I received an e-mail earlier this week inviting me to vote this season’s ASICS/VBM Men’s Division I-II Media Poll.
The weekly poll is comprised of 11 voters, and this is my third season to get the opportunity to vote in this national poll. The men’s volleyball media poll is also a little more exclusive than other polls because it’s only a top 10. In comparison, the American Volleyball Coaches Association coaches poll is a top 15.
The top 10 media poll is released every Tuesday evening during the regular season. Once the media poll is made public, I plan every week to release how I voted on this blog.
As I am currently going over stat sheets and match results to create my first media poll ballot of the year, I thought I would explain my voting philosophy.
1. Who have they beaten?
You actually have to beat someone with a good record or ranking to make it in my ballot. I give credit for beating the teams on your schedule. However, I place a lot of stock on a team’s winning percentage against nationally ranked teams.
This can be one of the most deceiving stats in the poll, and confusing for the non-men’s volleyball follower on how a team with a lot losses can be ranked ahead of team with much fewer loses.
The reason for this because of the conference structure in the men’s volleyball. All but a few of the powerhouse volleyball programs are on the West Coast and play in the MPSF conference.
The MPSF is the toughest conference in all of college sports. It would be the college football equivalent of the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and PAC 10 forming a mega-conference. In the most recent coaches poll, eight of the top 10 schools were MPSF teams.
To further complicate things for the poll a MPSF team has 22 conference matches and six non-conference matches in a season. These teams consequently beat up on each other, while the EIVA, MIVA and Conference Carolinas have good teams but the conferences are not as deep.
These reasons lead to MIVA, EIVA and Conference Carolinas teams being ranked lower than MPSF schools despite having fewer losses.
For you college football fans, just consider teams like Ohio State and Penn State — the best two non-MPSF teams — to be like Boise State and TCU.
With MPSF schools, though, I firmly believe you must have a winning record to be ranked in my ballot.
3. The smell test
Along with its record and signature wins, I will take into account a team’s quality of wins and how well it is playing at the moment. A team that is sweeping opponents and hitting at a high percentage is more likely to be ranked higher than team that is barely getting by the same opponents.
If I’m ever undecided whether to flip-flop two teams in the rankings, I always consult the head-to-head record. The team with the better record will usually get the higher ranking.
5. Being ahead of the curve
In the last two seasons, I have historically been that voter who will be the only person to vote for a school. I’m fine with that, and in some cases — like Ohio State last year — I set the trend with other voters putting that school in their ballot in the following weeks. Being a Midwest voter, I am always keeping my eye for non-MPSF schools that are playing well, have a good record and warrant a spot in the poll.
6. AVCA coaches poll
The weekly top 15 coaches poll comes out about 12 hours before our ballots are due. When in doubt on where to rank a team, I will usually consult this poll for some guidance.