BYU volleyball: No. 4 Cougars' nonconference matches still crucial

Published: Thursday, April 12 2012 9:04 p.m. MDT

BYU Head Coach Chris McGown makes adjustments during the fourth set.

JarenWilkey/Byu, JarenWilkey/BYU

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PROVO — The No. 4 ranked BYU men's volleyball team returns home to take on a 20-3 Penn State team after a hectic weekend in Los Angeles where they split two matches with the UCLA Bruins.

The Cougars had hopes of wrapping up the MPSF regular season title, which would not only assure home-court advantage throughout the MPSF tournament, but likely an at-large bid to the NCAA final four. It was not be, though, as they only managed a split with the Bruins, leaving a lot of different scenarios with regards to tournament seeding entering the final weekend of the regular season.

USC currently stands atop the standings with a 16-4 record with BYU (17-5), UC Irvine (16-5), Stanford (15-5) and UCLA (15-5) in a virtual tie for second place. BYU has ended its conference play, with UCLA having just one game remaining with USC, Stanford and UC Irvine having two left.

So where can fans expect BYU to end up after this weekend? The scenarios aren't easily explained, but coach Chris McGown did his best to explain.

"If USC loses to either opponent we get lumped into this tie-breaking mechanism and BYU gets spit out on top," he explained. "If USC doesn't lose and if UCLA beats Stanford, then we're likely the second seed, but if Stanford wins that game and USC wins both of its games, then we'll be the three seed. It's not easy to understand, but that's the way we understand it."

But BYU won't simply be watching the scoreboards this weekend against Penn State. Back-to-back wins against the No. 7-ranked Nittany Lions would greatly enhance its chances of a coveted at-large bid.

"One of the factors that goes into the decision process for the committee is your record against other final four opponents," said McGown. "Penn State is a good team and our assumption is that they'll come out of the East and so for us to have a good record against them, should it come down to an at-large bid, would be important. These matches are in no way trivial."

McGown has conveyed the importance of this weekend's matches to his team after giving them a couple of days off to start the start of the week to rest and refocus for their final match of the regular season. Although MPSF play provides matchups against most of the top programs nationally, Penn State provides yet another challenge.

"They're an excellent team," said McGown. "They have real good setting and they pass the ball very well. They have a big outside hitter — he's a big threat for them and they have some nice players around him. I think they'll be every bit as good as some of the teams we've faced in the MPSF and we're expecting a battle."

BYU faces off against Penn State on Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

BYU volleyball

BYU (21-6) vs. Penn State (20-3)

Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.

Smith Fieldhouse, Provo

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