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I’ll be honest: I enjoy doing these blogs mainly because it allows me to reexamine my ballot on a weekly basis. Sometimes, as I have been writing these over the past few years and giving my reasons for why a team rose or fell on my ballot, I would change my mind and either go back and adjust my ballot before the deadline or keep my notes in mind during the upcoming week. I also knew that I needed to have valid reasons for my decisions or the public would call me out. But let me even more honest: I have not looked forward to writing this blog this season because the men’s Top 25 is a clustermess. There was no way I could write my thoughts on teams without argue against myself into a never ending pit for every single team in every single position on my poll. I joked with Pat Coleman while putting my pre-season ballot together, and again in Week 1, on whether I could start at number ten and go down from there.

However, it is about time I put my ballot back out for the world to see and I decided a few weeks ago this would be as good a time as any. We are about halfway through the season and at least some things are shaking out. Of course, there is plenty of teams getting Top 25 attention (the last poll had 48 teams receiving votes; this week’s poll probably has even more) and there are plenty of different opinions amongst the 25 voters – my ballot has never looked so completely different than the overall poll in all of my years of voting – but, at this point there is nothing to lose, so here it is.

Now so you can better understand what my voting has been but without breaking down each week, below is a table of each of my ballots from the preseason on:

Preseason Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5
1 UW-Whitewater Augustana Augustana UW-Whitewater Wash U. Wash U.
2 Augustana UW-Whitewater UW-Whitewater Amherst St. Thomas St. Thomas
3 Randolph-Macon St. Thomas St. Thomas St. Thomas Augustana Augustana
4 Amherst Amherst Amherst WPI UW-Whitewater UW-Whitewater
5 St. Thomas Randolph-Macon WPI Wash U. WPI WPI
6 WPI WPI DePauw Ohio Wesleyan Babson Babson
7 DePauw DePauw Chicago Augustana Richard Stockton Randolph-Macon
8 Babson Wooster Virginia Wesleyan Randolph-Macon Randolph-Macon Emory
9 Calvin MIT MIT Virginia Wesleyan Virginia Wesleyan Dickinson
10 Albertus Magnus Chicago Wash U. Richard Stockton Ohio Wesleyan Wooster
11 MIT Virginia Wesleyan Wooster Illinois Wesleyan Illinois Wesleyan Albertus Magnus
12 Chicago Wash U. Randolph-Macon MIT Dickinson Virginia Wesleyan
13 Illinois Wesleyan Cabrini Richard Stockton Albertus Magnus Albertus Magnus Ohio Wesleyan
14 Wash U. Richard Stockton Albertus Magnus Babson Wooster Marietta (new)
15 Virginia Wesleyan Albertus Magnus Babson Wooster Amherst Richard Stockton
16 Wooster Babson Illinois Wesleyan DePauw Chicago Chicago
17 Williams Calvin Emory Chicago Scranton Eastern Connecticut
18 Cabrini Illinois Wesleyan Ohio Wesleyan Scranton Eastern Connecticut Husson
19 Richard Stockton Emory (new) Scranton Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Emory Amherst
20 Scranton Dickinson (new) Calvin Eastern Connecticut Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Scranton
21 Whitworth Scranton Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Emory Centre North Central (new)
22 Christopher Newport Stevenson Dickinson Dickinson Bethel (new) Illinois Wesleyan
23 Stevenson Ohio Wesleyan (new) Eastern Connecticut (new) Centre (new) St. Olaf (new) Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
24 Whitman Whitman Stevenson Stevenson Stevenson St. Olaf
25 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Cabrini Cabrini Bates (new) Franklin & Marshall
Dropped out: #17 Williams
#21 Whitworth
#22 Christopher Newport
#24 Whitman #20 Calvin #12 MIT
#16 DePauw
#25 Cabrini
#21 Centre
#22 Bethel
#24 Stevenson
#25 Bates

Clearly plenty of movement and plenty of turmoil. I am actually surprised I’ve only had three different number one teams. Also, the amount of losses I have racked up in each of these ballots is pretty surprising. For example, there were 15 losses between the preseason and Week 1 polls; there were eight losses between Week 2 and Week 3; and between Week 4 and Week 5 I racked up 14 losses. Sure, some of those had extended periods of time, but that is still a lot of losses.

