Remember last week, when we wrote “it’s becoming more and more clear who the 25 best teams in the country are”? That wasn’t an exaggeration.
It might read like a mistake, but it’s not: this week’s AVCA Top 25 Coaches’ Poll is in the exact same order as last week’s poll.
Confirmed: This is the first time in #AVCA Division I history (since 1982) that two consecutive national rankings remained the same.— AVCA (@AVCAVolleyball) October 23, 2017
That means Penn State, with 52 first-place votes, remains atop the heap, with Stanford chasing at No. 2, Texas in third with its single first-place vote, and Florida and Minnesota polishing off the Top 5.
Since there was no shuffling this week — no winners or losers, no risers or fallers, and only one upset in No. 19 USC beating No. 12 Utah — let’s look a little deeper into a few categories, and then look ahead.
Which conferences are dominating?
As is often the case, two conferences have established themselves as volleyball’s premiere houses of talent: the Big Ten and the Pac-12. Each conference has six teams in the Top 25, tied for most in the country.
But the Big Ten owns the tiebreaker with the Pac-12 for top billing: among their respective six teams, the Big Ten has a staggering five squads in the Top 10 (No. 1 Penn State, No. 5 Minnesota, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 9 Wisconsin, and No. 10 Michigan State) while the Pac-12 only has one.
In terms of quality points, where a team’s rank counts for that many points, and a lower score is a better score, the Big Ten has 49 points among those six teams, while the Pac-12 has 75 points.
Still, we’re splitting hairs at that point. Both conferences are littered with talent, and will be well-represented in this year’s tournament.
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Elsewhere, the Big 12 clocks in at third in the conference power rankings with four teams in the Top 25; the SEC, AAC, and WCC are each tied for fourth with two each; and three conferences have one team:
- Mountain West (No. 20 Colorado State)
- Big Sky (No. 23 Cal Poly)
- Missouri Valley (No. 25 Northern Iowa)
Who hasn’t lost in a while?
Fifteen teams in the country are on win streaks of at least 10 matches right now. Seven are in the Top 25, including No. 8 BYU (13 straight), No. 23 Cal Poly (14 straight). But atop the list is… "receiving votes” VCU at 19 straight?
That’s right: the team with the longest win streak in the country isn’t in the Top 25 right now. Why? Because the Rams started the season with two early losses, so their record is 23-2 at the moment despite playing in the Atlantic 10, a conference without a fellow Top 25 squad.
Another team streaking is the country’s unofficial No. 26, Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers began the season in the Top 25, but two early losses saw them tumble out of the rankings.
Now, at 23-2 in Conference USA and riding their own 19-match win streak, the Toppers are just 13 points behind No. 25 Northern Iowa in voting. The Toppers might be destined for a reunion with the rankings if the Panthers slip up in the coming days.
Which teams have had the toughest schedules?
Some might look at this week’s rankings and notice that the only three teams in the country with at least 20 wins — No. 8 BYU, No. 20 Colorado State, and No. 25 Northern Iowa — are outside the Top 5, and No. 8 BYU (one loss this year) is a spot behind No. 7 Nebraska (four losses this year). Why?
Strength of schedule, that’s why.
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Check out the five teams with the toughest schedules so far this season:
- Texas A&M, SEC
- Ohio State, Big Ten
- Nebraska, Big Ten
- Oregon, Pac-12
- Florida, SEC
Meanwhile, BYU is ranked No. 85, Northern Iowa is ranked No. 126, and Colorado State is ranked No. 148.
The best of this coming week
Finally, let’s look at this week’s best upcoming matches.
- No. 9 Wisconsin vs. No. 1 Penn State, Wednesday
- No. 19 Utah vs. No. 15 Oregon, Wednesday
- No. 7 Nebraska vs. No. 10 Michigan State, Friday
- No. 12 USC vs. No. 14 Washington, Friday
- No. 18 San Diego vs. No. 8 BYU