Sorry for the tardiness on this, but celebrating the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl title got me a little out of sync this week and then the computer I have my blog written on decided to quit working when I went to post this on Wednesday morning. Better late than never, I guess.
Once again, I had to do some real analyzing after not only the number one team lost, but when several other teams on my previous ballot took losses. (And as you will notice, I will already be changing my number one team next week.)
The one thing I have noticed and even discussed with other voters, there may be 15 or 20 teams everyone feels comfortable with, but those last five or ten spots are turning into a cluster(fill in the blank). For the most part, it seems like no one wants to step up and grab their position in the polls or in their conferences. As a result, I think voting this season may be getting harder in some ways than usual years when you really have a sense of who the best teams in the country are.
1 – Whitworth – Up 1 spot
I really debated about this. The Pirates have certainly been on a tear winning every one of their games except the season opener against St. Thomas, but besides Whitman their conference schedule has been somewhat weak. They already had to use extra time to get past a pretty decent Whitman squad, but they have also been dominating teams for the most part. I am sure I will be changing this pick sooner than I would like (and now after the fact this is indeed true).
2 – St. Thomas – Up 1 spot
I seriously considered putting the Tommies back into the number one place after they clearly rebounded from their lone loss pretty well. However, I had decided that St. Thomas’ loss to Concordia-Moorehead was worse than Whitworth’s loss to St. Thomas in game number one, so I didn’t feel comfortable changing that mentality a week later.
3 – WPI – Up 1 spot
Being the Engineers are undefeated and had a nice victory of Springfield this past week, I could have easily decided to move WPI all the way to #1. However, I am still considering who they have played… or not played. WPI is clearly having a better season than anyone could have expected, but I may need to see a little more before I think #1 is the right place for WPI.
4 – Rochester – Down 3 spots
I expected the Yellowjackets to get through the weekend unscathed, though maybe bruised, as my number one team. Of course if they had lost to Brandeis, I wouldn’t have been shocked. But to lose to an NYU team that I clearly had overrated earlier this year was not what I would have expected. Rochester did rally to get through the weekend 1 and 1, but they lost the wrong game. Considering it was their first loss of the season, on the road, and many teams below also lost, Rochester didn’t fall as much as I thought about moving them.
5 – Middlebury – Up 1 spot
6 – Catholic – Up 1 spot
7 – Hampden-Sydney – Up 2 spots
8 – Illinois Wesleyan – Up 6 spots
I was already starting to buy into the Titans, but when you beat Augustana (on the road) and Wheaton (at home) to sweep the season series from those two and remain three games ahead of North Central, I was ready to buy in further. Can the Titans get through the entire CCIW unscathed? Maybe, but the conference is too good in general for that to possibly happen. So I will continue to move IWU up the board, but won’t jump them into my top five until they get through the conference unscathed.
9 – Ramapo – Up 1 spot
10 – Amherst – Up 3 spots
The Lord Jeffs had a very good week beating Rhode Island and two conference opponents, albeit at home. As a result, their win over Williams now becomes a bigger factor, especially since it was a blow out, so I moved them ahead of the Ephs. However, Amherst didn’t have the strongest out-of-conference schedule and lost two games as well, so I think this could be my ceiling unless they beat Williams on the road in the same manner.
11 – Williams – Down 3 spots
I did move the Ephs down, but it had more to do with teams I moved ahead of them than the week they had. Granted they won two games on the road in the conference, but they were both close games against Bowdoin (12-9) and Colby (6-15). I know it isn’t the easiest thing to travel in the NESCAC especially from northwestern Massachusetts to anywhere in Maine (there is no such thing as a straight drive from Point A to Point B in that scenario), but if the Ephs are that good they should handle that scenario a bit better.
