Another week of volleyball featured more top-10 classes in the Big Ten and a shocking upset in Lawrence, Kansas, before weekend play began.
Out of the top-10 matches, Penn State was the biggest winner, but it’s still plenty behind Minnesota, which continues its dominance. Elsewhere, an Oregon loss begs the question: Could Stanford be the only Pac-12 team as a national seed?
Here are five takeaways from this week’s AVCA coaches top 25 poll.
Biggest jump: Penn State
The game of the week was between two teams that just about everyone expects to contend for a national championship each year — Penn State and Nebraska. As competitive as these two teams have been historically, the Nittany Lions ended a seven-game losing streak against the Cornhuskers with a five-set home victory Saturday night.
As expected, this greatly impacted the rankings with Penn State jumping five spots and leapfrogging the Huskers, who stayed at No. 5. It wasn’t just the home win against the fifth-ranked team, but a road win against No. 17 Purdue also helped Penn State.
Largest fall: Texas
In the Big 12, Texas is the opponent every team circles on its schedule at the beginning of the year. The Longhorns know that, so it’s not an apology for an upset loss. It’s simply an acknowledgement of how difficult the conference slate can be for the Longhorns, even against unranked opponents.
Texas lost to Kansas on Wednesday night and subsequently fell four spots in the rankings. Texas should be good enough to earn a national ranking in the NCAA tournament, but Micaya White and the Longhorns have lived on the edge this year with three of its six Big 12 wins coming in five-set fashion, all of which were on the road.
5️⃣-1️⃣ 🤘 pic.twitter.com/wcTiMmaTQb— Texas Volleyball (@TexasVolleyball) October 14, 2018
Clear top three teams?
For the sixth straight week, BYU and Stanford are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. A few weeks ago, it was discussed that the Cougars and the Cardinal are the clear-cut top-two teams in the country. But is Minnesota the clear-cut No. 3 team? It’s tough to argue against.
Beginning with this week’s poll, Minnesota and the new No. 4 team, Penn State, are separated by 156 points. Last week, the No. 4 team was behind the Gophers by 41 points. Now, a lot of that has to do with No. 4 Texas and No. 5 Nebraska both losing this past week, but considering the Gophers have beaten teams ranked No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 7, it’s time to consider Minnesota as legit a title contender as any. Oh, and it has dropped one total set in those four games.
Will Stanford be the only Pac-12 national seed?
Two weeks ago, Oregon had a massive bounce-back week with road wins against UCLA and USC. This past week it fell two spots to No. 16 after a loss at Utah. With Oregon and USC on the brink of the top-16 rankings, it’s worth wondering if the Pac-12 will have another team in the NCAA tournament as a national seed.
Now, this is by no means a statement of where the selection committee currently views these teams. That is unknown. By looking at the RPI rankings — with USC at No. 4 and Washington and Washington State at No. 14 and No. 17, respectively — the Pac-12 is likely just fine in getting multiple teams in the tournament as national seeds. Just given the current trajectory of the conference, in which every team seems to be beating each other and Stanford looks invincible, it’s a question worth asking.
Stanford has a much anticipated matchup at Oregon on Sunday in the middle of four straight road games.
Kansas getting deserved recognition
The Kansas Jayhawks hve been a common sight near the AVCA top 10 for the better part of three seasons. This was expected to be a down year for Kansas, but its 15-4 record, win over No. 4 Texas and new No. 23 ranking say otherwise.
The Jayhawks have won nine in a row and are 6-0 in the Big 12 despite early-season struggles in the nonconference. Texas is likely still the top dog in the Big 12, but the Jayhawks have to be the next-best team at this point.
Other notable takeaways:
Pittsburgh improved to 20-0 this past weekend and quietly earned nearly 100 points in the new ranking. At No. 6, the Panthers are separated from No. 5 Nebraska by just 11 points and No. 4 Penn State by only 23.
Also, the Florida Gators have not been mentioned in some time, but they have quietly won 13 straight games and have stayed at No. 11 in the rankings since Sept. 10. But, the Gators have gained 154 points over that span. It’s only a matter of time before they’re back in the top 10.