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August 13, 2019 in Husker Volleyball
Preseason polls are out. Huskers come in at Number 2, behind Stanford.
Five Big Ten schools in the Top Ten. Amazingly tough conference.
Others receiving votes and listed on two or more ballots: Missouri 100; Utah 56; Colorado State 51; UCF 45; Pepperdine 36; Florida State 33; Hawai'i 13; Northern Iowa 13; TCU 10; UCLA 7; Cincinnati 6; Rice 6; South Carolina 6; Texas State 6; Loyola Marymount 4; Colorado 3; Kansas 2
Not much of a difference in the initial rankings with how the season ended last year. If you overlay the final poll of the 2018, it doesn’t take a lot of manipulation to come up with the pre-season poll. In fact, Louisville is the only team in the top 25 in the pre-season that wasn’t in the final top 25 of 2018. Not sure if this is a lack of imagination on part of the voting coaches, or if teams at the top are just doing a good job of recruiting and training to maintain the status quo.
Stanford at the top is not surprising to anyone. They had 5 All-Americans on the floor against Nebraska in the finals and return all of them with the exception of middle blocker Tami Alade. Then they go out and get an All Pac-12 middle transfer from UCLA. Then they go out get the no. 1 recruiting class for 2019. The Color Cardinal are stacked and loaded.
While the Pac-12 is a tough conference, it clearly isn’t the grind at the top that the B1G is. Stanford is a cut above everyone else. But you have to admire the Color Cardinal. They don’t duck anybody. Stanford opens non-conference play with a couple of ho-hum opponents, then they have Florida, Texas, Penn State, Minnesota, Nebraska and BYU to close out the non-conference portion of their schedule. All pre-season top 10 teams. Almost like a B1G schedule in the middle of October.
The Pac-12 has 5 other teams in the top 25 occupying positions 11-25 and 2 other schools receiving votes. Last year was a quagmire for Pac-12 teams in the bottom half of the top 25 with each taking turns beating up on each other. At one time, there were 7 teams ranked from 14-25 with two others receiving votes. Oregon and USC ended tied for 2nd in conference with 13-7 records. This year, it will be slightly different as Oregon has the horses to break out of the pack and hang around the top ten most of the year. For the other schools……… it’s more of the same mosh pit with the weekends characterized by 5 set matches and plenti-o-upsets.
Nebraska at no. 2 is not as clear cut as Stanford is at no. 1, but is largely there because of the “Cook Factor” and the reality the Huskers have made 4 final fours in a row. Plus they did have the No. 2 recruiting class behind Stanford.
The top five B1G schools that finished in the top 10 last year, are also ranked in the top 10 this year. There might be some disagreement on who slots where, but putting Minnesota at no. 3 makes sense if you’re just looking at the number of returning All-Conference players. However, after experiencing the growing pains of replacing a POY caliber setter in 2018 for the Huskers, I believe that Minnesota replacing Seliger‑Swenson, Illinois replacing Poulter, and to a lesser extent Penn State replacing Weiskircher is going to be tougher sledding than people might expect. Particularly in the first half of the season. I would probably flip Wisconsin and Minnesota. I would probably also swap Penn State and Illinois as the orange & blue lost All-American middle Bastianelli in addition to Poulter.
Michigan and Purdue are also included in the top 25, but no other B1G team is even receiving votes. The B1G will be a deeper conference this year and I expect teams like Ohio State, Maryland, and Michigan State to compete for tournament berths with Iowa and Indiana as dark horse picks.
In 2017 the SEC was a two team conference with no one else in the picture. Last year, the two teams were challenged a bit. And while it is still Kentucky’s and Florida’s conference to lose this year, there are even more teams getting into the competitive mix. Look for Tennessee, Missouri, and South Carolina to be in the top 25 discussion along with LSU and their no. 10 recruiting class. And it won’t be long before aTm and their 200 + million dollar athletic budget starts participating in the volleyball ARMS race. The SEC is an improving conference as opposed to …………….
The ACC is again down to Pittsburgh and Louisville with the Panthers gunning for a hometown visit to the final four. And while Florida State is a consistent presence in the NCAA tournament, this conference, surprisingly, is not a very good volleyball conference. The ACC has one final four appearance in tournament history (Florida State in 2011) which is the same as UT@Arlington. If Dani Busboom can somehow maneuver through the pig sty that IS Louisville Athletics (The Bird Cardinal), she could have a chokehold on this conference for years to come.
