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My men’s volleyball media poll ballot

February 16, 2011

Everyone in the top five of the national rankings picked a good week to lose.

For the first time in NCAA men’s volleyball history, all five of the top ranked teams Friday lost on a single night. It was one of the biggest oddities in my time covering men’s volleyball and created an interesting situation for this week’s poll.

The initial reaction is to drop all the teams in your ballot. However, almost two months into the season six teams — USC, Stanford, BYU, Stanford, Ohio State and Long Beach State — have separated themselves considerably from the rest of the field. As a result, when all but on of those teams lose it almost creates a sort of mulligan in rankings but moves them closer to the rest of field.

Check out this week’s top 10 men’s volleyball media poll and my ballot with explanations on why ranked each team where I did.

Let the debate begin on who are the best teams in the nation.

ASICS/Volleyball Magazine Men’s Division I-II Top 10 Poll
1. USC (9) — 98 points
2. BYU — 86 points
3. Long Beach State — 70 points
4. Stanford — 67 points
5. Ohio State (1) — 66 points
6. UC Santa Barbara — 63 points
7. UCLA — 31 points
8. UC Irvine — 21 points
9. Penn State — 20 points
10. Hawai’i — 14 points
Others receiving votes: Loyola, UC San Diego, Pepperdine, Lewis

My ASICS/VBM Men’s Division I-II Top 10 Poll ballot
1. USC (6-1, 6-1 MPSF)
Last week:
lost to Pepperdine
The Trojans have lost one match that came on the road after a bye week and against a team that was playing with an absolute desperation for a victory. It’s one loss and until more losses happen this is still the best team in the nation with best player Murphy Troy, who is fourth in the NCAA with a 4.92 kills per game average.

2. Stanford (9-3, 6-3 MPSF)
Last week:
defeated UC Irvine, lost to UC San Diego
The Cardinal have lost two of its last four MPSF matches. In those losses UC San Diego and Long Beach State both showed Stanford is extremely beatable if you take away outside attackers Brad Lawson and Spencer McLachlin. The problem is trying to stop them. Both players had at least 20 kills in its five-game victory against UC Irvine on Saturday.

3. BYU (10-3, 6-2 MPSF)
Last week’s results:
defeated Lewis, lost to Loyola
You don’t just walk into Alumni Gym in Chicago and expect the elements not to affect your team. BYU losing to Loyola is the most forgivable loss of a top five team during the weekend because the match was played in the most challenging arena in the nation. Despite the loss, the Cougars continue to be the best blocking team in men’s volleyball leading the nation with a 3.08 blocks per game average.

4. Ohio State (9-2, 3-0 MIVA)
Last week’s results:
defeated Quincy twice and Penn State
If there was any doubt on who was the best non-West Coast team it was emphatically answered with Ohio State’s sweep against Penn State on Wednesday. The Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best outside attacker combos with Shawn Sangrey and John Klanac both in the MIVA top six in kills per game. Ohio State is a legitimate top-five ranked team and a contender for this year’s national championship.

5. Long Beach State (6-4, 5-2 MPSF)
Last week’s results:
lost to Cal State Northridge
Four days after it lost to Cal State Northridge, and I’m still trying to figure out how Long Beach State went from hitting .708 in the first game to hitting less than .150 in the final three games. 49ers coach Andy Read said prior to the match that his players have created a much better team dynamic compared to last season. That dynamic will need to be evident when it plays UC Irvine on Wednesday to not have this one-match letdown turn into a losing streak.

6. UC Santa Barbara (8-5, 6-4 MPSF)
Last week’s results:
defeated UCLA twice
If only UC Santa Barbara could play UCLA every day. The Gauchos are 3-0 against the Bruins this season following both wins last week. UC Santa Barbara has one of the most balanced offenses in the nation with outside attacker Jeff Menzel and Cullen Irons both in the nation’s top 20 for kills per game average. In addition, the Gauchos are playing like a team that could not only make into the MPSF Tournament for the first time in almost five years but could win matches in the postseason.

7. UCLA (7-7, 2-6 MPSF)
Last week’s results:
lost to UC Santa Barbara twice
Let’s look at the positives for the Bruins: middle attacker Thomas Amberg is among the national leaders in attack percentage. After that, the Bruins do not have many positives. Its current five-match losing streak has dropped UCLA to the bottom of the MPSF standings, out of the top five in the national rankings and exposed the team’s outside attacker struggles.

8. UC Irvine (6-8, 3-5 MPSF)
Last week’s results:
defeated Pacific; lost to Stanford.
I’m breaking my rule of not putting teams with a losing record into my top 10 poll. Here’s my reasoning: UC Irvine has played one of the toughest schedule of any team so far this season and it has quality victories against Penn State, UC Santa Barbara and Pepperdine. Also, it’s not like many other teams in those deserve to be the top 10 right now.

9. Penn State (9-3, 4-0 EIVA)
Last week’s results:
defeated Rutgers-Newark and Princeton, lost to Ohio State
Coach Mark Pavlik has described Penn State as a work in progress — and that was evident last week in a three-game loss against Ohio State. Some of its matches are not as pretty as in the past, but the Nittany Lions continue to beat the teams that it should beat. Give this team a few more months and it can be a scary team to play on its home court in the Final Four.

10. Loyola (8-3, 3-0 MIVA)
Last week’s results:
defeated BYU, IPFW and Grand Canyon
The Ramblers lead the nation with a .385 attack percentage and have show they can compete with and beat some of the best teams in the nation. Loyola now has to prove it can win on the road against good quality opponents to remain in the poll. Its next test in this area comes Saturday when a conference road match against Ball State.

On the bubble
Hawai’i — The Warriors have woken up from their early-season slumber and are almost back to a .500 record. Hawai’i’s two-match series against UCLA this weekend is a huge series for both teams in terms of the rankings.

UC San Diego — UC San Diego picked up its first victory against Stanford in program history Friday and is going to in contention for a spot in the MPSF Tournament this entire season.

Lewis — An 8-3 record looks good, but when all three of your losses have come against teams in the top 10 it hurts your case to be a top 10 team

Rutgers-Newark — The Scarlet Raiders’ perfect season ended with a loss to Penn State on Friday. At 9-1 it still needs a signature victory, which could come this weekend against George Mason.

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