No new men’s volleyball teams moved into the top 10 media poll this week but there was a significant amount of movement as five teams changed spots in the rankings.
UC Irvine, Long Beach State, UCLA, Hawai’i and UC Santa Barbara all changed rankings. The most interesting change in this week’s poll, though, was the ranking of the 49ers. Long Beach State made the biggest jump, climbing two spots to No. 5, despite losing both its matches to No. 2 BYU last week.
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/Volleyball Magazine Men’s Division I-II Top 10 Poll
1. USC (10) — 100 points
2. BYU — 89 points
3. Stanford — 77 points
4. UC Irvine — 72 points
5. Long Beach State — 42 points
6. Ohio State — 40 points
7. UCLA — 35 points
8. Hawai’i — 34 points
9. Penn State — 29 points
10. UC Santa Barbara — 27 points
Others receiving votes: Lewis, Loyola
My ASICS/Volleyball Magazine Men’s Division I-II Top 10 Poll ballot
1. USC (18-1, 17-1 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Stanford and Pacific
Everything remains good at USC. The Trojans on Saturday clinched their first MPSF regular season championship since 2000 and are a lock to make the Final Four as the No. 1 seed, even if they loses in the conference tournament. This team also has a chance to become the first team in more than 15 years to be ranked No. 1 from the preseason to the end of the regular season. Outside attacker Murphy Troy is a front-runner for the National Player of the Year, and Bill Ferguson is a front-runner for National Coach of the Year.
2. Stanford (17-7, 13-6 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Pepperdine, lost to USC
Stanford since its bye week a month ago is 3-3 and is tied with BYU in the loss column for second place in the MPSF. The lone thing keeping the Cardinal No. 2 on my ballot is its two victories against BYU at the beginning of the season. However, that stat is going to become irrelevant if Stanford has more losses than BYU. More important than the rankings, this team needs to win its final three matches get some momentum heading into the conference tournament.
3. BYU (18-7, 14-6 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Long Beach State twice
Middle attacker Futi Tavana is continuing to emerge as a productive offensive option for the Cougars as this season progresses. The conference leader in blocks had a season-high 15 kills and then a team-high 11 kills in victories against Long Beach State last week. In addition, outside attackers Rob Stowell and Taylor Saunders are both in the nation’s top 25 for kills per game average and attack percentage. BYU is on a five-match winning streak heading into its regular season finale and seems to be peaking at the right time in the season.
4. UC Irvine (15-11, 11-8 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated UCLA and UC Santa Barbara
There is a reason John Sepraw coached teams always compete for championships. He knows how to coach and motivate his players. UC Irvine is on a three match winning streak since Sepraw went on his quasi-postmatch rant to the media following a three-game loss to UCLA. Outside attacker Carson Clark during this winning streak has 52 combined kills and remains in the nation’s top five with a 4.66 kills per game average.
5. Penn State (20-5, 10-0 EIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated George Mason
Penn State has become so dominant it is not even that big of news anymore when it wins a conference championship. The Nittany Lions clinched their 13th consecutive EIVA regular season title and went undefeated in the EIVA Tait Division for the third straight season. This team has improved since the start of season and has put itself into a position to get the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament if it beats Ohio State on Sunday and wins its conference tournament. And before everyone flips out on how high I have Penn State ranked, just remember it has quality wins against Hawai’i and UC Santa Barbara this season.
6. Hawai’i (14-11, 12-8 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Cal State Northridge twice
Jonas Umlauft is worth the price of a plane ticket to Hawaii to see him play. The sophomore outside attacker had at least 20 kills in five of team’s last six matches and is leading the nation with a 5.59 kills per game average. No other player in the country is even averaging five kills per game. The Warriors have won eight of their last 10 matches and have put themselves in position to host a quarterfinals match in the MPSF Tournament.
7. UC Santa Barbara (13-11, 10-8 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated UC San Diego, lost to UC Irvine
No matter what happens the rest of way, this season has been an absolute success for UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos last week clinched their first postseason berth in five years and third-year head coach Rick McLaughlin has turned around the struggling program. With its remaining schedule it will be difficult for UC Santa Barbara to get enough wins to host MPSF Tournament match but don’t be surprised if as low seed it pulls a first-round upset.
8. Ohio State (18-5, 11-1 MIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated Loyola, lost to Lewis
Something just is not right with the Buckeyes right now. Ohio State defeated Loyola in the dungeon of Alumni Gym to win the MIVA regular season title, but then played possibly its worst match of season in a loss to Lewis. That loss ended the Buckeyes bid at becoming the first team in more than 10 years to go undefeated in the MIVA and leaves people wondering about this team. However, don’t hit the panic too hard. All-American outside attacker Shawn Sangery is still recovering from an injury and this team should be fine come the MIVA Tournament.
9. UCLA (15-11, 8-10 MPSF)
Last week’s results: lost to UC Irvine and UC San Diego
This team just can’t win or lose once, it needs to go on a streak. Here is a quick breakdown of the Bruins’ streaks this season: a five match losing streak, a five match losing streak, a two match losing streak, a seven match winning streak and now a two match losing streak. In addition, UCLA failed to clinch a spot in the MPSF Tournament on Saturday after losing at home in three games to unranked UC San Diego. The Bruins better hope they are on a winning streak come the postseason.
10. Loyola (17-6, 7-2 MIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated Lewis, lost to Ohio State
The Ramblers are now settled into the No. 2 seed for the MIVA Tournament after its home loss to Ohio State. There is still a chance this team can make a run the conference tournament. However, not having home court advantage throughout the tournament, possibly having to play its cross-town rival Lewis in the semiefinals and then going on the road to play Ohio State will make it difficult for Loyola reach the Final Four.
On the bubble
Long Beach State — It’s really hard to justify putting a team into your top 10 after they lose two matches, and were blown out in one of them. The positive for Long Beach State is it’s in the MPSF Tournament and can move back into my top 10 with wins this week.
Lewis — A quality upset win against Ohio State will likely give Lewis the No. 3 seed in the MIVA Tournament and a chance to play Loyola in the semifinals. This could be the year the Flyers break through and reach the championship match — something it has not done since returning from its NCAA death sentence.