Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 10

To be honest, this week’s Top 25 ballot was a pain in the a$$. It wasn’t exactly carnage throughout, but the losses that did pile up caused me to have teams rise into spots in the poll I was just not comfortable with. I certainly could have left teams where they were and had others jump over them, but there wasn’t many arguments for teams behind to jump ahead. It caused for a long 24 hours of constantly plugging away, diving into data, and trying to listen to either my head or my gut… or ignore both.

So I want to publicly thank the following for making the Week 10 Top 25 a pain in the a$$: WPI and Wesley primarily. Couldn’t you guys take care of business? WPI, dropping one game to giant-killer Emerson or to a solid unit in Babson, but both?! Wesley, your performance against York (Pa.) was anything but inspired. It didn’t occur to you that you have to play every game?

Ok, tongue-in-cheek moment over with… those two teams alone caused plenty of chaos with my ballot, but it wasn’t the only challenge I faced. Heck, 24 voters had to reconsider who we thought was the top team in the country and I am sure everyone had a different point of view in how they made that determination. I actually thought about it for five days (thanks in part to UWSP losing on a Wednesday and both teams not playing the rest of the week).

What ended up happening this week was interesting. I made some difficult decisions, I followed by head in some spots and gut in others, and I also punted a few teams and introduced some teams I had been watching for months but didn’t feel deserved to be on my ballot. All in all it sets up for another crazy week and I am not sure I won’t be cursing out a few more teams next week.

As we get started, here is a reminder of last week’s ballot… and on we go:

1 – UW-Stevens Point (Unchanged)
I thought long and hard about this and it came down to two things: did I really think the Pointers would get through WIAC play unscathed and did I really think they could go into Whitewater and not lose. First item: no. I was actually pretty surprised that UWSP had gotten this far into the season without losing a game in conference. They have been playing better and better and had been taking care of business like it was their jobs. That gets me to the second item: no. I knew UWW would be ready for UWSP and considering the game was in Whitewater I knew weeks ago there was a very real chance the Pointers would lose. The game goes to overtime and the spread is five points. UWSP ends up being the second-t0-last undefeated team in Division III (see below) and they lost a game I pretty much expected they may lose, so I couldn’t really drop them from the top spot.

2 – Cabrini (Unchanged)
As for why I didn’t change number-one votes, that argument is probably better here with Cabrini. When I thought about the UW-Whitewater game I took into consideration whether I thought Cabrini would have won that same game. The answer was actually pretty simple: no. Considering the game was in Whitewater and Cabrini would have played the game either without or with a much hobbled Aaron Walton-Moss, I cannot say with any confidence Cabrini would have won that game, either. So if I can’t say they would have won that game, I can’t then move them ahead of UW-Stevens Point. The other challenge is the fact Cabrini ended up playing no games last week thanks to three postponements including one everyone was looking forward to seeing. The game against Wesley on Monday would have helped voters gauge how good Cabrini really was at this point in the season especially with an injured Walton-Moss. However, weather got in the way of that game a second time (and pretty much won’t be made up) and then got in the way twice of Cabrini’s game with Immaculata (power problems on Cabrini’s campus). Now the challenge for the Cavaliers is the fact they have to play four games in six days this week three of which will be on the road with back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday. Despite the competition not being that challenging, I will be impressed if Cabrini gets through this week unscathed… though Mother Nature may have another postponement looming for the Cavs: a major nor’easter is being forecast for their game against … wait for it … Immaculata. (Shaking my head.)

3 – Illinois Wesleyan (Up 1)

4 – Wash U (Up 1)
This is one of those teams I am not very comfortable with this high, but not sure I could default by moving other teams ahead of them – though I nearly did with UW-Whitewater. I was reluctant with the Bears earlier this season and kept them low and I may have ignored that feeling and went with the data a bit too much… we shall see.

5 – Wooster (Up 1)

6 – UW-Whitewater (Up 2)
After beating UW-Stevens Point, I nearly jumped the Warhawks up to fifth or fourth and even considered a move to third. However, the fact they had to have overtime to beat the Pointers at home gave me pause. That fact isn’t a bad thing, but it wasn’t the defining argument I needed to make such a bold move. Had the game been at Stevens Point, I would have felt differently. Maybe the Warhawks should be higher, but I had my reasons for them being behind IWU, Wash U., and Wooster before the week began and the win over UW-Stevens Point didn’t change that opinion for me.

7 – Amherst (Up 2)

8 – St. Norbert (Up 2)
Here is another team I am not comfortable with in the Top 10. You know I think the Green Knights are a sleeper (despite their ranking) and depending on how the NCAA tournament gets bracketed could have a break-through post-season, but that doesn’t mean I think they are the eighth best team in the country. However, I need to put some team in this slot and I didn’t have an argument for anyone behind them to jump them. St. Norbert is steamrolling their way through the conference and right now that is the biggest determining factor for me. That have sometimes struggled in their conference, but they are taking care of business this year and doing so impressively. One person pointed out their loss to UW-Whitewater probably makes them at best the third-best team in the WIAC. I agree… and thus they are third on the list compared to those teams.

9 – St. Thomas (Up 2)

10 – Williams (Up 2)

11 – Wesley (Down 4)
I won’t repeat my tongue-and-cheek comment above, but wow did the Wolverines play completely uninspired basketball against now four-win York (Pa.) on Thursday night. I realize the game was delayed, but 48 points on 1-15 shooting late in the game is bad… just bad. I watched most of the last half and it just was bad. Wesley probably would have moved further down my ballot except for two major factors: they recovered to beat Christopher Newport on Saturday and the number of losses and adjustments below this point in the poll caused a bit of a pillow to break their fall. That being said, Wesley has got to learn to play better on the road because their NCAA tournament hopes will ride on it: they aren’t getting a home game at any point in the tournament.

