The American Volleyball Coaches Association released its preseason Top 25 poll on Monday, and if the voters are right, No. 8 Illinois faces an enormously challenging schedule in 2011.
Kevin Hambly’s Illini will play nine other members of the Top 25 a total of 14 times. Besides the usual suspects on the Big Ten schedule, Illinois has nonconference matches against three ranked opponents — Tennessee, Dayton and Tulsa.
The poll also makes public the teams that didn’t make the Top 25 but did appear on a minimum of two ballots. This next tier in the poll offers further evidence that Illinois can expect few breathers this season. A total of eight UI opponents appear on this list, including four non-conference foes. The Illini will play a total of 12 matches against these eight opponents.
Add it up, and 26 of the 31 matches on the UI regular-season schedule are against teams that made the preseason Top 25 or appeared on at least two ballots. That’s 83.9 percent of the schedule.
Have no idea how that compares to other programs, but at the least it has to be among the highest such percentages in the nation.
Here’s the list in both categories:
No. 1 Penn State
No. 5 Nebraska
No. 12 Minnesota
No. 13 Purdue
No. 19 Dayton
No. 21 Ohio State
No. 23. Tulsa
T-No. 24 Michigan
Appeared on two or more ballots
St. Mary’s (Calif.)
Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo