Dave’s Preseason Ballot (’18-’19): Final Five

The start of practices has arrived in Division III basketball. With it, the expectations for a lot of programs either increases or takes its first steps backwards. We won’t know. All of it happening behind the scenes until we see games start being played for real on Nov. 8.

Last week, the D3hoops.com Preseason Men’s Top 25 was revealed and I blogged, twice, part of my ballot. We got through the first 20 spots which leaves five left to be unveiled.

The last five traditionally are the most difficult to slot. There could be an argument for maybe 20 teams. That’s why there are so many teams receiving votes in the preseason tabulation. Voters have a lot of different opinions. Some may seem crazy to me seem logical to that voter. Some of my choices may seem crazy to others. Heck, after I submitted my ballot I was second guessing and wondering if I should have made some changes.

It is just part of the process.

Let’s get to my selections. This blog, we should also take the opportunity to show the entire ballot for the first time.

So here we go starting with my Top 10, followed by my 11-20 group, and then my thoughts on the final five.

Nebraska Wesleyan tops Dave’s ballot as the defending champions return most of their squad for the 2018-19 season.

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan
2 – Whitman
3 – Whitworth
4 – Augustana
5 – UW-Oshkosh
6 – Wittenberg
7 – MIT
8 – Williams
9 – Springfield
10 – Hamilton
11 – UW-Stevens Point
12 – New Jersey City
13 – Maryville
14 – St. John’s
15 – UW-Platteville
16 – Illinois Wesleyan
17 – Johns Hopkins
18 – Plattsburgh State
19 – St. Olaf
20 – Swarthmore

Here is the rest of the ballot:

Jason Beckman averaged 22.2 points a game last season for the Flying Dutchmen. (Courtesy: Hope Athletics)

21 – Hope
The MIAA certainly had an off year last season. Hope and Olivet tied atop the standings with four in-conference losses and Adrian and Trine finished third with six losses. Calvin was fifth with eight! You can’t expect the conference to stay down for long. Despite a 19-10 campaign last year, I think Hope is ready to return to the national spotlight. Four starters and over 75% of the points are back as is 80% of the rebounding. Jason Beckman has found his footing after transferring from Alma. The Flying Dutchmen also have a more experienced Preston Granger who could really start to take over inside. The MIAA will be a battle once again be interesting, but I don’t see any reason why Hope isn’t on top most of the season.

22 – John Carroll
I debated about not including JCU in my Top 25 Preseason ballot. As great as last season was under first-year head coach Pete Moran, the Blue Streaks did lose two key players in Matthew Csuhran (16.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, .401 3PT%, .814 FT), Antonio Vyuanich (13.4 ppg, .377 3PT%), and John Cirillo (12.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, .459 FG%). When I first saw that I erased JCU from consideration. However, when I dug deeper and realized with players like Sean Flannery, Jackson Sartain, Jimmy Berger and others back … John Carroll could be just fine. This is a squad that already plays 13-15 players most games, scores nearly 100 points per game, and limits opponents to nearly 20 points less. I was critical that I didn’t think they were consistent last season, but we will have to wait and see this season if that is still an issue.

23 – Middlebury
I’m going to be blunt … I am not sure the NESCAC is as good as it has been touted over the years. Yes, the top usually produces some national contenders, but I sometimes think the rest is smoke and mirrors. That said, this is my third pick from the conference (tying the WIAC on my ballot) and I included the Panthers because Coach Jeff Brown has produced a program that tends not to disappear from the national stage. Jack Daly and his 15.8 ppg and 8.4 rpg will be missed, but four of the top five in scoring have returned lead by Matt Folger who enters his junior season. There are nine players who played in a vast majority of games returning, six of them played in more than half of games on average. I don’t see why the Panthers won’t be lurking once again this season.

