Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’17-’18): Week 12

WashU is one of the strongest teams in the country with results in the first half that make you look twice. (Courtest: WashU Athletics)

The regular season is coming to a close and I think there are still plenty of questions as to who are the top 25 teams in the country. There could be arguments made for a number of teams to be in the poll and a number of arguments against those in the poll (or being discussed). That’s because there are a lot of good teams, not a lot of great teams, and a number of teams can beat others on any given night. That also makes comparing games, like second conference matchups, more complicated.

The other complication I have noticed this season is the dramatic difference between the beginning of the season and the end. We are all used to teams improving from start to finish, but it feels this season there are a number of squads who are completely different than they were in November and December. Sometimes looking back at those games to get a sense of a team is beneficial. This season it just makes one scratch their head more. WashU is one of the strongest teams in the country right now, but they were dominated by Augustana earlier this year. Granted, Augie is no longer at full-strength, but WashU doesn’t even seem to resemble that previous squad. Plattsburgh State has a player now playing who missed the first eight games that makes their squad completely different. There are plenty of other examples. The difference between the first half and second half seems more extreme this season.

Now, for those of you who are screaming I shouldn’t worry about the first half when ranking the Top 25 because the poll should be about now, not cumulative, I hear you. I am not indicating I am ranking based on November. However, early season results also gives you an understanding of where this team has been, where they have come, and most importantly the type of team they are against other opposition. I may lean more on the last few weeks currently, but the entire season provides insight… usually.

Of course, Sunday on Hoopsville Ryan Scott and I discussed the poll in the “Top 25 Double-take.” You can watch the segment below (just click on play; segment is cued up):

The fascinating part about the ballot work this week was … this was the easiest week of the season for me. I had teams to drop and needed to find teams to replace them, that wasn’t easy, however the vast majority of the ballot work was somewhat easy. I moved a few teams around, but it seemed more obvious this week. There were only seven losses amongst seven teams on my ballot this week – that is a piece of cake in comparison to the rest of the season. I know full well there will be more losses next week, but we know that most of the ballot will lose in the final week.

Since I got through my ballot quickly, we might as well wrap up this blog quickly. Let’s get to how I ranked teams. A reminder, here is last week’s ballot. And with that, here is my D3hoops.com Top 25 ballot for Week 12:

UW-Platteville has had a tremendous turn-around from last season.

1 – Whitman (NC)

2 – WashU (NC)

3 – St. John’s (NC)

4 – UW-Platteville (+1)

5 – Wittenberg (-1)
I am a little nervous about the Tigers. Lost two in a row before pulling off a spectacular win over Wooster in the regular season finale. The loss to Hiram I worried opened up the flood gates. It was followed by a loss to Heidelberg, who has beaten some very good teams on the road this season, which seemed to show the dam coming apart. However, Witt got back on top of things against Wooster. The simple fact it was a close game made me breathe a sigh of relief. I’m still nervous that the late season losses could bring the season to a close with a thud.

6 – Whitworth (NC)

7 – Wooster (NC)

8 – Emory (+1)

9 – Hamilton (+1)

10 – Williams (+1)

11 – Plattsburgh State (+1)

12 – Eastern Conn. State (+1)

13 – Illinois Wesleyan (+1)

York (Pa.) has lost two of their last three and four of their last nine. Not the best of finishes for the Spartans. (Courtesy: YCP Athletics)

14 – York (Pa.) (-6)
I said weeks ago that the final game of the regular season at Christopher Newport would be a bell-weather for the Spartans. Unfortunately, it was even more important after a couple of additional losses in the conference season. York ended up squandering away the home-court advantage in the loss to CNU and with it I worry have put themselves in a tough spot this season. It has been a magical season and I still love what they have in their starting five – but they are exposed if they have to go to the bench.

15 – Cabrini (+1)

16 – Augustana (-1)
The Vikings appear to have lost another starter for the rest of the season. I debated about moving them down further on that news, but thought it be more fair to see how they perform this week. Sadly, I am not seeing a lot of signs that a return to Salem is in the cards with this latest injury, but I do want to see how they respond.

17 – Salem State (NC)

18 – Wesleyan (+1)

19 – Nichols (+1)

Hobart’s 15-game winning streak came to an end against Union in the regular season finale. (Courtesy: Hobart Athletics)

20 – Hobart (-1)
The Statesmen finished the regular season with a loss to Union. Ok then. Not exactly a sign of strength in my opinion. The loss ended a 15 game winning streak. I realize Union is decent this year (16-8 overall), but I expected a win to finish things there. Maybe the loss will be well timed. We shall see.

