Where they stand in NCAA volleyball: Power 5, Big East, Conference USA, West Coast

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It was look out below for Washington as Stanford's Sami Francis hits the overpass/Stephen Burns photo

After another weekend with more surprises, great performances, and clarity in some leagues but logjams in others, the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball season passed the midway point in conference play.

This is a look at the Power 5 conferences plus the three other leagues that boast ranked teams — the Big East, Conference USA, and West Coast Conference.

We will break down the other 24 conferences Tuesday.

Headlining Sunday’s results was No. 2 Louisville’s five-set home victory over No. 4 Pittsburgh. It was the biggest ACC match in history, a result that left the Cardinals as one of only two unbeaten teams in the country and put the Panthers in a three-way tie for second in the conference.

But Pitt is still No. 1 in the NCAA RPI.

Minnesota beat visiting Ohio State in four to keep alive slim hopes for a Big Ten title. The loss dropped the Buckeyes four games off the lead.

A Sunday in the Pac-12 is never boring. Oregon rallied for a reverse sweep at USC, and Washington swept Stanford and is tied with UCLA atop the standings. Five other teams are within two games of the lead.

In the SEC, LSU swept visiting Tennessee, and Mississippi State beat Texas A&M to pull into a tie for second place in the loss column, with Tennessee and Florida. 

There are just five matches on Tuesday’s schedule, including Horizon-leading Milwaukee, 11-0 in conference play, at Green Bay.

AVCA POLL — Voters in the AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Women’s Poll aren’t taking any risks. The top five teams — Texas, Louisville, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, and Kentucky — stayed the same. And no one dropped out.

Nebraska moved up three spots to No. 6, BYU went up a spot to No. 7, Washington jumped two spots to No. 8, Ohio State dropped three places to No. 9, and Baylor moved up one to No. 10.

Purdue had the biggest fall, from No. 7 to No. 12.

Click here for the complete poll.

NCAA RPI — Although Pitt lost, it stayed No. 1 in the computer rankings, followed by Texas, Wisconsin, Louisville, and Baylor. 

The RPI is not the be-all end-all, but it’s a factor in seeding for the NCAA Tournament, especially the coveted top-four and top-16 seeds.

The next five in the RPI are Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Tennessee, and Purdue.

UCLA, Nebraska, BYU, Creighton, and Miami come next, with Marquette, Stanford, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Florida State rounding out the top 20.

That gives the ACC three teams in the top seven and six in the top 20. The Big Ten has three teams in the top 10 and five in the top 20.

Worth noting: Rice of Conference USA is No. 25 and UCF of the American Athletic is No. 27, both ahead of No. 28 Western Kentucky of C-USA. 

Click here for the complete NCAA RPI list, that includes matches through Sunday. Click on “Conference” at the top of the list to break it down league-by-league.

ACC — Louisville (20-0, 10-0) continued its best start with its 19-25, 25-20, 27-25, 22-25, 15-13 victory over Pittsburgh (18-2, 8-2). 

That sets up Louisville for one of the top-four NCAA Tournament seeds, which come with home matches for the first four rounds. Even with the loss, Pittsburgh is still in top-four contention, with unbeaten Texas of the Big 12 and a few Big Ten teams.

The Louisville-Pitt rematch is November 24, the day before Thanksgiving, in Pittsburgh to end the regular season. 

Five Cardinals had 10 or more kills Sunday, and the only other player with a kill was setter Tori Dilfer. She had one, to go with 57 assists, an ace, four blocks, and four digs. and her team hit .258.

Claire Chaussee had 17 kills and hit .483. Anna DeBeer had 17 kills, an ace, three blocks, and seven digs. Anna Stevenson had 13 kills, two aces, two digs, and five blocks, one solo. Amaya Tillman had 12 kills and eight blocks, two solo, and Aiko Jones had 10 kills and two blocks. 

“With it being a historic match, the first top-five matchup in the conference and to have it deliver on the (ACC) Network and be everything that fans thought it would be, back-and-forth and some amazing plays, was pretty special,” Louisville coach Dani Busboom Kelly said. 

“We know we need to continue to get pushed, and Pitt really exposed some of our weaknesses today, so that gives us a lot to build on moving forward for the rest of the conference and hopefully the postseason.”

Pitt, which had won three in a row since losing to now No. 14 Georgia Tech, hit .338. The Panthers got 18 kills from Leketor Member-Meneh, who hit .389 and had two assists, two aces, 12 digs, and four blocks, two solo. Chinaza Ndee had 16 kills, hit .303, and had two assists, five blocks, and a dig. Kayla Lund had 14 kills, hit .407, and had two assists, a block, and seven digs. Serena Gray had nine kills, hit .333, and had seven blocks and a dig. Chiamaka Nwokolo had five kills, an assist, a dig, and five blocks. 

There were six other ACC matches Sunday, and all ended in sweeps, including Georgia Tech’s win at Boston College. Mariana Brambilla had 20 kills, two aces, eight digs, and a block for Tech.

Louisville holds a two-game lead on Pitt, Georgia Tech, and Miami, and Florida State is fifth at 7-3. All of those teams will make the NCAA Tournament, North Carolina and Notre Dame are most likely at-large qualifiers, and Syracuse still has a chance to get in.

Katie Myers, left, and Airi Miyabe are all over this Ohio State attempt/Kelly Hagenson photo

BIG TEN — Next up in the league that provides thrill after thrill is Wednesday’s match pitting second-place Wisconsin (17-1, 9-1) at B1G-leading Nebraska (16-3, 10-0 and the only unbeaten in conference play). More than just the league lead is at stake — a top-four NCAA seed could be on the line.

Penn State (14-6, 7-3) and Minnesota (12-6, 7-3) are tied for second, and Ohio State (16-4, 6-4) fell into a tie with Purdue (14-5, 6-4) and Illinois (14-7, 6-4) after a two-loss trip to Wisconsin and Minnesota. Michigan (12-7, 5-5) is tied with Maryland (17-5, 5-5) and will get an at-large bid, but Maryland needs some upsets to stay in the mix.

Sunday, Minnesota beat visiting Ohio State in four as Stephanie Samedy led with 22 kills, 21 digs, and an assist. 

Stat of the weekend: Wisconsin beat Ohio State in four on Friday and Penn State in five on Saturday. In the nine sets, Wisconsin middle Dana Rettke had 40 kills with three errors in 69 attacks and added 10 blocks, one solo.

BIG 12 — Like every year, the race for first is between Texas and Baylor, but as many as five teams hold out hopes for at-large NCAA bids.

Unbeaten Texas (17-0, 8-0) has been No. 1 in the AVCA Poll since the preseason and remains No. 2 in the RPI. The Longhorns have lost just seven sets all season. Baylor (13-4, 7-1) stands No. 5  in the RPI. The teams will meet twice at Baylor, on November 5-6. 

Here’s where the Big 12 gets interesting. Although their records don’t indicate it, Iowa State (12-7, 4-4), West Virginia (13-6, 3-5), and Kansas (11-8, 3-5) are all in the at-large mix, as are Texas Tech (13-8, 3-5) and Kansas State (12-7, 3-5). Texas Tech and Kansas State get cracks at Texas before the season is over, and Iowa State still has Baylor.

PAC-12 — The short version is that UCLA and Washington are tied for the lead and five or six more teams will make the NCAA Tournament. But don’t let the balance fool you. The Pac-12 might get only a couple of top-16 seeds and none in the top four, but no one wants to play any of these teams in December.

Down 0-2 in the Pac-12? No worries.

UCLA (15-3, 8-2) has won six of seven since losing at Washington (15-3, 8-2) in, of course, a reverse sweep. And the only loss in that stretch was at Arizona State last week in, of course, a reverse sweep. 

Stanford (12-6, 7-3) and Washington State (13-7, 7-3) are tied for third, followed by Oregon (15-5, 6-4), Utah (13-6, 6-4), USC (10-9, 6-4). Oregon kept things bunched up Sunday with a reverse-sweep victory at USC, which stands No. 48 in the RPI. However, USC has plenty of chances to gain ground with matches against Washington, Washington State, Utah, Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA still remaining.

