D3hoops.com Daily Dose | The daily dish on Division III basketball

Tis the season. Practices have started, games are a mere weeks away, and the first men’s Top 25 ballot has been cast. The excitement to start the season is certainly amping up and after looking through the teams I considered for my ballot… I am expecting one thing – a wide open season.

Last year one of my most common statements was how much parity there was in Division III, especially when you got outside of the Top 10. This year may see that parity go even further. There are so many good teams that have reloaded, great teams that have lost key personnel, championship favorites who are rebuilding or retooling, and championship favorites who haven’t had to reload – they are already loaded.

There are also teams who are emerging on the radar thanks to putting together several years of consistently better basketball. Their experienced players are juniors or seniors who are poised to make a run. Then there are the usual suspects who have gone through coaching changes or lost a high number of those experienced players after making their run. All of those kinds of teams create a high number of question marks.

Parity is great for Division III basketball. It allows more teams to be in the conversation, it makes the regular season fascinating in terms of match-ups, important games, and outcomes that in mid-November mean something in late February. Thanks to the SOS guidelines and the message that teams have to schedule good teams to make sure they can secure an at-large bid (or hosting opportunity) in the tournament along with the parity, the regular season is exciting.

However selfishly… parity is a pain in the ass for Top 25 voters!

Every year the preseason ballot is the most difficult. Obviously, trying to read tea leaves and understand how returning players, transfers or freshmen, and departing players will impact a team is difficult. Then throw in other variables like coaching changes or the quality of coaching coupled with trends we have seen over the years makes things more challenging. But now that parity has made Division III basketball basically a wide open race, Top 25 voters are left grasping at straws, throwing darts, picking names out of a hat, or whatever random method they want to use to try and pick and place teams.

This year’s preseason ballot was by far the hardest just a year after I thought that preseason ballot was the hardest. I knew who I was going to vote number one practically from the time I walked out of the Salem Civic Center last March – though, I gave myself the flexability to look through everything and everyone first before finalizing that decision. But after nearly an entire day (say six hours?) working on my ballot earlier this week… I had only put in the number one team. The rest of my ballot was blank.

The arguments were endless circles.

  • Do I think Team A is better than Team B? Yes.
  • Do I think Team B is better than Team C? Yes.
  • Do I think Team C is better than Team A? Yes. Damn it.
  • I think Team A should be number five on my ballot. But there are no other teams I think should be above them. The problem is Team A is not a number two team, I don’t think. Well what about Team B? No. Same problem. Team C? Nope. Team D? Heck no. Well, someone has to be number two!
  • How about numbers 20-25… I only have 15 teams to consider here… nope, make it 20. Well, who deserves to be there? No one; all of them. Darn it. Well I have to rank Team M, they are always a Top 25 team. Do they deserve to be in the poll? Um, maybe not?! What about taking a flyier on Team N? Sure, why not? Wait, but why? This isn’t helping.

The inner monologue, that spilled into out loud conversation with myself might have been hysterical – or sad – to listen to for someone on the outside of my head. I talked to a few other Top 25 voters I enjoy chatting with – picking their brain – they were all thinking completely different than I was. One had a team at number two I wasn’t considering higher than 15! That had me do an about face and erase everything and start over only to then realize after doing that a few times that I couldn’t justify that high a jump even though my colleague’s justification made sense especially to him.

Finally, I just decided to buckle up and start plugging away. I was going to leave teams off I didn’t feel comfortable. I was going to include teams I certainly feel are risky. I was also going to put teams too high, too low, or just plainly in the wrong slot. There was nothing I could do about it; my ballot was going to be far from perfect.

Then when I saw the final results and the expanded voting information I chuckled. I wasn’t the only one. EVERYONE struggled with this ballot.

So here is my D3hoops.com Men’s Top 25 Preseason ballot – completely while watching my beloved Cubbies implode (or never lite the fuse) against the Mets. Please understand that I wrote everything about my struggle prior to point out that I am not completely comfortable with my ballot. I am sure that while writing these teams out, I will find ways to argue with what I have done already. So yes, I may have some teams too high and some teams too low. I probably included a team that shouldn’t be there and left another out that is a no-brainer to you. It is what it is now that parity is the only way to describe Division III men’s basketball.

1 – Augustana
I am a little surprised this wasn’t a unanimous decision by the 25 voters (two going with Amherst – more on that later). Anyone who saw Augustana last year, saw them get to the national championship game, and knew they were pretty much bringing back the entire squad probably had Augustana penciled in to the number one slot on their preseason poll the day after last season ended. Augustana isn’t going to get through the season unscathed. The CCIW will be too difficult, but this is now a very experienced team with a deep NCAA tournament run under their belt. They know what needs to get done to bring a national title to the Mississippi River. The only thing that will stop them is themselves.

2 – Elmhurst
Nothing about the following 24 teams is rock solid. I am not positive anyone is in the right position and it start with the Blue Jays. Here is another team that returns nearly everyone after a really good season. Many would say Elmhurst appeared on the radar a year early last season. The advantage that has is this team now has plenty of experience to make them ready for the year. The disadvantage is they are not going to surprise anyone and have a bit of a target on their backs. I thought Elmhurst was maybe number five… but I just couldn’t wrap my head around another team being head of them. When I was able to make that argument, another team would debunk it (see my Team A, Team B, Team C debate above). However, Elmhurst is poised to have a terrific season, but like Augustana just playing in the CCIW could be their downfall.

3 – Chicago
I realize I might be buying too much stock in the Maroons. I suspect Mike McGrath will be calling or texting me soon after reading this to either laugh at me or give me all the reasons his team isn’t that good. I get it. I had them in my Top 25 last year in the preseason and thought despite the drawbacks (and injuries) that they were that good. They struggled. But they struggled because honestly this is the season they probably will be the best of the UAA. Number three is high, but like Elmhurst I couldn’t find a reason to keep them lower. I think Chicago will be the clear favorite in a somewhat down – certainly reshuffling – UAA and after dealing with the challenges of last year will be in position to impress this season.

4 – Whitworth
I might be buying too much stock here as well. Despite being more guard orientated than in years past, I think the Pirates could be a really good team this season. They don’t exactly have a challenging start to the season (La Verne, CalTech, and Hamline are part of their Division III non-conference start), but the start could give them a ton of confidence before the middle part of their season when they see Calvin and Mary Hardin-Baylor at the D3hoops.com Classic in Las Vegas. They do play Colorado College twice (why? No, WHY?!) which tripped them up a few seasons ago, but I don’t see a reason why Whitworth won’t win another conference title and maybe make the run to Salem everyone has been waiting for the last decade.

5 – Amherst
Two voters placed the Lord Jeffs #1. Honestly, I don’t get that. Of course they are going to be good. Last year was an odd year of reloading after a tremendous 2012-13 campaign lead to a national championship in Atlanta and a 2013-14 campaign ended in heartbreak in a dismantling at the hands of Williams in the semifinals. They had some great talent on those teams including Aaron Toomey. They didn’t have that talent, experience, or confidence last year and struggled accordingly. But they still finished second in the conference and made the NCAA tournament. The reason I could NOT vote Amherst number one was simple – they weren’t even on my Top 25 ballot finishing last season (they only got 8 points in the overall poll). They bring everyone back and will be good – because Dave Hixon always puts together good teams – but number five on my ballot feels high, so I’m not sure how anyone voted them #1. That being said, Amherst has proven sceptics wrong many times in the past.

