Nebraska vs. Texas, 12.15.16

Texas outside hitter Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani (27), Texas outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu (2) and others celebrate a point over Nebraska during last year's NCAA Volleyball Championship semifinals in Columbus, Ohio.

Journal Star file photo

Volleyball beat writer Brent C. Wagner ranks this weekend’s NCAA volleyball regionals:

1. STANFORD REGIONAL

Friday’s schedule

No. 2 Texas vs. No. 13 Utah, 8 p.m.

No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 4 Stanford, 10 p.m. (TV: ESPNU).

If Texas and Stanford each make the regional final, that’s a couple of heavyweights going at it in a rematch of the 2016 national championship match won by Stanford.

2. LEXINGTON REGIONAL

Friday’s schedule

No. 7 BYU at No. 6 Kentucky, 11 a.m. (TV: ESPNU).

No. 5 Nebraska vs. Colorado, 1 p.m.

This is the only region with three top-10 ranked teams, but there is also unranked Colorado. Kentucky should face a tougher match in the regional semifinals than Nebraska will, but if the Wildcats advance they’ll be playing on their home court with the program’s first trip to the Final Four on the line. Nebraska also has experience here, having won the Lexington Regional in 2015, but Kentucky had already been eliminated that time.

3. STATE COLLEGE REGIONAL

Friday’s schedule

Missouri at No. 1 Penn State, 1 p.m. (TV: ESPNU).

No. 12 Michigan State vs. Illinois, 3 p.m.

Three unseeded Big Ten teams won first- and second-round matches on the road — Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois — with two of them landing in this region. Michigan State vs. Illinois is the only head-to-head match featuring Big Ten teams in this round. Illinois is coached by former Nebraska assistant Chris Tamas. Michigan State beat Illinois 3-0 last month. Penn State is on a 21-match winning streak, with its only loss this season coming against Nebraska. Penn State may win this region pretty easy, which is why it’s ranked where it is, despite being intriguing because three of the four teams are from the Big Ten.

4. GAINESVILLE REGIONAL

Friday’s schedule

No. 17 UCLA at No. 3 Florida, 3 p.m. (TV: ESPNU).

No. 8 Minnesota vs. No. 14 USC, 5 p.m.

Florida has won 13 straight matches and will be tough to beat at home.

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Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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