21 – Johns Hopkins (+1)

22 – Swarthmore (+1)

NWU has a schedule that leaves lots of questions. Are they as good as many expected? (Courtesy: Nebraska Wesleyan Athletics)

23 – Nebraska Wesleyan (NR)
I have said several times I am not in love with the Prairie Wolves schedule. Their out of conference schedule left a lot to be desired and not a lot to truly gauge. They then entered IIAC play and immediately got thumped by Buena Vista. Just when it seemed they shook that off, they have a head-scratching loss to Simpson. So why did I vote for them? I’ve been turning towards teams that have at least still winning late in the season. NWU returned the favor on BVU (on the road) and then handled Loras and Wartburg in their last few. I have plenty of questions still, but Nebraska Wesleyan is doing more than most right now.

24 – Christopher Newport (NR)
Ryan Scott reminded me of the Captains when he brought them up on Hoopsville Sunday (see above). I have seen CNU in person this year and while they aren’t the squad we expected, they are playing well and those who weren’t going to get any experience are very seasoned now. They defeated York to finish the season and now control the CAC playoffs through southeastern Virginia. I am not sure if CNU is nearly at the same level as the last few years, but they are returning to form with new players.

Marietta is back in Dave’s ballot because someone from the OAC should be. (Courtesy: Marietta Athletics)

25 – Marietta (NR)
I have to vote for some OAC team. The conference has been too competitive not to, but I really struggled as to who to vote for this week. I had John Carroll on my short list for a few weeks. I had been voting for Baldwin Wallace (pretty high recently) before they become unglued. I’ve been watching Marietta much of the season and they haven’t been blowing me away, but they seem to be more consistent than others right now. Some could argue JCU is the better team and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, but the lost to Capital to finish the regular season resulted in my selection of the PIoneers and not the Blue Streaks.

NC – No Change from previous ballot
NR – Not Ranked on previous ballot
+ – Movement up – number of spots – from previous ballot
– – Movement down – number of spots – from the previous ballot

Dropped Out (Previous Ranking):

UW-Stevens Point (21)
The Pointers have been the talk of the WIAC the entire conference season. They have surprised all with how well they have played, but their loss to Eau Claire was maybe more surprising considering their success to date. The BluGolds were 3-10 in the conference (all in the 2018) before that game and got past the Pointers by a point. SMH Maybe UWSP comes back roaring and will be just as dangerous, but that finish had me remove them from my Top 25.

Middlebury (24)
Three losses in a row and I can’t keep riding the Panthers. I get that they have done this before this season, but that is the problem… this is the second time they have gone through this kind of rough spot. They went from having the NESCAC tournament come through Vermont for the very first time to losing the hosting and out of the tournament in a week’s time. Now they sit for two-weeks before probably playing in the NCAA tournament. Like UWSP, this may be well timed. I’m not that confident.

Maryville (25)
I like the Scots, but I am not sure they finished the season strong, either. Last week they had three games and only lost one, but it was to Huntingdon and – again – not the team to lose to if you are proving you are that good. Maybe well timed (did I mention that?), but we have to wait to see

Previous Ballot Blogs:
Week 11
Week 10
Week 9 – not available (see Week 10 blog for ballot)
Week 8
Week 7 – not available (see Week 8 blog for ballot)
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3 – not available (see Week 4 blog for ballot)
Week 2
Week 1

There is one more poll coming before we head into the NCAA tournament (with the final poll coming after the championships are handed out). I am sure there will be a ton of different results to sift through next week. Ryan has already said he is blowing up the entire ballot (see above). I am quite sure I will do something of the same, though I will be very busy at the same time.

Speaking of which, don’t forget there are a few must-watch items coming up in the next week:

  • Hoopsville Thursday Edition – Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7:00 PM ET
  • Hoopsville: Selection Sunday Special – Sunday, February 25 at 6:00 PM ET (or earlier)
  • NCAA Men’s Bracket Reveal – Monday, February 26 at 12:30 PM ET*
  • NCAA Women’s Bracket Reveal – Monday, February 26 at 2:30 PM ET*
  • Hoopsville Bracket Breakdown – Monday, February 26 at 3:30 PM ET
  • * – times may adjust

Follow Hoopsville on Twitter (@d3hoopsville), Instragram (@d3hoopsville), and Facebook (www.facebook.com/Hoopsville) along with D3hoops.com on Twitter and Facebook and the front page for more information on all of those shows.

It is a very exciting part of the season. Allow us to help guide you through the craziness!

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’17-’18): Week 11

Three Saturdays in a row I have looked at the D3hoops.com scoreboards and wondered if I was seeing things. SEVEN ranked teams lost this Saturday alone! The opening paragraph of the D3hoops.com write-up for the day, said it all:

At one point Saturday afternoon, York, Swarthmore, Eastern Connecticut and MIT all were losing in the second half, and No. 3 Wittenberg and No. 5 Middlebury had already lost. And that was how the day went in Division III men’s basketball, with seven ranked teams losing to unranked opponents — just in the afternoon games — on a key Saturday with conference schedules winding down.