6 – Catholic
The Cardinals have been planning this season for about four years. Last year wasn’t as successful as hoped thanks to injuries and other factors and that is the only reason I am a little apprehensive with this position for Catholic. Steve Howes has a group of athletes who have basically been playing tons of minutes since they were freshmen and made what should have been a deep run in the NCAA tournament in 2013 (before a rough scheduling gave them Williams in the second round and a key injury ruined their chances of winning that game). Last year and prior the team hasn’t lived up to the expectations. There certainly is good reason to think they won’t this year, either. The difference is I think the players themselves have the ability to get over the hump and get through adversity thanks to what they have had to deal with the last two years. The conference is ripe to be taken (Scranton will be down and the rest of the conference has had a ton of turnover) and they have some easy games early in the season to get them rolling.

7 – Mount Union
The Purple Raiders are ready to steal headlines from the football team in November and December… or at least try. I think Mount Union is ready to capitalize on what was a terrific campaign last season and make the OAC a rather interesting conference to watch this year. They have the experience in place, like a lot of teams, to make this season special. Again, they feel too high despite their recent success and current talent, but parity has allowed teams like Mount Union shine when we haven’t seen them in the past.

8 – St. Thomas
The Tommies are the Tommies. Meaning they will compete every year, probably win another conference title, and be a fascinating team to consider in the NCAA tournament. Last year ended with a thud in the first round and sometimes that is the perfect motiviation for a team that maybe expected to always make a deep run. The challenge is the MIAC is not longer a cake walk – which they experienced last season – but that could end up making the Tommies a much more dangerous team. They also start the season at the Hoopsville National Invitational Classic along with games against UW-Stevens Point and others that tells me they are ready to test themselves early to be ready for March. The Tommies may be a slight dark horse this year.

9 – Marietta
The only reason I don’t have the Pioneers higher is I am worried about some of the talent they lost and I learned RaNeal Ewing is at least ineligible for the first semester – if he even is available at all this season. Ewing was Marietta’s best player, so consider that another loss – at least temporarily – for a really good team. Marietta will still be a tough team and will be in the national conversation all year. However, they may have a slight challenge to the start of the season with Ewing not on the court let alone the bench. The advantage Marietta has is they have a bit of an easy schedule to start before getting into conference play where John Carroll and Mount Union will make the OAC race one to watch. They also have a possible match-up with Wooster which will give everyone a terrific mid-season barometer of the Great Lakes Region.

10 – Babson
As good as Babson was last year, as terrific a run to Salem as they made, the trick this season will be how do they adjust to losing some key parts from last season and how does Joey Flannery adjust to a massive target on him with maybe less complementing parts to help him out. Flannery is a terrific talent and thanks to the fact the schedule this year is not that challenging nor is the NEWMAC as difficult as in years past (MIT, WPI, and Springfield will all be a bit down from their recent glory), the Beavers could go on a tremendous tear to start the season before facing Amherst in mid-December. That game has been highlighted at least by many as being the litmus test for both programs. Bates will then take three weeks off before facing another Northeast power in Bates. Those two games will give us plenty of information before Babson starts conference play in January.

11 – Virginia Wesleyan
The Marlins are an enigma as much as they are one of the most consistent teams in Division III. Every time Dave Macedo loses tremendous talent it is replaced with nearly as equal the talent either off the bench or fresh to the team. It is unbelievable the program that has been built near the shores of the Cheseapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The challenge this year, probably a far more guard orientated team than in the past (though, a program that has transitioned in that direction in the last few years). Will that leave them exposed in the ODAC which has usually featured a few big men that can change game plans? Will that leave them exposed in the NCAA tournament? It was great to see the Marlins back in Salem (or any ODAC team for that matter) last year. The question I have: is there talent hiding on the bench as there has been in the past that can help them get back there again. I just don’t see it right now.

12 – Stockton
Maybe I am buying in a little too much in the Ospreys, but something tells me last year’s good season won’t be disappearing any time soon. They did lose the NJAC Player of the Year, but they bring back talent that scored in double-figures. The challenge for Stockton is to stay consistent and not let things get to them. I witnessed the inconsistency and lack of mental stability last year first hand in the middle of the season which seemed to derail them for a few weeks. If they want people to fear them and the rest of the NJAC, they have got to take care of business both in and out of the conference or any love for Stockton will erode quickly.

13 – Ohio Wesleyan
The Battling Bishops had some struggles last year, but seemed to find their mojo at just the right time during conference play and seemed to have the NCAC in control – until the NCAC got really interesting late. What is scary is that Ohio Wesleyan pretty much brings back the entire squad (91% of the scoring) including conference scoring leader Claude Gray. The only reason I didn’t put the Battling Bishops any higher was the concern about consistent basketball. They need to play well against what will be a tough out of conference schedule before starting an always challenging NCAC schedule. If Ohio Wesleyan plays well against the likes of Capital, Calvin, and Illinois Wesleyan before facing Wooster in early Decemeber, they could get on a roll that will have them being one of the scarier teams this season.

14 – William Paterson
To be honest, I would love to see the Pioneers do well this season. After a few inconsistent seasons, William Paterson seems to have gotten back into the conversation and helped bring the NJAC back as one of the tougher conferences. But inconsistencies have been their arch nemesis. Losses against teams they should be dominating and apparent lack of focus in conference play (losing four out of five to close conference play last season was poor – they lost five of their last seven overall) kills any thoughts of jumping on the bandwagon. Their schedule this year starts with a big game against Mount Union, otherwise nothing about their out of conference schedule will give us any indication of how good they may really be.

15 – Emory
Despite what the Eagles have lost, something tells me this program isn’t going away. The have consistently won 19 or more games the last five seasons and Jason Zimmerman seems to get the most out of his players. They also don’t shy away from a challenge as they will take on St. Thomas and Stevenson at the Hoopsville National Invitational Classic before facing off against Guilford, Oglethorpe, Maryville, and Virginia Wesleyan to name a few before conference play begins. I know they lost some terrific talent, but Emory seems to find new talent more often and once again could be a factor come NCAA tournament time.

16 – Hope
The Flying Dutchmen may finally be back as a team to watch out for. They return nearly the entire squad and nearly all their points and rebounds to a team that despite some tough points last season, battled to the very end under new head coach Greg Mitchell. Now he is more settled and I know working to improve his squad and who they play (especially getting rid of some non-Division III opponents) and could be worth watching this year. Opponents like UW-Stevens Point, Wheaton (Ill.), Carthage, UW-Platteville, and Messiah will have them ready for conference play to be sure.

17 – St. John Fisher
Here’s another team that has lost a bit of talent off a very good team from last year, but speculation is they will once again be the cream of the crop in the Empire 8. They too will test themselves early at the Hoopsville National Invitational Classic along with a possible match-up with Ohio Wesleyan on the road. To be honest, I don’t expect the conference or the region to be overly challenging (though the E8 always produces a surprise team that you have to be concerned about), so the Cardinals have to prove themselves out of conference and they certainly have the schedule to do that. Some early success could bode well for some personal in new or larger roles.

18 – Dickinson
The Red Devils are very much like the St. John Fisher Cardinals in how much they have lost versus how much they still have that no one realizes along with what has been rumored as being a strong recruiting class that could make an immediate impact. Sure, the D3hoops.com Player of the Year is gone, but anyone who knows the Dickinson team will tell you that Gerry Wixted wasn’t the only threat. Remember, this Red Devils squad lost Adam Honig the year before after getting to the elite eight. They nearly repeated that feat last season. Dickinson is also not shying away from a test in the non-conference part of the schedule with St. John Fisher and Stevenson at the Hoopsville Classic followed by Catholic and Guilford later in the season. The question will be how will they do against Franklin and Marshall, Johns Hopkins, McDaniel and others in conference.

