A strong start to the 2017 season and an unblemished record in the early portion of Mountain West play has landed Colorado State volleyball at No. 31 in the first RPI rankings of the season. RPI, which stands for Ratings Power Index is a quantity used to rank sports teams based upon a team’s wins and losses and its strength of schedule. CSU also climbed one spot in the AVCA coaches poll Monday to No. 23.
The Rams non-conference schedule featured matchups with seven teams ranked in the top 100 of the RPI. CSU went 5-2 against those teams. The biggest win of the non-conference season was at home against the Michigan Wolverines who are currently ranked 27th in RPI and 22nd in the coaches poll.
Other wins include a sweep on the road against the 33rd ranked Florida State Seminoles and a five set comeback victory over the 56th ranked TCU Horned Frogs at a neutral site.
The two losses came against a pair of top 50 teams in the RPI, No. 20 Colorado and No. 44 Duke. The loss against the Blue Devils was in the first match of the year where the Rams were one point away from defeating the ACC squad. CSU also held a 2-0 set lead against the Buffaloes before ultimately dropping the final three frames to their in-state rival.
With a 14-2 record, the Rams currently have one of the best marks in the country and they have dominated conference play as well with all four victories all coming via a sweep. However, those four conference victories have come against squads all ranked outside of the top 100 in the RPI, with the best being a win over New Mexico who is ranked right at No. 100. The other wins include sweeps over UNLV (198), Wyoming (106) and Air Force (244).
The only other school in the Mountain West ranked in the top 100 is Boise State who came in at No. 50. The Broncos most notable match this season came in the last week of non-conference play when they took the former No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers to five sets in Boise, ID.
Preseason polls suggested that the Mountain West would be a race between the Broncos and Rams, as CSU was favored with 98 points in the poll compared to Boise State’s 93. The two will square off for the first time this season in Boise on Thursday.
CSU knows the benefit of a high RPI ranking. In 2016, a high standing in the RPI rank allowed them to receive an at-large bid and qualify for the NCAA tournament to extend their streak to 22 consecutive years of making the big dance.
Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ajwrules44