This is usually the time of the season when voters have pretty much locked down their ballots and are fine tuning things. I feel like each week I’m looking at my ballot and wondering how much time will take to completely start over … again. This is mid-February! We two weeks left in the regular season. Conference tournaments start… in days.

It really is incredible.

I am tempted to do this when I print out the Top 25 ballot information. Not sure I want to even look most weeks.

I once again took some drastic steps this week. I’m not going to go into every single thing I looked at and considered – we don’t have the time – however, I did drop some teams significantly and brought in some non-ranked teams into some relatively high spots.

I want to start leaning on teams that are winning. There is always the adage that if a team continues to win, than they are proving themselves. Of course, the first problem is … who continues to win? The other problem is some of the teams that are winning aren’t exactly getting tested. Those losing, are losing in tough conferences, but you can’t just reward good conferences and look the other way when teams with good schedules only win half the time (that’s for coaches polls in other sports).

Oh, how did my ballot do last week? Not good. 17 losses in total amongst 12 teams. Most of those losses were in my Top 15 (9 losses). If you are wondering, the D3hoops.com Top 25 took 17 losses as well … ALL in the Top 20.

Ryan and I discussed the Top 25 on Hoopsville this past Sunday in the “Top 25 Double-take” segment:

Now, let’s get to this week’s ballot. Here is my Week 10 ballot (and others below) as a reminder. And with that, my D3hoops.com Top 25 Week 11 ballot:

Tim Howell helped lift the Blues past Whitworth by hitting two free-throws with 0.9 seconds remaining. (Courtesy: Whitman Athletics)

1 – Whitman (NC)
As expected, the Blues had a battle on their hands in Spokane against Whitworth this past week. I went in figuring Whitman may lose. That’s what happens in rivalries. However, they battled through some not-so-great play and found answers to pull off the 100-99 win. The only danger Whitman keeps showing me is allowing too many teams to hang around for too long. That could bite them at the wrong time.

2 – WashU (NC)

3 – St. John’s (+1)
The Johnnies are the first team in 12(+?) years to win the MIAC regular season not named St. Thomas. They wrapped up the conference regular season title with a week before the conference tournament. SJU looks really good.

4 – Wittenberg (-1)
I toyed with dropping the Tigers further for losing to Hiram. It is their first loss, but there are several others teams I would expect their first loss to come to. That said, Hiram also beat a stumbling Ohio Wesleyan squad earlier in the week and … did I mention it was Witt’s first loss of the season? So, they didn’t drop that far. There were also a lot of losses below Witt. There was only so far I was willing to drop Wittenberg before encountering squads that I do not consider better than Wittenberg.

5 – UW-Platteville (+1)

6 – Whitworth (+6)
The Pirates showed me something on Tuesday. Well, Kyle Roach showed me something … maybe. They had moments where they looked really good against the top team in the country – and bitter rivals. However, the game also concerned me. Roach can’t be expected to score 45 points and do everything if Whitworth wants to win. He fouled out in the game in Walla Walla … Whitworth lost 91-75. Just writing that makes me wonder why I moved the Pirates up the poll. With so many teams losing, including Whitworth, I decided to at least go with one that didn’t look horrible. 🙂

Psst… Wooster has lost only once in the last 17 games. That dates back to early December. (Courtesy: Wooster Athletics)

7 – Wooster (+8)
The Scots are winning unlike others. They have lost once since December 2 and that loss was to Wittenberg. The rematch comes this weekend and it may be Wooster who is playing better right now.

8 – York (Pa.) (+2)
I didn’t intend to move the Spartans up after losing to Salisbury, but it wasn’t like I could find a way to move them down, either! No. The loss to Salisbury this season isn’t good. It also closed the race at the top of the CAC down to something a little … uncomfortable, especially if you are a YCP fan. I really like the components YCP has to use, but not being deep on the bench concerns me. They still have a game at Christopher Newport this week to close off the CAC regular season. York has put themselves in a tough spot… and I did move them up. The perfect example of how hard this has been this season.

9 – Emory (+2)
I had the Yellow Jackets as my “Dubious” choice in this week’s “Hoopsville Top 25 Double-take” (above) … and I moved them up a couple of spots. SMH Like York, it was mainly thanks to everything else happening in the poll especially in this part of the ballot. I still think they are dubious. I still am not that convinced Emory is better than what we know is very good coaching, but it isn’t like anyone else’s results help make that argument. Emory had two close games against good UAA opponents this week, but Emory needs to put teams away. This week’s results brought back thoughts after losses to Guilford and Hampden-Sydney back to my mind.

