Following the loss of Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri after the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the Big 12 isn’t quite what it once was.
Still, as Texas opens Big 12 play tonight at West Virginia, head coach Jerritt Elliott believes in the strength of the conference.
“There are a lot of quality teams,” Elliott said. “There are a lot of young teams that are getting better.”
The Big 12 currently has two teams in the AVCA top-25 ranking — Texas at No. 2 and Kansas at No. 23. Although unranked, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma received votes in the latest rankings released Monday.
The Pac-12 leads the country with seven teams in the top 25 while the Big Ten has six. Both conferences also have two teams in the top five.
The Longhorns have won the last three Big 12 championships with a combined record of 46-2 in conference play, including a perfect 16-0 during the 2013 season.
Still, Elliott said Texas has to be ready to play in every game in its conference schedule.
“Anybody can give you a run for your money when you’re not ready,” Elliott said.
The Longhorns come into their season opener undefeated, winning all but three of the 27 sets they played. They also knocked off two ranked opponents on the road in tough environments, including a 3-2 win in Nebraska this past Saturday.
A big part of the success has come at the net, where Texas has registered 356 kills, 87 total blocks and a .282 attack percentage — more than double its opponents’ .126 hitting percentage.
Even with all of the success the Longhorns have had this season, Elliott said they still have room for improvement.
“We’re not even close to where we can be later in the season,” Elliott said.
West Virginia comes in 10-3 this season, but that record is a bit deceiving. No. 12 North Carolina swept the Mountaineers on Saturday, and West Virginia has yet to beat a team in the top 25.
The Mountaineers’ attack is led by sophomore outside hitter Jordan Anderson, who has tallied 99 digs and 206 kills with a .284 hitting percentage. West Virginia has also hit 49 aces, led by freshman setter Lamprini Konstantinidou’s 16.
“West Virginia brings in a lot of people for the game, and we know it’s going to be a challenge,” Elliott said.