19 – East Texas Baptist
I realize I am one of 12 voters – half the poll – who voted for the Tigers. It’s at this point in the poll where I really started to struggle about who should be in and out of my Top 25. One part of me sees a lot of talent coming back to a squad that certainly impressed last season (and was the first omen of things to come at the final four with teams facing UW-Stevens Point). Another part of me worries they may have lost a little too much. They have a 22-game home winning streak still intact and with eight of their first 11 games being at home could use that as momentum to get the season rolling in the right direction. The Tigers aren’t exactly going to play anyone challenging except Hardin-Simmons early on, so that could help them as well. But I suspect conference play will be a bit tough because of teams like Hardin-Simmons, Mary Hardin-Baylor, and Louisiana College.

20 – Eastern Connecticut
The talk I’ve been hearing in the coaching ranks is the Warriors have a really good team this year. I’m a little nervous to jump on board considering how many 20+ win seasons Eastern Connecticut has had in the last seven years (seven to be exact), but nothing that jumps out of me in the NCAA tournament – seemingly going backwards (three third round appearances [’10, ’11, ’12], two second round appearances [’13, ’14], and a first round appearance [‘15]). What is really interesting with the Tigers this year is they start the season with three straight tournaments on the first three weekends of the season – all of them on the road. They then play a fourth tournament on the road right before Christmas. Those tournaments will include games against WPI and possibly Ramapo along with Trinity (Conn.) and Amherst mixed in. They will certainly have plenty of back-to-back experience should they make the NCAA tournament.

21 – Bates
I could have gone with Trinity (Conn.) here as well (I realize the Bantams are 12th overall, but I didn’t vote for them) and probably should have in hindsight. Something about how Bates was built last year gave me confidence. I know they return less of their scoring than Trinity does, but I like the fact Mike Boornazian, Marcus Delpeche, and Malcolm Delpeche are part of that trio returning. They all contributed solid points and having an actual center makes a big difference in Division III. It came down to a coin flip between the two squads and I went with Bates.

22 – Hardin-Simmons
I think the Cowboys are going to be dangerous and will make the ASC a heck of a fight all the way through February. Now, because of their conference schedule and the inability to get out of Texas this season (we have talked to them about coming to the Hoopsville Classic) they aren’t able to really test themselves. Trinity (Texas), Southwestern (twice), Schreiner, and Texas Lutheran are their out of conference games, so I will be both studying those results in a finer degree of latitude along with keeping an early eye on their conference games. Another interesting note about their schedule – not one weekend tournament. Those events tend to be pretty helpful to have under your belt come March.

23 – Wooster
I’m going to be blunt… it’s time for the Scots to stop being just the winningest team in Division III this century and live up to expectations that the title partly instills. Wooster once again loses good talent from a program that once again fell short last season. I don’t know the last time they didn’t win 20+ games, but last season the conference gave them fits and they eventually lost to streaking DePauw in the NCAC title game and fell short to Marietta in the NCAA Round of 16. I just feel Wooster is always in the Top 25 and rises steadily in the polls through the early part of the season only to lose a couple of games or not make waves in the NCAA tournament on a consistent basis. This year has an interesting bag of games against teams who in the past have been good, but will either be down this year or are emerging with unknown expectations. They also have a conference that is quite competitive and once again may not go through Wooster’s home gym.

24 – UW-Stevens Point
Last year I didn’t have the Pointers in my Top 25 for about two-thirds of the season. They didn’t start off with guns blazing, but they eventually got into a groove and what they were doing defensively was impressive. I didn’t buy in until late January, if memory serves. They had lost quite a few of their talent from the year before and I didn’t expect them to do much in 2014-15 – they of course won the national championship with one of the best defensive units and performances I have ever seen at this level. Lesson learned. Despite the fact Stevens Point has lost a TON from last year’s squad… I will at least give them and Bob Semling the benefit of the doubt and leave them on my ballot. They have a challenging schedule this year, so we will learn early if they remain.

25 – Southern Vermont
This is the latest Albertus Magnus squad from New England. Tons of talent, gaudy record, but very weak conference means they are playing on a knife’s edge at the end of the season. The difference in the past is that AMC has made sure to win the conference tournament to assure themselves a berth to the NCAA tournament. Southern Vermont had a terrific opportunity last year to prove naysayers wrong, but lost in the conference title game and didn’t even sniff the NCAA tournament. Now they return everyone and are challenging themselves with an appearance at the Hoopsville National Invitational Classic which will feature St. Thomas as one of their games. They also have Bates and Middlebury and some other good games on their schedule (along with some easier games like two against Massachusetts College) before starting conference play. If the Mountaineers want to be talked about nationally, Dan Engelstad knows this is the season to do it.

Now, I could go on and list all the other teams I considered. The list could range as high as 25 additional teams. However, I have learned in the past that a) people don’t appreciate the added information, they think of it as a further snub to their team and b) that I always end up leaving out other worthy programs I could mention as well. So to save myself the headache of writing them all down now and the headache from responding to complaints later… here is where we will start.

I will finish on this note. There are a TON of good teams this year who deserve to at least be considered for the Top 25. Almost everyone in the Top 25 and being considered have flaws. The hard part is going to figure out who has the least amount of flaws, are challenging themselves or at least playing better than expected, and who are just throwing up smoke and mirrors.

It promises to be another very exciting year in Division III men’s basketball. Which means it also promises to be long Mondays for Top 25 voters.

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Vines Center

Changing the rules. Will new lines start getting drawn on courts, again?

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Rules Committees have recently approved different packages of rule changes as they often do every two years. Some of the rules are needed, some are interesting, and some are perplexing. All of these changes still need approval by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel which meets June 8.

The tendency is that changes approved by rules committees don’t all get approved by the oversight panel. I will point out many of the proposals being presented to the oversight panel and tell you why I do or don’t like them especially when it pertains to Division III.

Men’s changes (from the NCAA)
Women’s changes (from the NCAA)

But first, I wanted to point out the most glaring problem. Both rules committees approved different packages of changes. I understand why each gender has its own rules committees, but in basketball they are clearly not talking to one another. This is a problem.

In sports like lacrosse, the men’s and women’s game are dramatically different. In essence they are two different sports. However, in other sports like soccer the rules are nearly identical. Now those going to lacrosse games have known the difference in the two sports that has existed nearly since the creation of those sports especially as an NCAA sport. So fans of lacrosse don’t get confused by the dramatically different rules and regulations. Those in soccer do expect the sports to be the same and don’t have any trouble watching either game to understand what is happening or what rules are being enforced.

The problem with basketball: the game is intended to be the same for both genders like soccer, but the NCAA rules committees treat their sports like they are lacrosse. It is crazy and has been causing confusion for years especially in a sport that outside of higher-end Division I is played as men and women double-headers.

Many have complained or commented that the sports need to be more similar. Coaches understand that for fans to appreciate the game and understand what is going on during a game, the rules have to be similar. The women’s game added the 10-second backcourt violation two years ago and even adjusted their three-point line to the men’s line. Of course, the fact the women didn’t have a 10-second violation or a different three-point line also speaks to how these committees don’t seem to communicate with one another and pretend the other doesn’t exist.

