The Sweet 16 in volleyball is set. Thirteen of the 16 seeded teams survived the first- and second-rounds on their home courts, including the top seven overall seeds.
The Big Ten still has six teams playings (out of nine who got bids). The Pac-12 has three, the Big 12 two, the SEC one. So who is looking good?
Well, the Big Ten champion Gophers, based on RPI rankings (which look at a team's record and its strength of schedule), have the easiest path to the Final Four in Omaha.
Minnesota, seeded No. 2 overall, is No. 2 in the latest RPI, too, which came out at the end of the regular season.
The next highest-rated team in RPI in the Gophers' Des Moines region is two-time defending champion Penn State at No. 10. Minnesota swept the Nittany Lions 3-0 at home late in the regular season and almost beat them on their court before losing 3-2.
The other teams in the regon are Hawaii and Illinois, two unseeded team who are Nos. 26 and 29 in RPI. Add those numbers up and the total RPI score for the region is 67 -- 14 higher than any other region.
The Gophers beat Illinois 3-2 in a home match that was close for three sets before the U won the last two decisively. Hawaii has a good record, 28-1, but played a weak schedule.
So Minnesota, if it plays at the top of its game, should get to the Final Four.
TOUGHER THAN NAILS
The toughest regional? Easily the one in Austin. All four teams are in the top 11 in RPI.
Texas, the third seed overall, is No. 1 in RPI and gets to play on its home court. But the Longhorns, 61-9 in NCAA matches in Austin, could have their hands full.
Wisconsin, No. 5 in RPI, has a 14-game win streak and finished third in the tough Big Ten. UCLA, No. 11 in RPI, beat Pac-12 co-champ Southern Cal two weeks ago. And Flordia, No. 7 in RPI, beat Texas 3-1 in early September. The Gators finished fourth in the SEC, but are the only SEC team still playing.
Add the RPI numbers of the teams here and it's 24. (The lower the number, the strong the region.)
OTHER TWO REGIONALS
Southern Cal, No. 3 in RPI, is the clear favorite in the San Diego region. Other teams and their RPIs are Kansas (8), Creighton (15) and Loyola Marymouth (27), the other unseeded team still playing. Total RPI number is 53.
In Lexington, Nebraska (4), runner-up in the Big Ten, and Pac-12 co-champ Washington (9) both look strong. Also in the region is BYU (14), NCAA runner-up a year ago, and Ohio State (17). RPI number for this region is 44.
BEST REGIONAL SEMIFINAL
There are two, acutally, that look intriguing:
* Washington vs. Ohio State in Lexington: Buckeyes could be a tough out; they have two 3-2 losses to the Gophers this season. The Huskies are the No. 5 overall seed in the NCAA, OSU No. 12.
* Penn State vs. Hawaii: Two coaches with more than 1,000 wins face off: Russ Rose of PSU vs. Dave Shoji of the Rainbow Wahine which has lost one one game (to UCLA) this season. Rose's two-time defending champions won't go down easy, tough. Winner gets either the Gophers or Illini.