Roanoke’s Josh Freund averaged a double-double (184 ppg, 104 rpg) last season. (Courtesy: Roanoke Athletics)

24 – Roanoke
The Old Dominion Athletic Conference hasn’t been what we all have grown accustomed to in the last few years. One would argue it may not be one of the top five conferences currently due to the lack of national powers. However, the ODAC is still one of the deepest conferences in the country arguably leaving it as a top five conference. Last season, Randolph-Macon and certainly Emory & Henry got most of the attention. However, it was Roanoke that quietly finished 20-8 including 11 in a row at the end of the season before losing to E&H in the conference finals. The Maroons also featured the conference player of the year in Josh Freund (18.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg, .601 FG including 15 double-doubles). Of the top seven scorers for Roanoke last season … six of them return including Freund. Of those who played in 10 or minutes per game on average, nine of them return. I may actually have Roanoke too low on my ballot.

Nazareth looking to make waves this season including repeating as Empire 8 champions.

25 – Nazareth
The reigning Empire 8 champions … will not be going away anytime soon. The Golden Flyers returned to the 20-win plateau last season for the first time since 2007-2008 winning the Empire 8 conference along the way. Returning are all five starters and nearly 100% of the scoring. The team is senior loaded with four of the five starters heading into their final campaigns. Tyler Stenglein will lead the way and could be the program’s leading the scorer along the way (needs 546 points; scored 497 last season). Nazareth is one of those programs that is hard to read in the East Region, so I will be watching carefully, but hard to ignore all of that experience coming back to a program that did so well last season.

There is my Top 25.

Now, before any of you start losing your minds because your team isn’t listed … let’s take a step back. I considered a number of other teams and already admitted that I thought about making a number of changes to this ballot – especially the bottom five – after I submitted it. I may actually agree with you, but this is how I chose to vote.

Who am I also considering? There was a time when I used to list those teams. The problem with it was (a) I couldn’t list every team I was debating about or the blog would be too long and thus (b) people were further insulted that I wasn’t even considering their team. Not much was being accomplished with me spending time talking about even more teams.

The preseason information given to us included 50 teams in alphabetical order (for those wondering). I had a handful others added on my own. So over 50 teams considered for only 25 spots. There was a lot of information out there and tough decisions made by all voters, but interestingly this may have been one of the more

I’m not the only one thinking that, here is a friend and very knowledgeable DIII mind Bob Quillman in a recent post on D3boards.com (Top 25 discussion):

There are a few teams I think received too many poll points, and a few with too little, but overall I think this is a rock-solid preseason poll – maybe the best I can remember. I like that teams seem to be generally lined up in the correct order within conferences and regions in terms of preseason expectations. And there is not a head-scratching team in the Top 25.

Who knows what we may think a few weeks into the season or at the end, but at least you now know what teams you should be keeping an eye on this season. Others will make their selves known soon enough.

And now we get ready to get the games underway. That includes getting Hoopsville ready to air. Get your calendars out, because we preview the season on Sunday, November 4. That will be the 16th Season Debut. More information to come.

Enjoy, everyone!

Dave’s Preseason Ballot (’18-’19): 11-20

Dave doing his best “thinking” routine.

Welcome back to my Top 25 Preseason blog! I decided to try and do this differently this season, so the readers didn’t have to work their way through a very long blog and reasons for the teams I chose.

On Thursday, I revealed my Top 10 for the D3hoops.com Preseason Men’s Top 25. I’m not sure how surprising it was. I know I had teams in a few different spots than others especially when you look at the overall poll. In the preseason, that is not surprising. Trying to determine who may be the best 25 teams coming into the season is not easy, especially when we haven’t seen a single game played (real or exhibition) let along when practices haven’t even started!

In case anyone is wondering what my thinking is coming into this ballot, here it is:

  • I feel I am trying to determine the top teams entering the season based on everything we know.
  • I don’t necessarily feel I’m trying to determine who will still be in the hunt when the NCAA tournament starts, but I do try and do a little soothsaying to hopefully be somewhat accurate on that token.
  • I am trying to indicate who I think will be the teams we will be talking about most of the season.

