TAG | Middlebury
Parity… it has to be parity. Twelve teams in the D3hoops.com Top 25, including mine, lost a game in the last week. Eighteen teams receiving votes by voters lost a game. It has to be parity. What else could explain why this late in the season trying to figure out where teams fit on a Top 25 ballot is still a head-scratching experience.This week, because of the number of teams that lost from top to bottom, some teams didn’t really shift that much on my ballot. Teams moved up and down, but only one made a dramatic move (Rose-Hulman) and once again I was thinking about who I should have in the last five spots.
So with just one ballot left until the NCAA tournament begins (and two total), here is this week’s version:
1 – St. Thomas – Unchanged
2 – Illinois Wesleyan – Up 2 spots
I am not sure if the Titans are the second best team in the country, but when everyone else doesn’t seem to want that distinction, the mantle passes to IWU. The Titans have a chance to be the first team since 1973 to get through the CCIW schedule undefeated if they can past North Central on Tuesday – but that game could also mean I am searching for another #2 next week.
3 – Hampden-Sydney – Down 1 spot
I still think the Tigers are a team that could make a serious run in the NCAA tournament despite their loss this week. Of course their loss was at home, but it was to an always tough Virginia Wesleyan team that used the game to wrestle the regular season title away from the Tigers. Considering there will be no home court advantage in the ODAC tournament, I think Hampden-Sydney has the best chance to win the conference title.
4 – Amherst – Up 3 spots
I stated on Hoopsville that I even after the triple overtime win over Middlebury I didn’t think the Lord Jeffs were a top five team. However, I also admitted that Amherst could move into the top five simply because of the number of teams that loss. I think Amherst is a really good team, but they have some things that give me concern on whether they can make a significant run in the NCAA tournament – similar concerns that cost them a deeper run last year. Let’s see if they prove me wrong in March.
5 – WPI – Unchanged
The Engineers lost to MIT on the road, but held onto the top seed in the NEWMAC thanks to a double-digit rally against Clark. The only two losses for WPI came back-to-back against Springfield and MIT on the road in what might a testament to just how tough the NEWMAC has been than any weakness of WPI may have. Thanks to those already discussed losses by other teams, moving WPI down didn’t make any sense.
6 – Middlebury – Down 3 spots
The Panthers made an great comeback on Amherst, but were the victims of an incredible purposely missed free throw put back to force a third overtime which they would eventually lose. I was chatting with Pat Coleman during the game that if Middlebury won, I would consider keeping them at #3. I also stated that if they lost, I could move them down to where Amherst was. Well, they are a spot above where Amherst was on my ballot last week and I am fine with that. The Panthers are a good team, but like Amherst I think they have some flaws that could cost them a significant run in the NCAA tournament. And like Amherst, let’s see if they prove me wrong.
7 – Catholic – Up 1 spot
I saw the Cardinals for the fourth of fifth time in person this week and once again they reminded me why I feel so confident in their squad. They came back from a loss to Scranton with a beatdown of my alma mater, despite the game not starting all that well (Goucher can force that in teams this year). In fact, they were playing so well in the second half, I swear Coach Steve Howes was using the opportunity to practice different offensive and defensive looks they made need in March. Now they have a chance at their first Landmark Conference championship title and first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 – their last year in the CAC.
8 – Whitworth – Up 1 spot
9 – North Central (Ill.) – Up 2 spots
10 – Rochester – Down 4 spots
Have the Yellowjackets peaked too early? They had a two-game lead in the UAA, three games over Wash U., at the beginning of the month. Now they have to beat Emory to win the UAA. Should they lose, they will finish in a three-way tie at the top of the conference and will lose in the tie-breaker. They have lost two of the last three including Sunday’s six point loss at home to now 12-12 Case Western Reserve – ending a 35 game winning streak at the Palestra. Sometimes a loss near the end of the season is the perfect kick in the butt for a team, but you would have thought that loss would have been at Wash U. last week.
