It always seems that once a year the day Regional Rankings are released there is carnage… or at least the week of that release. But I did NOT see last Wednesday coming or what would result the rest of the week. I figured we had another week before things might get a little crazy as teams are focused on conference postseasons and such.
Nope. Last week was brutal.
You may remember last week I blew up my ballot, considered at least 20 teams outside of my Top 25, shook up most of the ballot, and replaced four of the teams on my ballot. Whelp, this week was nearly the same. I ended up writing down and diving deep into 23 teams (meaning I was seriously considering 48 teams!), reshuffled nearly the entire Top 10, and blew up basically everything from about 17 down. It results in replacing five teams and shaking my head quite a bit.
I keep threatening to throw darts. I am not sure why I didn’t resort to that this week.
Not much else I can say. I saw a lot of games this week in person or online (though, I missed an awesome opportunity to see a Top 10 battle, which I talked about on Hoopsville Sunday) and really tried to give as many teams I have questions about a fair shake. It is just amazing how many teams that ends up including.
Plenty more to say about a lot of the teams on my ballot, and who fell off, so here we go:
1 – Augustana^ (Unchanged)
2 – Benedictine (Unchanged)
3 – Whitworth* (Up 2)
4 – Christopher Newport* (Up 3)
I got a chance to see the Captains in person this weekend. Damn they are good. Granted, the York (Pa.) game isn’t exactly the best place to compare against, especially since YCP played hard in the second half to make it interesting for a brief moment. However, Christopher Newport has a ton of weapons and to paraphrase Scott Guise at YCP they have players coming off the bench who could start for a lot of teams in the Mid-Atlantic. I agree with Ryan Scott who said recently this is a team who could make serious run for Salem considering the bracket they will probably run through.
5 – Marietta (Up 5)
The Pioneers put their foot down on the Great Lakes region this past week. Beating both Mount Union and John Carroll, they proved that the OAC and possibly those wanting to go to Salem via the Great Lakes will have to go through Marietta to get it done. Very impressive. Certainly a statement week. Here’s hoping the Pioneers use it to keep themselves motivated, versus losing focus after two major games.
6 – St. Thomas* (Down 2)
7 – Hope (Down 1)
8 – John Carroll (Down 5)
Rough week for the Blue Streaks… who saw their 21-game win-streak to start the season come to an end. I wouldn’t have dinged them too much for losing to Baldwin Wallace first, though not the team I expected them to lose to, but they couldn’t regain their footing before Marietta kept them streaking in the wrong direction. I still think John Carroll is a dangerously good team, but they have to forget about these two losses with Mount Union up next and then a good showing needed in the conference tournament if they want to enter the NCAA Tournament strong.
9 – Ohio Wesleyan (Down 1)
I thought about moving the Battling Bishops down a little further after another odd loss, this time to Wabash, but there is a buffer below them where I don’t think the teams below are better. However, it is another head-scratching loss for Ohio Wesleyan. I hope they haven’t peaked too early and are running out of gas. A lot of teams this part of the season are licking their wounds from the grind and OWU is clearly in that boat, but they have to find a way to recover, rest, and respond… because they missed a prime opportunity to regain first place in the NCAC for themselves by losing to Wabash.
10 – Elmhurst (Down 1)
11 – St. Norbert (Up 2)
12 – Lancaster Bible (Up 2)
13 – Johnson and Wales (Down 2)
I actually figured the way the Wildcats were blistering the conference they would go undefeated in the GNAC. They proved that point by thumping Lasell (who is second in the conference) earlier last week, but Albertus Magnus made up for a 55-point beatdown earlier in the season with a confident eight-point win on Saturday. I give AMC’s Mitch Oliver most of the credit for that win considering his ability to adjust, but the Wildcats need to be a bit like Teflon and let that loss slide off and get back to work in the final week of the season before the conference tournament begins.
14 – Susquehanna^ (Down 2)
15 – Alma (Unchanged)
16 – Whitman (Up 1)
17 – Amherst^ (Up 3)
18 – Plattsburgh State (Down 2)
Wow! The Cardinals got blitzed by Oswego State! At first, I thought about dropping Plattsburgh State significantly as a result, but then I considered two things: Oswego is playing really well (though digging out of an early season hole) and there really aren’t that many teams below Plattsburgh I would feel comfortable putting ahead of them. That one loss doesn’t change the fact they are in control of the SUNYAC which will mean a lot of teams making a very long trip to try and knock them off.
19 – North Central (Ill.) (Unranked)
OK… I am ranking the Cardinals. I still have some reservations with North Central, but they finally got a win I have been waiting for. NCC has played a lot of good teams this season, which means their have an incredible SOS, a respectable number of regionally ranked opponents, and more. However, they can’t seem to get a significant win until last week and some of their resume has faded near the end of the season (Chicago, Mount Union, etc.). So, I am ranking North Central this week, but I am rather confident they will lose at least one more game in the next two weeks (in the CCIW tournament) if they don’t do it first on the road against North Park this weekend.
20 – Rochester* (Unranked)
The UAA is just crazy this year! This was Chicago’s to take just a few weeks ago and all of the sudden it is Rochester who has won eight straight and sits in a tie with Emory on top of the rankings. And with three games to play, NYU and Chicago are only two games back waiting for Rochester and Emory to stumble. But back to the Yellow Jackets who, like I said, have won eight straight including beating NYU who beat Emory this weekend. Rochester is also well positioned in the first regional rankings and after this weekend I can’t imagine that changes … meaning if the UAA is going to get an extra bid to the NCAA Tournament, Rochester might be their best bet – if they don’t surprisingly win the conference!