10 – Hamilton (+5)
I am constantly trying to reshuffle and lower the NESCAC (like I did the WIAC a few weeks ago), but the conference has been a cluster to hash out. Even they couldn’t do it! Five teams tied for the conference regular season title. (I now have another reason I want the NESCAC to go to a double-round-robin – or something more than a single run through.) Yes, Hamilton lost to Williams, but smoked Middlebury. I moved Midd (see below) and also needed to move some teams ahead of others. How they handled Midd is why I moved the Continentals up.

11 – Williams (+3)
I have had the Ephs all over my ballot this season. This past week, Williams beat Hamilton and lost to Amherst – who was on a Dave Hixon mission. They seem to maybe have solved the Scadlock problem – i.e. finding a solution for losing their best player. I am also seeing signs similar to last year where Kevin App was able to get the Purple Cows moving in a very good direction, so I moved them up this week. For those wondering why I didn’t move them ahead of Hamilton: when considering the bigger picture, I think Hamilton is the better team despite the one outcome. We hopefully have a second game coming next week.

Patron. Jonathan Patron. Remember that name and Plattsburgh when it comes to March. (Courtesy: Plattsburgh State Athletics)

12 – Plattsburgh State (NR)
Hello Cardinals! Yeah. Big move here. I needed a team that appears to be playing well, not losing, and at least appears to be strong. There are also gaps where some teams feel far too high where I have them slotted. Plattsburgh may be one of the better teams no one is talking about. I have been watching Plattsburgh for a couple of weeks and they are impressive. Their last loss was Dec. 8 against Brockport and they have rolled off 15-straight wins since. The biggest reason? Jonathan Patron. He didn’t play the first eight games of the season. Since his season started, he has averaged 22.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, and clearly other tangibles that have the Cardinals rolling.

13 – Eastern Conn. State (NC)

14 – Illinois Wesleyan (-6)
I realize the Titans are going through the tougher part of the CCIW schedule than Augustana – who went through the tougher stretch to start the conference schedule, however I felt after back-to-back losses (before winning against Carroll) just needed a bit of a correction. I know Wheaton played really well against IWU, but add in the Augustana result and it just felt best to make a move.

15 – Augustana (+4)

16 – Cabrini (+3)

17 – Salem State (+5)

18 – Hobart (+5)

19 – Wesleyan (+5)
In my effort to shuffle the NESCAC and bring them down my poll, the Cardinals go and win three times including the only one to beat Amherst this week. Too bad that game didn’t count for conference standings, right Williams, Hamilton, Middlebury? LOL

Marcos Echevarria may be leading Nichols in scoring, but the presence and play of Deante Bruton has been the key to the Bison’s season so far. (Courtesy: Nichols Athletics)

20 – Nichols (NR)
The Bison seem to have their mojo back. After a couple of challenging weeks, the team I think may be the most dangerous in the Northeast seems to be back to showing that.

21 – UW-Stevens Point (-1)

22 – Johns Hopkins (NR)
Incredible what the Blue Jays have done late this season, but especially this past week. When Bill Nelson retired, it wasn’t like he had left the cupboards bare for Josh Loeffler. New coach, new ideas usually takes a little while to gel. Things are going well now. Hopkins could end up being the surprise regular season champions of the Centennial Conference.

23 – Swarthmore (-6)
The Garnet were one of the two victims for JHU last week. Unfortunately for Swat, it has left the chance of winning the regular season and controlling the conference tournament in jeopardy. I like a lot of things about Swarthmore, but their inconsistencies are mind-boggling. They seem tight.

Middlebury has been up and down especially since the holiday break. (Courtesy: Middlebury Athletics)

24 – Middlebury (-19)
I have felt the Panthers have been the best team in the NESCAC, but there have been stretches this season they have been anything but the best. I am sure if Middlebury gets things put together they could go on a spectacular run, but what concerns me is when Midd is off… they are really, really off.

25 – Maryville (NC)

NC – No Change from previous ballot
NR – Not Ranked on previous ballot
+ – Movement up – number of spots – from previous ballot
– – Movement down – number of spots – from the previous ballot

Dropped Out (Previous Ranking):

The injury to Bradley Jomard appears to take the wheels off the MIT bus. (Courtesy: MIT Athletics)

MIT (10)
The Engineers are not the same team without Bradley Jomard. He has been out for three and half games, now, due to some kind of leg injury – looked like an ankle when he got hurt against Babson. I have no idea how long Jomard is out, but I do know that this week confirmed they are not a Top 25 teams without him. He does everything for them and MIT has now lost three of four (and nearly four in a row) without him. It is too bad. MIT seemed to have something special this season.

Emory & Henry (16)
I am not sure what has happened with the Wasps (Colin Molten seems to be out; third highest scorer), but ODAC play has taken it’s toll of late. They have lost four in a row to go from undefeated in conference play to a game back of second.