12 – UW-Stevens Point – Down 7 spots
It wasn’t like the Pointers had it easy this week: they played on the road against Platteville and La Crosse who are both having solid seasons. What surprised me was the fact the Pointers were held to just 46 points against Platteville and then couldn’t recover a few days later against La Crosse and only scored 62. That is just the kind of week that can derail a team and makes a voter nervous. I am not sold on just how good the WIAC is this season maybe because the top of the conference isn’t as good as usual while the middle of the conference is just as tough as always.
13 – St. Mary’s (Md.) – Up 2 spots
14 – Calvin – Up 2 spots
15 – North Central (Ill.) – Up 2 spots
16 – Christopher Newport – Down 5 spots
I was confident the Captains were pretty good this year, but when you lose to a .500 team like Greensboro at home, I take pause. I still think CNU is a solid team, but I may have had them too high in my poll. (And since I voted they lost to Virginia Wesleyan at home and it wasn’t close.)
17 – Wooster – Down 5 spots
The win over Denison at home was destruction; the loss on the road against Wabash was… well… embarrassing. I am not sure if the Scots were looking too far ahead to their game against Ohio Wesleyan or not, but this is the time of year where a team needs to put its foot down and not stub its toe.
18 – Rhode Island – unchanged
19 – Wheaton (Ill.) – unchanged
20 – Rose-Hulman – Up 3 spots
The Engineers put their foot down on the HCAC. With a very important game against underachieving Transylvania who beat them at home earlier in the year… they won on the road. Rose-Hulman now has a two game lead on the conference forcing everyone to go through Terre Haute, Indiana if they want to automatically pack their bags for the NCAA tournament.
21 – Cortland State – Up 3 spots
22 – UW-Whitewater – unranked
As I mentioned earlier, I am not sold on the top of the WIAC. I have also not been sold on the Warhawks a lot this season; they simply lost too much from last year’s national champions. But they keep winning and are now just a game back of UW-Stevens Point and may be finding their stride… for now.
23 – MIT – unranked
For the engineers, I mean beavers, no I mean Engineers (plenty of them in my Top 25), they still don’t have Jamie Karraker or Noel Hollingsworth back and may never get them back, but they are still winning. There are three seniors in double-figures including Mitchell Kates and Will Tashman who are scoring 15+ points a game and some of the underclassmen are stepping up. Only one of their four losses is a bad one (Salem State) and they have won five straight. Maybe MIT has found a way to win this season despite the challenges they have faced.
24 – Wesley – Down 4 spots
I knew that trying to sweep St. Mary’s, especially with the second game being on the road, would be a tall task. So, I really wasn’t going to eliminate them from my ballot and they only moved this far down because I was moving other teams in that I think might still be better despite the fact the Wolverines have still won 12 of the last 13 (as of my voting).
25 – SUNY-Old Westbury – unranked
In a constant search for who are the best 25 teams, I am taking another stab at a team that maybe isn’t getting enough attention. I don’t have the space to explain the season the Panthers have had simply from Superstorm Sandy and the aftermath. But consider that Old Westbury played their first 13 games of the season on the road, had to travel by van to every practice for the first several months at a gym off campus, and they didn’t even have their own locker rooms during that time. Still, the Panthers are undefeated in their conference and while games have been close recently it is probably because the Panthers aren’t used to playing in their own gym!
Dropped out this week:
DeSales – 21st last week
I will be the first to admit, I made a mistake here. Shortly after I placed DeSales in my ballot and stated they were one team flying lowest on the radar, they lost two games in conference including a pivotal game with Delaware Valley before falling asleep against Misericordia.
Transylvania – 22nd last week
The Pioneers did it to me again. I bought in and put them back in my Top 25 only to see them lose to Rose-Hulman, at home no less. I just can’t figure out the Pioneers who didn’t lose any of their starting offense from last year’s squad, but clearly lost something from the seniors who left even if it wasn’t on the court.
Alvernia – 25th last week
You can almost copy my comments about DeSales into this section: they lost a pivotal game against conference and Reading, PA rival Albright. They didn’t lose two games, but when you are on the very bottom of the ballot, any slip can cost you.