Jaren Wilkey/BYU
BYU women's volleyball coach Heather Olmstead talks to her team before the Cougars' match against Texas in the regional final of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships. BYU won in straight sets.

With the Final Four, officially known as the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship national semifinals, set to kick off Thursday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, VolleyballMag looked at major storylines, both from this past Saturday’s quarterfinals and those that exist heading into the semis.

BYU was one of the four teams that came away victorious in the round of eight — the Cougars defeated Texas in three sets — but it was a victory VolleyBallMag’s Lee Feinswog described as somewhat controversial.

“There was debate about the seeding, that Texas should have been No. 4 and BYU No. 5, so this match would have been in Austin, where Texas has a huge home-court advantage,” Feinswog said.

Instead, it was played in Provo and the No. 4 Cougars took advantage.

“BYU certainly thrived while playing in its sold-out, rocking Smith Fieldhouse as the Cougars came away with a 25-23, 25-23, 25-21 victory,” Feinswog noted. “It put BYU back into the national semifinals for the first time since 2014 when the Cougars knocked off Texas and then lost to Penn State in the title match.”

As for the semis, storylines abound.

There is the rematch with the Stanford Cardinal that awaits the Cougars — BYU handed Stanford its only defeat this season — as well as a shot at the first national championship for BYU women’s volleyball, not to mention potential Player of the Year honors for senior Roni Jones-Perry.

First things first, however, BYU must defeat the Cardinal for a second time, and Feinswog quoted Stanford star Kathryn Plummer as saying, “I think that loss has been in the back of everybody’s mind.”

The Cougars and Cardinal will kick off Thursday’s festivities at 5 p.m. MST, while Illinois vs. Nebraska will be the nightcap (7 MST).

Cougars rising

Saturday’s victory over the rival Utah Utes in the Zions Bank Beehive Classic capped off an impressive week for the BYU basketball, and their recent success was reflected in Monday's Mid Major Madness’ West Coast Conference Power Rankings.

BYU came in at No. 4 in the weekly poll, behind No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 San Francisco and No. 3 San Diego.

Of the Cougars' rise — BYU was seventh in last week’s poll — Will Maupin noted, “the Cougars are back! Nick Emery’s return was as impactful as it needed to be — if you ignore his 0 point, 1 rebound performance against Utah. TJ Haws looked like a joyful child, who also happens to be really good at basketball, and Yoeli Childs is an absolute monster.”

Maupin, of course, was referencing Childs’ dunk over Utah center Novak Topalovic, with a side of Both Gach.

Back-to-back-to-back 31 points games are what earned Childs’ a spot on the conference’s ‘Team of the Week,’ however, alongside Isaiah Wright (San Diego), Charles Minlend (San Francisco), Jordan Ford (Saint Mary’s) and Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga).

“Three straight games scoring exactly 31 points for the big man who makes it look easy,” Maupin said of Childs.

Other links

Potato Bowl betting preview: Western Michigan isn’t scared of BYU’s defense (Sports Illustrated)

1 nice sentence about all 39 bowl games (SBNation)

Bowl games 2018-19: Schedule and winning predictions for college football slate(Bleacher Report)

College football bowl predictions 2018-19: Las Vegas betting odds, picks against the spread (International Business Times)

Challenging run toward conference play begins at BYU on Wednesday (GoViks)

And finally…

BYU linebacker Christian Folau announced his intention to transfer from the program Sunday afternoon.

Folau was one of the higher-rated recruits — three stars — who followed Kalani Sitake to BYU when the coach left Oregon State, according to 247Sports’ Jeff Hansen. As such, Hansen believes Utah State, headed by former Beavers head coach Gary Andersen, is as logical a destination as any for Folau.

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“I’d keep a close eye on Utah State as a potential destination for Folau,” Hansen wrote. “Recruiting fans will remember that Folau was once committed to Wisconsin. Who was the head coach of Wisconsin at that point? None other than the newly announced head coach of Utah State, Gary Andersen. After Andersen left Madison and headed to Oregon State, Folau opened up his recruitment and before committing to the Beavers. Eventually, Folau followed Sitake to BYU, but there is a long standing relationship with Coach Andersen that cannot be overlooked.”

And finally… part two

Speaking of BYU football, the Cougars turned up at the Smith Fieldhouse Monday afternoon, for the purpose of wishing the BYU women’s volleyball team good luck in the Final Four.