That has to stop. This sport has to be either treated the same or made completely different. I am a proponent for the being treated the same with the same rules and regulations, though I am completely fine with two different sized basketballs. When fans are watching a game, it is better for them and the sport if they can then turn on another game in a different gender and understand what is going on. Imagine if you showed up to a double-header and one game was played under one set of rules and the other under a completely different set. How long do you think it would take you to fully grasp what was going on?

I could go on and on about this, but let’s move on to the approved recommendations, because that will bring to light even more differences. We start with the men:

Could the arc get bigger. Proposal would expand from 3 to 4 feet.

Could the arc get bigger. Proposal would expand from 3 to 4 feet.

Restricted-area arc:

The rules committee wants to continue reducing the number of collisions at the basket and has decided to follow the NBA and expand the arc under the basket from a three-foot arc to a four-foot arc. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. I do think the arc has helped understand if a defender is truly in a place on the floor they can affectively defend especially in a standing position before an offensive player goes up for a basket. However, I think if they keep fiddling with the rule it will never be something people grasp especially if the size of the arc is just going to change every few years (by the way, FIBA has the international arc at approximately 4.1 feet).

I’m fine with this being adjusted as long as we can leave well enough alone after this. It should also be pointed out that Division I men will go to the new arc this coming season while Division II and Division III will institute the new arc for the 2016-17 season (constantly repainting courts is money lower division schools don’t have laying around in their budgets).

I somewhat endorse.

Pace of Play:

There are a few changes in this category, so let’s break down each:

30-Second Shot Clock:

This one has been a long time in coming. For many people, trying to understand why men’s basketball had the longest shot clock in the entire game (including high school) was perplexing, but it was shrugged off since despite the women’s clock being at 30-seconds they didn’t have a 10-second violation like in the men’s game. I think people thought the two differences evened themselves out. Once the women added the 10-second call and didn’t change their shot clock, more people wondered why the men’s game was so “slow.”

The men’s game has needed to shorten the shot clock for so many different reasons they finally got around to experimenting with it (in last year’s non-NCAA post-seasons) and implementing it. Now there will be more possessions in a game and offenses will need to move quicker. It also allows scoring to increase.

Some have complained that shortening the time will lead to more bad shots, worse shooting percentages, and more turnovers. This is akin to warmongering. Last year’s non-NCAA post-seasons did not prove that as numbers did not go down (they went up in many cases, especially average scoring) and the same was said when the women added the ten-second violation. The change in the women’s game did not equate to dramatically more turnovers or worse shooting.

Here’s the key: these players are coming up from high school where there is already a shorter shot-clock, ten-second violation, etc. They are used to these rules and pace of play already. Furthermore, if a person is rushing to get a shot off with two-seconds left on a 35-second clock… they are still going to rush to get a shot off with two-seconds left on a 30-second clock. The only difference is five seconds of actual game clock haven’t elapsed. And for those who state this will hurt offenses that have long offensive sets – that is the EXACT reason this rule needed to be put in place. Offenses that run plays lasting 20 to 30 seconds are killing the game. And how in the world do these offenses work when the ball goes out of bounds or there is a kicking violation and there is less than 15 seconds remaining on the clock?! They go to a shorter offense. Seems they should go to that offense, period.

I endorse.

Could the number of timeouts change? In some ways, I hope so.

Could the number of timeouts change? In some ways, I hope so.


I am not sure how these will be adjusted for Division III, but according to the NCAA the proposal is to remove a second-half 30-second timeout for teams (essentially removing one team timeout per game) and strictly enforcing resumption of play after a timeout.

If reducing the number of timeouts in all games in all divisions including non-media games is the plan, I am all for it! There are too many time outs, especially the long-versions. I would love to see the number of 30-second and long timeouts switched so there are maybe four short timeouts and two long ones per game. Too much time is spent on the sidelines especially in media games!

And I would love to see the refs pick up the pace of play in general, but especially after timeouts and for substitutions. The new rules would have the refs warn a team and then one technical foul shot will be given each subsequent time a team is called for taking too much time. Sure, the technical shot will slow things down, but a coach and team aren’t going to want to lose points at the line, so that is going to be work itself out just fine.

Other pace of play rule changes:

  • In media games if a team calls a timeout within 30 seconds of a media break or following the point when a media break would be taken, it becomes a media timeout.
    Great! This will cut down on the number of times the game is stopped for “extra” breaks. (By the way, women added this rule last year to much success.)
  • A coach can no longer call timeout when the ball is in play.
    Perfect! Too many times a coach bails his players out or calls timeout in the course of play. Or worse, the coach tries calling timeout, but because the refs are paying attention to the game they don’t see or hear it. This removes all of those scenarios and puts the game in the player’s hands when the ball is in play. Terrific.
  • Teams get ten seconds… only ten seconds… to advance the ball up to the front court.
    Terrific! There are some exceptions to this (notably a foul on the defense), but overall this is a way of rewarding the defense for good play and not bailing out an offense who are struggling especially if they call timeout.
  • Reduce the amount of time a coach has to replace a disqualified player.
    I would love to see NO time allowed, but I will take this change. Too many coaches either stall or use the time as a free timeout. You can’t tell me a coach isn’t aware of who is on the floor that is in foul trouble (with some exceptions), so to give them time to figure out who they are going to substitute is ridiculous.

All in all, I endorse!

Faking Fouls:

I played soccer throughout my life and in college and nothing drives me more crazy than flopping. If I was fouled and I went to the ground, it was because it was that hard a foul not because I was trying to bait the ref into a call. I consider it a part of sportsmanship and the fact the crap that goes on in soccer has made its way into basketball and gotten worse in the last few years is disheartening.

Now the NCAA is trying to crack down on it. However, the rule reads (according to the NCAA press release): “would allow officials to penalize faking fouls during the use of video to review a possible flagrant foul.” The good news: they can use a review to determine if someone faked a foul or injury. The bad news: it appears they can only do this when determining if a flagrant foul was committed. Other occasions when flopping is taking place isn’t reviewable.

I endorse, kind of – wish it were more aggressive.


Other rule change ideas: allowing dunking in pre-game.

Other rule change ideas: allowing dunking in pre-game.

Other changes:

  • Using review to determine if there was a shot clock violation any time during a game.
    Good! The fact this wasn’t reviewable unless late in the second half was difficult to understand.
  • Making Class B technical fouls one-shot fouls.
    I’m okay with that. Picks up the pace of play and doesn’t hurt a team if a questionable hanging on the rim technical is called.
  • Eliminating the five-second closely guarded rule for someone dribbling.
    Eh… I’m not okay with this. I understand this is probably the result of instituting the 30-second shot-clock, but let’s not take something away from the defense who is pushing the issue while still giving the offense the ability to stall by simply dribbling the ball while standing still (or hardly moving) 40-feet from the basket.
  • Removing the prohibition on dunking in pregame warmups.
    I’m not okay with this. It goes to sportsmanship for me. I don’t want to see the pregame turn into a free-for-all I-can-outdo-you scenario. Not to mention the fact, people will regret this rule once a backboard, rim, or stanchion is broken and the game delayed or postponed to get it fixed. Pre-game is to get ready for the game, not for a dunking competition. Leave this rule alone.


Experimental Rule – Added Fouls:

If approved, you won’t see this until the 2016 non-NCAA postseason, but they will experiment with six individual fouls per player in the NIT and other tournaments. Not a fan. Leave it at five. It is six in the NBA for entertainment and protection of the stars. We don’t need to be adding another foul in the NCAA.

