So far, this has been a different pre-conference season in the Big Ten then the last few years. A conference used to dominating the top 10 and beating non conference opponents with ease is losing way more than they are used to.
Preseason top 5 teams Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin have all been upset. Those are major losses by title hopefuls. Wisconsin was the coach’s preseason pick as conference champ, as well as mine. With two losses this weekend, are the Badgers in trouble? They appear to be wracked with inconsistent play and an inability to use their weapons effectively.
This happens to all teams, at times, and they remain dangerous. I’m not counting them out. Minnesota and Illinois are depending on new setters. We all knew this was going to be a tough aspect of their team to replace. Maybe this transition isn’t going well? The jury here too is out.
Top 25 Michigan and Purdue also lost to teams most expected them to beat, Notre Dame over the Boilermakers and Mizzou and Dayton over the Maize and Blue. We can call these upsets, but these two teams were always going to be second-tier teams this year due to rebuilding. Maybe they were riding the conference’s reputation to an early season ranking?
Nebraska and Penn State remain unbeaten. Penn State is untested, thus far they’ve played Hofstra, Holy Cross, Wichita State, Iowa State and LSU. On Friday, the juggernaut Stanford comes to University Park. Let’s reserve judgement until then.
Nebraska has played good, tough teams and beaten them all. While undefeated, something leaves the fanbase less than comfortable with the current position. What leaves you feeling unsettled with Nebraska volleyball?
For me, it is after watching the epic match between Stanford and Texas this past Saturday that leaves doubt in the comparison. It could be contagious (the losing virus) from the other B10 team losses, showing the chink in armor in the conference as a whole and Nebraska specifically. And it could be the too close for comfort match against San Diego.
The pessimist in me looks at the San Diego match and thinks they pushed us to the limit — as the #25 team. The optimist looks at the San Diego match and says we played with grit and had limits with a few injuries and still found a way to win. Both are true, it is simply how the team responds and changes from that match that determines which is more true.
As we go into week 3, let’s not overreact. The B1G is still the premiere conference in the land. Early season challenges build cohesion, character, and experience for the tournament. But these early losses sting, and maybe make the Huskers look worse by association but if you are a fan, I would keep on the bandwagon, they are going to dream big, so should you.
Others things to look at:
Minnesota has some exciting match ups this week
Listen to Coach McCutcheon from U of Minnesota talk about early season loses. If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, go to 3:30 to start.
Penn State plays some good teams too