11 – St. Mary’s (Md.) – Down 1 spot
12 – Calvin – Up 2 spots
13 – UW-Stevens Point – Up 2 spots
14 – Wooster – Down 1 spot
15 – Ramapo – Down 3 spots
The Roadrunners are once again making me wonder what is going on. Yes, William Patterson is a good team, but they aren’t world-beaters. You would have thought Ramapo would have given the conference a message by beating the Pioneers and maybe set up the NJAC tournament up a bit differently. Instead, they will have to face the Pioneers in the conference semifinals Tuesday. They have lost both games this season to William Patterson and if they don’t want to find themselves on a fragile bubble they better figure out how to actually beat the Pioneers.
16 – Rhode Island – Unchanged
17 – Williams – Up 1 spot
18 – Wheaton (Ill.) – Up 1 spot
19 – UW-Whitewater – Up 2 spots
20 – MIT – Up 3 spots
The Engineers are back in the conversation thanks to winning eight straight games including a win at home against WPI. They still don’t have two of their top players from last year’s team back from injury, but Will Tashman has stepped up with the rest of this teammates, like Michael Kates, and has become the first MIT player with 1000+ points and 1000+ rebounds in his career. They may be a team to watch out for in the NCAA tournament because they aren’t going to be nervous.
21 – Cortland State – Down 1 spot
22 – Rose-Hulman – Down 5 spots
Man, did the Engineers lose a bad game or what? Granted, Earlham finished the week with a two-game winning streak, but they were 2-21 entering the game against Rose-Hulman. The Engineers did win on Saturday and will host the HCAC tournament – which they won on the road last year. I wasn’t going to take Rose-Hulman out of my rankings for the loss to Earlham, but I certainly thought long and hard about doing it.
23 – Virginia Wesleyan – Unranked
Last time I put the Marlins back in my poll, I said it looked like they might have righted the ship… then they lost. So, I do put them back in my poll while knowing they could easily loss in the ODAC tournament despite being the top seed. However, a win on the road against Hampden-Sydney to take the top seed away from the Tigers along with winning six straight and 12 of the last 14 while battling through the ODAC is worth noting.
24 – Alvernia – Unranked
The more I talk to different coaches in the Mid-Atlantic, the more Alvernia’s name keeps popping up. Many coaches think they are one of the best teams in the region. They won the MAC-Commonwealth regular season title by two games over crosstown rival Albright and beat a pretty good Lycoming team this past week. The road to the NCAA Tournament will go through this Reading, Penn. gym and not the other, so I like the Crusaders chances.
25 – Hobart – Unranked
Coach Mike Neer is proving again he can get a team rolling at just the right time of the year. They have won 11 straight and dominated the Liberty League. While they may not have the strongest out of conference schedule, they also didn’t exactly have the strongest schedule last year before nearly getting to the Sweet 16.
Washington Univ. (Mo.) – #22 last week
The Bears just can’t figure out road games! They loss to a decent NYU team in a game they shouldn’t have lost on the road Friday night. They certainly rebounded well on Sunday against Brandeis, but the damage was already done. I appreciate the abilities this Wash U. team has and the schedule they have played and I realize they are in a good position in the regional rankings to probably make the NCAA tournament as a potential Pool C bid, but I just don’t have any confidence they can make any type of run in the NCAA tournament.
Wesley – #24 last week
The Wolverines are a pretty good team, but they already knew Salisbury had beaten St. Mary’s earlier in the week so you would have thought they would be ready for the Seagulls in the last game of the season. Wesley is now 2-2 in the last four losing to the other top teams in the CAC and after winning 11 straight games I wonder if like Rochester they peaked too early.
Old Westbury – #25 last week
I realize it was the Panthers first loss since NYU on Decemeber 5th and it was their first loss at home, but it was to now 13-12 Sage and would have meant an undefeated season in the Skyline Conference. I think maybe the Panthers were looking ahead. I like how Old Westbury has played and overcome many adversaries this year, but they have to stay focused. And when you are already at the bottom of my ballot, one loss will usually cause you to slip out.
