A very busy week of volleyball.
Most important historically was Nebraska shattering records with 90k+ fans watching the Huskers sweep in-state not-quite-rival Nebraska-Omaha. Do yourself a favor and read @brt’s recap, which is both from the heart and is too professionally written for these parts:
On the court, we’re halfway through non-conference season, so let’s briefly check in around the league, going by tiers:
NOT MUCH EXPECTED; NO REASON TO ADJUST (NON-)EXPECTATIONS
- Michigan Wolverines (1-4): Probably won’t finish last, but losses to Western Michigan and Boston College make clear that the NCAA isn’t in their future, either.
- Northwestern Wildcats (2-3): Beat San Diego, who made Final Four last year, but...is 1-4 this year. Losing to Milwaukee isn’t great.
- Michigan State Spartans (4-2): Nice record, but soon enough teams better than Central Arkansas and Delaware State will be on the other side of the net.
- Maryland Terrapins (4-2): See Northwestern. Beating Florida International looks nice, but they’re down this year. Getting swept by Navy doesn’t look nice no matter how you squint.
- Iowa Hawkeyes (4-2): Wins are Cal Poly, Middle Tennessee, Kent State (in 5 sets), and South Dakota State. There’s no there there.
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-1): Losing to N.C. State in 5 is not shameful, but there’s too much recent history to disprove before Rutgers is viewed differently. If they’re 9-1 heading to State College on 9/20, maybe there will be more to say.
PRESEASON OPTIMISM HAS BECOME TOUGH TO MAINTAIN
- Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1): Plenty of season left, but losing to Wichita State won’t look great on Selection Day. Gotta make hay for next couple weeks.
- Indiana Hoosiers (3-3): I noted that last week was a great “prove it” opportunity for Indiana. Unfortunately they went 0-3 (winning only two sets) vs. Long Beach State, UCLA, and Washington. Only one of those teams is even receiving votes.
GOOD TEAMS WHO TOOK A STEP BACK LAST WEEK
- Ohio State Buckeyes (3-2): Dropped from #12 to #15 after dropping a pair of home matches against #11 Georgia Tech. Won’t hurt them in the RPI, but this looks like a team with a Sweet 16 ceiling.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-2): Texas was the preseason #1 and Florida has surged to #3, so neither loss is shameful, but Minnesota was outclassed in each match (if game vs. Texas), and the #10 ranking this week probably better reflects appropriate expectations than last week’s #5.
PROBABLY GOOD TEAMS WHO ANSWERED THE BELL LAST WEEK
- Penn State Nittany Lions (3-2): Beating Colgate and James Madison doesn’t automatically mean you’re a contender, but Western Kentucky was ranked last week when PSU beat them in four. The Nittany Lions moved from #14 to #12, and will get a chance to show something @ #2 Louisville on Sunday.
- Purdue Boilermakers (3-2): Moved from #25 to #20 on the force of five-set wins @ #22 Kansas and vs. #24 Marquette. Will play either #19 Kentucky or #21 Houston this weekend. Another opportunity to burnish the profile.
- Wisconsin Badgers (5-0): Held onto the #1 ranking (but if you think it should be Florida, no argument here) by going 3-0 vs. #17 Arkansas (who jumped up from 21 despite losing twice to UW) and #18 Tennessee (who moved up from #24 despite the loss). Each took the Badgers to five sets, Tennessee in Madison after dropping the first two. The Badgers are clearly still trying out various lineups, but the block has been there for them in crunch time. Either they are rising to the occasion, or they’re ripe to be knocked off (maybe both), but the talent and depth are undeniable. Should have a couple of easier wins this week before a huge set of matches next week.
- Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-0): Holding steady at #4, and received one first-place vote. Have won all 15 sets played...against limited competition. Matches with #16 Creighton this week, and #5 Stanford next week, will tell us more. But there’s no reason right now to think the Huskers are other than they’re usual selves. This means the Final Four is expected and a national championship isn’t just a dream.
HOW TO GET YOUR FIX THIS WEEK
Wed.: #16 Creighton @ #4 Nebraska, 7:00 CDT (BTN)
Thurs.: Arizona @ #1 Wisconsin, 7:00 (FS1)
Fri.: #10 Minnesota vs. #6 Oregon, 6:30 (Pac-12...good luck)
Fri.: #15 Ohio State @ #5 Stanford, 9:00 (Pac-12...ugh)
Sun., #12 Penn State @ #2 Louisville, Noon (ESPN2...rejoice @psuog!!!)
Tue., #4 Nebraska @ #5 Stanford, 8:00 (ESPN)