UW-Whitewater (24)
I probably held on to the Warhawks a week too long. UWW is 5-6 in their last 11 and just haven’t looked like the same squad the beginning of the season showed. That said, maybe I got faked out by the smoke and mirrors. Looking back at their season, there is nothing special about Whitewater’s schedule. I’m chalking this up as a mis-reason on my part and one I will keep in mind and learn from.

Previous Ballot Blogs:
Week 10
Week 9 – not available (see Week 10 blog for ballot)
Week 8
Week 7 – not available (see Week 8 blog for ballot)
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3 – not available (see Week 4 blog for ballot)
Week 2
Week 1

So there you go. I am sure this blog doesn’t necessarily answer any questions, but I hope at the very least it provides some insight from a single voter (of 25).

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 12

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

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 11

This week was hard. Plain and simple. Hard.

The most challenging part was picking a number one team. Simply put: who really is the best team in the country this season? There is no way there will be a consensus pick (as I write this before the rankings have been published). I ended up coming down to picking between four teams. I could see an argument for six.

I considered St. Thomas, UW-Whitewater, Randolph-Macon, and Babson and eventually went with … Randolph-Macon. It wasn’t easy. I probably thought about the number one vote in some capacity for three or so hours. I mulled over schedules, results, SOS numbers, lottery numbers, quantum physics, and even threw a dart or two. Every single team I considered had results on their schedules I didn’t like, flaws with their teams, and concerns with the last two weeks. There just wasn’t a team that jumped up and looked like a number one team.

But it got harder after that. So many teams once again lost last week. I had twelve losses on my previous ballot. Not a record, but certainly not good. I tried to stick with many of the “rules” I had set to governing how I moved teams around, but some of those rules (like losing to a team ranked ahead of you) got me in trouble with leaving teams on my ballot that really argued to not be there anymore. And of course with a season so wide open, there are far more teams I am considering for the Top 25 than I have room for on my ballot.

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

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

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

1 – Randolph-Macon* (Up 4)
I’d be lying if I told you this felt comfortable. The loss at home to Frostburg State on November 30 still bothers me. But here is the kicker: The Yellow Jackets haven’t loss since. 18 straight. And with an ever larger target on their back, Randolph-Macon continues to get the job done even when the games might not be pretty. We already know RMC is playing in one of the toughest conferences in the country, but they have also beaten everyone including Virginia Wesleyan twice. Undefeated in the ODAC with two to play… that just doesn’t happen! In fact, the last time a team went undefeated in the ODAC was 2000 (Hampden-Sydney)!

2 – UW-Whitewater (Unchanged)
It came down to the fact I couldn’t knock the Warhawks for losing to a certainly underrated UW-Stevens Point squad. Furthermore, Whitewater didn’t have probably their best player on the floor due to apparently a personal matter (just as Stevens Point didn’t have their best player on the floor due to injury when the two teams first met). Maybe I am giving the Warhawks a little too much credit since they have three losses – two of them in Division III. However, there is something unflappable about UWW that just makes me feel fine with them at number two.

3 – Babson (Up 2)
I think the Beavers are underrated. They have lost twice to very good teams, Bates and WPI, and avenged that conference loss to WPI* a few weeks ago. Certainly they have had some tight games, but they are winning and getting contributions deep on their bench. They have also played a far more difficult schedule than people want to give them credit for including wins over Bowdoin and Amherst this season.

4 – St. Thomas (Down 3)
I actually debated about leaving the Tommies in first despite their loss. Heck, UW-Whitewater would have moved up one despite a loss if I had given them number one slot. However, it came down to the fact St. Thomas lost to a middle-of-the-MIAC team in Concordia-Moorhead and thus couldn’t put the MIAC regular season title further out of reach with three games left to play. Call it a mental lapse. That loss to Moorhead is worse than the loss to Stevens Point for Whitewater and thus why the Tommies fell three spots.

5 – Augustana (Up 3)
Not only did the Vikings get a big win over Illinois Wesleyan in dominating fashion on the road (82-56), they avoided the mental collapse in the trap game that followed against Millikin. That performance means the CCIW playoffs will have to go through Rock Island where, despite IWU’s earlier win this season, is not the easiest place to play in the Midwest. I realize I might be buying in a little too much with Augustana since we aren’t that far removed from the collapse against North Park and North Central in back-to-back games, but I also think those games woke Augustana up.

6 – St. Norbert (Up 1)
I’m not sure I can keep moving St. Norbert up. They have a slightly below average SOS and their conference just isn’t that competitive at the top (the Green Knights have won 41 straight conference games). I’m only setting myself up for disappointment if St. Norbert doesn’t go far in the NCAA tournament because, remember, this is still a somewhat young team.

7 – WPI* (Up 2)

8 – UW-Stevens Point (Up 6)
I am fully on board with the Pointers, now. Message received. I have been downplaying Stevens Point all season, but finally woke up a few weeks ago. They have their best player back and the win over UW-Whitewater looks to make the conference home court decision come down to a coin flip – yes, a coin flip. Well done Pointers.

