The Minnesota volleyball team will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament at the Sports Pavilion. Minnesota will welcome Iowa State (19-12), North Dakota State (24-3) and Northern Iowa (25-8) to the Sports Pavilion for the first and second rounds. Iowa State and Northern Iowa will play the first match on Friday, Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. The Golden Gophers will face North Dakota State on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. The winners of the two first-round matches will face each other in the second round on Saturday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. North Dakota State claimed the automatic bid out of the Summit League after winning the conference tournament. Iowa State was an at-large selection out of the Big 12, while Northern Iowa was an at-large selection out of the Missouri Valley Conference. It marks the first time Minnesota has hosted the first and second rounds since 2003, and first time since the 2004 NCAA Regionals that the Sports Pavilion has played host to NCAA Tournament action. The Golden Gophers have hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in the Sports Pavilion in 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2003. Minnesota hosted the NCAA Regionals in 2004. The Golden Gophers are the No. 2 seed in the region, which feeds to Austin, Texas. Texas is the overall No. 3 seed in the tournament, and the No. 1 seed in the region. Oregon is the No. 3 seed, while UCLA is No. 4.
Minnesota received a No. 6 national seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and a No. 2 seed in the Austin region. It marked the fourth time in seven years that the Golden Gophers received a top eight national seed. This year’s No. 6 seed was Minnesota’s second-highest in school history. The Golden Gophers were a No. 7 seed in 2002, a No. 4 seed in 2004 and received the No. 8 seed in 2006. Minnesota was also seeded No. 13 in 2003. As a conference, the Big Ten received four of the top 16 national seeds. Penn State had the highest of any team in the conference at No. 1. The Golden Gophers were No. 6, followed by No. 9 Illinois and No. 10 Purdue. The Big Ten had the second-highest total of seeds of any conference. The Pac-10 led the way with five, followed by the Big Ten and then the Big 12 (two). The Atlantic 10, Conference USA, Mountain West, WAC and SEC each had one team receive a national seed.
Minnesota is 11-1 in 12 first round NCAA Tournament matches. The Golden Gophers are 9-1 in first round matches under current head coach Mike Hebert. Before Hebert, Minnesota won home first round matches against Colorado (1989) and Ball State (1993). In Hebert’s first nine first round matches, the Golden Gophers defeated Central Florida (1996), Miami (Ohio) in 1997, Sacramento State (1999), Robert Morris (2000), DePaul (2001), New Hampshire (2002), Wisconsin-Green Bay (2003), Long Island (2004), Winthrop (2005) and Siena (2006). Minnesota lost in the first round for the first time in school history to Sacramento State at Stanford last year.
Minnesota is one of only eight teams in the nation to advance to six or more regionals over the course of the last nine seasons. The Golden Gophers advanced to the Regional Semifinals in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Minnesota went a step further when it advanced to the Final Four in 2003 and 04. The Golden Gophers faced Stanford in the National Championship in 2004. Minnesota also advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals in 2003, 04 and 06. Nebraska is the only program to play in the last nine regionals. Florida, Hawai’i and UCLA have advanced to eight of the last nine, and Penn State, Stanford and USC have played in seven of the last nine.