Texas again has a lot of returning talent, again has a highly regarded recruiting class, again is the prohibitive favorite in the B12, again is ranked in the top ten, and again will find a way to squander a title run. Texas did win the title in 2012, but are 1 – 7 in final fours since 2008. Baylor also is a very athletic team, however, they are maddeningly inconsistent. They will beat a top 5 Wisconsin team, then within 24 hours lose a match to something called UT@Rio Grande Valley formally known as Pan American University (go fightin’ Vaqueros????). With a year of seasoning along with a good recruiting class, a young Kansas squad should also compete for a tournament slot. It will be interesting to see how TCU’s top 5 recruiting class translates to the court. Iowa State is another possible tournament entry albeit more of a long shot.
BYU is again in the top 10 and has a chance to make a statement early in non-conference play with matches against Stanford, Texas, and Marquette. Last year I called the West Coast Conference the “Conference That Sucks” because BYU was plowing through it effortlessly. That depiction was sorely inaccurately as the West Coast Conference placed 4 teams in the Tournament and 2 (San Diego and BYU) made the 2nd weekend (the sweet 16). It appears that BYU, Loyola Marymount, and San Diego are again in contention to make the Tournament with Pepperdine being a team to watch. There is little to no depth to this conference after those 4 teams.
The Big West and the Big East are similar to the ACC in that there are one or two contenders will be in the top 25 all season long but the remainder of each conference is largely non-competitive. Cal Poly is the bell cow of the Big West with perhaps Hawaii providing some competition. The Big East has Marquette and Creighton and ……….nobody else. The advantage of a weak conference is that a team can post an inflated win – loss record and get an inflated ranking. The disadvantage of a weak conference is that the AVCA poll will punish the hell out of a team than finally succumbs to a loss in said weak conference, at least they did last year.
The AAC doesn’t have a team in the top 25 but has two teams that made the NCAAs last year in UCF (undefeated in league play) and Cincinnati (the team with the best player in the nation – Jordan Thompson - assuming she doesn’t go pro after her electric performance on team USA in the VNL and the Olympic Qualification Round Robin). Tulane will also compete for a tournament spot as they made the finals of the 2018 NIVC (the women’s volleyball equivalent of the NIT) and had a top 25 recruiting class. Wichita State was down last year after having to replace multiple All-Americans on the 2017 squad, but I don’t anticipate the Shockers will be down for long.
The remaining conferences (including the Missouri Valley) are probably represented by a single entry i.e. the conference winner in the NCAAs. Missouri State and Northern Iowa have the potential to get multiple berths from The Valley, but it is not likely.
A more detailed look at the B1G teams will occur when the B1G announces their pre-season rankings. Is a 6’01” transfer from Auburn enough to replace Poulter at setter and feed Prince and Quade at Illinois? Does Coyle from Iowa recover from her knee injury to be able to lead the Hawkeyes to a Tournament berth? Do new facilities and a top 5 recruiting class propel Ohio State into the top 25?
But back to the national discussion briefly and specifically as it relates to the Huskers. The pre-season poll looks to be more of the same from last year. Nebraska at no. 2 is a good start for the Huskers but will be hard to hold on to with the competitiveness of the B1G.
Huskers remain steady at #2. Still receiving one first-place vote, but Penn State lost their vote to Stanford.
Seven Big Ten teams ranked in the top 18. Minnesota falls from #3 to #8 after losing in straight sets to Florida State.
In all, nine Big Ten teams are receiving votes, or just about 2/3 of the conference.
Our next two opponents, Arizona and San Diego, were both ranked in the first poll, but that was before Arizona lost to Samford. San Diego remains ranked despite losing to Florida Gulf Coast.
This does not seem like a challenging road trip for the Huskers.
EDIT - The team is training hard for the SoCal road trip.
Huskers actually pick up a few points this week, as does Texas, who remains in Third despite losing to Stanford. Taking the #1 team to five games in their house should earn you a reprieve from dropping in the polls, though.
Stanford now has all the #1 votes - which is good. The Huskers don't need to have any doubt that Stanford is the team to beat this year. We're too young to beat them without playing a perfect match.
Seven Big Ten teams still ranked, but five of them have losses now. Penn State still undefeated, as is Nebraska, but the Nittany Lions have not dropped a set this year, sweeping all five of their opponents. That figures to change when Stanford comes to town this week.