Alvernia · Amherst · basketball · Calvin · Catholic · Cortland State · d3hoops · Division III · Hampden-Sydney · Hobart · Illinois Wesleyan · Middlebury · MIT · NCAA · North Central (Ill.) · Ramapo · Rhode Island College · Rochester · Rose-Hulman · St. Mary's (Md.) · St. Thomas · UW-Stevens Point · UW-Whitewater · Virginia Wesleyan · Washington U. · Wesley · Wheaton (Ill.) · Whitworth · Williams · Wooster · WPI
Of the 25 teams on my previous ballot, seven teams lost nine games with four of those teams and five of those losses happening in my top six. As a result, there is some major adjustments at the top of my ballot and not the bottom, for a change.
This was rivalry week with almost everyone playing an arch-rival, so I did consider that major fact while looking at some losses and wins this past week.
1 – St. Thomas – Up 1 spot
In the matter of three weeks, the Tommies have moved out of the top spot on my ballot and then back. They have moved past their lone loss and looking like one of the toughest teams in the country.
2 – Hampden-Sydney – Up 6 spots
I have stated numerous times that I think the Tigers are the most underrated team in the country. They play in one of the toughest conferences in the country and seem to be putting their foot down emphatically. They trounced their arch-rival, Randolph-Macon, on the road to sweep the season series for the first time in years. And when you look at the SOS numbers, they are impressive. Ahead they have a major clash with Virginia Wesleyan coming up Wednesday in which the Tigers could clinch the ODAC regular season crown.
3 – Middlebury – Up 2 spots
Middlebury may be a bit overrated at #3, but with so many teams losing in this part of the ballot, they simply migrated up the poll. I didn’t feel comfortable placing the Panthers #2 because of the number of close games and their one-point win over Williams now looks less interesting with Amherst looming on Tuesday night.
4 – Illinois Wesleyan – Up 4 spots
Last week I said the Titans would probably have to win the CCIW to crack my top five, but thanks to numerous losses ahead of them and another dominating week in the CCIW, they have moved up accordingly. The only test left for an undefeated conference season is North Central on the road… if they don’t overlook Millikin first.
5 – WPI – Down 3 spots
Almost everyone was waiting for the Engineers to lose their first game and it never seemed to be coming until Springfield got the job done Sunday afternoon. Springfield is having a good season and has a win against Amherst on their resume as well, so losing to the Pride on the road isn’t a shock. Now whether it was the delay thanks to an historic blizzard or just playing in a tough place, WPI has to right the ship quickly since they have MIT and Clark on the road to finish.
6 – Rochester – Down 2 spots
We know the UAA is a tough conference mainly because of the travel required, so we shouldn’t have been surprised that Rochester couldn’t stay undefeated in the conference. But Rochester is now 2-2 in the last two weekends and is holding on to a one game lead in the conference with three to play. And the team behind them, Wash U, dominated Rochester in St. Louis which you hope doesn’t mean Rochester peaked too soon.
7 – Amherst – Up 3 spots
The Lord Jeffs had already thumped their arch-rival Williams in a game a couple of weeks ago, but when they did the same thing, holding the Ephs to 48 points at home, it made me notice. It was Amherst’s only game of the week, but they are now on top of the conference with an important battle with Middlebury coming up.
8 – Catholic – Down 2 spots
The Cardinals losing on the road to Scranton shouldn’t be too surprising, except at times it isn’t clear what Scranton team will show up on the floor. Catholic did have to come from 20 points down to within 2, but couldn’t pull off the victory. The match-up is a bit of a rivalry, so I wasn’t going to bring them down the poll too far.
9 – Whitworth – Down 8 spots
Two losses probably would have resulted in a further slide down the poll if not for the number of losses by others and the fact that some of the teams below the Pirates didn’t seem like top ten teams. However, the loss to George Fox at home does give me great pause since this conference didn’t seem to be that big a challenge.
10 – St. Mary’s (Md.) – Up 3 spots
I am not sure the Seahawks are a top ten team, but they have migrated up thanks to a few factors: the number of losses my others and the fact they still have only loss two games this season (both to teams on my ballot). St. Mary’s has clearly played better than many expected especially since they don’t have any significant inside presence.