12 – WPI (Down 9)
Emerson has now proven they can beat Top 5 teams. First it was then-number one Amherst and now then-number three WPI. But that should have been the wake-up call. Instead, the Engineers then lost to Babson two days later. Yes, Babson is a very good team this year and it was on the road, but the home loss to Emerson should have at least had WPI ready for Babson, instead they take their second loss in a row. As with Wesley, WPI would have fallen even further down my ballot except they also benefited from the pillow-effect.

13 – Mary Washington (Down 1)
The Eagles almost put St. Mary’s on life-support with their win earlier in the week, but followed it up with a loss to Salisbury at home by ten. Talk about another team apparently not ready for their opponent. Mary Washington has one of, if not the best team in program history, but the target on their back is very large. Salisbury is a good team despite their record, so I wasn’t shocked by the loss. However, the Eagles have to realize at this point in the season every game matters.

14 – Randolph-Macon (Up 3)

15 – Brockport State (Down 1)

16 – Texas-Dallas (Up 4)

17 – Ohio Wesleyan (Down 2)

18 – Whitworth (Up 3)

19 – Centre (Up 2)

20 – Purchase State (Unranked)
Here is the first of several teams I have been holding out of my Top 25 and make an appearance this week. The Panthers continue to play well and beat anyone in front of them. In fact, they only have one loss at it was on the road against Albertus Magnus. Their perceived SOS numbers are not that bad and they will probably be ranked number-one in the first regional rankings. I like what Coach Charney has put together at Purchase and there is no reason, anymore, they shouldn’t be in my Top 25.

21 – Messiah (Down 5)
Since going undefeated into mid-January, the Falcons have stumbled in places they shouldn’t be stumbling and struggling on the road. Messiah is a dangerous team, but the loss to Lycoming is inexcusable – not because Lyco isn’t a challenging team, but because if you are as good as I know Messiah to be… that is a game you put away. Big rematch with a struggling Stevenson squad looking to jump-start their season looms on Wednesday… that is going to be a major factor for my ballot next week.

22 – Albertus Magnus (Unranked)
Here is the second team I have been holding out on. I will be blunt: the loss to St. Joseph’s (Maine) is a nasty blemish on their record, but a lot of teams in my Top 25 have some questionable blemishes as well. The Falcons are once again heading down the road of maybe hosting the first weekend of the NCAA tournament and they have to take advantage of that opportunity. I think they have the capabilities to make the second weekend, but results like those against St. Joe’s and close games like that against Anna Maria this week make me nervous this team is just smoke and mirrors – thus why it has taken me this long to put them on my ballot.

23 – Bowdoin (Down 5)
Probably a bit of a harsh demotion for the Polar Bears for their loss to Middlebury, but I had trouble slotting them in any higher. I am certainly not faulting the team for how they lost to Middlebury, but I am faulting them for not beating the Panthers. Middlebury is not the fearsome team of the last few years and if Bowdoin is really that good a squad, that game should not have come down to a last-second three-pointer to tie it and then an unfortunate timeout call.

24 – Dubuque (Unranked)
For the second time this year, I am putting the Spartans into my Top 25 ballot. The simple fact is, no matter who they have played or the strength (or lack of) of their conference, Dubuque is 20-1. You have to be doing something right to get to this point in the season and only have one loss.

25 – Staten Island (Unranked)
Here is the final team I have been holding out on. Just like Purchase State and Albertus Magnus, I am not sure just how good Staten Island is. They are playing well with their last loss coming in the third game of the season – that’s 19 straight wins. The Dolphins could be a sleeper and will probably get a chance to host games in the NCAA tournament, but they may have to be ready to play on the road to prove anything.

Dropped out:

Virginia Wesleyan (Previously 19)
The yo-yo the Marlins had been doing for a few weeks finally broke. The loss at home against Eastern Mennonite was finally the last straw for me. I kept buying in to a team that in year’s past I was reluctant about. Now they are a few games out of first place in their conference and I can’t keep a five-loss team in the Top 25 when I don’t even have teams ahead of them in the conference on my ballot (except for Randolph-Macon). The Marlins could still be a dangerous squad come March, but they have to start putting some things together and get used to playing on the road.

Eastern Connecticut (Previously 23)
I may have bought into the Warriors a bit too much. Their loss early in the week against Wesleyan disappointed me. If they were as good as I thought the information and what I saw indicated, that isn’t even a game.

Oglethorpe (Previously 24)
As you know, I don’t treat a ranked team who losses to team ranked above them too harshly. However, the Stormy Petrels just didn’t have a lot of room to play with sitting 24th when they lost to Centre (season sweep). They got knocked a few spots like others would have, it just so happened that meant coming off my ballot.

Augustana (Previously 25)
As I have said, the Vikings probably shouldn’t have been in my Top 25 last week especially when I didn’t expect them to get through this past week unscathed. The loss to Illinois Wesleyan was an excuse I didn’t need to have, but to lose in such a non-competitive manner didn’t help the cause even if they did beat Carthage the next game.