Really interesting stretch for Stanford, as they play the top three ranked teams in the Big Ten - #4 Penn State and #8 Minnesota this weekend in the Big Ten/Pac-12 challenge, and then at #2 Nebraska on Wednesday. Here's hoping they come out of that with at least one loss, because if they don't, we're going to hear all about how Stanford won the Big Ten Championship this year.
There's a new #1 team in town... and its name is NEBRASKA.
The Huskers have looked a little shaky to start the season, but remain undefeated after rallying to down Loyola-Marymount in four last Saturday. The Huskers lost the first set 33-31, won handily in the next two, then held on to win 27-25 in the fourth.
Stanford, meanwhile, lost the first game to Penn State, but came roaring back to defeat the Nittany Lions at Rec Hall in four. BUT, the Cardinal lost to Minnesota on Saturday, in four, and thus we have a new #1 team.
Lots of coaches still voting Stanford #1, and they'll have a chance to be proved right in two days when Stanford comes to Lincoln. It's the first meeting between the two teams since the White Board incident after last year's National Championship match.
Stanford is coming to Lincoln a day early, and will be performing community service Tuesday to atone for that little kerfluffle. Word on the street is that they invited the Huskers to help, but this offer was declined by Nebraska.
Six total Big Ten teams ranked this week, the most baffling of which is Illinois, who has four losses on the season. The Fightin' Illini didn't lose four matches in all of 2018. The loss of Setter Jordyn Poulter and MB Ali Bastianelli have hit Coach Tamas' program hard, apparently.
LOL at the coach who voted Pittsburgh #1. OK.
Welp. That #1 ranking was fun while it lasted.
But the rankings are bonkers this week. Stanford, despite losing two matches in eight days, goes back up top to #1. Baylor, who sits at 9-0, has 27 first-place votes, and has moved past Nebraska into #2, while the Huskers fall to #3. Baylor has beaten #13 Wisconsin, and they've also given #10 Marquette and #11 Hawaii their only losses on the season, so they have a pretty decent resume. If Stanford had that record right now they'd be the unanimous #1, with all the votes.
The Big Ten only has six teams ranked this week, but honestly at 4-4, neither Wisconsin nor Illinois really deserve it.
There's a new #1 in town... but it still isn't Nebraska.
Stanford lost again, shockingly, this time to now #8 Washington. The Huskies came into Stanford's court & beat them 3-1. That's about as shocking a result as I have seen in a while. Washington is good, but Stanford just seemed to be to be on a different level.
For the first time in program history, Baylor is ranked #1. The undefeated Bears have beaten five ranked teams, including handing #11 Hawaii their only loss of the season. I had a fantastic conversation with the parents of Baylor's libero when they were in town for the Husker Invitational. Really nice folks, and really knowledgeable about the sport.
The Huskers picked up another first-place vote, but oddly not 25 points, meaning someone downgraded them after the weekend.
The Big Ten has six teams ranked, as does the Pac-12. Seems like a year where there's some parity. That bodes well for a young Husker team come tourney time.
The consequences of getting swept at home are that you fall in the polls. Frankly, it's lucky that Nebraska stayed in the Top Five after losing to a four-loss Wisconsin team at home. I said at the beginning of the season that Rettke worried me, and she proved to be a huge menace in this match. When she's on, she takes so much focus that other players have very favorable matchups. So it goes.
That's our first conference loss of the season so it's not a deal breaker, but we'll need to beat Wisconsin in Madison, plus hope they falter somewhere else later. The Badgers also beat Penn State last week, so tip your caps to them. That's a hell of a feat.
Six Big Ten teams remain ranked, with Michigan (our opponent Sunday) in "others receiving votes."
This has to be the first time in program history we've been ranked below both Pitt and Baylor. Baylor retains their hold on #1, and has 60 of the possible 64 first-place votes. Former Husker Setter Christy Johnson's Iowa State team plays Baylor this weekend. We'll see what the Clones can do.
Welp, we're still fifth. Not a lot of movement in the top ten overall, with the exception of BYU dropping out and Creighton landing at #10.
Early-season foe San Diego makes a return to the Top 25, so that's kinda cool.
Six total Big Ten teams ranked, with Michigan (somehow) still hanging on in Others receiving Votes. Four Big Ten teams in the Top Ten.
Good VB being played in the B1G.
Shirking my duties, I know, but we dropped to 8th in the latest poll. Lose to the 20th ranked team, win stupid prizes.
Saw some concern about that loss, but frankly, it's not the last time we're going to lose in the Big Ten. It's a tough league. It'd be a miracle to go through 20 matches unscathed.
Hopefully we can take down PSU tonight
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