• One of the most exciting Big Ten Conference races in recent memory will culminate this week, as No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 5 Nebraska and No. 8 Ohio State all will face one another with a chance to earn the Big Ten championship. The Big Ten Network will televise both matches played by Wisconsin and Nebraska live this weekend — their head-to-head matchup Friday in Lincoln (8 p.m. ET), as well as a Saturday night doubleheader when the Badgers visit OSU (7 p.m. ET) and the Huskers play host to No. 9 Minnesota (9 p.m. ET), with the latter being the final match of the Big Ten regular season.
• This week’s Big Ten schedule is jam-packed with five Top 25 matches, four top-10 contests and a top-five blockbuster between No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 5 Nebraska. Already this season (even before this week’s matches), there have been 15 top-10 contests to feature at least one Big Ten team, with seven of those coming in conference play.
• The 2022 NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be televised live Sunday (Nov. 27) at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPNU. Wisconsin is the defending NCAA national champion, edging Nebraska, 3-2 in an all-Big Ten Conference final (before a record crowd of 18,755 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus). In addition, eight conference schools were selected to participate in last year’s NCAA Tournament and five earned top-16 national seeds. At least one Big Ten program has reached the NCAA national semifinals (Final Four) each year since 2007, with at least one member institution advancing to the NCAA national championship match 12 times in that 15-year span. What’s more, the Big Ten has sent two representatives to eight of the past 10 NCAA Final Fours (since 2012). Current Big Ten schools have won a total of 12 national championships (10 while competing as a member of the conference).
• No. 3 Wisconsin is going in search of its fourth consecutive Big Ten Conference title and ninth all-time, which would place the Badgers in elite company. Only twice has a school captured four Big Ten volleyball championships in a row, and both times it was Penn State (eight from 2003-10 and four from 1996-99), which also has a conference-best 17 titles all-time (the most recent coming in 2017). The only other school to earn three consecutive Big Ten titles is Illinois (1986-88).
• No. 5 Nebraska can claim its fourth Big Ten championship this weekend and first since 2017 (a memorable season that culminated with the school’s fifth NCAA national championship). The Huskers also have an opportunity to secure the outright Big Ten title, something they haven’t done since 2016.
• No. 8 Ohio State remains alive to capture at least a share of the Big Ten championship this weekend, something the Buckeyes have done four times in school history, but not since 1994. Should OSU earn a piece of the hardware, it would represent the longest gap (28 years) between championships in Big Ten volleyball history, surpassing 13-year stretches for both Wisconsin (2001-14) and Minnesota (2002-15).
• Just four times in first 40 seasons of Big Ten Conference volleyball have co-champions been crowned, and in all four prior cases, Penn State was one of the two schools to share the title. The most recent split championship came in 2017 (Nebraska and Penn State), with the others in 1992 (Illinois and Penn State), 1996 (Michigan State and Penn State) and 1997 (Penn State and Wisconsin). There has never been a three-way tie for the Big Ten volleyball title — the closest that has ever come to happening was in 2019, when Wisconsin won on the final day of the regular season to claim the conference championship with an 18-2 record in Big Ten play, followed by three schools at 17-3 (Minnesota, Nebraska and Penn State).
• As the Big Ten Conference does not hold a postseason tournament, the Big Ten champion will receive the conference’s automatic qualification into the NCAA Tournament. Should there be a tie for the Big Ten title, tiebreakers will be used only to determine the automatic qualifier (any tied schools will all be declared Big Ten champions). For a two-way deadlock, the primary tiebreakers are head-to-head results, followed by winning percentage against the team occupying the highest position in the standings and working down until one team gains an advantage. For a three-team tie, head-to-head results are used first (winning percentage among all matches among the tied teams), and if any deadlock remains for the top spot, each school’s winning percentage against the team occupying the highest position in the standings is used, working down until one team gains an advantage. Outside of a tie for the Big Ten title (and the NCAA automatic qualification), all other ties in the Big Ten standings are not broken.
• In a stark example of the depth and parity in the Big Ten Conference this season, no fewer than 11 Big Ten programs have at least six wins in conference play and at least one of those victories has come against a team ranked in the top 20 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll. What’s more, four different unranked conference schools have posted a road victory against a top-10 opponent this season, including Indiana’s win at No. 5 Ohio State last weekend.
• Wisconsin remains ranked No. 3 and earning first-place votes, leading a group of six Big Ten Conference schools in the latest American Volleyball Coaches (AVCA) Top 25 poll. Four of those six Big Ten squads are in the top 10, with the Big Ten remaining the national leader with its four top-10 and six top-25 programs. The full AVCA poll can be found on page 3 of this release.
• The Big Ten Conference also stands tall in this week’s NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) rankings, with three schools in the top 10, six in the top 25 and nine in the top 70 of the NCAA RPI report, the most from any conference in the country. Like the AVCA poll, this week’s RPI rankings are listed on page 3 of this release.
