PROVO — It may not be the same bold "four, four, four" prediction as former pro basketball star Moses Malone made going into the 1983 NBA Playoffs, but the BYU men's volleyball team has its own "fours" as the third-ranked Cougars look to extend their postseason.

The Cougars (24-4) meet Cal State Northridge (23-6) at Long Beach, Calif., in the first of Thursday's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation semifinals, with top-seeded Long Beach State taking on Pepperdine in the other.

Here are the "four" connections:

• With two victories this week, BYU reaches the NCAA Final Four with the automatic berth afford the MPSF Tournament champion.

• With four victories, BYU claims its first NCAA championship since 2004 — ironically, its fourth national title in a decade (1999, 2001 and 2004).

• But it's been four years since BYU has enjoyed such postseason success — not since 2004 have the Cougars won an MPSF tournament semifinal or final match or played in the Final Four.

The safest path to the Final Four is to win the MPSF Tournament and gain the berth, one of three automatic invites to conference tournament champions. The other two are the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) and the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA).

Top-ranked and once-beaten Penn State is hosting the final two rounds of the EVIA tournament and is favored to be that league's Final Four representative, with ninth-ranked Ohio State filling the same bill with the MIVA.

That leaves the likes of second-ranked Long Beach State, No. 3 BYU, No. 4 Northridge and No. 5 Pepperdine battling for the MPSF title and auto-berth honor as well as the fourth "at-large" spot in the NCAA Final Four.

A BYU defeat in Thursday's semifinals — like last year's five-game MPSF semifinal loss to eventual NCAA champion UC Irvine — dashes the Cougars' Final Four hopes. Advancing to the MPSF finals enhances BYU's chances, but it doesn't guarantee being one of the four.

Typically, the powerhouse-laden MPSF sends a pair to the Final Four — the tournament champion and the second "at-large" selection. But the MPSF tournament runner-up is not always the automatic second choice, and the at-large team could come from another league.

For example, if Penn State is upset in the EIVA tournament, another team gets that association's automatic berth and the Nittany Lions get serious consideration for the at-large spot.

2008 MPSF volleyball tournament

Saturday's quarterfinal results

No. 2 BYU def. No. 7 UC Irvine, 3-1

No. 3 CS Northridge def. No. 6 Stanford, 3-0

No. 5 Pepperdine def. No. 4 UCLA, 3-1

No. 1 Long Beach State — bye

Thursday's quarterfinals at Long Beach

No. 2 BYU (24-4) vs. No. 3 CS Northridge (23-6), 6:30 p.m. MDT

No. 1 Long Beach State (23-5) vs. No. 5 Pepperdine (14-10), 9 p.m.

Saturday's finals at Long Beach

BYU-CSUN winner vs. LBSU-Pepperdine winner, 8 p.m. MDT

Winner receives automatic berth in the 2008 NCAA Final Four

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