That all said, I can’t tell you how many times teams come out of the blocks a bit sluggish, but that’s a topic for another time. At the same time, injuries and other bounces can change the dynamics and that’s impossible to gauge.

Ok… enough of that. Let’s get on to the next run of teams. Below you will find teams 11-20 on my preseason ballot:

Pointer Senior Nate Dodge is the leading scorer returning to the team.

11 – UW-Stevens Point
Whenever you get a senior laden team who has been under the guidance of Bob Semling that long you have to watch out. I know UWSP hasn’t really been the same team we have been used to since their last championship, but the WIAC has been a meat grinder and some understandable distractions have maybe caused many to lose focus on what Stevens Point has on their squad. This team unexpectedly lead the conference last year until about the midway point of conference play. That same squad returns four starters, ten players who averaged more than ten minutes a game, and seven seniors. Most of their scoring is back including Ethan Bublitz who was supposed to shine last season but was cut down by injury before the season really began. I do feel distraction could rear its head again this season, but with that kind of leadership and experience on the players front … UWSP could have another magical season ahead of them.

12 – New Jersey City
The Gothic Knights are the squad that has made some of my hair go gray. I have bought in, only to be disappointed. I have dismissed, only to be surprised. I have shaken my head so much regarding NJCU in the last two seasons I have strained my neck muscles and made myself dizzy. All jokes aside, I do admit I might be buying in a little too early (though, looking at the poll the sell job may have worked for others). But here is the deal. Not only does NJCU already feature a player we all love watching play, Sam Toney, but if reports are to be believed the four starters alongside Toney who have returned won’t be starting. Why? The Toney and NJCU story has apparently resulted in transfers and freshmen wanting to play with Toney and for Coach Marc Brown. Now, I haven’t forgotten the disappointing end to last season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That is the team I fear. I also realize that what Brown and Toney have put together could also be special. All I ask is: can I can stop shaking my head?

Maryville head coach Randy Lambert has already announced he will retire after this season.

13 – Maryville
Here is the recipe: Take a senior laden squad that has all five seniors returning. Add in another three significant players off the bench which when mixed gives us nearly all (93%) its offensive power back. Now add in the team’s revered coach has already announced it will be his final season. What could be cooked up is a squad that is on a mission. Maryville made its presence known last season, but unfortunately got paired up with Nebraska Wesleyan in the first round of the NCAA tournament or they might be taken a little more seriously this season. The Scots have the chance to dominate what could be a fascinating USA South conference (and division) and position themselves well for the NCAA Tournament. The ingredients are there. It’s just time to throw this mixture in the oven.

14 – St. John’s
The class of the MIAC for decades(?) has been another Saint … Thomas. That has taken a backseat, for now. St. John’s is the one on top and for good reason. They have built a squad that is not only able to take it to their bitter rival, but also to the rest of what has become a very competitive and good MIAC. Granted, SJU lost a good chunk of their scoring production from last season, but they return David Stokman who I love watching play and his very good shooting ability (over a 1,000 points with still a season to play). Add in improved play, especially on defense, from Lucas Walford and Zach Hanson and you have a core with the Johnnies that will be hard to contend with. The MIAC will once again be tough (you have to expect St. Thomas will reemerge as well), but I think St. John’s now has something that is hard to take away … confidence.

15 – UW-Platteville
It is going to be another insane season in the WIAC and I expect to see the Pioneers right in the middle of it. They did lose some key players from a terrific team last year, but they also return Rob Duax, Carter Voelker, and others to a team that has been very balanced and strong defensively for a few years. The concern is how much will the conference beat up UWP (and each other), but this is another team that only had its NCAA Tournament run end because they faced Nebraska Wesleyan. However, keep something in mind … UWP held NWU to 79 points. That was over 15 points below their average. Only UW-Oshkosh did better defensively (by a point) in the tournament. And a night after facing UWP, NWU hung 130 on Whitman!

IWU’s Brady Rose became just the 19th player in program to average more than 20 ppg (21.4) in a season.

