The WCC briefly got two teams back into the top 25 last week, but it’s back to just BYU this week as the Cougars continue to dominate the conference and close in on a West Coast Conference Championship. Let’s take a look at the national rankings as of November 17th.
BYU, #12, UP ONE SPOT: The Cougars have been in complete control of the WCC for a while now, but they haven’t quite been able to shut the door and mathematically other teams could still catch them. But with a full three game lead over the two second place teams, that’s nearly impossible. The Cougars should clinch the title Thursday with a win over last place Portland.
Last week they took care of business at home knocking off San Diego. This makes up for the loss the Cougars suffered to the Toreros earlier, and it eliminates the San Diego from contention. This could have been a way bigger match as at one point after the upset win the Toreros were right on their heels, but BYU just did their thing while San Diego imploded and took a lot of drama out of that match.
The Cougars only picked up one spot in the rankings as a win over San Diego is always solid, but it’s not as impressive as it was in past years. Like we mentioned a win over weak Portland should seal the title, and the Cougars can focus on tuning up for the NCAA Tournament and maybe trying to inch into contention for a national seed over their final two matches.
Even if they somehow don’t beat Portland, they are so far ahead that they should still claim the WCC Championship. But with tough matches against Gonzaga and LMU to finish the regular season, it would be a lot easier just to dominate the Pilots and end this thing. Having the title locked up will be helpful to allow them to prepare for the postseason.
SANTA CLARA, NOT RANKED, FORMERLY #25: Well that was a quick trip into the top 25 for the Broncos! The pressure of having cracked the national rankings must have been to much to handle as they stumbled to an 0-2 week. The loss to LMU is understandable, but the upset loss to an under .500 Pepperdine squad is a concern.
The Broncos were pushing themselves into the title hunt, but now they have sealed their own fate and are out of the running. They were just a couple games behind BYU and had a realistic shot to catch them having split the season series, but even one loss would have damaged those chances severely. Two is a nail in the coffin, and now they must try to regroup and regain some of the ground they lost in the rankings.
They currently have the #45 RPI in the country, right around the danger zone for missing out on an at-large bid. Right now they should still be in, but those back-to-back losses especially the one to Pepperdine just added a lot of stress to their lives. They need to bounce back and take care of business against weak San Francisco and Saint Mary’s squads in their final two matches to remove any doubt and make sure they sneak into the NCAA Tournament.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT, RECEIVING VOTES: The shuffling continues as WCC teams continue to drop in and out of the top 25 rankings. As the Broncos fall, the Lions have risen and are receiving votes once again. This is a good sign for a team that has been off the radar a bit since their undefeated run through non-conference play. Loyola Marymount picked up two wins this past week including a convincing sweep of Santa Clara, hence the flip-flop between them and the Broncos in the rankings.
The Lions have won five in a row and have risen to 2nd place in the WCC standings. And unlike most teams, they still have a shot to catch the Cougars are the top thanks to good scheduling. They are tied with Pacific and three games back of BYU, but they still have one match left against each of those teams. They will be critical as the Lions lost the first meeting with both teams. They still need a BYU collapse as well however to have a shot, so improving their postseason resume with some quality wins may be the only outcome of wins over the Tigers or Cougars.
LMU currently has a very solid RPI at #34 in the nation. Assuming they don’t suffer an upset to Saint Mary’s, it’s hard to believe losses to Pacific or BYU would damage their reputation enough to knock them out of the NCAA Tournament field. They earned it with their undefeated run through non-conference play, and marquee wins like the ones over nationally ranked Long Beach State and UCLA are going a long to helping them survive their stumbles in conference play.
There’s not much left to do except try to win out and see if BYU stumbles. But even if that doesn’t happen, the Lions should be heading to the postseason.
PACIFIC, NOT RECEIVING VOTES: The Tigers continue to quiet chug along not really drawing much attention but staying right in the thick of things. They picked up two more wins including a five set thriller over Gonzaga last week, and they’re tied with LMU for second place. They beat the Lions in their first meeting, so beating them again this Saturday and getting the season sweep would put them in great position to finish alone in second.
That wouldn’t be a small thing either. With the #55 RPI, the Tigers are probably just outside of the NCAA Tournament field right now. The LMU match is their last chance for a real RPI boost before the end of the regular season, and they desperately need to improve their chances. To win out, beat LMU in the process, and finish second in a deep West Coast Conference might be just enough to push them into the postseason. They will still have to sweat it out, but it’s the best they can hope for at this point.
SAN DIEGO, NOT RECEIVING VOTES: The Toreros continue to stumble losing at BYU last week to effectively end whatever slim chances they had of getting back into the WCC Championship race. They have lost four of their last five matches, and at 16-11 this is the first time in years a USD squad will finish the season with double-digit losses. It’s been a rough road as they currently sit way back in fifth place.
But despite all of that, the Toreros have the third best RPI in the WCC. At #43 they are still very much in the postseason conversation, although granted it’s a long way from their #14 preseason national ranking. But the Toreros always play a tough schedule, so 16-11 for them is still a very good record. Wins over BYU and LMU are looking good, and assuming they can avoid more stumbles they should make the postseason.
That being said, the Toreros can be downright awful on the road. They have lost their last three road matches, and all of their final matches are on the road including ones at Gonzaga and Portland where the Toreros often struggle. They have been trying like heck to play themselves out of the postseason, and if they’re not careful they’re going to actually do it.