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Volleyball National Rankings Mean More This Year. And Less.

SEC and Big 12 teams begin their spring season, how will it change the national rankings?

The top 25 doesn’t mean anything...except in a year when the selection committee doesn’t have much else to use to decide which teams play in the NCAA tournament. This year, it means everything.

Being in the top 25 gives the selection committee permission to go ahead and pick at large-selections as, essentially, automatic bids. In a year with no non-conference play, then, if you’re in the Top 25, you’re in the tourney. If you’re not, well, you get the idea.

Given that, there are teams in the top 25 that baffle me, but of course each of these ranked teams will desperately want to stay on this list for a better shot of getting into the 2021 NCAA tournament. In an interesting twist, the SEC and Big 12 begin playing again this weekend for what amounts to both a “second season” and a tune up for tournament play. These teams played in the traditional fall season, with somewhere between 10-14 matches.

This is what is going on in the top 25 right now:

  1. Wisconsin - 6-0 in the spring. At Indiana this weekend.
  2. Texas - 14-0 in the fall. Playing their first spring match Feb 25 vs UTSA. They have nine matches before they start the NCAA tournament April 13th. Texas won the Big 12 conference championship to earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.
  3. Kentucky - 10-0 in the fall. Playing their first spring match Feb 13 vs Georgia.
  4. Nebraska - 4-0 in the spring. At Rutgers this weekend.
  5. Minnesota - 6-0 in the spring. At home vs #8 PSU this weekend.
  6. Baylor - 13-3 in the fall. Playing their first spring match Feb 25 vs. North Texas. In the fall they lost to Kansas once and #2 Texas twice. Yes, Yossiana Pressley is still playing and is still amazing.
  7. Utah - 6-0 in the spring.
  8. Penn State - 2-0 in the spring. Matches against #24 Michigan were postponed. PSU plays in #5 Minnesota this weekend.
  9. Florida - 8-2 in the fall losing to South Carolina and Georgia. Scheduled spring matches were postponed last weekend. Playing LSU next.
  10. Washington - 5-1 in the spring. Lost to Arizona State the first match of the season. At #18 UCLA this weekend.
  11. Purdue - 2-4 in the spring. Losses to #1 Wisconsin and #5 Minnesota. Purdue plays at #24 Michigan this weekend.
  12. BYU - 4-0 in the spring.
  13. Notre Dame - 6-1 in the fall. No games currently scheduled for the spring. BAFFLING ranking here.
  14. Louisville - 5-2 in the fall. Losses to #19 Pitt and #13 Notre Dame. Playing their first spring match Feb 20 vs Lipscomb.
  15. Stanford - 0-2 in the spring. Lost to Arizona twice. Previous spring matches were cancelled. Stanford plays at Cal this weekend.
  16. Missouri - 8-2 in the fall. Lost to #3 Kentucky twice. Playing their first spring match Feb 12 vs Tennessee.
  17. Georgia Tech - 7-1 in the fall. Lost to Miami. Playing their first spring match March 7 vs Virginia. BAFFLED by this ranking.
  18. UCLA - 4-2 in the spring. Lost to Oregon and Washington State. At home this weekend vs. #10 Washington
  19. Pittsburgh - 4-4 in the fall. Lost to #13 Notre Dame, Louisville and Syracuse twice. Playing their first spring match Feb 12 vs. Villanova. They won’t play a ranked team in the spring. BAFFLED again, here. They have a good pedigree, but, Syracuse??
  20. San Diego - 2-0 in the spring. At home against Portland this week.
  21. Creighton - 4-2 in the spring. Losses to South Dakota and #25 Marquette. Creighton plays Marquette two more times.
  22. Washington State - 4-2 in the spring. Losses to Oregon and #18 UCLA. At home against Colorado this weekend.
  23. Western Kentucky - 7-0 in matches started in Nov. They won’t play a ranked team all season.
  24. Michigan - Has not played yet. Schedule to host #11 Purdue this weekend. BAFFELED. Look, they might be good. But they haven’t played yet, and will lose to Purdue (trust me) this weekend. So, then what?
  25. Marquette - 4-2 in the spring season. Losses to Illinois State U. and #21 Creighton. At home against DePaul this weekend.

Here’s my BAFFELED theory. Back in the fall, when not all the conferences were playing, the AVCA still needed to have rankings. So they worked with what they had, and built a top 25. Now that the B1G and PAC12 are playing, the voters just can’t bring themselves to unrank these teams again because they don’t deserve to fall in the rankings.

But, you can’t tell me that, say, Oregon wouldn’t throttle Notre Dame, or Ohio State wouldn’t hammer Georgia Tech. Of course we’ll never know, because they won’t play, but it is a pickle for the ranking committee to figure out, so it looks to me like they are just gonna punt. Leave ‘em there, let it get sorted in the tourney. This is my theory.

I’ll pay attention to the top 25 this season not because they are valid but because I bet that the selection committee uses it to determine some of the at large bids for the NCAA tournament in April.