Gophers set for championship-caliber weekend of Big Ten volleyball

The seer in charge of the 2022 Big Ten volleyball schedule did a great favor for fans of the sport by creating a quasi round-robin tournament with what turned out to be the four best teams in the conference over the regular season's final two days. The NCAA tournament selection show follows on Sunday (ESPNU, 6:30 p.m.).

"It makes for good entertainment," Gophers coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "I hope the fans are happy and we'll all battle here and see what happens."

Here are the details and what's at stake for each team:

CURRENT BIG TEN LEADERS

Wisconsin (23-3, 17-1 conference)Nebraska (24-3, 16-2)Ohio State (19-7, 15-3)Gophers (18-8, 13-5)

THE MATCHUPS

Friday

No. 9 Gophers at No. 8 Ohio State (5 p.m., B1G+)

No. 3 Wisconsin at No. 5 Nebraska (7 p.m., BTN)

Saturday

No. 3 Wisconsin at No. 8 Ohio State (6 p.m., BTN)

No. 9 Gophers at No. 5 Nebraska (8 p.m., BTN)

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Gophers: A team that started the season with Big Ten title aspirations is out of that race after a clunky 4-3 opening to conference play. McCutcheon's squad has steadied things of late, going 9-2 with road losses to Wisconsin and Penn State, but this weekend will be a litmus test. The Gophers have the only conference win against Wisconsin and tournament resume-building wins against Baylor, Florida, Oregon and Purdue, but they do not have a marquee road win. They will likely host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, but a win or two this weekend could help seeding and give momentum to their postseason goals.

Wisconsin: The defending national champion has shown its mettle. When the Gophers swept the Badgers at Maturi Pavilion in September, the Badgers were 1-1 in the Big Ten and 7-3 overall. They've won 16 straight since. The weekend is simple for Wisconsin: defeat Nebraska and clinch their fourth-straight Big Ten championship.

Nebraska: After losing in the NCAA championship game to Wisconsin last year and getting swept earlier this season in Madison, the Cornhuskers will be out for revenge. They can grab at least a share of the conference title with two home wins this weekend.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes were on a 14-match conference win streak and seemed to have the inside track on the Big Ten title but two surprising losses last week — at Maryland and at home vs. Indiana — means they need a lot of things to break their way for a share of the championship.

Impact on the NCAA tournament: The current NCAA RPI ratings — not the only metric the selection committee uses, but an important one — go like this: Wisconsin (5), Ohio State (6), Nebraska (7), Gophers (13). It would be easy to assume that whoever wins the Big Ten might get a No. 1 seed and have the chance to host two weekends, including the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. For the Gophers, the difference between a No. 3 or No. 4 seed might hang in the balance.