Once again there is a unanimous number one team in the country according to the AVCA coaches poll released on the 25th. Except now the team to beat is UCLA instead of BYU — the unanimous number one team in the country after the first week of play. After 3 weeks of play we are starting to see how teams have changed since last year and which teams appear as though they can compete for the national title. The VolleyMetrics Rating Index requires a decent sized sample in order to show accurate results and we feel that we have enough to start looking at it, however, it will become more accurate in the next couple of weeks. According to the VMRI, here are the top 10 teams in the country (and one other significant team).
A couple of teams clearly stand out when you compare the VMRI rankings with the coaches poll, BYU and Grand Canyon. These two teams show the difficulty of ranking teams (statistically and otherwise) at the beginning of the year because of the preseason matchups that teams face. BYU has yet to face an unranked opponent while Grand Canyon has only beaten unranked opponents. This causes the data to possibly deceive us because BYU has played much better teams than Grand Canyon has. Therefore, the coaches seem to love BYU’s four wins over ranked opponents and are willing to overlook the poor statistical quality of their wins and losses.
The trend of favoring ranked matchups is seen with other teams as well. UC Irvine has a record worse than all those below them in the rankings, however, their four losses have come at the hands of current top-10 teams and all of their matchups were against ranked opponents. While CSUN, ranked just below them at 12th, with a record of 7-0 has yet to play any teams currently ranked in the poll. The coaches involved in this poll seem to appreciate matches, as opposed to just wins, versus ranked opponents. This is seen again with the 13th ranked Lewis, who with a record of 6-3 could propose that they deserve a top-10 rank, except they have one win out of four ranked matchups and have five wins against unranked opponents. As conference play really starts rolling we should see this disparity even out.
Looking at the first three weeks of polls also shows us the “stability” of the rankings as teams tend to stay in the same relative area week-to-week. UC Irvine only dropped five spots this week, which is the largest move up or down so far this year, into a tie for ninth after two four-set losses. USC dropped only three spots after losing their first four matches, two of which were sweeps. However, these movements, or lack of them, also show the coaches respect for the “quality” of opponents; UC Irvine and USC both were defeated by top-10 teams.
Here are a few matches to watch that could seriously affect the polls next week. USC vs Stanford, UC Irvine vs BYU (twice), UCSB vs CSUN, UCLA vs CSUN, St. Francis vs Penn St.
Player of the Week
Player of the Week: Chris Nugent
For the first time this year, the Player of the Week Candidate is unanimous. Our VolleyMetrics analysis and the AVCA both have selected Chris Nugent of Penn State as player of the week, making him this season’s third recipient of this award. Here is how Nugent’s VolleyMetrics analysis compares with the rest of the league from this past week’s matchups:
After suffering a 3-1 loss to Loyola in the previous week, the Nittany Lions needed to bounce back in order to remain in the top 10 of the AVCA Coaches Poll. Chris Nugent, a junior Outside Hitter from Fair Lawn, New Jersey, helped propel the Nittany Lions to victory as they swept both nationally ranked Ball State and IPFW to improve one spot on the AVCA Coaches Poll to 9th. Below is Nugent’s box score from this past week:
Nugent averaged 14 kills per match, while only playing three sets in each match, with a 0.538 hitting percentage on 39 total attacks. Chris Nugent and the Nittany Lions will put their three-game win streak on the line as they face #14 Saint Francis (PA) on the road and an undefeated Mount Olive at Penn State this week.
Rally of the Week
This week’s rally of the week features Hawaii and Grand Canyon. There were 7 covers in the rally and it totaled 45 total touches.