Other ballots:
Week 9
Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
Week 3
Week 1

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 9

The carnage continues… or at least those who I don’t expect to be losing games are still losing. It was another week of head-scratching games and plenty of questions who should be in the Top 25. It also raised questions about teams I was pretty confident in or had moved up recently due to other data. It has been a wacky year to be sure with plenty of good teams to consider. Usually by this point in time you have a pretty good handle on who should be in the Top 25 and have a few that are just on the outside. However, this year I think the bottom half is a pick ’em and there are a number of teams I am considering that aren’t on my ballot.

If you will remember, last week I blew up my ballot and practically started over. I am certainly not doing that this week, but three teams dropped out of my poll with two more giving me plenty of reasons to drop them as well. That meant three new teams with one making a significant jump when I looked at their data and what they had been doing recently. I would say I am looking forward to things settling down, but the way things are shaping up, the next three weeks are going to be anything but settled.

Here is my ballot for this week’s Top 25:

1 – UW-Stevens Point (Unchanged)

2 – Cabrini (Unchanged)
They got a good win against Gwynedd-Mercy and then rallied against an improved Rosemount squad while playing without one of the best players this season: Aaron Walton-Moss. Unfortunately, their game against Wesley for Monday was postponed due to weather for the second time this season and it is not looking good that it can be rescheduled. That will mean both teams and plenty of Division III fans will be missing out on one of the best games of the regular season.

3 – WPI (Up 1)

4 – Illinois Wesleyan (Up 1)

5 – Wash U. (Up 2)

6 – Wooster (Down 1)
The Scots are struggling it seems right now, though their only loss this past week was to a surging Ohio Wesleyan squad. I still think Wooster is one of the best teams in the country, but they have to get things tidied up in the coming weeks so they can position themselves well for the NCAA tournament.

7 – Wesley (Up 1)
The Wolverines are taking on all comers and winning the games they need to. Unfortunately, their game against Cabrini was once again postponed. I think they will do their best to find a date that works since it is an important game for SOS, vRRO, and other factors for both teams. However, even if they don’t get the game rescheduled, Wesley has a tough challenge ahead. They have Mary Washington, Christopher Newport, and St. Mary’s still to play in their final six conference games (only Mary Washington is on the road), so they have to take care of business in one of the toughest finishes in the country.

8 – UW-Whitewater (Up 1)
The Warhawks are quietly playing very, very good basketball. Wednesday’s rematch with UW-Stevens Point looms large, especially since coach Pat Miller will be off the bench due to surgery and former Pointer great Nick Bennett will coach UWW against his former team. I will have the chips and beer ready for Wednesday night!

9 – Amherst (Down 6)
Could the Lord Jeffs been looking ahead to their game against Bowdoin when they lost to Colby on Friday night? Who knows, but it was not a good result for a team who many claim is on track to another national title. As one Amherst alum put it to me, it was their worst loss in four years. Hats off to the Mules for pulling off the upset, but Amherst showed a lot of problems in that game and then scratched out a win against Bowdoin. I wonder if the Colby game (along with Emerson earlier this season) reveals more issues at Amherst then even their fans want to admit.

10 – St. Norbert (Unchanged)

11 – St. Thomas (Unchanged)

12 – Mary Washington (Unchanged)

13 – Williams (Up 1)

14 – Brockport State (Up 1)

15 – Ohio Wesleyan (Up 5)
I think the Battling Bishops are making a statement at the perfect time of the year. When I talked to coach Mike DeWitt at the beginning of the season, he indicated he didn’t think his team was the third best in the conference (as voted on by the coaches in the preseason poll) at the time. Now they look like they may be the best team in the conference. Big win over Wooster, but they have to stay focused with a struggling, but dangerous, Wittenberg squad next and DePauw in the last game of the season.

16 – Messiah (Unchanged)

17 – Randolph-Macon (Unranked)
Here come the Yellow Jackets once again, only this time they are on top of the ODAC. Remember how RMC made the NCAA tournament thanks in part to the best SOS numbers in the country and a ton (almost all) of their games featured those who had been regionally ranked (maybe one of the reasons the “once ranked, always ranked” rule was changed). Coach Nathan Davis once again has his team rolling and with wins over Virginia-Wesleyan, Hampden-Sydney, and Guilford in the last four games (did you see the Guilford score? 103-58!!!). The last time the Yellow-Jackets lost was on December 18 in a close game at Cabrini. I am not sure why I have been sleeping on this squad for so long.

18 – Bowdoin (Unchanged)
Unlike some voters, I don’t knock teams if they lose to teams I have ranked ahead of them. Isn’t that what my ranking indicates would happen? If #18 losses to then #3, then I shouldn’t demote #18 for the loss. Bowdoin dropped their game to Amherst, but by just three points. The Polar Bears are positioning themselves to host at least the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament and that could make them dangerous.

19 – Virginia Wesleyan (Up 4)
I am going to start calling the Marlins the Yo-Yos. They keep going up and down my ballot as a rough week is followed by a good week. A convincing win over Lynchburg was a very nice outcome and keeps them near the top with Hampden-Sydney and Guilford still to play in the regular season.

20 – Texas-Dallas (Down 3)
Welcome to my Top 25… and now lose. Not what I had hoped from the Comets thanks to a loss to Hardin-Simmons, but it is only their second loss of the season, so I am not willing to drop them completely from my ballot. They are controlling the ASC by three games and just need to play consistently good basketball the rest of the way.

21 – Whitworth (Up 4)

22 – Centre (Unranked)
I have been watching the Colonels for a few weeks as they have been playing better and better basketball, probably living up to some of the preseason expectations. Nine straight wins and an SOS that looks pretty solid has me jumping on the bandwagon. Of course as luck would have it, they have a game against Oglethorpe coming up on Friday. I know they beat the Stormy Petrels nearly two weeks ago, but that result will probably have no bearing on this game.

