
Opponent Hitting Percentage .206 7th 176th
Assists Per Set 13.23 3rd 21st
Kills Per Set 14.12 3rd 25th
Blocks Per Set 2.03 10th 166th
Aces Per Set 1.17 5th 201st
Digs Per Set 14.04 8th 240th

Individual Stat Leaders: Four Trojans average over two kills per set, led by Khalia Lanier (4.19), Brittany Abercrombie (3.13) and Niki Withers (2.57). Abercrombie is also hitting .285, which is only trumped by Jordan Dunn (.374) for players who consistently play.

The offense is ignited by a two-setter system with Reni Meyer-Whalley (6.21 assists per set) starting 32 of 33 matches and Cindy Marina (5.23 assists per set) starting the other.

Marina also contributes heavily in the serve game with 32 aces (0.25 per set), second on the team only to Lanier (39, 0.35 per set). No other player has 20 or more.

The back row of the defense is patrolled by Victoria Garrick (3.82 digs per set), while Lanier (2.32) and Meyer-Whalley (2.12) chip in over two digs per set as well. Dunn is the top defender at the front of the net with a team-best 107 total blocks (1.02 per set). Abercrombie (82, 0.64 per set) and Welsh (70, 0.65 per set) rank second and third in total blocks, but the other name to watch is Danielle Geiger (0.95 per set), who has played in just 44 sets but has appeared in eight of nine in the NCAA Tournament.


Florida defeats UCLA 3-1

  • The Gators have one of, if not the best, defenses in the country. That’s a bad mix for a UCLA team that more so relies on wearing out opponents and great defense of their own with a solid but not great offense. They won’t be able to rely on it as much as Florida is even better on that end and owns a bigger team (and better blocking team) at the net to go with a more lethal and balanced offense. The combination of it all and playing at home leads to a UCLA being good enough to take a set, but Florida advancing to the Elite Eight.

Minnesota defeats USC 3-1

  • The Trojans have shown the ability to reach up and upend some of the country’s best, as they have five victories over teams who were national seeds this season. However, the combination of USC being a poor blocking team and Minnesota having an incredible offense doesn’t bode well for the Trojans unless they are on their ‘A’ game serving, have great play in the back row and some wild swings by Minnesota. While that is definitely possible for USC, Minnesota’s offense should continue to roll with Seliger-Swenson leading the way to a four-set win.

*Florida defeats Minnesota 3-2*

  • This potential Elite Eight meeting not only features two powers this season, but it also consists of one of the best offenses in the country battling one of the top defenses. Therefore, the difference might be the two sides other qualities, as Florida’s offense seems to be a bit better than Minnesota’s defense. It should be extremely close though, but the regular season success that earned Florida home court advantage might be the difference as the Gators finally break through for the first Final Four of the Alhassan/Snyder senior class.

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