9 – Virginia Wesleyan (Down 3)

10 – Dickinson (Unchanged)
Well, I was going to ding the Red Devils pretty good for their loss to McDaniel*. However, reports were they had a lot of players sick which happens this time of year. That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to move them down a couple of spots anyway until they turned around and beat Johns Hopkins* to at least make the Centennial finish a little more interesting.

11 – Marietta (Down 8)
It is one thing to lose your unbeaten streak at this point in the season, but I thought Marietta could at least stop it at one loss. Nope… two. Everyone knew this past week was going to be tough with Mount Union and John Carroll on the schedule, but I figured at worst it would be 1-1 for the Pioneers. Hopefully Marietta stops the latest streak in its tracks or they could be in trouble. The only reason I didn’t move Marietta even further down for two untimely losses… the simple fact they lost to two very competitive teams in their conference.

12 – Albertus Magnus (Unchanged)

13 – St. John Fisher (Unchanged)

14 – Emory (Up 2)
Held serve at home. Very important weekend for the Eagles and they got the job done against Washington Univ.* and Chicago*. That makes up for the trip to the Midwest where they lost both of those games. Now Emory is in a bit more control of the rest of the season and it’s thanks to the fact most of the back-end of their conference schedule lets them enjoy their Atlanta home.

15 – Johns Hopkins* (Unchanged)

16 – Ohio Wesleyan (Up 2)

17 – Elmhurst (Up 3)

18 – Chapman (Down 7)
I know they only lost one game this past week, but after starting the season undefeated the Panthers have now lost three of their last five including to two teams in the middle of the conference standings. And with that Chapman has also lost some control of whether the SCIAC playoffs come through Harold Hutton Sports Center. Their game against Cal Lutheran this weekend looms very large.

19 – Whitworth (Unchanged)

20 – Catholic* (Up 1)
I got to see the Cardinals in person for a third time this season and the first since the Hoopsville Classic and they are very much improved. However, I still have some concerns. They beat Goucher* 100-85 with their starters scoring 97 of their points. There just isn’t a lot of contributions from the bench except in minutes and some defensive help. If Catholic wants to make a run this year, I think they need more than minutes coming off their bench. They need some offensive help.

21 – Wooster (Up 1)

22 – New York Univ.* (Unchanged)

23 – St. Olaf (Unranked)
My concerns for the Oles may have been premature. Since losing back-to-back games, St. Olaf has won seven straight to leave themselves a half game behind St. Thomas atop the MIAC. And of course, they have a showdown with the Tommies coming up on Monday (as I write this). It is a big game for both teams. St. Thomas wants to not have a losing streak and St. Olaf would love to wrestle the regular season title and home court advantage away from the Tommies. Should be a great game in St. Paul.

24 – Washington Univ.* (Unchanged)
I probably should have dropped the Bears, but am sticking it out for another week. This split-the-weekend experience is getting old even if it is in the tough UAA. I realize the loss to Emory on the road doesn’t look bad on paper, but WashU is 4-4 in their last eight and 6-5 in conference action! In hindsight, I really should have dropped them. However, they have three straight home games remaining against NYU*, Brandeis, and Chicago* and those games could not loom larger.

25 – Penn State-Behrend (Unranked)
I’ve got nothing witty to say about the Lions except they have only lost two games this season, so it is probably about time to recognize that fact. Their SOS is pretty poor which tells you they are winning their games in a below-average conference and a not-so-great out-of-conference schedule. However, they are still winning (10 straight) and that can’t be discounted too much.

Dropped out:

Illinois Wesleyan (Previously 17)
If the Titans only loss this past week had been to Augustana, fine. If they had kept the game against the Vikings close, fine. But you get trounced by Augustana and you lost to North Park who you know has been gunning and beating plenty of good teams and I have seen enough. I realize the CCIW is tough this year, but Illinois Wesleyan is just so inconsistent this season. I just can’t keep rewarding IWU when can’t seem to win games they should be winning. Not to mention the fact, they cost themselves home court in the CCIW tournament as well.

Chicago* (Previously 25)
I have stated it often here, I don’t knock teams for losing to teams I have ranked higher. My ballot clearly states I expect that loss to happen. In other words, the loss to Emory by Chicago was expected. And until the very last minute I wasn’t going to drop Chicago. But it bothered me. As with WashU*, Chicago has been inconsistent in a very tough UAA. 4-4 in their last eight losing to nearly the same teams WashU has (except for Brandeis). So it came down to this, while the loss to Emory was close… 15-7 in the Top 25 seemed inappropriate. I still like the Maroons as a team and think next year they are going to be dangerous. They are home for the next two including a very important game against NYU. Then they hit the road where WashU is looking for some payback. Interesting finish to the UAA schedule is an understatement.

