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With 16 teams remaining in the NCAA tournament, we sat down with volleyball great Holly McPeak to get her perspective. McPeak played college volleyball at the University of California, Berkeley before transferring to UCLA, where she helped the Bruins to the 1990 NCAA Championship. After college she turned her attention to the beach, becoming a three-time Olympian and winning Olympic bronze in 2004.
Which team has impressed you the most so far?
BYU. I think they were put in a tough region. They had to go to Hawaii and beat a scrappy Arizona State team, and then to sweep Hawaii in front of their crowd? Hawaii had a pretty strong team led by three seniors. I thought that was really impressive.
What’s your take on the unseeded teams that have been coming up big?
I hadn’t really heard much about American, but I saw Michigan State last year and they were very well coached and they play hard, so I wasn’t really surprised by Michigan State.
Are there any matchups in particular that you’re looking forward to?
I think Nebraska-San Diego could be a really interesting matchup. I think BYU-USC is going to be interesting, Kansas-Washington… At this point, Sweet 16, anything can happen.
Which upset surprised the most?
I’d have to say Missouri, who was undefeated coming into the tournament. Them losing and Florida losing early really surprised me. And Hawaii losing early surprised me.
Wisconsin got its first NCAA win since 2007. Do you think this is a year that a Cinderella could take it all?
I don’t think it’s a year for a Cinderella story. I think the previous two years maybe had a chance, but this year I think it’s going to be tough. There are some teams that are experienced. They’ve been there. So I think it’s going be a tough year for a Cinderella story. Not to say that there’s not five or six teams that could win it all, but for a team to come from low in the rankings, it would be a surprise. But that’s what the NCAA tournament is about. It’s always possible.
During the opening round in Lexington, teams had an extra day off as their matches were postponed due to weather. Do you think this helped or hurt those teams?
I think it’s a little challenging when you have to sit for a day. There are a lot of nerves prior to your first round. But it’s the NCAA and you’ve got to be ready for anything.
Your original projection for the Final Four was Texas, Penn State, Washington and Stanford. What is it now?
Those were my top four, but Penn State has to play Stanford to get to the Final Four. So that kind of messes it up. They’re all still alive, but Stanford-Penn State will run into a roadblock. Nebraska and Texas will play each other, USC and Washington will play each other. The other one will be the interesting one. That’s the Wisconsin bracket, so they might have a chance to get to the final four. Purdue, Illinois, Florida State and Wisconsin. That, to me, is the biggest question mark. Any of those teams could come out. That’s kind of the dark horse.
Any final thoughts?
I think the challenge that Texas has ahead of them – defending champs, they have a target on their back and they have to win in Nebraska against a pretty strong Nebraska team – I think that’s a pretty interesting story. Stanford’s team is mostly sophomores, and they’re facing a senior-led Penn State team. I think they’re all really interesting for their own reasons.
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TV SCHEDULE | All times ET
Friday, Dec. 13th on ESPN3
5 p.m. Florida State vs. Wisconsin
5 p.m. Michigan State vs. Penn State
6 p.m. Texas vs. American
7 p.m. Illinois vs. Purdue
7 p.m. Stanford vs. Minnesota
8 p.m. San Diego vs. Nebraska
8 p.m. Washington vs. Kansas
10 p.m. BYU vs. USC
Saturday, Dec. 14th on ESPNU and WatchESPN.com
4 p.m. Stanford vs. Penn State
6:30 p.m. Wisconsin vs. Purdue
9 p.m. Texas vs. Nebraska
11:30 p.m. Washington vs. USC
HOW THEY GOT TO THE SWEET 16
BYU sweeps 11-seed Hawaii to reach Sweet 16 for the 2nd straight season! Final: 25-21, 25-17, 25-13. BYU vs USC next week in LA. #GOCOUGARS— BYU WomensVolleyball (@BYUwvolleyball) December 8, 2013
The Trojans (28-5) advance to the round of 16 for the 10th time in coach Haley's 13 years at Troy. #FightOn— USC W. Volleyball (@uscwomensvolley) December 7, 2013