16 – Illinois Wesleyan
The CCIW is the other conference that has been known for absolute dog fights. Augustana appears to be the top dog this season, but the Titans may have a lot to say about that this time around. They return all but one starter including Coach Ron Rose’s son, Bradey, who is one of a load of senior talent and experience (it’s one of several themes this season). They certainly aren’t afraid of the Vikings. Consistency is certainly going to be something I am watching from the Titans this season. It was those perceived inconsistencies last season that gave me pause. However, IWU has a very good schedule to prove themselves this season and I expect we will see another battle atop the CCIW come down to the final game of the regular season.

17 – Johns Hopkins
The Blue Jays have transitioned very well from long time coach Bill Nelson to Josh Loeffler who enters his second season. Not only did the team record it’s second 20+ win season in four years, but they hosted the NCAA tournament for the third time since 2007. That 24-5 squad returns four starters and three-quarters or more of their points, rebounds, assists, etc. They have plenty of senior leadership coupled with young guys playing into their roles. The Centennial Conference race won’t be easy, but that experience will play dividends. Also, Loeffler brought in an assistant coach in Trevor Johnson who knows what it is like to be on the big stage. The 2014 graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan has been a Prairie Wolves assistant for the last four seasons.

(Edit: Earlier version indicated Johns Hopkins had hosted the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. That was a typo. We apologize for the mistake and any confusion it may have caused.)

Plattsburgh’s Jonathan Patron clearly has fun when he’s on the court.

18 – Plattsburgh State
One of the more exciting teams to watch in the second half of last season, the Cardinals return most of their starters and a bench that was pretty deep. Jonathan Patron will lead this squad and will probably just add to his 23.7 ppg last season. Brandon Johnson will be a more relied upon outside threat along with Nick DeAngelis. The SUNYAC hasn’t been as monstrous in recent years and that may, may, continue this season, but Plattsburgh has some quality tests in its non-conference schedule including Middlebury, Wesleyan, and Case Western Reserve which can prepare them for another possible March run.

19 – St. Olaf
Along the lines of the changing of the guard in the MIAC mentioned earlier, one thing that has stood out to me about Oles has been their sudden consistency. In four of the last five seasons, St. Olaf has had 19+ win seasons, finished in the conference’s top two, and had their seasons end in tough NCAA tournament battles (Central, Marietta, St. Norbert, & UW-Platteville respectively). The Oles appear to be once again poised to be battling for a MIAC title with four of last year’s starters returning and vast majority of its offensive power. Again, this isn’t the “St. Thomas league.” Thanks to teams like St. Olaf, the MIAC has become one of the top ten conferences in the country with the top being where some of the best basketball is played year in and year out.

Swarthmore’s Cam Wiley is a dynamic player, but other offensive threats will determine the Garnet’s success this season.

20 – Swarthmore
I debated where to put the Garnet for a long time. I know they absolutely blitz Plattsburgh State in the NCAA tournament last season, but I didn’t feel that warranted Swarthmore being too high on my ballot. What Landry Kosmalski has put together in a very quick period of three seasons is remarkable. This team hadn’t won more than 11 wins in at least the nine seasons prior to 2015-16. However, the three seasons since have seen 22, 23, and 25 win campaigns. Swarthmore is good. However, the Garnet did lose a significant amount of its offense with the graduation of Zack Yonda (13.7 ppg., .474 FG, .888 FT) and others. While Swarthmore still does have the electrifying Cam Wiley on the squad, Wiley hasn’t been consistent. The Garnet need Wiley on the same page as his teammates and coaching staff, on and off the floor, if they want to have another successful season. Zac O’Dell and Nate Shafer can provide some great offensive support which could take some of the pressure off Wiley to always produce, but the Garnet will also need role players to step up into bigger roles and some of the youth on the team to learn their roles quickly.

There is my 11-20 spots on my preseason ballot. Just five spots left to go. You are going to have to wait on that.

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
Preseason

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
Preseason

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