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My men’s volleyball media poll ballot

March 29, 2011

The bottom of the top 10 media poll remains a revolving door and weekly struggle for this voter.

With all the upsets and top 10 teams losing this week, there were about four teams — Loyola, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and Hawai’i — all vying for the final three spots in the poll. This was without a doubt one of the more difficult voting ballots to compile this entire season as I spent a significant amount of time looking at multiple factors and stats to create a ranking that made sense.

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 (10) — 100 points
2. BYU — 87 points
3. Stanford — 74 points
4. UCLA — 61 points
5. UC Irvine — 53 points
6. Ohio State — 44 points
7. Long Beach State — 42 points
8. UC Santa Barbara — 32 points
9. Penn State — 28 points
10. Hawai’i — 22 points
Others receiving votes: Loyola

My ASICS/Volleyball Magazine Men’s Division I-II Top 10 Poll ballot
1. USC (16-1, 15-1 MPSF)
Last week’s results:
defeated Pepperdine
The Trojans have been the only thing constant this year in men’s volleyball: they just keep winning. USC easily defeated Pepperdine in the rematch after the Waves in January became the lone team to beat the Trojans this entire season. Barring an almost collapse, this team has secured the MPSF regular season title and a spot in the Final Four. It also has the chance to become the first team in more than 15 years to be ranked No.1 from start to finish.

2. Stanford (15-6, 12-5 MPSF)
Last week’s results:
defeated Cal State Northridge, lost to Long Beach State
This is not the same Stanford team that entered its bye week on a five match winning streak. In its last three matches the Cardinal has lost to Cal Baptist and Long Beach State and barely won a match against unranked Cal State Northridge. The biggest question for this Stanford team heading into the end of season is can it find a constant third offensive option. Outside attackers Brad Lawson and Spencer McLachlin each had at least 20 kills in both matches this weekend, while no other Stanford player had more than nine kills.

3. BYU (16-7, 12-6 MPSF)
Last week’s results:
defeated Hawai’i twice
The Cougars gave their fans something to cheer about last weekend in the aftermath of “Jimmer Fever” with two home victories against Hawai’i. BYU has dropped from first to fourth in the nation with a 2.91 blocks per game average. However, middle Futi Tavana continues to lead the conference with a 1.53 blocks per game average, and outside attacker Robb Stowell after his team-high 26 kills in the finale against Hawa’i is among the MPSF leaders averaging more than four kills per game. The gap between BYU and Stanford has significant closed, but BYU’s two losses to Stanford keeps it below the Cardinal for now on my ballot.

4. Ohio State (17-4, 10-0 MIVA)
Last week’s results:
defeated Grand Canyon twice, lost to UC San Diego and UC Irvine
The worst case scenario for Ohio State in terms of the rankings and for the MIVA in terms of West Coast perception happened during the weekend. A loss to UC Irvine would not have been a big deal, but a loss to last-place UC San Diego just looks really bad for the entire conference. The positives for the Buckeyes: coach Pete Hanson has said he does not care much about the rankings and just getting into the Final Four, the team is still undefeated in MIVA play with a chance to win the regular season title Friday and All-American outside attacker returned the court after not starting four matches because of an injury.

5. UCLA (15-9, 8-8 MPSF)
Last week’s results:
defeated UC Irvine
Can anyone in the nation — besides Bruins coach Al Scates — figure out this UCLA team. The team so far this season has been on a five match winning streak, a five match losing streak and is now on a seven match winning streak. If the postseason started today it would be in the eighth and final spot for the MPSF Tournament, but it is in the top five in the media poll. No UCLA outside attacker is the nation’s top 40 in kills per game average, but middle attacker Wes Dunlap is leading the team in kills and nation with a .488 attack percentage. This team just somehow keeps finding ways to win and more reasons to move up in the polls.

6. UC Irvine (13-11, 9-8 MPSF)
Last week’s results:
defeated Ohio State, lost to UCLA
After losing to UCLA in what coach John Speraw called one of the worst volleyball performances in the UC Irvine history, the Anteaters responded with a weekend sweep against the Buckeyes. In addition, outside attackers Carson Clark and Cory Yoder continue to put up All-American type numbers. Clark is fourth in the nation with a 4.61 kills per game average, and Yoder is sixth in the nation with a .400 attack percentage.The Anteaters may have moved down on my ballot this week, but Speraw jumped to No. 1 on my list of the best postgame tirade of the season.

7. Penn State (19-5, 9-0 EIVA)
Last week’s results:
defeated Princeton and Rutgers-Newark
Penn State has become so dominate in the EIVA one thing overlooked this season has been the coaching job of Mark Pavlik. Pavlik was able to replace two All-Americans and develop a young team without losing a conference match. It’s considered a rebuilding year for Penn State and the team still is one win away from going undefeated in conference play. This is not the best Nittany Lions team in recent years but it’s a team that in a month could make some noise in the Final Four.

8. UC Santa Barbara (12-10, 9-7 MIVA)
Last week’s results:
lost to Cal Baptist
UC Santa Barbara slid in the polls following a lost in three games to Cal Baptist, a NAIA team. Don’t look too much into the loss. The Gauchos did not play a majority of their starters and are gearing up for their final six conference matches to close out the season. Sitting at fifth place in the MPSF and with four out of its final six matches being at home, UC Santa Barbara could make its first postseason appearance in five years.

9. Loyola (17-5, 7-1 MIVA)
Last week’s results:
Lewis and IPFW
The Ramblers have achieved one of their best regular seasons in program history. Loyola has a home victory against then-No. 2 BYU, winning road match against Cal State Nothridge and has a chance to get share of the MIVA regular season title if it can beat Ohio State at home Friday. If Loyola gets the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and with its tremendous home court advantage playing at Alumni Gym, this could be the MIVA’s representative in the Final Four.

10. Hawai’i (12-11, 10-8 MIVA)
Last week’s results:
lost to BYU twice
The up-and-down season for Hawai’i continued with two losses against BYU. Outside attacker Jonas Umlauft in the two losses had a combined 46 kills to improve upon his national leading 5.47 kills per game average. If this team can get more consistent offensive production from anyone else besides Umlauft and outside attacker Joshua Walker this team could make a deep run in the conference tournament.

On the Bubble
Long Beach State —
Freshman Connor Olbright replacing Mike Klipsch as the team’s starting setter was the spark Long Beach State needed to snap its two match losing streak. If Long Beach State can have a good showing in its two-match series against BYU it will move into the top 10 on my ballot.

Lees-McRae — Lees-McRae defeated Ball State in five games on Sunday for its biggest victory in program history and in the conference’s two-year history. With a majority of freshman and sophomores in its starting lineup, this team could be pulling more upsets against MIVA, EIVA and lower-level MPSF teams in the next few years.

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