The 2013 season has been another difficult to predict year. Though defending champions Texas looks like the frontrunner for the national championship this year, it won't be an easy road. Penn State is a close second and the could make another run for a title. Also in the top five at the end of the regular season - Stanford, Missouri and Washington.
Usually the toughest region in the country, this year the West is experiencing the rise of the Midwest. Though the Pac 12 has the most teams in the top 10, the Big 10 has eight teams in the top 25. If the west is going to make a run at a national title, it will probably be with Stanford, Washington or USC. But they'll have to get through defending champions Texas or perennial title holders Penn State to do it.
The East region holds the powerhouse Penn State, whose record of four straight national titles won't be broken any time soon. But No. 2 Penn State has not been challenged much by other teams in the East. We'll see what they have when they are matched up against the best teams in the country in this year's Final Four. They'll most likely have to face defending champs Texas or a challenger from the West in order to take home the national championship
The Midwest Region is the toughest region in the country this year and the Big 10 is leading the way with eight teams in the AVCA's Top 25. It should be a great battle to see which team from this region will emerge victorious from the many choices. But keep an eye out for Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota in the 2013 Tournament.
Perennial champ of the South, Florida will have its work cut out if it wants to make the Final Four this year. With the rise of Florida State, Duke and North Carolina, the South region should be a very interesting battle this year. Keep an eye on this region, it could be 2013's spoiler for the usual powerhouses.
There's no doubt which conference is the most competitive this season. The Big 10 boasts eight teams in the top 25 according to the AVCA Coaches Poll. The next best ranked conference has half that many, but the Pac 12's four teams include three in the top ten. The Big 12, SEC and ACC each have three ranked teams, while the WCC has two and the Big West has just one, Hawaii.
Just when it looked like the top teams would stay put for the remainder of the season, Week 12 brought a new team in the top five in this week's AVCA poll. Missouri jumped to No. 4 in this week's rankings after beating previously No. 5 Florida in three sets over the weekend. Missouri is now 15-0 in conference play and leading the SEC. Florida fell two spots to No. 7 with the loss.
With just three weeks left in the regular season and the playoffs just around the corner it appears that Texas is going to keep its No. 1 ranking in the AVCA Coaches Poll for the remainder of the season. With just five games remaining on the schedule, the Longhorns have no ranked opponents left to play. The toughest match Texas has left is Iowa State on the day before Thanksgiving. Though unranked at the moment, Iowa State has been in the top 25 for almost half the season. The Cyclones were No. 25 last week after four weeks unranked. They fell out of the top 25 this week through no fault of their own, but had the most votes of any of the unranked teams by far. Still, barring a very off night, Texas should hold on the top spot.