There are some weeks when you wish your ballot was larger to include more teams, and than there are some weeks like this one when you just can’t seem to find 10 teams who deserve to be in the top 10.
The top teams in the nation have quickly emerged. USC is unanimously the best team in the country both on the court and in the media and coaches polls. In addition, Long Beach State, Stanford, BYU and UCLA have separated themselves as top tier teams in the MPSF, while Penn State remains the best team east of the Mississippi River.
Everyone else still has a lot left to prove to be considered an elite team this season.
Check out this week’s top 10 men’s volleyball media poll and my ballot with explanations on why ranked each team where I did.
Let the debate begin on who are the best teams in the nation.
ASICS/VBM Men’s Division I-II Top 10 Poll
1. Southern California (10) — 100 points
2. BYU — 86 points
3. Long Beach State — 75 points
4. Stanford — 69 points
5. UCLA — 65 points
6. UC Santa Barbara — 46 points
7. Penn State — 37 points
8. UC Irvine — 28 points
9. Ohio State — 23 points
10. Hawai’i — 11 points
My ASICS/VBM Men’s Division I-II Top 10 Poll ballot
1. USC (6-0, 6-0 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated UC Santa Barbara and UCLA
I don’t know what Murphy Troy statistic was more impressive in USC’s victory against then-No. 4 UCLA: his 26 match-high kills, his match-high five aces or serving when the Trojans went on a 10-0 to put the match out of reach. Either way, USC is the best team in the nation and Troy is the front-runner for National Player of the Year.
2. Stanford (5-2, 5-2 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Cal State Northridge; lost to Long Beach State
Before everyone goes nuts about me ranking Stanford No. 2 after hitting a .021 in a three-game loss to Long Beach State, let’s look at the overall picture. The Cardinals still have two victories against No. 3 BYU, an impressive road win against No. 10 Hawai’i and one less loss than the 49ers. It’s one loss, but Stanford needs to impressively beat Pacific, Lewis and Loyola this weekend.
3. BYU (7-2, 5-2 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated UC Irvine twice
The Cougars showcased their home court advantage with two victories during the weekend as more than 4,000 fans witnessed the high altitude do havoc to UC Irvine’s serving. Middle attacker Futi Tavana also continues to be the best blocker in the nation and leads the MPSF with a 1.82 blocks per game average.
4. Long Beach State (6-3, 5-1 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Pacific and Stanford
If anyone didn’t know who middle attacker Antwain Aguillard was before this weekend you should now know the name. Aguillard was named the national player of the week after having a match-high six blocks in a sweep against then-No. 2 Stanford. The 49ers are the hottest team in the nation beating three top-10 nationally ranked teams during their four-match winning streak. The worst thing for this team may now be its 12-day layoff before its next match.
5. Penn State (6-1, 2-0 EIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated Lewis and Loyola
Outside attacker Joe Sunder continues to play like an All-American averaging almost five kills per game, including a match-high 28 kills in a four-game victory against Loyola on Friday. After losing its season opener against UCLA, Penn State is on a six match winning streak and is looking better each week. However, the real test for this team comes during the next eight days when it plays No. 8 UC Irvine, Cal State Northridge and No. 9 Ohio State.
6. UCLA (7-3, 2-2 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Pepperdine; lost to USC
It pained me to drop UCLA in my rankings, especially after a week when it beat Pepperdine for the first time since 2008 and took a game from No. 1 USC. The Bruins showed Friday it is one of the best teams in the conference and can compete with the Trojans. This loss, though, also highlighted the Bruins’ outside attacker offensive production problems and their inability to stop Murphy Troy.
7. UC Santa Barbara (5-4, 3-3 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Peppedine; lost to USC
The Gauchos continue to defeat the teams they are suppose to beat, as evident last week with a three-game loss to USC and a three-game victory against Pepperdine. In addition, senior setter Vince Devany is quietly beginning to emerge as one of the best setters in the conference this season and is second in the MPSF with a 11.11 assists per game average.
8. Ohio State (4-2, 1-0 MIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated Juniata
The Buckeyes in recent years typically lose a match at the start of the season that talent-wise they should win. Ohio State avoided that kind of loss this weekend against Juniata by waking up in the third game. Much like Penn State, this upcoming week with matches against No. 8 UC Irvine, Cal State Northridge and No. 7 Penn State will determine if the Buckeyes can become the new best team east of the Mississippi River.
9. Lewis (6-1, 0-0 MIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated St. Francis, lost to Penn State
Lewis continues to have one of the best defenses in the MIVA holding opponents to a conference-best .194 attack percentage. However, the Flyers have the nation’s most deceiving record with their most impressive victory coming on the road against St. Francis during the weekend. Talent wise Lewis is probably not a top-10 team but it keeps winning the matches on its schedule.
10. IPFW (5-3, 1-0 MIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated George Mason; lost to Sacred Heart
Is IPFW a top-10 team talent wise: no. Will it likely become a top 10 team this season: no. Are there 10 teams playing like top 10 teams right now: no. Thus, this vote goes to the Mastodons because of outside attacker Darryl Shank and his career-high 37 kills in a victory against George Mason. After three down years, coach Arnie Ball has this program going in the right direction and the Mastodons could get out of the first round of the conference tournament this year.
On the bubble
UC Irvine — This is a top-10 caliber team playing an absolutely brutal schedule. However, if UC Irvine defeats No. 7 Penn State and No. 9 Ohio State to move back to .500 it will drastically climb back into my top 10 ballot
Loyola — The road loss to Penn State is understandable, but blewing a two-game lead in a loss to St. Francis leaves me hesitant to put the Ramblers in my top 10. A victory at home against Stanford this weekend will go a long way to easing my hesitancy.
Pacific — The Tigers got their first conference of the season with a victory against Cal State Northridge and moved to 4-4 overall. One more MPSF victory and it will be more conference victories than Pacific had the last two seasons combined.