23 – Eastern Connecticut (Unranked)
Here is another team I have been watching for a few weeks. The Warriors have won eight of their nine games in 2014 (only loss to Amherst) and have a surprisingly good SOS number. They are in control of their own destiny in the Little East and probably on track to make a reappearance in the NCAA tournament.

24 – Oglethorpe (Down 5)
This drop is probably a bit steeper than I normally would have for a single loss in a week, but their loss to Birmingham-Southern put them in a tie for second place with BSC, two games behind Centre. Also, I was going to move them down and because they lost at home earlier this season to Centre, I had to move them somewhere behind the Colonels.

25 – Augustana (Down 12)
I seriously considered dropping the Vikings completely from my Top 25. They have lost three straight, albeit one of them to Wheaton (Ill.). However, the other two are to teams behind them in the CCIW and now Augustana finds itself two games back of the conference leaders two of those top dogs (Illinois Wesleyan and Carthage) to play in the next two games. If the Vikings don’t turn the ship around quickly, they could be out of the CCIW playoff race and thus out of consideration for the NCAA tournament.

Dropped out:

St. Mary’s (Md.) (Previously 21)
The newly revamped CAC has caused major problems for the Seahawks. Normally a loss to Salisbury late in the season wouldn’t be a big deal, but now SMC has five losses on the season with three of those losses coming to conference opponents. The Seahawks have Mary Washington, Christopher Newport, and Wesley in their final six games and cannot afford another loss if they still want to make the NCAA tournament. If SMC doesn’t win the automatic qualifier for the conference, that means they have taken at least one more loss in the conference tournament assuming they haven’t dropped at least one game against the previously mentioned three teams. The Seahawks are on very thin ice which could have a perennial favorite to make deep runs in the NCAA tournament watching 62 others teams play basketball.

DePauw (Previously 22)
The Tigers were surging until they apparently forgot they were playing Denison and Oberlin this past week. They barely got past Denison and then dropped their game against Oberlin. DePauw has proven they can beat Wittenberg and Wooster, but they have to play everyone well or they aren’t a Top 25 team.

Dickinson (Previously 24)
The Red Devils have found the worst time of the year to pick up conference losses. Their second in as many weeks was to Muhlenberg leaving them just a game ahead of McDaniel and Franklin & Marshall when they had been in control of the Centennial Conference. The conference is more competitive at the top than expected, but that may have more to do with Dickinson coming back to the group leaving the chance of an extra bid from this conference looking doubtful.

Other ballots:
Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
Week 3
Week 1

* – SOS numbers are from information sent to me by our friend KnightSlappy (alias on the D3boards).

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 6

This is getting to be a bit out of control. I easily have 40 teams I could have a valid argument to place on my Top 25 ballot. I have probably only 15 or so teams I am absolutely confident are must Top 25 teams. That means I have 25 teams I am trying to slot into 10 or so spots. I could go round and round and round on this and still not be satisfied with my ballot. I stared at the 17 hole for hours wondering who I should put in that spot. In fact, I probably was thinking that as high as 15. There is just a large gap in the middle of my poll where teams are placed only because I have to fill the spots – they seem to high. That being said, the teams behind them don’t deserve to be that high either, so it becomes a circle of constant questions and not a lot of answers.

Thankfully, or maybe unfortunately, conference schedules are now in full swing. Some of the teams that have had great out-of-conference starts are showing if those results are indicative of how good they really are. Usually that means questions are being answered… but this year I seem to be gathering more questions as another week comes and goes. And that usually means I am on the doorstep and probably knocking on what will mean a complete overhaul of my ballot. In fact, I probably should have considered it more this week. In fact as I look more and more at my entire ballot, I wish I had. You know what that means? I better carve out plenty of time this week or next for an overhaul.

But instead, here is a look at my ballot this week. If you want to get an idea of what I think of teams I may not comment on below, here is last week’s ballot.

1 – UW-Stevens Point (Unchanged)

2 – Cabrini (Up 1)
The Cavaliers have certainly not played anyone challenging in recent weeks thanks to their game against Wesley being postponed, so they are creeping rather high on the ballot. That being said, they may have the best player in the nation and sounds like they got a really good transfer from the state of Florida. Unfortunately, we may have to wait until February 3 to find out if Cabrini is really this good.

3 – Wooster (Up 1)

4 – WPI (Up 1)
The Engineers continue to impress me. Wins over Springfield and MIT (in a series that dates back to 1902!) shows me this team may actually be as good as I figured. Of course, WPI rose in my rankings like this last year and failed to get out of the second round thanks to suddenly hot Randolph-Macon squad, but I have a feeling that lose and the adjustments early in the season after losing their top guard may have done them more favors than many realize.

5 – Illinois Wesleyan (Down 3)
Last year it took until the last game of the regular season for the Titans to lose their first CCIW game; this year it took until the second game of conference play before Augustana tripped up IWU. By all reports, IWU just had a bad night that is to take nothing away from the Vikings. Can’t punish IWU that much when you lose against a very good Augustana squad… so three spots feels right especially when I think this Titans squad is a serious threat for Salem.

6 – St. Thomas (Up 1)

7 – UW-Whitewater (Up 1)

8 – Amherst (Up 1)
It was an impressive win over Williams to start NESCAC play. The Lord Jeffs look sluggish at times this season, but Dave Hixon always seems to get his team ready for the really big games and a rivalry game against Williams is really big.