11 – North Central (Ill.) – Up 4 spots
The Cardinals appear to be playing better basketball than a few weeks ago when they were dealing with injuries to their top three players. I probably would have moved North Central into my top ten, except that while they beat Augustana handily on the road they couldn’t do the same to Millikin on the road. They have a major game against Illinois Wesleyan this week that could change the landscape of the CCIW.
12 – Ramapo – Down 3 spots
Another loss in the NJAC is not what the Roadrunners need right now before the conference tournament. The loss was to the third place teams in the conference on the road, but Ramapo needs to avoid these losses if they want to be ready for post-season play.
13 – Wooster – Up 4 spots
The Scots got through rivalry week with a win in overtime against Ohio Wesleyan and an easier win over Wittenberg. Wooster is a good team that just has to focus on all games and not forget what the goal is when playing teams like Wabash.
14 – Calvin – unchanged
Here is where I took a rivalry game into mind. Calvin losses a close game on the road at Hope which probably shouldn’t have been that unexpected just based on the history in this rivalry. Plus the fact, you had to figure Hope wanted revenge for the embarrassment in the first game. I still think Calvin is a good team and shouldn’t fall because of the biggest rivalry in Division III.
15 – UW-Stevens Point – Down 3 spots
The Pointers went 1-0 this past week, but their move downward is because they seem to be racked with injuries. I am not sure what has gotten them to this point in the season can allow them to hold on to the end.
16 – Rhode Island – Up 2 spots
17 – Rose-Hulman – Up 3 spots
18 – Williams – Down 7 spots
The Ephs got embarrassed on their own court by a team that has now embarrassed them twice this season. Yes, it was a rivalry game, but Hope showed they could show up at home against Calvin. Williams didn’t seem to show anything. The game was delayed several days because of the blizzard, but since it was at home that is less of an excuse in my book than a team that would have been on the road. It appears the Ephs were a little overrated in previous ballots.
19 – Wheaton (Ill.) – unchanged
20 – Cortland State – Up 1 spot
21 – UW-Whitewater – Up 1 spot
22 – Washington Univ. – unranked
The win over Rochester told me that the Bears may have figured out whatever was wrong and are back on track – at least at home. I think Wash U. is a team to watch out for, but I still have questions on where their season is headed especially because they may have to hit the road in the NCAA tournament.
23 – MIT – unchanged
24 – Wesley – unchanged
25 – SUNY Old Westbury – unchanged
Christopher Newport – #16 last week
The Captains are in a tail spin. They have lost three straight including to now 11-10 LaGrange on the road. Of course the previous two games were losses at home. I am not sure exactly what is wrong, but this is the worst time of the season to be dealing with a significant losing streak.
Amherst · Augustana · Calvin · Catholic · CCIW · Christopher Newport · Cortland State · d3hoops · Division III · Hampden-Sydne · Illinois Wesleyan · Middlebury · MIT · NCAA · North Central · Ramapo · Rhode Island College · Rochester · Rose-Hulman · St. Mary's (Md.) · St. Thomas · SUNY-Old Westbury · UW-Stevens Point · Washington U. · Wesley · Wheaton (Ill.) · Whitworth · Williams · Wooster · WPI
Sorry for the tardiness on this, but celebrating the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl title got me a little out of sync this week and then the computer I have my blog written on decided to quit working when I went to post this on Wednesday morning. Better late than never, I guess.
Once again, I had to do some real analyzing after not only the number one team lost, but when several other teams on my previous ballot took losses. (And as you will notice, I will already be changing my number one team next week.)
The one thing I have noticed and even discussed with other voters, there may be 15 or 20 teams everyone feels comfortable with, but those last five or ten spots are turning into a cluster(fill in the blank). For the most part, it seems like no one wants to step up and grab their position in the polls or in their conferences. As a result, I think voting this season may be getting harder in some ways than usual years when you really have a sense of who the best teams in the country are.
1 – Whitworth – Up 1 spot
I really debated about this. The Pirates have certainly been on a tear winning every one of their games except the season opener against St. Thomas, but besides Whitman their conference schedule has been somewhat weak. They already had to use extra time to get past a pretty decent Whitman squad, but they have also been dominating teams for the most part. I am sure I will be changing this pick sooner than I would like (and now after the fact this is indeed true).
