It’s November, and the volleyball team is still searching for an elusive signature win.
MSU (13-10 overall, 6-6 Big Ten) defeated Northwestern (14-9 overall, 4-8 Big Ten) on Saturday night to snap a three game losing streak, but against No. 10 Illinois (18-5 overall, 10-2 Big Ten) the previous night it was an all too familiar result — a loss.
This past weekend was the epitome of the season to date. The Spartans have feasted on lesser competition in the conference but have failed to deliver against the Big Ten’s top talent.
MSU, who currently sits in seventh place in the 14-team Big Ten conference, is 0-5 against teams with a better conference record than them and 6-1 against teams with a worse conference record.
MSU has been competitive against the conference elite, playing four and five set matches against No. 13 Purdue (19-5 overall, 9-3 Big Ten) and No. 17 Ohio State (16-8 overall, 7-5 Big Ten) but has not won any games against teams ranked in the AVCA Top-25.
The Spartans have eight games remaining, three against teams with a better conference record and five against teams with a worse conference record.
The first round of the NCAA tournament is exactly a month away and seeding will be paramount for the Spartans, who have made it to the Sweet Sixteen round the last two seasons.
As of last week, MSU was No. 41 in the RPI poll, which ranks teams based on their win-loss record and strength of schedule.
The Spartans strength of schedule is up there with anybody’s, but the win-loss record leaves a lot to be desired.
MSU has played eight games against teams ranked in the AVCA Top 25 and has lost all of eight.
These next two weeks will be pivotal for MSU, who face No. 4 Wisconsin (20-2 overall, 11-1 Big Ten) at home and No. 14 Nebraska (14-7 overall, 8-4 Big Ten) on the road in a span of nine days.
The Spartans lost to Nebraska at Jenison Field House on Oct. 10, 1-3 (20-25, 18-25, 25-22, 23-25).
If MSU wants to seal a NCAA tournament selection down and improve their seeding, wins or a split against the Badgers (No. 5 in the RPI poll) and Cornhuskers (No. 12 in the RPI poll) would go a long way.