• If past precedent holds, Friday’s Wisconsin-Nebraska match in Lincoln may challenge the Big Ten Network viewership record for volleyball. The first time these schools met this season back on Oct. 26 in Madison, 362,000 viewers (the second-largest volleyball audience in BTN history) tuned in as the Badgers defeated the Huskers. The only larger BTN volleyball audience to date came almost exactly one year ago on Nov. 26, 2021, when 375,000 viewers watched Wisconsin defeat Nebraska (also in Madison) to clinch its third consecutive Big Ten title. In addition, of the 10 televised Big Ten volleyball matches to draw at least 200,000 viewers this season, seven were broadcast live on Big Ten Network.
• Indiana picked up a historic victory on Sunday in Columbus, defeating No. 5 Ohio State, 3-2 at the Covelli Center. It was the Hoosiers’ first-ever top-five road win, and the second top-five victory in program history, following a 3-1 win over No. 4 Penn State on Oct. 9, 2010, in Bloomington Coincidentally, before this year’s 8-10 record, the last time Indiana won eight Big Ten matches in a season was that same 2010 campaign, when the Hoosiers went 9-11. Indiana last finished .500 or better in conference play in 2002 (10-10).
• Indiana sophomore setter Camryn Haworth was the second consecutive Big Ten student-athlete chosen as the GameChanger/AVCA National Player of the Week, the organization announced Tuesday. Haworth, who also became the first Hoosier ever named Big Ten Setter of the Week, posted a triple-double on Nov. 18 against Northwestern (37 assists, 11 digs, 10 kills, seven blocks) and nearly had another in Indiana’s win at No. 5 Ohio State on Sunday, ending up with 45 assists, 16 digs and eight kills. Haworth is the third Hoosier to earn AVCA National Player of the Week honors and the first since Nov. 9, 1998, when Ryann Connors was chosen. The Big Ten has now had multiple AVCA National Player of the Week selections during six of the past seven seasons (all but 2021).
• Nebraska senior setter Nicklin Hames became the 27th Big Ten Conference player to record 5,000 career assist, reaching the milestone Sunday in the Huskers’ win over No. 19 Purdue at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Hames has 5,012 assists and needs 108 helpers to move into the top 25 on the Big Ten’s career list.
• Maryland graduate student middle blocker Rainelle Jones has 699 blocks in her career, positioning her to become just the fifth player in Big Ten Conference history to record 700 career blocks. Should she reach the mark, she would also be the third conference student-athlete in five seasons to tally 700 blocks, joining Illinois’ Ali Bastianelli (750 from 2015-18) and Wisconsin’s Dana Rettke (751 from 2017-21).
• A total of 33 Big Ten Conference volleyball student-athletes were selected to receive Academic All-District honors from College Sports Communicators (formerly CoSIDA/College Sports Information Directors of America), it was announced Tuesday. Six Big Ten programs (Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Rutgers) produced the maximum four honorees, all of whom have attained sophomore status, spent at least one year at their current institution and maintain a minimum 3.50 cumulative GPA. These honorees are now eligible for Academic All-America consideration, with those accolades announced Dec. 21. The Big Ten has produced multiple volleyball Academic All-Americans in six of the previous seven seasons (All but 2016).
• The Big Ten Conference also continues to be the most popular conference in the country in terms of attendance, placing a remarkable nine schools among the top 18 in the latest NCAA attendance rankings released Wednesday. Nebraska leads the country at 8,189 fans per match, just ahead of Wisconsin (7,913), with Minnesota fourth (4,782), Ohio State sixth (3,628) and Michigan State seventh (3,302). Illinois is next at No. 14 (2,566), followed by No. 16 Penn State (2,500), No. 17 Purdue (2,374) and No. 18 Michigan (2,346). By comparison, no other conference in the country has more than two schools in the top 18 of the NCAA attendance rankings this week.
• The Big Ten Conference is wrapping up the most robust volleyball television package in its history with a record-setting 55 matches on linear television (47 on Big Ten Network, six on ESPN2/ESPNU, two on FS1). In addition, all non-televised Big Ten volleyball home matches are broadcast live on B1G+, the Big Ten Network’s subscription streaming service (bigtenplus.com).
• On Aug. 1, the Big Ten Network announced a groundbreaking, multi-year distribution partnership with Volleyball World that will enhance the promotion and coverage of Big Ten Conference volleyball across the globe. As part of that agreement, 70+ Big Ten volleyball matches this season appeared worldwide on VolleyballWorld.tv. There was also live streaming of nearly 50 televised Big Ten Network volleyball matches outside of North America and certain Caribbean islands, as well as worldwide streaming of an additional 28 matches from B1G+ inventory, with those matches airing concurrently on B1G+.
• For the 16th consecutive season, Big Ten volleyball honored more than 70 Academic All-Big Ten standouts in 2021, as a record-setting 153 volleyball student-athletes were recognized, including a pair of Academic All-America selections in first-team honoree Sydney Hilley (Wisconsin) and second-team choice Diana Brown (Illinois).