9 – Williams (Down 3)
First loss in conference play is against your arch rival on the road and you get dinged three spots. Maybe that is not entirely fair, but IWU lost on the road as well and I couldn’t keep Williams ahead of Amherst after the loss.

10 – St. Mary’s (Unchanged)

11 – Wittenberg (Unchanged)

12 – Wash U. (Up 1)

13 – St. Norbert (Up 2)
This may be the unsung team of the Midwest Region and Wisconsin. The Green Knights just look good right now. The problem is they never get a break since they play in a conference that is middle of the pack and sit in a geographical area where they know the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is going to be anything but a cupcake. I like St. Norbert because I think they are sneaky good… time will tell if that gut feeling is right.

14 – Augustana (Down 2)
This one gave me plenty of angst. The Vikings beat Illinois Wesleyan at home, but then lose Wheaton (Ill.) on the road three days later. I also know there were probably plenty of distractions on Saturday with a family matter for Grey Giovanine. I wanted to leave them be at number 12, but I felt like the lose to Wheaton – who I also have ranked – needed to be that game the Vikings won to really take hold of their season. This is one of those moves that gets me thinking about blowing up my ballot and starting over.

15 – Wesley (Up 1)

16 – Oglethorpe (Up 1)
Wow… what a week for Oglethorpe! They win two games that both go into double overtime! Certainly people will say that may mean they aren’t as good as I have them ranked, but I would say that means they can fight out tough games especially considering they hadn’t played a game in nearly two weeks when practically everyone else is playing. This Petrels team impressed me this week.

17 – Whitworth (Up 2)

18 – Messiah (Up 5)
This is about where I started second guessing myself about my ballot a lot. It isn’t that Messiah isn’t a good team who continues to prove themselves, I just wonder if I am setting myself up for disappointment here. Messiah did beat an underachieving Lycoming before then beating handily a very underachieving Alvernia squad both at home. However, they face Stevenson squad in a gym the Mustangs have only lost in once this season. They then have a trap game in Arcadia looming.

19 – Bowdoin (Unranked)
I can’t ignore the Polar Bears any longer. Well it wasn’t like I was actually ignoring them, but I was leery it could be a lot of smoke and mirrors. However, Bowdoin beat Connecticut College and Wesleyan to start their NESCAC season and did so in somewhat convincing fashion at least against Conn College. The Polar Bears may be the real surprise of the NESCAC this season.

20 – Mary Washington (Unchanged)

21 – Dickinson (Unranked)
I have had the Red Devils on my radar for a very long time and was ready to pull the trigger for last week’s poll until they couldn’t follow up the Guilford win with a victory against Randolph-Macon. Having seen Dickinson in person and play impressively without their two best players… this Dickinson squad is living up to the high expectations many in the Centennial and the Mid-Atlantic Region had for them in October.

22 – Calvin (Down 9)
I realize the Knights may be banged up right now and I realize Hope was gunning for them to help jumped start their season, but right now things don’t look good. Calvin has lost two of their last three including a big rivalry game against Hope and they barely beat then 1-11 Alma at home. Calvin isn’t getting many votes in the Top 25 to begin with and honestly I probably am being too kind keeping them on my ballet.

23 – Wheaton (Ill.) (Up 2)
The win over Augustana was a nice touch for a team I nearly dropped out of my Top 25 ballet last week. However, they have Carthage and Illinois Wesleyan ahead of them this week, so this could be short lived. I am just not convinced Wheaton is really a Top 25 team, but a win over Augustana keeps them here.

24 – Stevenson (Down 3)
I realize I am the only voter with the Mustangs on my ballot and I said up until Sunday I wasn’t going to keep them, but the results of others kept me from pulling the trigger. The problem I have and I know others probably have is that this team just can’t prove they can win on the road. Stevenson lost to Albright who is underperforming in a game that could come back to bite the Mustangs when it comes to home court advantage in the conference tournament. So far Stevenson has proven they are one of the toughest teams to beat at home – though no lead seems to be safe. However, they have got to win the winnable games and win a couple of tough games on the road for anyone to take them seriously.

25 – Virginia Wesleyan (Down 3)
I realize I am one of a few voters not convinced with the Marlins and this week didn’t help their cause. They are a deep team with plenty of weapons, but they can’t go and lose to Bridgewater (Va.) especially in a game that ended up not being close. I left the Marlins on my ballot because I know what they are capable of, but Hampden-Sydney (away), Guildford (home), and Randolph-Macon (away) are their next three games. This could be a make or break seven days.

Dropped out:
Christopher Newport (Previously 17)
Four things happened to the Captains this past week and three of them were not good. First they lose to Wesley which at first doesn’t seem that bad. The problem was Christopher Newport was at home and they only scored 46 points. Now that alone wouldn’t have dropped them out of the poll, but they followed up that loss with a road loss to Penn-State Harrisburg (a win so big the local news covered it in Harrisburg). Now reports indicate the Captains are banged up, so with games against the bottom of the CAC coming up the time is now to right the ship and get back on course before facing the top of the conference again including a very difficult trip to Wesley.

Middlebury (Previously 24)
I don’t know what is up with the Panthers, but they lost to start the week against Plattsburgh State and then split their opening weekend in the NESCAC with a loss to Bates and a win over Tufts in a game that was far closer than the final score indicated. Before the Tufts win, Middlebury had lost three in a row. It almost seems like the Panthers are not improving as the season wears on and teams who see something on tape from earlier in the year are able still beat them because Middlebury isn’t fixing flaws. The one thing I do know… Middlebury is 7-5 and probably playing themselves right out of an NCAA opportunity.

