NCAA volleyball: Where things stand

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Later today I’ll post on this site the first of three parts to my video interview with Karch Kiraly. He was a most interesting and gracious interview and you’ll be glad to check it out. We spoke at the national-team training site in Anaheim.

Speaking of interviews, we have two other video chats planned for this week, one with Ohio State’s Luisa Schirmer and another with Mike Hagen of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Hagen spearheaded the new Coastal Collegiate Sports Association that will field beach volleyball for LSU, Florida State, FIU, FAU, UAB, South Carolina, Georgia State and Tulane.

Of course tomorrow we will have the weekly POW roundup and later in the week a feature on the Louisville women. who are unbeaten in the ACC.

But for now, a look back at  what a busy weekend in NCAA volleyball left us as we look ahead.

By the way, I’m happy to report, saw our friend Steve Aird and his Maryland team get their first Big Ten victory of the season. Of course, the Terps beating Rutgers won’t affect the AVCA poll that comes out later today, and that should be most interesting with all the results of the past few days, but it was good to see for a team that has endured some tough injuries in an awfully tough league.

So we can start with the Big Ten, which now looks like this at the top: Minnesota all alone at 17-3, 9-1, followed by Penn State at 19-2 and 8-2. The Nittany Lions are tied with Ohio State (19-3, 8-2) and Purdue (17-4, 8-2). And a game back after losing at home for both times in a weekend for the first since joining the league is Nebraska at 16-4, 7-3. Two teams sit at 6-4 in a league in which nine teams got into the NCAA Tournament last year, Wisconsin (14-6) and Michigan State (14-7).

How tough is the Big Ten? Michigan is 15-6, 5-5, and Illinois, once ranked as high as No. 6 nationally, is 13-8 and 4-6, tied with Northwestern at 12-9, 4-6. And the bet here is all 10 make the NCAA bracket.

Since we mentioned Louisville, let’s go to the ACC, where the Cardinals (16-4, 10-0) are tied with Florida State (17-4, 10-0). North Carolina (11-8, 8-2) is now two games back. Surprising Pitt (17-4, 7-2) has quietly won five of six. Its non-conference losses were to Michigan and Nebraska. Pitt plays Florida State and Miami this weekend. If the Panthers sweep, we’ll have to take them most seriously.

Moving to the Big 12, which is really the Big One, where it’s all about Texas. Kansas was undefeated when it visited raucous Gregory Gym on Friday and went home with a total of 49 points. Clearly the gap remains huge between the Longhorns (18-1, 8-0) and everyone else. Kansas (19-1, 7-1) is playing for seeding in the NCAA Tournament now and trying to make sure it holds off Iowa State (13-6, 6-2), TCU (15-5, 5-3), and Kansas State (12-8, 4-4).

The Southeastern Conference is a jumbled mess where it seems everyone beats everyone but Florida is back on track after avenging all three of its unprecedented three defeats in the Mary Wise era.

Kentucky (15-6, 8-1) is in position to win the league, since the Wildcats (15-6, 8-1) are finished with Florida. Missouri is 18-3, 6-2, and gets another crack at Kentucky later on. Texas A&M (13-6, 6-2) is tied for second, followed by Florida (15-4, 7-3) and surprising LSU, 9-11 overall but 5-4 in the SEC after winning in five against Auburn on Sunday. Tennessee is also a nice surprise at 19-6, 5-5, but two teams that got everyone’s attention early Ole Miss (18-6, 4-5) and Arkansas (13-7, 3-5) need to turn things around in a hurry. Once-ranked Arkansas just finished a stretch in which it played nine of 11 matches on the road, and is on a five-match losing streak.

Rounding out the power-five conference is the Pac-12, which boasts the No. 1 team in the nation and only remaining undefeated squad in USC. The Women of Troy (22-0, 10-0) hold a two-game lead in the standings over Washington (18-2, 8-2) and UCLA (17-3, 8-2). And USC goes to Washington on Friday, while UCLA goes there Sunday.

Stanford is a game back at 13—5, 7-3, followed by Arizona State (17-4, 6-4), Colorado (13-9, 5-5), Arizona (14-8, 4-6) and Oregon (10-9, 4-6). Last year the Pac-12 got 10 into the NCAA Tournament, right now it’s going to be tough to get more than those eight unless Washington State (14-8, 3-7) scores some upsets.

Speaking of which, the West Coast Conference will make its case with first-place San Diego (16-6, 9-1) and BYU (18-3, 8-2), who are sure to be in, and perhaps Santa Clara (17-5, 8-2), which last week sat at No. 45 in the RPI. Loyola Marymount is only 15-7, but after beating Portland for the first time on Friday and then stunning BYU on Saturday, the Lions are sure to move up from No. 31 in the RPI and certainly control their own fate.

Colorado State of the Mountain West has the same annual problem. Great record (17-3, 10-0) but can’t apologize for the league being lackluster. The Rams have won 11 in a row. Boise State is 15-7, 7-3, but No. 53 in the RPI and Wyoming (16-6, 6-4) is No. 48.

The Big West is looking up at Hawaii, 18-1 overall and 8-0 in the league. Hawaii’s only loss was to UCLA. Long Beach State is (17-5, 7-2) but 57th in last week’s RPI. Cal Poly is also 7-2, 15-5 overall and 83rd in the RPI.

There are two teams worth mentioning, not only because of their records but also their RPI. Arkansas State (20-1, 11-0 in the Sun Belt Conference) is No. 13 in the RPI. Interestingly this is a team without transfers and without foreigners. ASU’s only loss was to Missouri.

And then there’s Western Kentucky of Conference USA, 19th in the RPI. CUSA is a really weak volleyball league and WKU, which has won 17 in a row, dominates. The Hilltoppers (23-2, 10-0) lost to Dayton and Missouri State, but have victories over Wisconsin, Southern Illinois, Northwestern and Alabama. That’s the kind of team that can mess up an NCAA bracket. Also worth noting is that WKU is also a team without foreigners or transfers.

Finally, there are Creighton of the Big East despite being located in Omaha, and SMU of American Athletic Conference. Creighton has won 12 in a row and at 17-7, 11-0 owns a two-game lead in the Big East and was 23rd in the RPI.

SMU was No. 35 last week in the RPI and holds a two-game lead in the AAC standings. The Mustangs are a 19-3, 9-1, with its losses out of conference to Arizona and UCLA and in the league to Houston to start AAC play.

Anyway, this wasn’t meant to capture the standings and fate of every team but a way to get a handle on what’s happening as we head into the home stretch of what has been and will continue to be an extremely interesting NCAA women’s volleyball season.

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