* – seen in person this season.

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

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 10

Last week’s “easy” week was the exact opposite this week. I erased so many decisions on my pad of paper I practically wore right through the page.

Sufficed to say, this season is crazy. There isn’t a coach I talk with these days who can’t believe what they are seeing with results. There isn’t a Top 25 voter I have chatted with who is sure of half of their ballot. It really is nuts.

This week: the top five didn’t change; five through thirteen went through some readjustments; fourteen on… chaos. Complete upheaval. I spent a couple of hours changing my mind. I thought that by casting a wider net, maybe some teams would jump up and force me to punt other teams. In fact, it only made the decision(s) harder. At one point I seriously had 30 teams I was considering for 12 spots… and I probably could have talked myself into ten more teams!

All and all… I am not satisfied my Top 25 is the best ballot it could be this week. I am too uneasy about a lot of teams, recent outcomes, and those maybe I am discounting for whatever reason. More losses are pretty much guaranteed and I will be back in the same boat each week – so I might as well get comfortable!

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

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

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

1 – St. Thomas (Unchanged)

2 – UW-Whitewater (Unchanged)

3 – Marietta (Unchanged)

4 – Randolph-Macon* (Unchanged)

5 – Babson (Unchanged)

6 – Virginia Wesleyan (Up 4)
At least someone is winning. We all know the Marlins are always going to be a good team. Maybe this is the year the ODAC has two deep threats.

7 – St. Norbert (Up 1)

8 – Augustana (Down 2)
Another loss for the Vikings. The CCIW is clearly one of the toughest conferences in the country this year with even the bottom being a major threat, but Augustana has to stand up and get it done and not keep taking losses. It is already going to be hard to get at-large bids this season, you don’t want the end of the season plagued with losses to dash your hopes. Big game against Illinois Wesleyan this week – looking for the Vikings to exact some revenge on the road for the earlier loss at Rock Island or Augustana drops and IWU jumps up further!

9 – WPI* (Unchanged)
When you lose to a team I have ranked ahead of you anyway, I am not going to drop you down the poll. I expected Babson to win based on my rankings, so WPI stays in the Top 10 as a result.

10 – Dickinson (Down 3)
Ouch! I figured the Red Devils were due for another conference loss with Johns Hopkins and Franklin & Marshall (on the road) still on their schedule, but Ursinus*?! Seriously?! It was a rough Saturday in the Centennial (call is Centennial Conference Carnage), but you can’t afford to drop games against teams you should be beating (theme for this week’s blog). I realize Ursinus is vastly improved over the squad I saw in December (wasn’t pretty), but Dickinson is better than that. And again… JHU and F&M still to play before the conference tournament!

11 – Chapman (Up 1)
Stop a two game slide with a hard-fought win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps… impressive. I pretty much had resigned the fact Chapman might lose that game because CMS is pretty good and Chapman seemed to be struggling. That win could have saved Chapman’s post-season hopes.

12 – Albertus Magnus (Down 1)

13 – St. John Fisher (Unchanged)

14 – UW-Stevens Point (Unranked)
Every time I thought about adding the Pointers to my Top 25 ballot I reminded myself they have to play Whitewater this week. If the last game is any barometer, the Pointers are going to lose. So how could I justify putting them into my Top 25 if I think they are going to lose this week? Couple of reasons: they are at least winning and Whitewater is so far their only blemish (but, Oshkosh did nearly get them the next game); they have won 11 of their last 12 and starting to take control of games again; they have Stephen Pelkofer back from injury (played 37 minutes against Platteville) and that is a very good sign for the Pointers. Oh… and I am probably one of the only voters who hadn’t had them in my Top 25 by this point.

15 – Johns Hopkins* (Up 3)
Got a big win over Franklin & Marshall* to split the season with the Diplomats and continue a 16 game winning streak (last loss was to F&M back on November 25). That also equates to a two game lead on Dickinson who the Blue Jays have already beaten. This blue-collar team isn’t backing down!

16 – Emory (Down 2)
I watch (on video) the Eagles blow through Rochester on Friday and then once again struggle against NYU* and loss on Sunday. I am pretty sure Emory is glad NYU is in their rear view mirror – but the entire UAA has been this way this season. It is a very difficult conference this season. I can’t ding Emory that much for losing to a really good team (more on NYU in a minute) when I saw them roll over the Yellow Jackets. I also take into account I haven’t talked to one single coach who has seen Emory and not spoken highly of them. Weird year.

17 – Illinois Wesleyan (Up 5)
I haven’t been that thrilled with the Titans this season, but they keep getting it done even after tough losses. There were comments that Illinois Wesleyan wasn’t a Top 25 team just a few weeks ago after a couple of losses in the CCIW. What I think we actually saw was the early signs the CCIW as going to be very difficult. Now IWU finds themselves in the conference lead by a game with Augustana coming to town this week. Talk about a statement game. If you thought the win at Rock Island was important? This week is even more important. Potential two-game lead in a very difficult conference and the chance to get the tournament through Bloomfield versus Rock Island… big, big game.