21 – Babson^ (Unranked)
Hard to ignore the Beavers any more. They have won seven straight and 11 of their last 12 and taken firm control of the NEWMAC race. In the grand scheme of things, their five losses aren’t bad, though only one or two are “good” (Amherst and Tufts). However, this is how I expected this team to play this season and maybe they have found themselves at the perfect time to make a respectable run back to Salem.
22 – Virginia Wesleyan^ (Unranked)
Quietly, the Marlins are reemerging as the team to beat out of the South Region. Dave Macedo has gotten the squad pointed in the right direction and they have now won 9 of their last 10 (though, Randolph-Macon trounced them) and 12 of their last 14. But, I am a little nervous. They are still not dominating teams, though it looks like they have figured out how to scrap for wins and win tight games which where letting slip through their hands earlier this season. They are also now on top of the ODAC.. but that doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things because no match-up at the Salem Civic Center appears to be easy this year – or any year for that matter.
23 – Tufts (Unranked)
I have been watching Tufts for weeks. And while they have a recent loss to Trinity that has me uneasy (and debating about putting Trinity here instead), there is something about how Bob Sheldon’s team is play – including an impressive win over Amherst recently – that I like. Though, I will admit I didn’t like it necessarily last week. They have at least followed up the win with more wins. Coincidently they finished with a win on the road at Williams Saturday and will have a rematch this Saturday in the NESCAC quarterfinals (at Trinity). That is something that could easily derail the Jumbos if they don’t watch out.
24 – Northwestern (Minn.) (Down 3)
No major reasons I have been moving Northwestern down my ballot except I have been making room for teams I think are better than the Eagles. However, I will say when I see their SOS this week is unofficially** a .399 I get very concerned. Northwestern has basically played no one, especially in the UMAC. And while that didn’t mean much last season leading them to an incredible run in the NCAA Tournament… I think it is a telling sign this season. They also are not going to get into the tournament unless they take care of business in the UMAC tournament.
25 – PSU-Behrend (Down 7)
Not only did they lose a conference game they shouldn’t be losing, but there are other teams surging that need to get put ahead of them in the poll – thus a drop of seven spots for the Lions. Here is another team basically in a win-the-conference-or-go-home boat – as they were last year when they missed out on the tournament. They may only have two losses, but Behrend doesn’t feel like a Top 25 team anymore… though I am staying with them for right now.
Mount Union (Previously 19)
For as good a week as Marietta had, Mount Union and John Carroll had the opposite. The problem with the Purple Raiders is they now have seven losses and are 4-4 in their last eight. Three HUGE games coming up including against John Carroll. If Mount Union wants to put together any hope for an at-large argument (assuming, thus, they have lost in the conference tournament), they cannot lose those three. (Of course, after I wrote this blog, but before i posted it, they lost to Muskingum on Monday night.)
Wooster (Previously 22)
Just when I thought the Scots had figured things out, they stumble again. You quickly forget about wins over Ohio Wesleyan when you come back and lose to Hiram. I know Hiram is a much improved team, that isn’t the issue. The issue is Wooster isn’t consistent this season and thus I am not comfortable with them in my Top 25.
Emory (Previously 23)
Just when I buy in, they stumble, too. I am not one of those voters who thinks NYU is a great team (or at least a Top 25 team), thus the loss by Emory is not a good one in my book. They had a chance to keep control of the UAA, but now put themselves in a must-win situation. Their saving grace is their insane SOS (.600) which will probably still keep them in the at-large conversation in a very loss-heavy South Region in less than two weeks.
Aurora (Previously 24)
Eh. Another team I buy into and suffers a loss I can’t explain or understand. It isn’t that Concordia (Wis.) is a bad team, but if Aurora is a Top 25 team they win that game. I like Aurora, but I don’t like that loss. It was part of the carnage, I realize. But when you are at the bottom of a voter’s ballot, any slip up will most likely cost you.
Franklin & Marshall* (Previously 25)
I got a chance to finally see the Diplomats in person this year (I usually see them at least once, more likely twice a season; saw a lot of them on video streams this year) and I wasn’t impressed. What I saw equaled what the voice in the back of my head had been saying for a long time. They have some nice players, but the starting five has a few holes and they cannot play consistent or a full 40 minutes. I saw a team that got frustrated at the drop of a hat and Johns Hopkins (who they were playing against) took full advantage when their only true inside presence had to take a break for foul trouble. What is also telling: when F&M fans I know tell me they don’t think the Diplomats are a Top 25 team, either (no, I am not going to name names).
* – teams I have seen in person this season
^ – teams I have saw in person last season
** – the number comes from Matt Snyder’s SOS math which last week was proven to be nearly identical to the NCAA’s data. You can find it here along with his regional predictions based on that data here.
So now that we have gotten that out of the way, how this season has played out so far… I am bound to replace half of this Top 25 in the next two weeks as conference seasons come to a close and conference tournaments turn everything on its head. It has been an unbelievable year so far… why wouldn’t the last two weeks of the regular season be any different.
Buckle up… this is going to be fun… and insane.