Now for the women’s rule changes (I’m leaving the most glaring to the end):


Courtesy: Transylvania Athletics

Could full court efforts be removed from women’s basketball in last minute of games?

Advancing the ball to midcourt:

The women’s rules committee has recommended teams be allowed to advance the ball to the front court following a timeout in the final minute of regulation or overtime. You know, like they do in the NBA!

So if there is a made basket, a rebound, or a change of possession and a team immediately calls timeout without trying to advance the ball up the court… they can be rewarded by moving the ball 65-plus feet up the court and inbound it from mid-court with no time coming off the clock. You read that right. Teams would be allowed to inbound the ball from the 28-foot mark which is essentially in front of their bench near the scorer’s table. Committee members state it would add more excitement to the end of games.

I say NO! This is a huge reward to a team if they are unable to stop the opponent defensively (made basket) and takes away from the other team’s ability to play solid defense in forcing a team to go the 80-94 feet up the court all while the clock counts down. Is the committee crazy? This is too easy! Sure it adds excitement, but it also would encourage teams to slack off on defense, allow a tying or lead-changing basket, knowing they can just move to within 28 feet of their own basket without any time coming off the clock for a chance to tie or win.

This isn’t the NBA who has the rule in place strictly for entertainment value. I don’t love the rule in the NBA and I am going to HATE it in the women’s game if it’s allowed.

I emphatically do NOT endorse!


10-second backcourt time:

Similar to the men, the women are proposing teams not get bailed out of the ten-second backcourt count unless the ball is deflected out of bounds by the defense, is a jump ball call where possession keeps it in the offensive team’s hands, or a technical foul is called on the offensive team.

I like most of this. Again, most of these reward the defense for their hard work while not bailing the offense out for struggling. I do think resetting the 10-seconds because of a jump ball doesn’t do enough to reward the defense. Imagine what it’s going to be like if a team calls timeout with just one second left to get the ball over midcourt and now they have inbound it! That will make for exciting moments in a game!

(Remember, the ten-second violation is based on the shot clock, not a ref’s hand count anymore.)

I endorse.



The recommendation is that defenders should be allowed to place their forearm or open hand with a bent elbow on an offensive post player who has their back to the basket. Forgive me for thinking that was already the rule! I know two hands can’t be used and pushing off is illegal, but I thought the rules allowed the defense to brace themselves.

I endorse since I thought it was a rule in the first place.


Could the college band or DJ be asked to play more music at women's games?

Could the college band or DJ be allowed to play more music at women’s games?

Bands/Amplified Music:

The committee apparently thinks the fans are bored during games and want to allow music to be played during any dead-ball situation. Seriously?! You think playing music more often is going to solve fans being bored at women’s games? Furthermore, any dead-ball situation? That has trouble written all over it. I can imagine situations where the home arena tries to push the limits of the rule and psych out the opponent heading to the line to shoot free-throws – or between free-throws – especially late in a close game. And can you image players starting to ask for “walk-up” music for when they head to the free-throw line? There is nothing good about this rule.

I do NOT endorse!


Quarters vs. Halves:

And here is the big one. The women’s committee is recommending the game be broken up into quarters and not halves.

From the NCAA press release:

“The rules committee is very excited about the change to the four-quarter format for the 2015-16 season. We believe this change, along with the associated changes to the timeout and foul rules, will address flow of the game and physicality. The overall format will strengthen the connection of college basketball with women’s basketball globally.”
– Michael Shafer, chair of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee and women’s basketball coach at the University of Richmond.

“The game from high school to the professional and international levels will now be using the same four-quarter format, which makes sense globally.”
– Anucha Browne, NCAA vice president, women’s basketball championships

 “The move to four quarters allows women’s collegiate basketball to align with all other levels of play and will be an exciting change for the future of the game. Having also been involved in the game at the Olympic and international levels, it is a positive move to see that all will be playing within the same basic structure going forward.”
 Dru Hancock, chair Division I Women’s Basketball Committee

“As the game becomes more global each year, it’s important that we start the process toward standardizing the rules. This is just the beginning of what I hope are many other changes to improve this great game.”
– Geno Auriemma, University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach


On paper, I understand the idea of changing the game to quarters. It is played in quarters from youth through international and professional. The college game is the only one played in halves. I agree with the quotes above that the game needs to be more similar to the global game. For that reason alone, I understand and appreciate the change.

If the women's rules committee gets their way, you won't see scoreboards with these kinds of numbers in the future.

If the women’s rules committee gets their way, you won’t see scoreboards with these kinds of numbers in the future.

To clarify, here are the proposed changes:

  • Four, ten-minute quarters.
  • Teams would reach a two free throw bonus on a fifth foul in each quarter (no one-and-one shots) with fouls resetting each quarter except in overtime (as with current rules).
  • Media timeouts would be reduced to just one per quarter under the five minute mark since there will be a media timeout between each quarter.
  • Media games: each team would have four total timeouts (three 30-seconds and one 60-second) for the game, but one of the 30-second timeouts would have to be used in the first half (similar to current media-game timeout rules).
  • Non-media games: each team would have five total timeouts (three 30-seconds and two 60-seconds) with four of them being carried over to the second half.


Again on paper, I have no problems with these changes. It addresses a number of things like too many stoppages in the game. This would actually flip the timeouts to giving more short versions and it would eliminate a media timeout (three for 20 minutes of basketball versus four or even five) and makes fouling a bigger penalty with the two-shot opportunity instead of starting with the one-and-one.

One thing I do see is that rules changes always get put in place considering the TV audience. Of course, that audience isn’t necessarily a factor in Division III or at least media rules aren’t a factor. So by changing the game to make it flow better especially with media in mind is a fool’s errand for just the Division I likes. What about the other 95-percent, as D3sports.com Executive Director Pat Coleman pointed out in a recent tweet, of teams and schools where that isn’t part of the equation?

The problem I have gets back to the beginning: the rule differences in the men’s and women’s game are already frustrating fans; this would just be the icing on the cake!

Making the rules the same makes it easier for the fans to enjoy.

Making the rules the same makes it easier for the fans to enjoy.

Should the game be played in quarters as it is played everywhere else? Why not. But don’t move to quarters unless BOTH genders move in that direction. The men should implement quarters as well. I would be all for it if the men agreed that the pace of the game and such would be better if it were played in ten minute quarters. However, unless they move in that direction and both genders adopt the same rule change, I am completely against this.

Imagine being in an arena or watching games online, especially in the post-season, and seeing the women playing four quarters or watching the men playing halves. You then turn on the other gender’s game or stay to watch the second game of a double-header and all the rules are different. When a team is shooting free-throws and the kind of shots is different. The clock doesn’t start at 20:00 or there is a “3” or “4” under period on the scoreboard. You can’t keep track of how many timeouts each team has been given. It is only going to cause more confusion. I’m a public address announcer for basketball and I am quite sure I am not going to be able to keep all the rule differences straight.

I also don’t agree that the women’s game needs to have gimmicks (because, be honest, quarters is a gimmick if the men aren’t doing the same thing) to get people to watch or appreciate the game more. The fact they want to allow more music to be played in dead-ball situations screams they don’t think the women’s game can solve its problems without throwing in gimmicks. Moving the ball up to midcourt is a gimmick.