2 – St. Thomas – Up 1 spot
I seriously considered putting the Tommies back into the number one place after they clearly rebounded from their lone loss pretty well. However, I had decided that St. Thomas’ loss to Concordia-Moorehead was worse than Whitworth’s loss to St. Thomas in game number one, so I didn’t feel comfortable changing that mentality a week later.
3 – WPI – Up 1 spot
Being the Engineers are undefeated and had a nice victory of Springfield this past week, I could have easily decided to move WPI all the way to #1. However, I am still considering who they have played… or not played. WPI is clearly having a better season than anyone could have expected, but I may need to see a little more before I think #1 is the right place for WPI.
4 – Rochester – Down 3 spots
I expected the Yellowjackets to get through the weekend unscathed, though maybe bruised, as my number one team. Of course if they had lost to Brandeis, I wouldn’t have been shocked. But to lose to an NYU team that I clearly had overrated earlier this year was not what I would have expected. Rochester did rally to get through the weekend 1 and 1, but they lost the wrong game. Considering it was their first loss of the season, on the road, and many teams below also lost, Rochester didn’t fall as much as I thought about moving them.
5 – Middlebury – Up 1 spot
6 – Catholic – Up 1 spot
7 – Hampden-Sydney – Up 2 spots
8 – Illinois Wesleyan – Up 6 spots
I was already starting to buy into the Titans, but when you beat Augustana (on the road) and Wheaton (at home) to sweep the season series from those two and remain three games ahead of North Central, I was ready to buy in further. Can the Titans get through the entire CCIW unscathed? Maybe, but the conference is too good in general for that to possibly happen. So I will continue to move IWU up the board, but won’t jump them into my top five until they get through the conference unscathed.
9 – Ramapo – Up 1 spot
10 – Amherst – Up 3 spots
The Lord Jeffs had a very good week beating Rhode Island and two conference opponents, albeit at home. As a result, their win over Williams now becomes a bigger factor, especially since it was a blow out, so I moved them ahead of the Ephs. However, Amherst didn’t have the strongest out-of-conference schedule and lost two games as well, so I think this could be my ceiling unless they beat Williams on the road in the same manner.
11 – Williams – Down 3 spots
I did move the Ephs down, but it had more to do with teams I moved ahead of them than the week they had. Granted they won two games on the road in the conference, but they were both close games against Bowdoin (12-9) and Colby (6-15). I know it isn’t the easiest thing to travel in the NESCAC especially from northwestern Massachusetts to anywhere in Maine (there is no such thing as a straight drive from Point A to Point B in that scenario), but if the Ephs are that good they should handle that scenario a bit better.
12 – UW-Stevens Point – Down 7 spots
It wasn’t like the Pointers had it easy this week: they played on the road against Platteville and La Crosse who are both having solid seasons. What surprised me was the fact the Pointers were held to just 46 points against Platteville and then couldn’t recover a few days later against La Crosse and only scored 62. That is just the kind of week that can derail a team and makes a voter nervous. I am not sold on just how good the WIAC is this season maybe because the top of the conference isn’t as good as usual while the middle of the conference is just as tough as always.
13 – St. Mary’s (Md.) – Up 2 spots
14 – Calvin – Up 2 spots
15 – North Central (Ill.) – Up 2 spots
16 – Christopher Newport – Down 5 spots
I was confident the Captains were pretty good this year, but when you lose to a .500 team like Greensboro at home, I take pause. I still think CNU is a solid team, but I may have had them too high in my poll. (And since I voted they lost to Virginia Wesleyan at home and it wasn’t close.)
17 – Wooster – Down 5 spots
The win over Denison at home was destruction; the loss on the road against Wabash was… well… embarrassing. I am not sure if the Scots were looking too far ahead to their game against Ohio Wesleyan or not, but this is the time of year where a team needs to put its foot down and not stub its toe.
