UC Santa Barbara opened the season with a 12-11 loss at Stanford, a result that saw the Gauchos drop six spots in the weekly MCLA poll, from No. 5 to No. 11. Entering last weekend, Santa Barbara had won four of its next five games, with the only loss coming in overtime to No. 1 Colorado State, and had climbed back to No. 6 in the rankings.
After weekend victories over UCLA, 11-6, and No. 12 Texas, 9-8, the Gauchos … dropped a spot in the poll to No. 7? Yet another reason why rankings don’t mean a whole lot, a subject Jack Coyne wrote on extensively this week at LaxMagazine.com.
I haven’t seen Santa Barbara play — the Gauchos haven’t played a game in the L.A. area yet this season, and won’t until April 6 — so I’ll take the voters’ word for it. Those voters will have a little more to go on this Friday, though, when Santa Barbara (6-2, 2-0) plays host to No. 4 Colorado (7-0). It’s big from a rankings standpoint, but it’s also big for Santa Barbara because the Gauchos don’t play again for two weeks. It would be nice to hit that break on a high note, since they return to play back-to-back games at No. 24 Grand Canyon (3-2) and at No. 6 Arizona State (5-1). Chapman swept that same desert road swing two weekends ago.
Chapman (5-2, 1-0) moved up to No. 5 in the poll this week — bouncing past Santa Barbara and Arizona State — after winning its fourth in a row last weekend, 11-4 over No. 18 Cal Poly. The Panthers face Richmond — which will transition to NCAA Division I next season — at home Wednesday night then visit Loyola Marymount (2-6, 1-1) on Sunday. Hopefully Chapman doesn’t look past these ones with a big trip looming the following weekend — March 23 at Colorado State and March 25 at Colorado.
While those two still look like favorites for SLC North Division playoff berths, the rest of the division won’t begin to sort itself out until the March 23-24 weekend, when divisional play begins in earnest. This weekend, USC (4-5, 1-0) can get another leg up when it travels to play UNLV (4-4, 1-2) in a conference game. Claremont (3-3, 0-2) plays North Texas on Wednesday night, then is off until March 26. UCLA (3-4, 0-1) plays North Texas at home on Friday night. LMU’s only game this week as Sunday vs. Chapman.