Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pac 12 | 2013 Preseason volleyball schedule coming into focus

Pac-12 among the last conferences to release its schedule

The official 2013 Pac-12 women’s volleyball regular-season schedule probably won't be released until next week. Preseason schedules are leaking out, however. Here's Volleyblog Seattle's exclusive glimpse at what's on tap (so far) in nonconference play:

Aug 30-31
Sep 5-8
Sep 12-14
Sep 20-22

Utah Valley

E Kentucky

Portland St

@Utah Valley
Cal Poly

Wichita St
Seattle U
Alabama St

N Dakota St
Youngstown St

Kansas St
UC Davis

New Mexico St
N. Colorado
Santa Clara

S Florida
Cal Poly

St. Mary’s



E Washington


Seattle U (9/10)



UC Davis


@ Texas
St. Mary’s

Air Force


@ Hawai’i
@L Beach St

Santa Clara
CS Northridge

North Texas
N Mexico St

@San Diego

W Kentucky
E Washington

Alabama A&M


Northern Iowa
@N Texas
@Utah Valley
@N Mexico St

Utah St
Nwestern St
UC Irvine

Prairie View
Idaho St

@Portland St
Seattle U (9/2)


Boise St

Texas Tech

Seattle U

E Washington


Seton Hall


S Dakota St

Washington and Seattle University
will once again meet in preseason
-Volleyblog Seattle
photo by Leslie Hamann
Much of what we’re reporting comes from the online schedules posted by Pac-12 opponents. Some have been confirmed in conversations with Pac-12 coaches, though most schools are waiting for the conference office to make the big announcement on the regular season schedule first.

Why is the Pac-12 schedule so late in coming? In a word, television. Schools are still negotiating scheduling tweaks to accommodate the increasing number of weeknight matches required by the Pac-12 Network.

Week Four (September 20-22) remains a headache for many Pac-12 programs.
  • In the west, the only other top-flight conference is the West Coast Conference. (2012 RPIs: #13 BYU, #29 San Diego, #31 St. Mary’s, #38 Pepperdine, #47 Santa Clara, #48 Loyola Marymount, #57 San Francisco, #167 Portland and #182 Gonzaga. )The WCC starts its conference schedule September 20, so its teams are largely unavailable for the Pac-12’s fourth week.
  • Pac-12 teams are loathe to travel far in week four, because the conference schedule might kick in as early as Tuesday of the fifth week. That’s what happened last year when Washington had to back out of a blockbuster matchup at Penn State after the Pac-12 belatedly scheduled UW vs Washington State early the following week.
  • So why not host that week? One Pac-12 coach told us “the fourth week is a real headache. It’s hard to find teams willing to travel to a Pac-12 gym that late. At that point in preseason, they’re looking for wins, not losses.”
  • All this matters because the Pac-12 created an unbalanced schedule last season to accommodate a fourth week of preseason. So far, that plan looks like a bust. Dropping two conference matches was supposed to help teams pump up their RPI for the postseason, but that doesn’t usually happen when you beat a weak opponent. Last season, the conference went 30-1 in week four, but there were few marquee matchups. That extra nonconference week cost Pac-12 fans potential matchups like Oregon @ UCLA and Washington @ Arizona State. This season, Washington and Oregon will meet only once … the first time that’s happened in almost four decades.

More observations:
  • Washington’s preseason schedule still has plenty of blank spaces. Seattle is hosting the Final Four this December, so fans could be forgiven for expecting a fairly major preseason attraction, most likely in week two, perhaps in Key Arena (to give that facility a volleyball shakedown).  Unfortunately, the obvious powers—Texas, Nebraska, Penn State, Florida—have pretty much filled their preseason dance cards. Among interesting teams still holding back schedule announcements are Illinois, Michigan State and BYU, but beyond that, the uncommitted pickings get a bit slim.
  • As much as fans would love more big-time preseason matches, many nagging hurdles linger. Few high RPI teams are willing to fly all the way to Seattle to risk a loss against Washington: the Huskies have won 40 nonconference matches in a row, dating to 2008. They’ve also won 100 of their past 102 nonconference contests; 97 of those 100 wins have been 3-0 sweeps.
  • Even if top teams were willing to schedule home-and-home matches against Washington, athletic departments are increasingly unwilling to spend travel money to cross several time zones. Many schools in the West don’t begin classes until late September, when the preseason schedule is wrapping up.
  • One solution might be a long-discussed Pac-12/Big Ten showdown, similar to the preseason galas we sometimes see in basketball. It could be a big draw, both televised and at the gate, especially since the two conferences have the nation's best top-to-bottom lineups. Not this year, though.
  • In previous seasons, Washington’s Jim McLaughlin has scheduled occasional matches against strong teams like Texas, Florida, Florida State, Minnesota, Purdue and Hawai’i. In general, though, he prefers to treat preseason as an extension of training, so he books most matches against teams with unimposing RPIs. McLaughlin’s logic—shared by many in the conference—is that the Pac-12 regular-season schedule is as tough as it gets, and finding the 20 or so wins needed for a shot at one of 16 NCAA Tournament seeds requires a few sure wins outside the league.

When the schedule is finally released, we should be able to fill more—though perhaps not all—of the nonconference schedule holes. Any Pac-12 coaches willing to release their preseason schedules before then (as UCLA and California have done), should feel free to contact us.

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