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 5

Well the holidays are over and the second part of the basketball season is starting. All of that combined makes this Top 225 ballot and the next few the most interesting. First off, voters end up learning a bit more about the teams when we have a couple weeks of games to consider over the holiday break. Secondly, when conference schedules really ramp up those teams that looked good in the first two months plus will either continue to excel or show their true flaws. This can be very rewarding to Top 25 voters when teams they think are good prove they are or very demoralizing when a voter has to feel like they have to blow their ballot up and start over (which happens to me at least twice a year).

This week’s ballot was full of questions and second-guessing for me. The bounty of games since the last vote helped me understand some teams better while at the same time revealed a major “hole” in the middle of by ballot. I have teams sitting in the 10-15 slot that I just don’t feel should be there, but someone has to occupy those ballot positions. Furthermore, I always find it hard to move teams up when they have lost a game, but this is the type of week where a loss can be easily outweighed by three or four wins or by what other teams are doing around them on my ballot. At least three teams moved up despite losing a game while another didn’t move at all. At the same time, some teams who lost a game feel further down than others and one team that didn’t lose any games still slide down.

Before we get to this week’s ballot, here is a look at what my Top 25 looked like for Week 4 which was posted on December 16:

1 – UW-Stevens Point
2 – Illinois Wesleyan
3 – Williams
4 – Cabrini
5 – Wooster
6 – Amherst
7 – St. Thomas
8 – WPI
9 – Calvin
10 – UW-Whitewater
11 – St. Mary’s
12 – Middlebury
13 – Wittenberg
14 – Wheaton (Ill.)
15 – Augustana
16 – Guilford
17 – Wash U.
18 – Virginia Wesleyan
19 – Wesley
20 – St. Norbert
21 – Eastern Connecticut St.
22 – Whitworth
23 – Stevenson
24 – Christopher Newport
25 – UW-Stout

Now to this week’s ballot:

1 – UW-Stevens Point (Unchanged)
Having now seen the Pointers in person, I am more convinced they are the number one team in the country. They have had battles against UW-Whitewater, St. Thomas, Whitworth, Whitman, North Central and UW-La Crosse in six of the last seven games and found a way to win. Even when Tillema isn’t playing well, Haas is. They have incredible role players that can step out when needed and they don’t panic (heck, Coach Semling stands during most games with his hands in his pockets even if the team is trailing late). This team kind of reminds me of the back-to-back championship teams who were lead by Jason Kalsow and Nick Bennett and that should give everyone pause.

2 – Illinois Wesleyan (Unchanged)
The Titans continue to win. They have a lunch pail mentality and blew through some teams during the holidays. This Titan squad looks better than last year’s team that nearly went undefeated in the CCIW.

3 – Cabrini (Up 1)
The Cavaliers just keep winning and they have one of the best players in the country in Aaron Walton-Moss who is playing the entire season this year. The Mid-Atlantic is also talking about the fact Cabrini may have once again brought in a key player during the semester break which could make a difference in the last three months (remember Walton-Moss’ impact two years ago?). The Cavaliers now enter a part of the season where they may not lose another game before entering the NCAA tournament. They do have a game to make-up, we hope, with Wesley which could be the only real challenge they see along with two games against Keystone.

4 – Wooster (Up 1)
I am not sure why Wooster decided to go to Arizona and play two NAIA schools, but they did and came out of the trip 1-1. I struggle to gauge a team that loses to an NAIA team because no matter how much research I do (and maybe waste) on NAIA teams, I don’t really trust what I am reading or understanding. Did the loss by two to Arizona Christian who is 13-1 show Wooster is that good? Or is Arizona Christian overrated? Ask ten people you will probably get ten different points of view. I moved Wooster up one spot because Arizona Christian is 13-1 after all and the Scots where playing them on the second of back-to-back days. Wooster looks good this season, but with two games against Wittenberg looming and a conference that includes Ohio Wesleyan looking to knock the Scots off… their season is really only beginning.

5 – WPI (Up 3)
The Engineers continue to win despite not having their best player the entire season, but I am nervous with them this high in my poll. The win after the break against cross-town rival Becker was a good way to get back into things, but their next five games are against the top of the NEWMAC (Springfield, MIT, Babson, Emerson, and Clark. I think the Engineers are going to be just as good as last year, if not better, but they have to get through these next five as unscathed as possible. Win all of them and my concern with them being this high will ease.

6 – Williams (Down 3)
Not the start I was looking for from the Ephs coming out of their holiday break. They won all of the games during the break, but they didn’t show me they are in sync. Only beating Washington College (3-7) by eight, Washington & Lee (4-7) by two and Hampden-Sydney (7-4) by two is not what I expect from a Top 5 or a Top 10 team. However, they didn’t lose so I didn’t slide them down too far. However, I now wonder if the Ephs are bit overrated.

7 – St. Thomas (Unchanged)
The Tommies only played one game in the last few weeks and it was against UW-Stevens Point… a game they lost by 13. Considering how well UWSP is playing and that at the time it was the second closest game the Pointers had played actually tells me more about St. Thomas. This is a group that has been playing very well for a number of years including knocking on the door of a championship game last season. St. Thomas may have lost a number of key guys from that squad, but they continue to find talent and play good basketball night in and night out. St. Thomas may surprise some people come the end of the season.

