Pretty quiet week in the WCC for volleyball. Things have been settling down as BYU is pulling away again after it looked like some teams had a chance to catch them. Here are the national rankings as of November 10th.
BYU, #13, UP ONE SPOT: The Cougars took care of business going 2-0 last week including a convincing sweep of Pacific. The Tigers were one of the teams chasing the Cougars, so it was good for BYU to squash those hopes. San Diego meanwhile took another loss and is fading, giving the Cougars complete control of the conference right now.
They hold a two game lead over Santa Clara as the regular season is winding. The Cougars and Broncos split the season series so some tiebreakers could come into play, but first the Cougars would need to lose two of their final four games and Santa Clara would need to win out. Considering BYU is 12-2 in WCC to date, that’s not likely to happen. They just need to keep playing well and winning, and they will be the champions.
A national seed may be out of reach, but building momentum for the NCAA Tournament is a must. Even without the WCC Championship they will make the postseason, but they have shown weakness when they take their foot off the throttle. If they want a deep tournament run, they should be playing hard regardless of whether the WCC Champioship is still up for grabs. If they lock up the title soon, they cannot relax and let up or they will stumble down the stretch.
SANTA CLARA, #25, PREVIOUSLY RECEIVING VOTES: The Broncos continue their slow climb up the rankings as they continued their recent hot streak. They extended their win streak to four matches and have climbed into second in the WCC. A couple good teams are behind them at 8-5 in conference play, and the Cougars may be out of reach in first. But if they can stay hot they still have a chance at the title.
Their real focus is to keep winning and building their NCAA Tournament resume. Their RPI has climbed to #37 and if they keep this up, they can go from a bubble team to a lock for an at-large bid. With three weak teams to finish their regular season, their task is very simple. Beat all three convincingly and don’t let any doubt creep into the minds of the NCAA Selection Committee.
If they steal a WCC Championship that’s a nice bonus, but they have a real shot at the NCAA Tournament and that’s all they can control right now. They can’t change what BYU does in the standings, but they can assure their recent hot streak continues all the way into the postseason.
SAN DIEGO, NOT RANKED: The tumble continues for San Diego. It’s hard to remember that they’re coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history and entered the season ranked #14 in the nation. They have been unranked for a long time, and every time they receive some votes they go and take a step backwards with a loss.
They suffered a bad upset loss to Saint Mary’s this past week, and it puts their WCC Championship hopes in serious doubt. They are now three games behind BYU, and if they lose to the Cougars this week they will lose their head-to-head advantage with a season split. It probably doesn’t matter however as expecting BYU to loss three of their final four isn’t likely.
The real issue is San Diego keeps putting their postseason hopes in more and more doubt. This is a team that plays a tough schedule every year, and they have to suffer a real collapse to actually be in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. But losses like the one to the Gaels are doing just that. They have hit double digit losses already, the first time in over a decade they have lost 10 or more matches in a season.
Their RPI is down to #40 and is getting into that bubble range where they may not make it in. If Santa Clara is trying to pad their tournament resume in their final games, San Diego is trying desperately to salvage theirs. Forget beating BYU this week to get back in the WCC Championship race, they need the win just to build their RPI and hope they can still make the postseason.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT, NOT RANKED: What Lions team will show up today? That’s the question with them these days. Their undefeated non-conference record is a distant memory, and at 8-5 in WCC play they are probably out of the running for a conference title. But at #41 in RPI their NCAA Tournament hopes are still very much alive.
If they win at least one of their final five matches, they will finish with 20+ wins and single-digit losses. Between that an their impressive start, they probably should squeak into the postseason. But beating BYU in their season finale and avoiding any upset losses will help a lot. For a team that was cruising in the top 25 and looked like the favorite in the WCC earlier this season, having to fight for their postseason lives was not the plan. Missing out on the postseason completely would be too painful to swallow, so they are very motivated right now.
PACIFIC, NOT RANKED: Pacific has looked strong lately and deserved some top 25 consideration last week despite getting no votes. But losses to San Diego and BYU last week put and end to that talk. Not only do the losses snap their winning streak, they do serious damage to both their WCC Championship and NCAA Tournament hopes.
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The WCC impact is obvious. The BYU loss gives the Cougars the season sweep, and it will be nearly impossible to catch them now. The San Diego loss splits the season series in case they both catch BYU. But the real issue is with the postseason. Their RPI is strong at #37 in the nation, but those were their last two chances to pick up quality wins before the end of the regular season.
They should make the NCAA Tournament, but they aren’t doing themselves any favors right now. Not a good time to be allowing doubt to creep into the minds of the voters. They need to bounce back and beat their final inferior opponents.