The MPSF Tournament begins on Saturday with the quarterfinals round as six of the seven teams are in action with top-seed BYU earning a bye to the semifinals. While the Cougars will host that round and await the other three teams, some strong action should occur this week as the march to an NCAA Touranment automatic bid begins.
*Teams will reseed following the quarterfinals round
No. 7 Stanford at No. 2 UCLA
No. 6 USC at No. 3 Pepperdine
No. 5 Grand Canyon at No. 4 Concordia Irvine
It’s not unbelievably clear-cut that BYU is the only favorite in a league with UCLA and Pepperdine, but they did win the MPSF regular season crown outright and have a bye in the tournament, so they deserve the title of the favorite. Add to it that they’ll be playing in front of a home crowd in the semifinals – and should they win, then the finals – where they only lost to Concordia Irvine in terms of MPSF foes. Interestingly enough though, if Pepperdine, UCLA and Concordia Irvine all win, the Eagles would be their opponents. Should the Cougars get to the MPSF Championship match though and take on one of the other two top 10 teams (UCLA or Pepperdine), they should have confidence knowing that they swept UCLA 3-0 in Provo and downed Pepperdine twice.
Other Top Contenders:
UCLA Bruins & Pepperdine Waves
Both UCLA and Pepperdine have shown the ability to beat anyone in the country – except maybe LBSU, because who has? That makes them a threat on its own, especially for UCLA who just swept BYU last week while Pepperdine is 0-2 against the Cougars but was just a set away from winning in Provo. What hurts both of these teams chances to win this event is that if both win their quarterfinal matches then they would play each other, meaning they’d have to beat one another and BYU. BYU’s path would just consist of downing one of them (assuming all teams in discussion win). Regardless, both of these teams have shown the ability to win this event, which would be even bigger for Pepperdine who is likely the third team out of the second at-large bid at this point in time. UCLA meanwhile would likely be in if the NCAA Tournament started today. Still, both will look to at least pad their resume should they need that at-large selection.
7-seed Stanford (6-19, 3-9) at 2-seed/#3 UCLA (22-6, 9-3)
- Season series: UCLA, 2-0 (UCLA 3-1 at Stanford, UCLA 3-1 vs. Stanford)
- Stanford’s record doesn’t show that they’ve been competitive in a lot of losses – such as two defeats to UCLA where they took a set in both. The Cardinal weren’t great offensively in either, but they weren’t bad either. The difference was the UCLA offense was ultra-efficient and the Bruins totaled a 15-6 edge in aces and 20-5 in blocks over the two matches, which could likely be the case in this meeting.
6-seed/#20 USC (7-19, 3-9) at 3-seed/#8 Pepperdine (15-7, 8-4)
- Season series: Pepperdine, 2-0 (Pepperdine 3-2 vs. USC, Pepperdine 3-0 at USC)
- Although the latest meeting was a sweep, these two have been incredibly tight as total points favor Pepperdine just 187-173 despite two victories – and one sweep. In fact, some of the team stats were more lopsided in Pepperdine’s 3-2 win than their sweep in the latest meeting. USC though, who has the highest opponent hitting percentage in the MPSF, hasn’t been able to slow MPSF Player of the Year David Wieczorek (33 kills, .343 in two mathces), who will look to lead the Waves to a semifinals berth.
5-seed/#15 Grand Canyon (18-10, 4-8) at 4-seed/#14 Concordia Irvine (15-14, 5-7)
- Season series: Tied, 1-1 (Concordia 3-0 vs. GCU; GCU 3-1 vs. Concordia)
- Although the match ended in a sweep at Concordia Irvine last time, the match itself was still strong with two sets in extra points at 36-34 and 30-28. Both teams are very even throughout, as you’d expect in the four-five match, though Concordia has an advantage in serving and floor defense compared to blocking for GCU during MPSF play. Both sides had a player who could not be stopped in the first two meetings too with Concordia Irvine’s Jonathan Predney (24 kills, .340) and Ashton King for GCU (26 kills, .667 combined).