8 – UW-Whitewater (Up 2)
The Warhawks are up two spots thanks to their loss to UW-Stevens Point not looking too shabby and the fact they went 5-0 during the break though none of the teams jumps out on paper – Warhawks did dominate most of the games. UW-Whitewater is going to be a handful this season and after watching three WIAC schools in Vegas I am now very comfortable considering them a Top 10 team.

9 – Amherst (Down 3)
How do you read into a loss to Nova Southeastern which is a Division II school especially when the score is 105-101. Knocking the Lord Jeffs down three spots is hard when they are playing a higher division opponent, but the move down isn’t really about the Lord Jeffs as it is about the teams ahead and around them. I moved Williams down who I think is even or slightly better than Amherst and the teams around them I think have proven they are playing better basketball. Also, where was the defense for Amherst against Nova Southeastern? I still think Amherst is a Top 10 team, but I expected a better result against a 3-9 opponent.

10 – St. Mary’s (Md.) (Up 1)
Talk about a rough first half of the season. The Seahawks played some very difficult opponents and loss more than I expected, but they also showed they are going to be a tough team to beat. I think so voters knocked them too hard for their loss to Mary Washington, though the loss to DeSales is inexcusable. They recovered with a win in conference against a tough Marymount squad. I moved them up, though, based more on those who fell around them.

11 – Wittenberg (Up 2)
The Tigers just can’t be beat right now. They are steal rolling through opponents which you would expect considering their opponents’ records are not that great. However, I have said before that these are the kind of results voters are looking for when you play sub-par teams. Wittenberg looks good so far this season and will give Wooster a run for their money, but first they will have to deal with a resurgent Ohio Wesleyan squad.

12 – Augustana (Up 3)
I am worried I am buying in a little too much with the Vikings. 11-1 is a terrific start to the year and their wins over two WIAC schools was very good. Then they beat Carthage who is always tough. I like how Augustana is playing and making sure to finish games, but I will really get better answers when they face Illinois Wesleyan this week.

13 – Wash U. (Up 4)
I haven’t been that convinced about Wash U. this season, but they continue to win except for Illinois Wesleyan and Carthage. During the break they even beat Wheaton (Ill.) showing me they came back ready for the rest of the season. Of course, the UAA schedule lays ahead with a test against Chicago this week. Are the Bears for real? I don’t feel comfortable with the Bears this far up my poll, but this is also right in the area where I have teams far higher than I would like… because someone has to fill in these spots.

14 – Calvin (Down 5)
What is going on in Grand Rapids, Michigan? I know it has been brutally cold and very snowy, but to lose to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and by 16 just doesn’t add. I am not saying CMS isn’t a good team and yes the Knights were on the road, but if you are a Top 10 team… or even a Top 25 team… that is a game you must win. It was even a tight game against Redlands two days beforehand. Let’s see how the team responds against Alma as they enter conference action.

15 – St. Norbert (Up 5)
Honestly, St. Norbert is too high in my poll right now… but again, someone has to fill this spot on the ballot. The team hasn’t really played and beaten anyone of note except they played Whitewater and lost. Their conference isn’t going to really challenge them (except a team I am not going to mention), so I am going to have to be careful not to move St. Norbert up the poll in the coming weeks just because they are winning.

16 – Wesley (Up 3)
I would have moved the Wolverines further up the poll if they had a) played and beaten Cabrini (game was postponed) and b) I felt comfortable doing so. Wesley is having a surprisingly good season after losing one of the best players in program history… but that may be the reason they are playing so well. However, with a couple of games postponed and entering a tough CAC schedule… I want to see more from Wesley before I even feel comfortable saying they are a Top 16 team.

17 – Christopher Newport (Up 7)
The Captains make a major move up the polls thanks in part to who else entered my poll and how Christopher Newport’s opponents have panned out. The Captains have one loss to Emory and while John Krikorian says they need to still work on a number of things, they have beaten Randolph-Macon and Virginia Wesleyan while playing very well in their first ever games in the CAC. They do have Wesley looming thisd week, but at least their first battle with the Wolvernies this season will be in Newport News.

18 – Oglethorpe (Unranked)
I can’t keep ignoring the Stormy Petrels. While they haven’t beaten any big names most of the season, a hard fought victory over an underrated Stevenson squad certainly eliminated any excuses I had to keep them out of my poll. Now they enter conference play with the travel and two-games-a-weekend schedule. What I can say with certainty is that Oglethorpe has changed the complexion of the SAA. Most eyes have been on last year’s champion Centre and a resurgent Birmingham-Southern. Should those two teams continue to play well along with Oglethorpe… the SAA could have three teams in the NCAA tournament since all will be picked as Pool B selections.

19 – Whitworth (Up 3)
Here is another team that lost, but moved up. Of course the loss for Whitworth came against the number one team in the country in a game that was nip and tuck for the first 34 minutes. If the Pirates had been better managing fouls and their key players understood the officiating better, Whitworth would have been the first to push Stevens Point the full 40 and not their NWC brethren Whitman. Whitworth does suffer from a short bench especially in the paint, but I like what Coach Logie has going there and their game against UW-Platteville was masterful. The NWC is going to change the complexion of the West Region this year and in years to come just as the women have already done.