18 – Ohio Wesleyan (Up 6)
Yeah… I might be jumping a bit too much here, but the Battling Bishops seemed to have solved the can’t-win-more-than-two-games-in-a-row problem they were having last month. Ohio Wesleyan is free and clear of the NCAC including a season sweep of Wooster. In a year of chaos, Ohio Wesleyan may have found some stability at just the right time of the year.

19 – Whitworth (Down 3)
I thought Whitworth would roll through the rest of the conference schedule. I know Whitman was going to be tough, but to get blown out and not score 50 points?! Didn’t see that coming. Whitworth doesn’t seem to have a great strength of schedule this season, so they have to be careful and win the automatic bid. Losing to Whitman will only fuel hopes from those below that Whitworth is ripe for the taking. Down a couple of spots… because I am worried.

20 – Elmhurst (Down 1)
I tried to move Elmhurst down further, but I just couldn’t justify putting them behind those who are below them. Elmhurst looks like they forgot to stay focused. I know Wheaton is a good team and have mentioned the CCIW is really tough this year, but you don’t beat good teams and then drop one on the road at Wheaton. The road doesn’t get easier. North Park, North Central, and Illinois Wesleyan to wrap up the regular season – tread lightly Blue Jays or you are going to get your wings clipped.

21 – Catholic* (Up 4)
I know Catholic is on a good run right now, but I can’t move them that high up the Top 25. They have a weak SOS, apparently, and they have a looming game against Scranton* this week (if they don’t get trapped by Goucher* mid-week). I will get the chance to see the Cardinals again this week and compare them to the beginning of the season. Then, maybe, I can decide if I am smart to leave them in this range of the Top 25 or if I am low-balling them.

22 – Wooster (Down 8)
Bad time to hit a rut. The Fighting Scots have lost three of their last four and seem to be struggling when we are used to them dominating. They have probably played themselves out of controlling the NCAC tournament and could be in deeper trouble if they don’t right the ship soon. I even debated about dropping Wooster all-together, but I honestly didn’t have anyone whose resume seemed better than Wooster’s right now.

23 – New York Univ.* (Down 8)
The challenge in the UAA is going to be summed up best by the Violets and the next two on my ballot. Beat the tough team, lose to the worse teams, all on the road. Once again New York Univ. beat Emory, but once again NYU couldn’t beat Rochester. The challenge for me: I have seen NYU in person – they are darn good. The problem is I see a loss to Rochester (who has won four in a row and is tied for second with practically everyone else in the conference) and I scratch my head. It may simply come down to match-ups, but NYU has put themselves in a position where they may be too far down the regional rankings in a weak East to earn themselves an at-large bid. If they do get into the tournament, they could be one of the deep sleepers to watch out for.

24 – Washington Univ.* (Down 2)
The only reason the Bears are not out of my Top 25 ballot: they have only lost four games and they do have a very difficult SOS. Once again, Washington Univ. lost a game they shouldn’t have lost (Carnegie Mellon) and once again they beat the tougher opponent and did it handily (Case Western Reserve). There is plenty of inconsistency with the Bears, but they are playing a dangerous game. If they don’t win the UAA automatic bid (regular season title), they could end up being stuck behind a lot of good Central Region teams and get left out of the NCAA Tournament. At some point, WashU has to beat the teams they should be beating to leave themselves some wiggle room.

25 – Chicago* (Down 5)
I could almost write the same thing for WashU here for the Maroons. Believe it or not, Chicago leads the UAA – which is clearly the toughest conference in the country this year – but they once again lost a game that just doesn’t make sense. Maybe the talk the Maroons are actually a year away from being potentially a world beater are correct, but the pre-season coach’s poll also predicted Chicago would win the conference. That last part also appears to be correct. However, the only reason I moved Chicago this far down and behind WashU (despite a head-to-head win over the Bears)… six total losses for Chicago. They definitely can’t afford to lose any more games and need that AQ to make sure they make the tournament. Playing with fire in a city that has a love/hate relationship with flames.

Dropped out:

Franklin & Marshall (Previously 23)
It’s one thing to lost to a red hot Johns Hopkins teams, but to lose on the road to Washington is not good enough. I know the Diplomats struggle with Washington, especially on the road (lost to the Shoremen four of the last six years), but this season is one of those times you have to figure it out. You also can’t lose to Washington when you just lost to JHU. This is now two two-game losing streaks in seven games and it doesn’t get any easier: Ursinus, Muhlenberg, Gettysburg, and Dickinson. Buckle up F&M fans – this is going to be a very interested finish to the season.

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