Weeks featuring a significant amount of non-conference matches can lead to some of the biggest changes in a poll — and last week was no different.
With everything from a top-five team losing to an unranked opponent to UCLA eking out two five-game victories at home against some of the best EIVA and MIVA teams, there was a significant amount of movement in the bottom of my top 10 ballot this 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 (9) — 99 points
2. BYU — 83 points
3. Stanford — 80 points
4. Ohio State (1) — 78 points
5. UC Irvine — 50 points
6. Long Beach State — 42 points
7. UCLA — 38 points
8. UC Santa Barbara — 33 points
9. Penn State — 27 points
10. Hawai’i — 14 points
Others Receiving Votes: Loyola, Lewis
My ASICS/VBM Men’s Division I-II Top 10 Poll ballot
1. USC (14-1, 14-1 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated UC San Diego UC Irvine
All remains good for USC. The Trojans continue to move closer to becoming the first team in more than 10 years to be ranked No. 1 from the preseason to the end of the regular season. It also is leading the nation with a .367 attack percentage and a 9.68 digs per game average. In addition, outside attacker Murphy Troy had 27 combined kills in its two wins this weekend and is the front-runner for the National Player of the Year.
2. Stanford (14-4, 11-4 MPSF)
Last week’s results: idle
Having a bye week does not hurt you on my ballot. Enjoy the bye week before your non-conference match against Cal Baptist next week and wake me up in two weeks when Stanford gets its next serious test against No. 6 Long Beach State.
3. BYU (13-6, 9-5 MPSF)
Last week’s results: idle
The bye week did not change much with this team in terms of the rankings. It is still one of the best defensive teams in the nation, it is one of the few teams that could get the at-large bid to the Final Four and it is still ranked behind Stanford because it lost to the Cardinal twice at the beginning of the season.
4. Ohio State (15-2, 8-0 MIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated Ball State
You know this team has depth when it does not even need All-American outside attacker Shawn Sangrey to defeat a good Ball State team. Setter Steven Kehoe is leading the nation averaging 12.10 assists per game and outside attacker John Klanac is fifth in the MIVA with a 3.14 kills per game average. As long as Sangrey can return from his injury soon, this team should be on cruise control heading into its match at the end of the month against No. 5 UC Irvine.
5. UCLA (13-9, 6-8 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Penn State and Loyola
When UCLA was on its five-match losing streak earlier this season coach Al Scates said he wasn’t extremely concerned because other Bruins teams had struggled at the start of the year and then won a championship. The Hall of Fame coach might have been on to something as the Bruins are on a five-match winning streak. This team probably won’t win a national title this year, but with Wes Dunlap in the middle it could be a dangerous low seed to play against in the conference tournament.
6. UC Santa Barbara (12-9, 9-7 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Lewis; lost to Penn State
The Gauchos have the fifth best attack percentage in the nation at .337, and setter Vince Devany is in the nation’s top five with a 11.41 assists per game average. In addition, outside attackers Jeff Menzel and Cullen Irons are both among the conference leaders averaging 3.50 kills per game. However, the biggest test for UC Santa Barbara will come in its final six matches as it tries to advance to the postseason for the first time in five years.
7. Long Beach State (10-8, 8-5 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Penn State; lost to Lewis
Long Beach State’s loss against Lewis was the first time it lost to a MIVA team since playing Ball State in 2002 and the first time it lost a home match against a MIVA team since 1988. The team recovered to beat No. 9 Penn State to salvage its home tournament, but the loss to Lewis is its first bad loss of the season.
8. UC Irvine (12-10, 9-7 MPSF)
Last week’s results: lost to USC
Outside attacker Carson Clark in the last five matches has a combined 87 kills, including a match-high 27 kills in the four-game loss to USC. The junior is also fourth in the nation with a 4.67 kills per game average. Despite its loss to the Trojans, the Anteaters have won six of their last eight matches and are in sixth place in the MPSF. With six conference matches left, don’t be surprised if UC Irvine finishes in the top four and hosts an MPSF Tournament match.
9. Penn State (15-5, 7-0 EIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated UC Santa Barbara; lost to UCLA and Long Beach State
The Nittany went 1-2 on its West Coast road trip but really needed to win one more match against the MPSF to move up in the rankings and make its case that it should be higher than the No. 4 seed in the Final Four. Penn State should still win the EIVA, barring an absolutely collapse, and will get to host the NCAA Final Four. Time to start looking forward to that USC versus Penn State NCAA semifinals match in about six weeks.
10. Hawai’i (10-9, 8-6 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Pacific twice
For the first time this season, this top 10 preseason team finally has a winning record. The Warriors swept their four-match homestand and are in the top half of the MPSF standings with eight conference matches remaining in the regular season. In addition, outside attacker Jonas Umlauft continues to lead the nation with a 5.35 kills per game average.
On the bubble
Loyola — The Ramblers traveled to the West Coast undefeated last year and got blown out in almost every match of that road trip. Loyola this season proved it can compete with the West Coast schools. This is the best non-MPSF team outside of Ohio State and Penn State.
Lewis — Lewis defeated Long Beach State to pick up its first victory against a top 10 team this season. One signature win, though, is not enough to get them in the top 10 right now when Loyola and Hawai’i have multiple signature wins.
Ball State — This team will need to win its road match against Penn State to get any consideration of moving into my ballot. The positive news is Ball State was one of the last three teams to beat Penn State at home — that victory came in January 2006.