18 – Rhode Island – unchanged
19 – Wheaton (Ill.) – unchanged
20 – Rose-Hulman – Up 3 spots
The Engineers put their foot down on the HCAC. With a very important game against underachieving Transylvania who beat them at home earlier in the year… they won on the road. Rose-Hulman now has a two game lead on the conference forcing everyone to go through Terre Haute, Indiana if they want to automatically pack their bags for the NCAA tournament.
21 – Cortland State – Up 3 spots
22 – UW-Whitewater – unranked
As I mentioned earlier, I am not sold on the top of the WIAC. I have also not been sold on the Warhawks a lot this season; they simply lost too much from last year’s national champions. But they keep winning and are now just a game back of UW-Stevens Point and may be finding their stride… for now.
23 – MIT – unranked
For the engineers, I mean beavers, no I mean Engineers (plenty of them in my Top 25), they still don’t have Jamie Karraker or Noel Hollingsworth back and may never get them back, but they are still winning. There are three seniors in double-figures including Mitchell Kates and Will Tashman who are scoring 15+ points a game and some of the underclassmen are stepping up. Only one of their four losses is a bad one (Salem State) and they have won five straight. Maybe MIT has found a way to win this season despite the challenges they have faced.
24 – Wesley – Down 4 spots
I knew that trying to sweep St. Mary’s, especially with the second game being on the road, would be a tall task. So, I really wasn’t going to eliminate them from my ballot and they only moved this far down because I was moving other teams in that I think might still be better despite the fact the Wolverines have still won 12 of the last 13 (as of my voting).
25 – SUNY-Old Westbury – unranked
In a constant search for who are the best 25 teams, I am taking another stab at a team that maybe isn’t getting enough attention. I don’t have the space to explain the season the Panthers have had simply from Superstorm Sandy and the aftermath. But consider that Old Westbury played their first 13 games of the season on the road, had to travel by van to every practice for the first several months at a gym off campus, and they didn’t even have their own locker rooms during that time. Still, the Panthers are undefeated in their conference and while games have been close recently it is probably because the Panthers aren’t used to playing in their own gym!
Dropped out this week:
DeSales – 21st last week
I will be the first to admit, I made a mistake here. Shortly after I placed DeSales in my ballot and stated they were one team flying lowest on the radar, they lost two games in conference including a pivotal game with Delaware Valley before falling asleep against Misericordia.
Transylvania – 22nd last week
The Pioneers did it to me again. I bought in and put them back in my Top 25 only to see them lose to Rose-Hulman, at home no less. I just can’t figure out the Pioneers who didn’t lose any of their starting offense from last year’s squad, but clearly lost something from the seniors who left even if it wasn’t on the court.
Alvernia – 25th last week
You can almost copy my comments about DeSales into this section: they lost a pivotal game against conference and Reading, PA rival Albright. They didn’t lose two games, but when you are on the very bottom of the ballot, any slip can cost you.
Amherst · Calvin · Catholic · CCIW · Christopher Newport · Cortland State · d3hoops · Division III · Hampden-Sydney · Illinois Wesleyan · Middlebury · MIT · NCAA · Ramapo · Rhode Island College · Rochester · Rose-Hulman · St. Mary's (Md.) · St. Thomas · SUNY-Old Westbury · UW-Stevens Point · UW-Whitewater · Wesley · Whitworth · Williams · Wooster · WPI
BRUNSWICK, Maine – One closely contested game turned into a blowout and the other was put away nice and neatly at the end as the No. 6 Middlebury men pulled away from Bowdoin and the Bowdoin women went on a huge second-half run to the return the favor to the Panthers.
For the Middlebury men, it took a little bit of time to get adjusted when Bowdoin went to a zone defense, while for the Bowdoin women, sorely in need of a NESCAC win, it might have been a key second-half rebound that sparked it.
This is as far into Maine as I’ll get on this trip. I stopped at University of New England on the way up, bypassed Southern Maine (sorry!) and Colby and Bates are further up the coast, but I knew I was pretty far East when the sun went down before 5 p.m. in February. A friend reminds me that, of course, the sun rises awful early, but I won’t be around for that.
I could say more, but instead, I’ll let Middlebury senior guard Nolan Thompson and Bowdoin women’s coach Adrienne Shibles talk instead. They’re my interview subjects from tonight.