Is the women’s game different? Yes, just as women’s soccer is different than men’s soccer. However, it doesn’t mean you need to have completely different rules in place to make it stand out or be appreciated. And don’t pretend those who love men’s basketball are going to all of the sudden fall in love with women’s basketball because of the gimmicks. Or that you will gain more fans of women’s basketball because the rules are different. Those who love NASCAR don’t necessarily appreciate or even like Indy Car or Formula 1 and vice versa. Men’s and women’s basketball are different because of the way the game is played – above the rim; below the rim. It shouldn’t be different because they decided to start playing by different rules… or gimmicks.


· · ·



Thank you, Lauren Hill

This was written on March 30, 2015 in the hopes Lauren could read a thank you note and hear the my admiration before she left us far too soon.

The Division III basketball season has come to a close and with it another memorable year of games. Two national champions were crowned including one who many expected to make a run and did it while staying undefeated. Another made an improbable run for a team that was supposed to be “down” but ended up shutting down others.

But what is most impressive … Lauren Hill is still with us.

Lauren Hill hits layup to start game against Hiram on November 2, 2014.

The freshman forward for Mt. St. Joseph wasn’t supposed to see the start of the season (November 15). She wasn’t supposed to make it to December. Then Christmas. Now no one wants to know what date she can’t make it by, but rather find out what event she is trying to get to and see.

Lauren Hill captured the entire country’s attention back in late October when she was thrust into the spotlight and brought pediatric brain cancer along into the light. In particular, DIPG or Diffused Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. No one had ever heard of it. That’s because it usually affects children between five and ten and only accounts for roughly a 100 cases every year in this country. But here was an 18 year old who had been diagnosed with DIPG a year earlier and wasn’t expected to make it to the traditional start of the season – the average life span past diagnosis: nine to twelve months.

So Lauren’s coach and team decided to try and play early. Their opponent didn’t hesitate and agreed to move up the date two weeks. A nearby Division I school offered their arena for the game. And then the NCAA granted the early game.

That was going to be it. Lauren’s swan song. Raise awareness for an incredibly debilitating disease that has no cure, play in a college basketball game to achieve a lifetime dream, and eventually fade into the sunset while the rest of us tipped our hats.

But she is still here.

Lauren Hill not only made the start of the season, she played in a few more games and made a few more baskets. Hill not only made it to December, she streamrolled through Christmas and New Year’s and was with her MSJ team whenever she could. In the meantime, she became an honorary assistant coach and raised over $1.2 million before the close of 2014. There are jerseys bearing her 22 from teams around the country signed by Lauren adorning homes, offices, and studios like mine that not only raised money for childhood cancer research, but also remind us how one person can make a huge impact.

Despite her undying attitude to continue living, inspiring, and fighting cancer, no one expected the regular season to end with Lauren still in our lives. But there I was, sitting in front of a camera from my home studios participating in the NCAA Division III Basketball Selection Shows when host Kyle Binder asked me about Lauren Hill. I couldn’t believe she was alive to see the post-season begin. She was still alive the day Thomas More and UW-Stevens Point hoisted the walnut and bronze. And she is still alive as Division I marches to Indianapolis and Tampa.

At that incredible game on Nov. 2 at the Xavier Center, Lauren Hill was given the Pat Summitt Most Courageous award by Pat Summitt herself. It had never been handed out to anyone outside of the women’s final four. In fact, the board of directors for the United States Basketball Writers Association had unanimously agreed to give her the award then because everyone knew she wouldn’t be around to receive the award herself in Tampa.

We are a week away from basketball being played in Tampa.

So in that spirit, I thought it best to write a thank you note to Lauren Hill before she isn’t around to see it. Who knows when that day will come when her body finally has had enough, but I know if I wait any longer that day will come and go and the note will never have been written.

Dear Lauren,
                Thank you.
                Thank you for being more than another person with cancer whose stories we all know.
                Thank you for being more than an athlete who wants to raise awareness for an important cause.
                Thank you for proving it’s more than a game that can rally people.
                Thank you for taking a torch you never knew you were going to hold and carrying it further than anyone knew you could carry it.
                Thank you for making something of your situation and inspiring others to do more than simply applaud.
                Thank you for inspiring even your teammates to do greater things.
                Thank you for inspiring those who don’t even know you to play a game in your honor, raise funds for a disease they don’t understand, give up a jersey possibly right off their own backs, do layups with their off-hand while dizzy to make you smile, to Play for 22.
                Thank you for letting us see you fight. For seeing you change physically as you battle to stay alive, but not change mentally and emotionally. You inspired by allowing people into such a private ordeal.
                Thank you for starting the basketball season with a game and a moment that cannot be outdone by any team, person, or championship.

Lauren Hill with her teammates.

                Thank you for letting people realize there is more to life than personal matters. I can’t help but think of one of your teammates who was getting ready for her final season and injured her knee so badly her season seemed to end before it began. And then her courage and the training staff’s efforts to get her on the court to play next to you on November 2 because she wanted to be there for you. And all you could do was try and be there for her.
                Thank you for having a voice and not being afraid to use it.
                Thank you for keeping it all in perspective. How little did we understand when you corrected Brad Johanson on the air and said this wasn’t your final game… it was simply your first game.
                Thank you for showing people you don’t have to be a billionaire, a politician, a movie or rock star, a professional athlete, or a member of a NCAA Division I powerhouse to have the ability to focus an entire nation – heck, the entire word – on a disease so brutal no one dared talk about it. Now everyone talks about pediatric brain cancer.
                 And thank you for being you. You have smiled through it all. You have laughed. You have even cried, but not because you are afraid of dying. No, you are more worried about your loved ones and how they will deal with your departure. You have made fighting cancer graceful and you have made living life inspiring.
                Many people have quoted Jimmy Valvano when it comes to fighting cancer, as they should. We were all then reminded of that fight and inspiring words this past summer when Stuart Scott graced the ESPYs stage over 21 years later. My hope is you are still on the minds of people when the ESPYs air in July and the basketballs are tipped next November. My hope is when they think of Jimmy V’s and Stuart Scott’s inspiring battles, they remember yours as well.
                You have lived the words of Jimmy V and Stuart Scott even if you don’t realize it.
                Jimmy V: “Never give up. Don’t ever give up.” You haven’t.
                Stuart Scott: “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you lived, why you lived, and in the manner in which you lived.” Boy have you lived!
                Scott also said, “and when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.” Lauren, when you have had enough, lie down. Rest. Let the rest of us fight for you. You have already inspired people to stand up and fight for you. And for that, I thank you.


Eian Davis Albertus MagnusThe final public NCAA regional rankings were released Wednesday afternoon. The committees create one more ranking on Sunday, March 1, but do not release it to the public.

Need to know more about the regional rankings process and what they mean? Need to know more about the NCAA Tournament? Check out our NCAA Tournament FAQ.

The second record is Division III record, followed by overall.
Through games of Sunday, Feb. 22.