SEC — Kentucky won it all last spring, proving that a team from the SEC can win the NCAA title. The league has eight teams in the top 45 of the RPI. 

Kentucky (15-3, 8-0), which got stretched to five sets twice this weekend by visiting and fifth-place Arkansas, holds a two-game lead in the loss column over Tennessee (16-4, 8-2), Mississippi State (16-5, 7-2), and Florida (13-6, 7-2). Arkansas (14-6, 5-4) sits alone in fifth, followed by Ole Miss (15-5, 4-5), LSU (9-12, 5-7), Auburn (12-8, 4-6), South Carolina (12-8, 4-6) and Texas A&M (11-9, 4-6). 

Kentucky stands No. 5 in the RPI. Tennessee is No. 9 and followed by Florida (29), Mississippi State (32), Arkansas (33), Texas A&M (37), South Carolina (39), and Ole Miss (45).

Thanksgiving in Lexington will be special this year when Florida visits Kentucky for back-to-back matches November 26-27 to close the regular season.

A&M has lost four in a row — back-to-back this weekend to State — and five of six. But the Aggies have back-to-back matches at Kentucky on November 13-14 that will be crucial to their hopes for an at-large NCAA bid.

LSU, after sweeping Tennessee, is playing as well as anyone, but the Tigers stand 71st in the RPI and have six matches left, none that will help them raise that number enough even if they win out. In an unusual bit of scheduling, LSU played at home the past three weekends against top-three teams Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

BIG EAST — Marquette (18-3, 9-1), still unranked but receiving votes, is in first place, followed by 24th-ranked Creighton (20-3, 8-2). Marquette (No. 16 RPI) and Creighton (No. 14 RPI) are the only teams that will get at-large NCAA bids if they lose in the conference tournament. UConn (15-7, 7-3) is No. 66 in the RPI. 

But this league can be confounding. Marquette took its lone league loss at Creighton — the rematch is Friday in Milwaukee — and needed a reverse sweep last week to beat DePaul at home.

Creighton was upset twice, at St. John’s and at UConn. The only other team with an outside chance of an at-large bid, St. John’s (13-11, 4-6, 68 RPI), lost in four at home Sunday to Butler. St. John’s still has matches left with Creighton and Marquette.

CONFERENCE USA — Western Kentucky (2-1, 8-0) rules the standings and is the only ranked team, moving up a spot this week to No. 18. The Hilltoppers, who have won 13 in a row and lead C-USA East, are No. 28 in the RPI. 

But unranked Rice (13-5, 4-0) comes in at No. 25 in the RPI this week. The Owls, who have won eight in a row, are atop C-USA West. 

The two don’t play each other, but you can imagine they would meet again in the conference tournament. WKU beat Rice in four in the final last spring and went on to the NCAA’s Sweet 16.  Rice, you might recall, lost its first-round NCAA match to North Carolina A&T because it had positive COVID tests and had to forfeit. 

The next closest Conference USA team in the RPI is UTEP (16-5, 5-3), which is third in the West and ranked 59th. 

WEST COAST CONFERENCE — San Diego, up a spot to No. 20 in the AVCA Poll despite losing to BYU, has another shot at BYU, but right now the Cougars are in the driver’s seat after sweeping in Provo this past Friday. 

That left BYU at 19-1 overall and 9-0 in the WCC and San Diego at 14-4 and 8-1. 

BYU, which has won 12 in a row, is No. 13 in the RPI and most likely will get a top-16 seed. San Diego is No. 34, and third-place Pepperdine (15-4, 7-3) has slipped to No. 52. The Waves have lost to BYU and USD and were upset by Pacific. Loyola Marymount is 15-5, 6-4, but ranked No. 82 in the RPI. 

The BYU-USD rematch is November 23 in San Diego to close the regular season.

Louisville’s Anna Stevenson hits against Pitt’s Serena Gray Adam Creech, Louisville Athletics

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