It took almost two months, but UC Irvine is back to No. 1 in the national rankings.
UC Irvine after defeating then-No. 1 UCLA during the weekend received every first-place vote in the new national media poll released Tuesday afternoon. This is the first time since the opening weeks of the regular season that the Anteaters are atop the national rankings.
Check out this week’s top 10 men’s volleyball media poll and my ballot with explanations on why I ranked each team where I did.
Let the debate begin on who are the best teams in the nation.
Volleyball Magazine Men’s Division I-II Top 10 Poll
1. UC Irvine — 100 (10) points
2. UCLA — 90 points
3. USC — 75 points
4. BYU — 74 points
5. Stanford — 55 points
6. Penn State — 45 points
7. Lewis — 44 points
8. Pepperdine — 27 points
9. Ohio State — 23 points
10. Long Beach State — 13 points
Others receiving votes: IPFW
1. UC Irvine (16-3, 12-3 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated UC Santa Barbara and UCLA
The Anteaters are not only the deepest team at outside attacker, but they are the best serving team in the nation. UC Irvine is leading the nation with a 1.79 aces per game average and had 10 aces in a five-game victory against UCLA. This team is primed to have a strong final month of the regular season and make the Final Four.
2. UCLA (18-3, 12-2 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated UC Irvine
No need to hit the panic button for UCLA following its home loss to UC Irvine. The Bruins out-blocked the Anteaters 18.5 to 6.5 and it took an outstanding service performance from UC Irvine to win. In addition, UCLA remains the most balanced offensive team in the nation.
3. BYU (15-4, 11-3)
Last week’s results: defeated Pacific twice
Outside attacker Taylor Sander continues to look like the National Player of the Year. Sander since returning to the court two weeks ago from his hand injury has a team-high 60 combined kills and BYU is on a four-match winning streak. Don’t be shocked if the Cougars run the table the rest of the regular season.
4. USC (13-4, 10-4 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Penn State and Pepperdine
USC had another statement victory as it absoluted thumped Penn State — holding the Nittany Lions to a season-worst .069 attack percentage. The Trojans are also on a nation-best eight match winning streak. However, USC remains below BYU on my ballot because BYU won both matches the two teams played against each other in January.
5. Lewis (15-4, 4-1 MIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated Long Beach State, lost to Cal Baptist
I don’t like moving teams up on my ballot after losing. The road victory against Long Beach State, though, was enough to put Lewis in top five this week — especially given all the other teams ahead of Lewis that lost last week. Lewis is the favorite in the MIVA and will be a difficult team to beat if the Flyers make the NCAA Tournament.
6. Penn State (13-3, 6-0 EIVA)
Last week’s results: lost to Pepperdine and USC
The Nittany Lions’ two-match West Coast road trip was an absolute disaster. Probably the only positive was the Penn State assistant coaches busting out the Hawaiian shirts in the loss to Pepperdine. However, two regular season matches doesn’t erase everything the team did up to that point. Penn State will be fine and will be ready for the Final Four in May.
7. Stanford (14-5, 11-4 MPSF)
Last week’s results: split a two-match series with Hawai’i
Something hasn’t been right with this team since going 8-2 during a season-long road trip. The Cardinal went 3-3 on a recent homestand and don’t play again until March 30. The rest, though, could be a good thing for Stanford as it makes a late-season push to get into the Final Four. And for everyone wondering, Stanford is below Penn State because the Nittany Lions beat the Cardinal on a neutral court earlier this year.
8. Ohio State (13-6, 3-1 MIVA)
Last week’s results: idle
The Buckeyes are coming off their bye week and will play eight consecutive MIVA matches in the final month of the regular season. It’s not impossible, but Ohio State will likely have to run the table win a record six consecutive MIVA regular season championships.
9. Pepperdine (10-9, 6-8 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Penn State, lost to USC
Freshmen Matt West, Josh Taylor and Matt Tarantino could be the core of a Pepperdine team that wins the NCAA championship in 2014 or 2015. This year its a learning process for the team. The Waves, though, will be the toughest low seed to beat this year in the MPSF Tournament.
10. Long Beach State (10-9, 5-7 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated IPFW, lost to Long Beach State
The Active Ankle Tournament for Long Beach State played out as most people expected. Long Beach State will continue its six-match homestand with matches against UC Irvine and BYU, must-wins if the 49ers want to move up in the MPSF standings.
ON THE BUBBLE
Harvard — All I have to say is Jonesanity. Harvard outside attacker Matt Jones had a match-high 16 kills in an upset victory against Cal State Northridge. If Harvard can beat Cal Baptist to close out its West Coast road trip, the Crimson will get serious consideration for my ballot next week.