NCAA Division III men’s basketball championships handbook

Men’s rankings
Atlantic Region – NCAA data sheet
1 Richard Stockton 20-5 20-5
2 William Paterson 19-6 19-6
3 Baruch 19-6 19-6
4 Brooklyn 21-5 21-5
5 Rutgers-Newark 18-8 18-8
6 Sage 20-4 21-4
7 Misericordia 19-6 19-6

Central – NCAA data sheet
1 Augustana 21-4 21-4
2 UW-Whitewater 21-2 22-3
3 UW-Stevens Point 21-4 21-4
4 Washington U. 19-5 19-5
5 St. Norbert 22-1 22-1
6 Illinois Wesleyan 18-7 18-7
7 Elmhurst 19-6 19-6
8 North Central (Ill.) 16-7 18-7

EastNCAA data sheet
1 St. John Fisher 21-4 21-4
2 Plattsburgh State 18-7 18-7
3 Hobart 18-6 18-7
4 Skidmore 17-7 17-7
5 NYU 16-8 16-8
6 Clarkson 18-6 19-6

Great Lakes – NCAA data sheet
1 Marietta 23-2 23-2
2 Ohio Wesleyan 21-4 21-4
3 Wooster 20-5 20-5
4 John Carroll 19-5 19-5
5 Mount Union 19-6 19-6
6 Penn State-Behrend 23-2 23-2
7 Calvin 18-5 19-6
8 St. Vincent 18-6 19-6
9 Hope 16-7 17-8

Mid-Atlantic – NCAA data sheet
1 Johns Hopkins 22-3 22-3
2 Dickinson 20-5 20-5
3 Catholic 21-3 21-4
4 Franklin and Marshall 20-5 20-5
5 Scranton 20-5 20-5
6 St. Mary’s (Md.) 18-4 20-4

Northeast – NCAA data sheet
1 Babson 23-2 23-2
2 Trinity (Conn.) 19-4 20-5
3 Amherst 19-6 19-6
4 Bates 19-6 19-6
5 Eastern Connecticut 21-4 21-4
6 WPI 21-4 21-4
7 Albertus Magnus 24-1 24-1
8 Bowdoin 18-7 18-7
9 Springfield 18-7 18-7
10 Southern Vermont 21-2 22-3
11 Wesleyan 17-8 17-8

South – NCAA data sheet
1 Randolph-Macon 23-2 23-2
2 Emory 19-5 19-5
3 Virginia Wesleyan 20-4 21-4
4 East Texas Baptist 20-5 20-5
5 Centre 19-4 20-4
6 Hardin-Simmons 19-6 19-6
7 Rhodes 18-5 18-6
8 Mary Hardin-Baylor 17-8 17-8

West – NCAA data sheet
1 St. Thomas 22-3 22-3
2 St. Olaf 21-4 21-4
3 Buena Vista 18-6 18-7
4 Whitman 19-4 20-5
5 Whitworth 22-3 22-3
6 Dubuque 19-5 20-5
7 Bethel 17-8 17-8


The first record is Division III record, followed by overall record.


1 Montclair State 24-1 24-1
2 FDU-Florham 24-1 24-1
3 Cabrini 22-3 22-3
4 Richard Stockton 20-5 20-5
5 Eastern 19-4 21-4
6 Baruch 22-4 22-4
7 Brooklyn 19-6 19-6
8 Rowan 16-9 17-9

1 Wheaton (Ill.) 19-3 22-3
2 Washington U. 21-2 22-2
3 North Central (Ill.) 20-4 21-4
4 St. Norbert 20-3 20-3
5 Wisconsin Lutheran 21-4 21-4
6 Chicago 17-6 18-6
7 UW-Oshkosh 18-6 19-6
8 Spalding 18-3 18-3
9 UW-Superior 18-6 18-7

1 Geneseo 21-3 21-4
2 New York University 20-4 20-4
3 Ithaca 21-4 21-4
4 Stevens 22-3 22-3
5 St. John Fisher 19-6 19-6
6 Cortland 20-5 20-5
7 St. Lawrence 19-6 19-6

Great Lakes
1 Thomas More 23-0 25-0
2 Calvin 23-0 25-0
3 DePauw 23-1 23-1
4 John Carroll 22-3 22-3
5 Transylvania 23-1 24-1
6 Hope 22-3 22-3
7 Ohio Northern 20-5 20-5
8 St. Vincent 21-4 21-4
9 Baldwin Wallace 19-6 19-6

1 Scranton 23-2 23-2
2 Salisbury 23-2 23-2
3 Stevenson 21-3 21-3
4 McDaniel 23-2 23-2
5 Muhlenberg 18-7 18-7
6 Albright 19-6 19-6

1 Tufts 24-1 24-1
2 Amherst 23-2 23-2
3 Bowdoin 21-3 22-3
4 Williams 20-5 20-5
5 University of New England 20-5 20-5
6 Westfield State 21-4 21-4
7 Mass-Dartmouth 18-7 18-7
8 Springfield 19-6 19-6
9 Roger Williams 19-6 19-6
10 Eastern Connecticut 17-8 17-8
11 Norwich 19-4 21-4
12 Castleton 21-4 21-4
(The NCAA notes the GNAC did not cast a ballot in this week’s ranking.)

1 Texas-Tyler 24-1 24-1
2 Eastern Mennonite 21-2 21-3
3 Maryville 23-2 23-2
4 Randolph-Macon 20-3 20-4
5 Texas-Dallas 21-4 21-4
6 Trinity (Texas) 19-5 20-5
7 Lynchburg 17-8 17-8
8 Louisiana College 16-7 16-7
9 Millsaps 18-5 20-5

1 George Fox 24-0 25-0
2 St. Thomas 25-0 25-0
3 Puget Sound 20-3 22-3
4 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 21-3 22-3
5 Whitworth 15-4 21-4
6 Luther 18-5 20-5
7 Bethel 20-4 20-5
8 Dubuque 17-8 17-8

Regional score reporting forms (including SOS) below:
Atlantic | Central | East | Great Lakes | Mid-Atlantic | Northeast | South | West


This week the top half of the ballot was pretty simple, the bottom half… yeah… well… here we go again.

It is just difficult to really figure out who the best 25 teams are in the country this season. If I don’t have 40 teams I am considering, I am not spending enough time on the project each week. In other words, the more time I spend, the more teams I add to the list. Sure, it would be easy to save myself the time and the patience and just go with a short number of teams. However, this season I have had the bad feeling that I am missing out on someone or there is a team flying under the radar I just haven’t paid enough attention to. As a result, I keep looking around and finding others I want to at least consider – dive into their numbers and season and see what I find. Usually that leads me to teams like Penn State-Behrend, Southern Vermont, or others who have gaudy records, low SOS numbers, below-average conferences, and interesting out-of-conference results. Sometimes I wait these teams out a little longer; other times I go with my gut and add them. In all cases, I am waiting for my gut to be wrong (maybe I am a pessimist at this whole thing – especially this year).

This week, I certainly had 40 teams – leaving myself 25 teams to slot into the final ten spots. I decided to cut bait on some teams that are just not finishing the season well while waiting a couple others out. I left some teams out that probably deserve to be in; I left some on the ballot that probably need to go. It is a lose-lose scenario sometimes.

One thing I know for sure… in a week’s time… I suspect I will be throwing my entire ballot out and starting over. Does anyone really think the majority of the Top 25 is going to get through conference tournaments unscathed?

As always before we begin, here is a look at last week’s ballot:

1 – Randolph-Macon
2 – UW-Whitewater
3 – Babson
4 – St. Thomas
5 – Augustana
6 – St. Norbert
7 – WPI
8 – UW-Stevens Point
9 – Virginia Wesleyan
10 – Dickinson
11 – Marietta
12 – Albertus Magnus
13 – St. John Fisher
14 – Emory
15 – Johns Hopkins
16 – Ohio Wesleyan
17 – Elmhurst
18 – Chapman
19 – Whitworth
20 – Catholic
21 – Wooster
22 – New York Univ.
23 – St. Olaf
24 – Washington Univ.
25 – Penn State-Behrend

And now on to this week’s ballot with some explanations for some of the moves:

1 – Randolph-Macon* (Unchanged)
First undefeated ODAC season in program history and the first ODAC team to accomplish the feat since 2001 (Hampden-Sydney)… impressive! Now they have to get through the ODAC tournament at the Salem Civic Center. A gauntlet that has tripped up many a top-seed… including the Yellow Jackets just last year.

