Exploring the Polls
Justifying poll position at the beginning of the year is kind of silly; without any fresh data to go on, we’re left at the mercy of last year’s performances and a consideration of roster changes to gauge the order. Nonetheless, if forced to come up with a pre-season Top 25, we imagine it would look somewhat similar to the AVCA coaches’ poll. But within just a few weeks, a clearer picture should take shape. This opening weekend of competition will give some teams an opportunity to stake their claim.
AVCA, Rich Kern and Pablo - 9-2-13
|Iowa State||11||11||18||3-0||Big 12|
Which marquee matches will be paramount in Week 1?
Two showdowns jump out during the first week, with a pair of Top 4 teams — Texas and Southern Cal — hitting the road for matches at ranked opponents –Hawaii and Purdue, respectively. (Poor Western Kentucky has to face both of those squads in West Lafayette back-to-back on Saturday. Can they stun one?).
Upsets would be a little bit of a surprise, but if there’s any time to do it, it’s in the first match on your home floor. The Longhorns and Trojans have to be ready.
Hitting the Beach: Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational
Match for match, the most intriguing tournament is the Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational, pitting the host 49ers against Florida State, Kentucky and Illinois — all four teams either ranked or receiving votes. If one team manages to go 3-0, a spot in the Top 16 (or higher) should be earned. But against this field, that’s a tall order.
A look at the schedule may give us a hint at teams that have an upper hand: The Wildcats and 49ers have matches spread out over three days, their clash against each other the sole match on Sunday. That means that the Seminoles and Fighting Illini will be at a disadvantage in the second half of Friday’s schedule; after playing each other in the early match, Florida State gets the least amount of rest before facing a fresh Kentucky, while Illinois will have to come back for the night cap against a fresh Long Beach.
These matches should tell us a lot and could position a team well for the season . . . and no one will need it more than the Fighting Illini.
And that brings us to . . .
Kevin Hambly, Are You Crazy?
Will Illinois’ tough pre-conference schedule help them get to the Big Dance (volleyball edition) or is it the Crazy Dance?
In an extremely non-scientific experiment designed to answer the question “Which team has the toughest pre-conference schedule?”, I tallied all of the matches any ranked team (or team receiving votes) had with another ranked team (or team receiving votes). I threw in four more teams from the two big power conferences: Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Northwestern; for now, we’ll count those matches as dangerous ones.
Here are the results of that experiment:
|Number of "Tough"|
|8||Florida State, Iowa State|
|6||Creighton, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisville, San Diego|
|5||Dayton, Long Beach State, St. Mary’s, Western Kentucky|
|4||Kansas, Nebraska, Northern Iowa, Pepperdine, Texas A&M, Wisconsin|
|3||Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Florida, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Wichita State|
Now, you may point out that all of these matches aren’t created equal, and a few matches against top-tier competition could be tougher than a handful of matches against teams lingering at the bottom of the poll or receiving votes.
You may very well be right, but this still gives us an idea of teams that should be commended for scheduling. Or committed to an insane asylum.
Mr. Hambly has his team playing Florida State, Long Beach State, Kentucky, San Diego, Iowa State (phew…hang on, I need to catch my breath . . .), Arizona State, Washington, Texas and North Carolina (and Duke, who we aren’t even including among those 10 teams). All of this in addition to the Big Ten schedule. We hope this turns out well for our orange friends. . . . that is one frightfully ambitious schedule (I’m exhausted just writing it!). None of those matches is an easy win. Can the Illini avoid last year’s NCAA tourney ineligible record?
Deja and Maya McClendon face off in Rec Hall this weekend
Cue the organ music, Whoopi! When Penn State takes to the court for its second match of the season on Saturday, Penn State’s 6-1 Sr. OH Deja McClendon could very well be staring at a familiar face across the net — Sister Maya McClendon, a 5-9 Fr. OH for Louisville.
In an article in the Centre Daily Times, Deja McClendon told Gordon Brunskill:
“It’s going to be tough . . . I have a lot of family coming down to see me and my sister play each other. It’ll be her first collegiate match, so I’m kind of nervous for her. I think my grandparents are going to have a really tough time watching and not knowing who to cheer for, who to cry for.
Badgers Making Waves?
Badger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Waves
It’s an exciting time in Madison, where former Dayton coach Kelly Sheffield leads the team into a potentially new and exciting era in his first year. Some smart scheduling has given the team some chances to prove itself against capable competition, starting with the Waves at the Pepperdine Invitational. One of those teams will likely go 3-0, and earn a spot on the Top 25. The Badgers will also be tested this pre-conference season by Northern Iowa, Louisville and Kansas.
This week’s AVCA Top Ten Acton:
1. Texas @ #11 Hawaii, vs. Texas El Paso, vs. San Diego
2. Penn State vs. Syracuse, vs. #19 Louisville
3. Stanford @ UC Santa Barbara
4. USC @ #16 Purdue, vs. #21 Western Kentucky, vs. Alabama A&M
5. Washington vs. Boise State, Portland State, Gonzaga
6. Minnesota vs. Jacksonville St., @ UAB, vs. Georgia State, @ Samford
7. Michigan vs. Clemson, @ Xavier, vs. Northern Kentucky
8. Oregon vs. Eastern Washington, vs. Bryant, vs. Ohio
9. Florida vs. New Orleans, vs. LIU Brooklyn, vs. Duke
10. Nebraska vs. Louisiana-Monroe, vs. Auburn, @ St. Louis
Other key clashes this week:
#11 Hawaii vs. San Diego
#13 BYU vs. #25 Creighton
#15 Iowa State vs. Texas A&M
#16 Purdue vs. #21 Western Kentucky
#17 Kentucky vs. #18 Florida State
#17 Kentucky vs. Illinois
#17 Kentucky @ Long Beach State
#18 Florida State vs. Illinois
#18 Florida State @ Long Beach State
#20 Kansas @ Arizona
#24 Wichita State vs. Arizona State
Illinois @ Long Beach State
Wisconsin @ Pepperdine
It’s hard to be sure with the season not yet underway, but it looks like streams will be available at Purdue, Long Beach and Hawaii, most likely for subscriptions.
- #4 USC @ #16 Purdue,
- #13 BYU vs. #25 Creighton,
- #17 Kentucky/#18 Florida State vs. Illinois,
- #20 Kansas vs. Arizona
“Receiving Votes” Team Most Likely to Crack Top 25
If Illinois can go 2-1 or better over the weekend, they have the best argument. Gotta hand it to them for taking on the challenge!
Lionsfan’s completely uninformed picks on the big matches
- Texas over Hawaii
- Penn State over Louisville
- USC over Purdue
- Florida State over Kentucky
Lionsfan’s Preseason Top 10
1. Texas, 2. Penn State, 3. Stanford, 4. USC, 5. Michigan, 6. Minnesota, 7. Washington, 8. Oregon, 9. Florida, 10. UCLA
Next Week’s Top 10
Exactly the same?