The NCAA Tournament field will become a whole lot clearer at the conclusion of Conference Championship Saturday.
Three of the six spots in the NCAA Tournament will be decided tonight as the MIVA, EIVA and MPSF all have play conference tournament championship matches. With underdog teams like Lewis and Princeton also eyeing a chance to win and crash the NCAA Tournament, each conference title match will have significant affect on Selection Sunday.
Check out the conference tournament championship matches to follow tonight.
MIVA TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
No. 1 seed Loyola (26-1, 14-0 MIVA) vs. No. 2 seed Lewis (23-6, 11-3 MIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Chicago
Follow live: Gametracker, Online video, In-match tweets
Season series: Loyola leads 2-0
Last MIVA Tournament title: Loyola (2013); Lewis (2012)
What to know: Loyola will attempt to complete an undefeated season against the MIVA as for the second consecutive year the Ramblers and Flyers will meet in the conference tournament championship match. The Ramblers last season rallied to win that championship match in five games and advance to their first NCAA Tournament in school history. If Loyola can complete the repeat it would also become the first team since Ohio State in 1969 to go undefeated in a MIVA regular season consisting of at least 10 matches and then win the conference tournament. This will be the third time the two schools have played each other this season with Loyola winning both regular season matches in four games. Both outside attackers Joseph Smalzer and Cody Caldwell in the last victory against the Flyers finished with at least 20 kills. Lewis reached the championship match for the third consecutive season after rallying from a one-game deficit in the semifinals to beat Ball State in five games on Thursday. All-American opposite Geoff Powell also leads all players during the conference tournament with 37 combined kills, including a match-high 18 kills in the win against the Cardinals. In addition, a Lewis victory would likely result in there being two MIVA teams in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the tournament’s 45-year history. In the latest Off the Block bracketology, Loyola has a big enough lead that it will earn an at-large bid and the No. 1 overall seed even if it loses in the conference championship match.
MPSF TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
No. 1 seed BYU (20-8, 18-6 MPSF) vs. No. 2 seed Stanford (22-7, 17-7 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Provo, Utah
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, Radio feed, In-match tweets
Season series: BYU leads 2-0
Last MPSF Tournament title: BYU (2013); Stanford (2010)
What to know: Stanford coach John Kosty and his players have the challenge of trying to figure out some way to slow down BYU All-American Taylor Sander in the biggest conference match of the season. Sander in last meeting between the two teams had a season-high 27 kills as the Cougars defeated the Cardinal on the road in five games. The four-time All-American senior also has at least 20 kills in three of the last five matches against Stanford dating back to his sophomore year in 2012. Sander finished the regular season becoming the fourth player in the conference’s history to win back-to-back MPSF Player of the Year awards and was among the national leaders with a 4.53 kills per game average. Stanford enters its third MPSF championship match in the last five years on a conference-best 13-matching winning streak and swept the No. 2 seed Pepperdine in the MPSF Tournament semifinals on Thursday. The Cardinal in the victory out-hit the Waves .474 to .114, while All-American outside attacker Brian Cook added a match-high 17 kills. This championship match could also play a significant role determining what team earns a top-two seed to the NCAA Tournament and the bye to the semifinals. Both teams enter Conference Championship Saturday in contention for the No. 2 seed with Stanford holding a slim edge, according to the latest Off the Block bracketology projections.
EIVA TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
No. 1 seed Penn State (23-6, 13-1 EIVA) vs. No. 3 seed Princeton (16-9, 10-4 EIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in University Park, Pennsylvania
Follow live: Gametracker, Online video, In-match tweets
Season series: Tied at 1-1
Last EIVA Tournament title: Penn State (2013); Princeton (1998)
What to know: No one has to tell Penn State what could happen if it overlooks Princeton in the EIVA championship match. The Nittany Lions will attempt to get their NCAA-record 16th consecutive conference championship title but will have beat the only EIVA team it lost to in the regular season. Princeton upset Penn State in five games in February for their first victory against the Nittany Lions in almost 15 years. In addition, Princeton was the last team to defeat Penn State in the EIVA Tournament when it accomplished the feat in the 1998 conference semifinals en route to its only NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. This match will also feature four of the conference’s top five leaders in kills per game average. Penn State outside attacker Aaron Russell, the 2014 EIVA Player of the Year, leads the conference with a 3.99 kills per game average, while opposite Nick Goodell is second averaging 3.74 kills per game average. In addition, Princeton outside attacker Pat Schwagler and opposite Cody Kessel are averaging more than 3.15 kills per game. The Tigers are playing in their first EIVA Tournament championship match since 2010 after it upset the No. 2 seed Harvard in the conference semifinals on Thursday. Penn State in its semifinal match lost the opening game at home for the first time this season but rallied to defeat George Mason in four games.