As expected after USC won the Pac-12 Championship and beat UCLA twice along the way, the Trojans are the No. 1 seed for the NCAA’s National Collegiate Beach Championship that starts Friday in Gulf Shores, Ala.

The NCAA announced the eight-team bracket Sunday with the charge of choosing three teams from the East, three from the West and two at-larges. There were no major surprises in the bracket that is posted below.

USC (28-4), second-seeded UCLA (31-3), and fourth-seeded Pepperdine (20-9) came from the West, while third-seeded Florida State (28-5), No. 5 LSU (29-6), and No. 8 Stetson (29-8) were the East selections.

Sixth-seeded Cal Poly (25-10) and No. 7 Hawai’i (26-9) got the large berths. Left out were  FIU in the East and Cal and Long Beach State in the West.

“It’s absolutely getting tougher every year,” said USC coach Anna Collier, whose team won the inaugural 2016 and 2017 titles before UCLA won last year. “I think it’s pretty well balanced. I think the West Coast may still be slightly better, because we have the East Meets West, and usually the West wins, and we bring in the best from the East. But we’re not crushing like we used to.

“As far as the whole country is concerned, everyone is getting better. Everyone is playing a higher level of ball. You watch Washington, you watch Utah, these are newer programs that are just developing. They’re playing a high level of volleyball.

“They’re playing a great game. Normally, we would play someone, and we would say, ‘Let’s work on our fundamentals, let’s work on the basics,’ those days are absolutely gone.”

The tournament begins at 9 a.m. Central when USC faces Stetson, followed by LSU vs. Pepperdine at 10. Hawai’i plays UCLA at 11, and Florida State plays Cal Poly at noon. All four matches will be on ESPNU.

So will Friday’s two winners’ matches and two elimination matches, eight in all on the day. Saturday’s four matches will be show on ESPN2 and so will Sunday morning’s elimination match. The championship final is at 1 p.m. Central Sunday on ESPN.



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