The Big Ten is a battle week after week, and Purdue came out victorious in both matches this weekend. So, the Boilermakers re-enter my Power 10 with a big bang this week.
Here is my Power 10, just two weeks ahead of selections on Nov. 28.
1. Louisville (1)
Guess what? The Cards have yet again cruised past another test. Louisville moved to 24-0 this past weekend after taking down Georgia Tech in a straight sweep for the second time this season. The Yellow Jackets put up a good fight in every single set, but it was never enough to take a set from the top-ranked Cards. The sweep shows the dominance and clear No. 1 spot in the nation for this team. Anna Stevenson led with 12 kills and four blocks on .296 hitting. Claire Chaussee was second on the team with 11 kills and hit .360 for the match, Aiko Jones added 8 kills and Anna DeBeer and Amaya Tillman contributed six each. This was another all-around effort for this balanced team, and I think they've got all it takes to go the distance this year.
BRACKET PREDICTIONS: 2021 volleyball projections two weeks from selections
2. Texas (2)
The Longhorns stay at No. 2 and should stay there for the rest of the season given no unforeseen circumstances. The Longhorns are another team that clearly has all of the components needed to win a national title. They are a dominant team with dominant players and wicked serving. They are hard to beat on almost any given night, and it takes a dominant performance to take them down.
3. Pittsburgh (3)
The Panthers narrowly escaped Syracuse over the weekend in a five-set win, but stay at No. 3 with a 24-2 record. Pitt led 2-0 on the match before Syracuse stormed back to win the third and fourth sets. The Panthers then won the fifth 15-9 to avoid the upset. Leketor Member-Meneh has been a phenomenal asset for Pitt in the second half of the season, she posted 23 kills on .362 hitting in the win over Syracuse. Kayla Lund followed with a double-double of 14 kills and a team-best 13 digs and Chinaza Ndee notched 2 kills with four blocks. The Panthers might have moved down a spot if Wisconsin had pulled out a win over Purdue, but they fell and the Panthers stay put.
4. Wisconsin (4)
Like I just mentioned, the Badgers lost just their third match this season and second to Purdue over the weekend. Even with the loss, Wisconsin stays at No. 4 for me. Here is why — the Big Ten is a battle week after week. Although the Big 12 and ACC that the three teams above Wisconsin are in are super tough conferences, they aren't facing the same quantity of tough opponents as Wisconsin is in the Big Ten, week after week during conference play. Secondly, below Louisville, Texas, Wisconsin and BYU, you start getting into teams with four, five, six and seven losses on the season. Wisconsin notched just its third loss, and two of those were to a really good team in Purdue. Plus, they have five impressive wins over Kentucky, Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State and Nebraska. So yes, they stay at four.
Like I mentioned last week, this team is not bulletproof. Especially not after they lost Danielle Hart to injury. Teams CAN figure out how to beat them, and Purdue did it twice by slowing down Dana Rettke. But, its no easy task, and most, (clearly) cannot.
5. BYU (7)
The Cougars move up two spots to No. 5 with UCLA and Georgia Tech dropping matches this past weekend. BYU still has just one loss on the season to Pitt, which was its toughest opponent on its schedule, and then they have wins over Utah and San Diego. They notched two wins over Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount over the weekend for its regular-season home finale. Kennedy Eschenberg notched her 556th career block which puts her at No. 4 in program history for all-time blocks and No. 1 in history for all-time solo blocks, tallying 54.
6. Baylor (8)
Baylor also moves up two spots with the fall of UCLA and Georgia Tech over the weekend. After No. 5, every team has a good amount of losses, so No. 6-10 are pretty subjective. So as you might know if you are a regular reader of my Power 10 rankings ... ranked, good wins are the most important thing a team can have, in my book. So, that might tell you why I have Baylor as No. 6. They have one thing no one else does and that is a win over Texas, the previous No. 1 team in the nation. They have the No. 4 RPI as well.
7. UCLA (5)
The Bruins drop to No. 7 following a loss to Oregon on Sunday. Some might think they should drop farther, but this was only their fourth loss this season, it was to a ranked team they already beat once, and they still have four really good wins over Washington, Utah, Oregon and Georgia Tech. Those four good wins keep them in the top 10 for now.
8. Purdue (NR)
I mean, way to make a statement, Purdue. The Boilermakers just took down TWO top Big Ten opponents in Wisconsin and Minnesota over the weekend. Quite the way to march right back into the Power 10. With the addition of these two wins, I put them above Kentucky. If you want to argue that, I simply disagree. The Boilermakers have five losses yes, but four great wins over Wisconsin twice, Ohio State and Minnesota. Kentucky has four losses, but only two big wins over Stanford and Tennessee. Purdue's win trumps Kentucky's, in my opinion. This team is on fire as of late, and they are getting hot at the right time this season. Caitlyn Newton has been so consistent for them, Rae Colvin has been stepping up big time and Grace Cleveland is always a big factor as well.
9. Kentucky (9)
As I said, the Boilermakers get the nod ahead of the Wildcats because of their big wins this season. The Wildcats have four losses and one recent one to South Carolina. They have good wins, but not enough to propel them above any other team listed here. They did however notch three sweeps over the weekend over Georgia and Texas A&M twice.
10. Minnesota (10)
The Gophers STAY in my top 10. Yes, despite their seventh loss on the season to Purdue. Again, I think the Big Ten is a grind week after week, they are going to notch losses. And secondly, they have FIVE good wins over Stanford, Oregon, Ohio State twice and Nebraska. Other teams in consideration are Ohio State, a team with five losses and three or so really good wins over Purdue, Nebraska and Washington. Georgia Tech, who has four losses and two good wins over Pitt and Penn State. Washington, a four loss team with three wins over UCLA, Stanford and Oregon and lastly Nebraska, a six loss team with wins over Purdue and Penn State. So, again, Minnesota's five trumps all of those.