2 – UW-Whitewater (Unchanged)

3 – Babson (Unchanged)

4 – Augustana (Up 1)

5 – St. Thomas (Down 1)
I thought about moving the Tommies down even further than just one spot, but I just can’t move them below some teams right now. I am worried about consistency from St. Thomas. You can’t go and blow the socks off a team like St. Olaf on the road and then roll over against Bethel at home if you are really that good this year and want to make a decent run in the NCAA tournament. The advantage UST has is they will probably be on the road at least to start the NCAA tourney (women get rights to host first weekend), but that loss could have also cost St. Thomas a hosting chance at hosting the second weekend.

6 – St. Norbert (Unchanged)
Another undefeated season in the MWC. Wow. This is a really good team, it appears. But they are really going to have to prove themselves in the NCAA tournament because I just don’t see a way for them to avoid a major Central Region team in the first weekend.

7 – WPI* (Unchanged)

8 – UW-Stevens Point (Unchanged)

9 – Virginia Wesleyan (Unchanged)
If there is one thing I will say about the Marlins… who have they really beaten? They finished second in the ODAC and got beat by Randolph-Macon in some very good games, but I am starting to get nervous that Virginia Wesleyan doesn’t have a signature win this season. Are the Marlins overrated? Just stuff I ponder, but sure I believe just yet.

10 – Marietta (Up 1)

11 – Albertus Magnus (Up 1)
Despite a really close call to Emmanuel (buzzer beater to force overtime and then win going away), I just don’t have anywhere else to put other teams. Those now below AMC didn’t seem to deserve being ahead of the Falcons. I really hope AMC doesn’t trip in the conference tournament risking the chance to make the NCAA tournament, because I think the Falcons could be dangerous. I just don’t know what kind of match-ups are in store for AMC.

12 – Dickinson (Down 3)
The Red Devils are worrying me. They aren’t finishing the season strong. I still think they make the NCAA tournament even if they lose in the semifinals against Franklin & Marshall* on Friday, but the way Dickinson lost to F&M on Saturday is a little concerning. That’s three losses in the last five games with a win over Johns Hopkins in the middle. I probably should have moved Dickinson down a little more. Here’s hoping the talented senior class decides this is not how their careers is going to end – stumbling to the finish.

13 – Emory (Up 1)

14 – Johns Hopkins* (Up 1)
I debated about flipping the Blue Jays and Dickinson, but decided the recent win by Dickinson was good enough to not make that move. However, Johns Hopkins may very well be the better team of the two. The blue-collar, bring a lunch pail to work mentality to this team doesn’t overwhelm you when you watch them, but they get the job done. Hopkins is one of those dark horses who might surprise in a few weeks.

15 – Ohio Wesleyan (Up 1)

16 – Whitworth (Up 3)

17 – St. John Fisher (Down 4)
Not the time of the year to start losing! The Cardinals lost to Alfred and Stevens in the last three games – all in the past week – but luckily had such a commanding lead in the Empire 8 it didn’t cost them. However, it might be hard to get the right match-ups in the NCAA tournament now and if St. John Fisher loses again they might be out as a host the first weekend! Talk about all that hard work being for nothing. Hopefully SJF takes flight again and finds their mojo!

18 – Wooster (Up 3)

19 – Washington Univ.* (Up 5)
Ok… good weekend for the Bears. Beat Brandeis and New York Univ.* to make up for the lousy trip to New York City last month. Despite a crazy season, Washington Univ. is positioned to win the UAA title and get the automatic bid to the tournament. They just have to get past Chicago* which handed them one of their worst losses of the season. The one thing going for Wash U – Chicago has to go to St. Louis. It will be a mini-conference title game between the Bears and Maroons with Emory hoping for just the right outcome (along with a win) to take the title from both of them!

20 – St. Mary’s (Md.) (Unranked)
Here’s one of those teams that might have been flying under the radar. I took a long, hard look at the Seahawks this week. They are 20-4 right now (producing their sixth 20-win season in the last seven years), they are on a 12-game winning streak, and they haven’t had a “close” game (less than double-digits) since a five point win over Mary Washington on February 4. They may not have a great SOS (thanks to losing two games and a lousy bottom part of the conference), but they are also markedly improved from the team that lost to Eastern Mennonite and Delaware Valley* to start the season. Could I be buying in a little too much? Maybe. But this team could create some nasty match-up problems in the NCAA tournament. Who knows… maybe the year no one was paying attention to SMC was the perfect year for them.

21 – Catholic* (Down 1)
I can’t say I was surprised Catholic lost to Scranton* on the road. Scranton needed that win badly and playing in the Long Center is anything but easy. It did bring to the end a 15 game winning streak. The Landmark Conference tournament still goes through Washington, DC and hopefully CUA realizes that loss is the perfect jolt to their season.

22 – Southern Vermont (Unranked)
Hmm… could the Mountaineers be one of the most underrated teams in the Northeast? Ok, I might be going a little too far, but considering Southern Vermont hasn’t lost since a close game against Bates on January 3 and has gone undefeated in a conference they hadn’t won more than 10 games in … ever … SVC may be a team to watch. They once again started the season with a win over Williams, but hard to read them with a ho-hum out-of-conference schedule. But as I have said in the past, I look at win streaks this time of year with a little extra credit… 15-straight for the Mountaineers means they haven’t beaten themselves just yet.

23 – Penn State-Behrend (Up 2)

24 – St. Olaf (Down 1)
I am tried not to jump to too many conclusions with the Oles lost to St. Thomas. Yes, it was on their home court and, yes, it wasn’t close. Those are all big concerns for me. However, St. Olaf is 21-4 and that is a significant mark for this squad. Maybe I should be cutting bait like I did last time, however I also regretted that move a week later. Let’s see how St. Olaf does in the MIAC tournament.

25 – Elmhurst (Down 8)
They played one game this week and got blown out on the road at Illinois Wesleyan. I know the CCIW is tough this season, but at some point you have to stand up and at least be competitive in a game you had a week to prepare for! Those are all the reasons I probably should have dropped the Blue Jays from my ballot. The only reason I didn’t… I just couldn’t argue anyone else ahead of them right now. Or I could, but I wasn’t confident in them either. Rematch with IWU (at Augustana) is coming this week.

Dropped out:

Chapman (Previously 18)
Chapman is struggling to keep it together, it would appear. They have lost four of their last eight in groupings of two-at-a-time and have lost two of those games to 9-15 Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer. I know the SCIAC is “interesting” this season, but Chapman might be running out of gas at the wrong time in the season. And watch out… a red-hot Caltech team is coming to town Tuesday night. I just can’t keep riding on the Panthers bandwagon right now.

New York Univ.* (Previously 22)
Guh. Talk about not matching what I have seen in person. The Violets jumped into the national conversation with a pretty darn good weekend at home against Wash U* and Chicago*, but just haven’t been able to keep up the pressure since including losing badly to Wash U (97-75) and Chicago (77-60) on the road this past weekend. I think NYU is a dangerous team if they make the NCAA tournament. The problem is I think they just ended any hope of playing in the NCAAs with this past weekend’s results.

* – teams I have seen in person versus most who I have seen on video.

Previous ballots:
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11

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