20 – Mary Washington (Unranked)
Admittedly, I have been very leery of any good start from the Eagles this century. They just never live up to the hype, expectations and start. However, Mary Washington doesn’t look like they are going away. Certainly I would love to have held out another week to see how they do this week in the CAC (Salisbury and Wesley followed by Christopher Newport), but when you beat two teams ranked at the time in the Top 10 (overall poll) you can’t keep ignoring one of the best starts in program history. Again, the CAC has turned into a surprising battle this year thanks to the play of Mary Washington and others. I look forward to see how this all plays out in the coming weeks.

21 – Stevenson (Up 2)
Another team with a loss who moves up… but they lost to Oglethorpe who I know have ranked ahead of them. I quietly inserted the Mustangs into my poll after they beat Alvernia to start MAC Commonwealth play. I see a lot of the Mustangs and think they are far better than advertised. However, I am not the only one starting to notice their play. They did blow a 20-point lead to Widener the other night before eventually winning the game 105-100… but it was the fact they scored 100+ plus in two of the last three games that made me take note. If Stevenson can win away from their own gym, the MAC Commonwealth and Mid-Atlantic Region are in for a major change.

22 – Virginia Wesleyan (Down 4)
Yeah, I know I am being harsh with the Marlins by moving them down four spots with a 2-1 record during the break. I am also very aware I moved other teams like Stevenson up despite losses. In fact, I am so aware of these facts that I nearly wore through an entire eraser because I was constantly moving Virginia Wesleyan and others around. The short answer is this: the Marlins are victims of other teams entering the poll and other teams shifting. Mary Washington beat VWC and moved into my poll this week – I can’t keep VWC head of UMW. Christpher Newport beat VWC and moved up, but I couldn’t find a spot higher up for Mary Washington. The Marlins are a good team, maybe surprisingly good considering how much they lost from last year. Are they better than 22nd in the country? Maybe… I would be hard pressed to argue against that line of thinking. However, there are a lot of teams in this area of my poll that can move around and I would have different answers depending on what decisions I make. For now… the Marlins are down to 22nd.

23 – Messiah (Unranked)
I told a Messiah supporter the other day I probably wasn’t going to put the Falcons on my ballot until they got through at least part of the next five games… and then they beat Guilford by ten (it wasn’t that close) on the road in North Carolina. This is the best start in program history and they have won some good games so far. The real test and the reason I wanted to wait is because they play Lycoming (home), Alvernia (home), Stevenson (away) and Widener (away) in four of the next five games. That is going to be a tough stretch, so I would lying if I told you I am nervous to put Messiah in my poll this week – but they are undefeated with a team that a few years ago everyone knew was too young.

24 – Middlebury (Down 12)
Even as I write this I worry I have treated the Panthers too harshly. Like many teams they only lost one game during the break. However, they go a month between games in which they barely beat Skidmore and then lose by 7 to Salve Regina (not a bad team, mind you) and I stated last month I was already fearful Middlebury was a bit too much smoke and mirrors. The loss to Salve Regina gives me more pause that I have been overrating this team despite watching them in two games at the beginning of the season. I still think they battle for the NESCAC, but I don’t think they have the pieces to win the conference.

25 – Wheaton (Ill.) (Down 11)
Another team where the reaction is I treated them too harshly. But, let’s be real… Wheaton has lost four games this season and while they are almost all against Top 25 teams… they are starting to prove they can’t win the big games. Of their wins, none are to Top 25 teams and their losses, albeit close, indicate they can’t close games out. Sure, there is something to be said that they are playing tough opponents, but to be honest they are losing to their tough opponents and beating the easy ones. That alone doesn’t qualify as a Top 25 team in many books. For now, Wheaton stays in my Top 25… but there are a number of teams on my pad for consideration that I will drop Wheaton for in a second.

Dropped out:
Guilford (Ranked 16)
I know it is their first losses of the season, but you can’t lose three in a row and expect to stay ranked. Virginia Wesleyan went through nearly this exact same scenario last season at this time. Guilford may right the ship and head into ODAC play as one of the better teams in the conference, but when you lose at on a neutral court twice and at home… I just can’t keep the Quakers in my Top 25.

Eastern Connecticut State (Ranked 21)
The Warriors traveled to Orlando and lost to both CCIW teams they faced: North Central and Carthage. Certainly, those are tough opponents and Eastern Connecticut lost by a total of four points, but with so many teams deserving a place on my ballot I have to make decisions some place. There isn’t much room to fall when you started 21st on my ballot. I will keep my eye on the Warriors especially in conference play.

UW-Stout (Ranked 25)
Another team that makes the trip to Florida and comes away with two losses. However, this squad losses by 12 to a Milikin team and by 22 to Plattsburgh State! Despite responding with a win against UW-Eau Claire, those losses are not what a Top 25 caliber team should be doing.

Teams I am consider:
I can’t get every team I want into my Top 25 and I won’t tell you this list every week, but with a break for the holidays and starting into conference play, here are the teams I have my eye on and thought about adding to my ballot:

– Babson
– Birmingham-Southern
– Brockport State
– Dickinson
– Marietta
– MIT
– Ohio Wesleyan
– Richard Stockton
– Springfield
– St. Vincent
– SUNY Purchase
– William Paterson

Hoopsville Podcast: February 12th

The season is quickly coming to an end and with two and half weeks until the NCAA announces who makes the national championships, there is plenty of basketball left to cover. Tonight we checked out the Great Lakes, South, Mid-Atlantic, and East Regions.

Guests included:
– Wesley Coach Jerry Kobasa
– Messiah Women’s Coach Mike Miller
– Ohio Wesleyan Coach Mike DeWitt
– DePauw Coach Bill Fenlon
– JC DeLass (East Region Reporter)

Click the play button below to listen: