The fourth week of the season didn’t bring very much shifting or chaos, especially compared to prior weeks. Still, we got to learn a little bit more as we continue to put together the puzzle that is this volleyball season.
Note: It’s impossible to get to every match and every team for the sake of you not getting bored on this page or my fingers falling off from typing, so we try to cut it down a bit.
Pittsburgh and BYU don’t have bad shots of going undefeated in the regular season
So far, it’s been all perfect for Pitt and BYU. The pair of schools are a combined 21-0 as they head into conference play. While both participate in leagues that should boast other NCAA Tournament teams, neither at the moment has seen a top 20 team in the nation emerge that could be a serious threat to the league title.
Forget about just winning the conference championship for a moment though. At this point, both Pitt and BYU are favorites to win each match remaining if you just handicap it match-by-match. So going unbeaten in the regular season is actually on the table… for two teams! From a coaching and team standpoint, they’ll be locked in game-by-game and trying not to worry about this stuff, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t pay attention to it and enjoy the race!
The Panthers are fortunate enough too that after a road match this Friday with Virginia Tech, they’ll be at home through October 9. Syracuse and Florida State could be matches to check in on, but again they’ll be strong favorites. The next four match stretch could be their best chance of a loss; it starts with the weekend of October 12 – at UNC and at NC State – and goes into the next week with home matches against Notre Dame and Louisville. The back-end of the schedule is road-heavy as well.
For the Cougars, Portland is undefeated so far and on the cusp of being ranked, San Diego has struggled early but still has talent, Loyola Marymount has impressed early and Pepperdine has shown flashes. Not to mention Saint Mary’s is 8-2 and almost upset BYU last season. So the chances to trip up are there against some solid teams, but still none have emerged as titans in the rankings this season.
More likely than not, with young adults and inconsistencies or bad stretches to come, it’s almost a math game just to say that they’ll trip up once or twice. Right when you think you have things figured out and it looks like the path is clear, that’s when it’s always seemingly the opposite and something comes up. So I wouldn’t necessarily bet on it because of that, but it actually is a real possibility. And if that happened, BYU would for sure be a top four seed for the NCAA Tournament, but would Pittsburgh?
Stanford pairs with BYU to make a solid top two
At this point BYU looks like a firm number one, and with the point above, it’s possible they don’t relinquish that spot for quite some time. The big win for BYU that jumped them up was against Stanford, which came in just the third match of the season for the Cardinal. At that point, being their first big test, you wondered if it was more BYU, or Stanford not playing well.
Since that point, the Cardinal have won six straight, including four sweeps and four in a row against top 10 opponents. I think it’s safe to say that Stanford is legit, and the more we’ve seen from BYU, the more that five set road loss becomes an almost meaningless knock against this team.
They’ve still got all the talent in the world and are performing so well. And that’s even while they’re trying to figure out their middle blocker position. They’ve seen some flashes in the middle and even if it continues to be inconsistent they still have enough to win it all, but if they solidify everything they’d increase those chances. For now, it’s pretty clear that Stanford and BYU should be one and two, although a host of Big Ten teams right behind will have many chances to prove themselves as well.
Let’s see what you’re made of
This applies for certain teams that haven’t exactly played the toughest non-conference schedule, but still appear to be very talented. The untested part will switch around in league action, which begins this week.
Many of those are Big Ten teams – Minnesota, (kind of) Penn State, Michigan and Purdue – which is understandable since they know that league play is going to be so treacherous to get wins that we need to rack them up early. Combined though, those four teams have just one win over a team that is or was (at the time of play) ranked in the VolleyMob Top 25. That was Penn State, who hasn’t played the most aggressive schedule to start, but in their weekend with two tough foes impressed (which is why I said kind of).
For Minnesota, they’re 0-2 against ranked opponents and their potential third meeting was cancelled against #23 Kansas State. Michigan and Purdue are a combined 22-0 and have wins at Colorado State (who was previously on the cusp of being ranked and has since fallen) and Alabama (who was last week and still is this week on the cusp).
At the end of the day, everything will play out. If these teams are as good as we think or their record indicates, then they’ll continue to earn victories even against more stiff competition. But as of right now entering into league play, the tests will be aplenty and we should get a true look of what these teams really are – for better or for worse.