This is what our version of March Madness gives us:
Either Loyola Marymount or Kansas will make the round of eight.
And so it goes in NCAA Tournament play, where LMU not only upset sixth-seeded Stanford, but swept the Cardinal on their home court.
We’ll get back to that in a minute, but how about some high fives for a few teams that made their first NCAA appearances ever: Southern Illinois battled Illinois all the way against Illinois, SMU gave Purdue all it could handle, and Harvard won the first set against Nebraska.
All that was overshadowed, of course, by LMU.
LMU of the West Coast Conference is in the round of 16 for the first time after winning 28-26, 25-16, 25-23. Stanford. Sarah Sponcil led LMU with 15 kills on 27 swings with just three errors to hit .444. Sponcil added two aces, two block assists and 10 digs.
Here’s a link to the LMU story plus a video of the last point and then the post-match interviews with coach Tom Black and some of the players.
Here’s the link to Stanford’s recap. The Cardinal ended its season 23-7 and with it the careers of some great seniors, Brittany Howard, Madi Bugg and Jordan Burgess. Stanford never made excuses but it had a heck of a run after losing star middle Inky Ajanaku last summer for the season.
There was another big upset Friday when Patriot League-champion American stunned 22nd-ranked Kentucky, sweeping the Wildcats 26-24, 25-17, 25-21. American, you’ll recall, made a big NCAA run two years ago, winning its first two matches.
Freshman Aleksandra Kazala recorded 14 kills and senior Kristyna Lindovska added 10 kills as the Eagles advanced to the second round for just the second time in program history. The Eagles were 18-0 in the conference this season and played a tough non-conference schedule but had only losses to teams like Florida, UCLA, Hawaii and Iowa to show for it.
Here’s a link to the American recap.
A couple of notes about the upstarts:
Michigan State swept Arkansas State, so the answer is no, ASU was not ready to be put into that upper echelon.
But Western Kentucky made a statement by sweeping Arizona. Ohio took a set off BYU and lost the fourth 26-24. There’s always a fine line.
A couple of teams struggled but advanced, which is what it’s all about. TCU gave Hawaii everything it could handle, especially in the third set when Hawaii went up 24-19 but lost 26-24. Hawaii won the fifth set 15-13 in what might have been the most competitive match of the night.
Otherwise it was pretty much business as usual for the top teams.
Florida beat Florida State in four, Belmont took a set off Louisville and Creighton took Coastal Carolina in four.
Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State, UCLA, Texas A&M, Penn State, North Carolina, and USC all had easy sweeps. Texas lost the second set but beat Purdue in four.
Which sets up a bunch of intriguing matches today as the round of 16 will be set. Highest on my watch list:
American at Ohio State, Western Kentucky at BYU, Hawaii at Texas A&M, Louisville at Illinois, and Missouri at Kansas.
Another fun day/night ahead in front of the TV, Apple TV, iPad an phone.