NCAA Tournament play-in match to follow tonight

Photo courtesy of The Ohio State University athletics.

The men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament and the road to the VolleyFour begins tonight. Check out the play-in match to follow and how to follow the match live.

Ohio State (23-5, 11-3 MIVA) vs. King (23-5, 15-1 ConfCarolinas)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match tweets
Season series: First meeting this season
All-time series: First meeting between the two programs
NCAA championships: Ohio State (3); King (0)
Last NCAA title: Ohio State (2017); King (never)
Quick stats: A ConfCarolinas team has never won a match or a game in the NCAA Tournament since the conference began receiving an automatic bid to the tournament in 2014. Ohio State is 13-0 all-time against ConfCarolinas schools and has lost a combined four games in those matches.
What to know: No men’s volleyball team has been required to win four NCAA Tournament matches in order to capture a national championship since the tournament switched to a bracket format in 1974. Than again, Ohio State is accustomed to pulling off NCAA firsts. No MIVA team had won and retained the NCAA championship until the Buckeyes earlier this decade. Ohio State will attempt to move one round closer to a national championship three-peat as it plays host to King in the NCAA Tournament play-in match. Ohio State outside attacker Nicolas Szerszen enters his third NCAA Tournament after being named the Most Outstanding Player of the MIVA Tournament last week. The senior had a match-high four aces along with 12 kills on a .417 attack percentage in a sweep against Loyola in the conference tournament finals on Saturday. This was the seventh time since the start of March that Szerszen had double-digit kills while hitting at least .400. Szerszen is in the nation’s top 15 with a 3.69 kills per game average and has the nation’s best attack percentage among pin hitters at .376. The French native on Wednesday also was named the college men’s volleyball 2018 International Player of the Year. Along with Szerszen, the Buckeyes are third in the nation with a .340 attack percentage, and All-MIVA setter Sanil Thomas is averaging a nation-best 11.17 assists per game. While Ohio State is attempting to become the second program to three-peat as NCAA champions, King is making its program’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. King leads the NCAA with a .146 opponent attack percentage, including holding Barton to a conference season-worst .036 attack percentage in its ConfCarolinas Tournament finals sweep on Saturday. All-conference outside attacker Jeff Sprayberry finished with a match-high 14 kills in that postseason victory. Sprayberry is third in the ConfCarolinas and among the national leaders with a 3.70 kills per game average. The senior has double-digit kills in 19 matches this season, including 15 kills in a four-game loss to Loyola in March. Middle attacker Jon Wheaton also is third in the conference with a .349 attack percentage and has hit at least .325 in his last seven matches. In addition, Wheaton leads the ConfCarolinas and is in the nation’s top 15 with a 1.13 blocks per game average. The Buckeyes, despite having a better RPI ranking than three teams in the seven-team NCAA Tournament, were placed into the play-in match largely because of their proximity to the ConfCarolinas champions. The two schools are within 400 miles of each other resulting in the NCAA only having to pay the King’s travel costs using ground transportation for King to get from Bristol, Tennessee, to Columbus. If the lowest RPI team in the tournament Harvard had been place in the play-in match, the NCAA would have to pay for the entire team’s airfare to the match because the Crimson are not located within 400 miles of any other NCAA Tournament opponent. The winner of this play-in match will face UC Irvine in the NCAA Tournament first round on Tuesday in Los Angeles.