You are probably wanting to know what I think of each team, because I usually provide those thoughts. Not that I am completely convinced of some of my own arguments, here is the Week 5 ballot in my eyes:

1 – Wash U. (Unchanged)
Talk about meteoric rise for the Bears. They aren’t even picked to win the conference this year and yet they remain undefeated at 11-0, but will get started with conference play this week in a long awaited game against Chicago and then they will face Emory and Rochester the following weekend. Talk about a perfect time to prove whether the Bears are as good as their first half has indicated (which included a win over Wheaton [Ill.], Webster, and Illinois Wesleyan and struggle against sub-par Trinity [Tex.]). We all know Wash U. is a well-coached team, I just didn’t think they had enough talent coming back to be this highly ranked. The next two weeks will be very revealing.

2 – St. Thomas (Unchanged)
Maybe I am the only one who is seeming something out of the Tommies that deserves this high a ranking, but I like how they are playing. Sure, their loss to Gustavus Adolphus shook my head, but they rebounded to beat St. John’s who has been a thorn in St. Thomas’ side for awhile. They also have a convincing sweep of Whitman and Whitworth on the road and a solid win over UW-Stevens Point. I like the Tommies who, wont’ have a huge challenge for a few weeks when they face Bethel and St. Olaf both improved and both on the road.

3 – Augustana (Unchanged)
The Augies certainly have had a strange season to this point. Losing players to injury, beating Bradley in the preseason, barely beating Albion and MacMurray, losing to Central, knocking off UW-Whitewater… not sure Augustana doesn’t have a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in them this year. This is a talented bunch who has played together for several years now. You can’t help but have high expectations for this squad, but they will get a test in the coming weeks by first taking on Elmhurst (good way to gauge the Blue Jays as well) before then facing North Park, North Central, Wheaton, and Illinois Wesleyan. Let’s see how they do before I feel completely comfortable with number three (I wasn’t even close to comfortable with them number one when I voted them accordingly earlier this season).

4 – UW-Whitewater (Unchanged)
The Warhawks were my default preseason number one because they were the national champions and I had absolutely no one else to put above them – everyone, including the Warhawks, had more questions than answers. At first I wasn’t going to knock them for losing to a top-level NAIA squad, but some arguments by others convinced me. They then returned to number one right before losing to Augustana on the road. I am not sure if Whitewater is that good or everyone at the top has fallen just a bit towards the middle. Either way, Whitewater is a tough team that is certainly coached well and with the least challenging of the WIAC schedule ahead of them for a few weeks, we will have to wait until the UW-Stevens Point game on January 21 to really get an idea of what kind of team this is (remember, this game was their coming out party last year).

5 – WPI* (Unchanged)
Clearly I am higher on the Engineers than others. I was higher on WPI coming out of the Hoopsville Classic than others on hand. Who knows why, but I can say I like how WPI is playing. They lost a tough game they should have won against Cabrini, but they play good defense, shoot the ball well, and have multiple options on offense. Chris Bartley knows how to get this team ready for anyone and they have beaten Chicago, Tufts, and Williams (who is surging) so far this season. The challenge will be that they are in a very challenging NEWMAC (who is on par with the NESCAC in terms of quality of teams from top to bottom) and will be reminded of that when they play Springfield (home), MIT (away), and Babson (away) in the next week and a half with Emerson and Clark lurking beyond. If the Engineers want to live up to my expectations while proving everyone else wrong, they need to start conference play with a bang.

6 – Babson (Unchanged)
Here’s another team I am clearly higher on than everyone else. Babson has continued to impress especially walking into LeFrak Gymnasium and holding Amherst to 49 points while handing them their second straight home loss by 19 points or more. Babson has beaten an impressive Bates squad along with Bowdoin and Tufts. They have also blown the doors off of some other squads. NEWMAC play, like with WPI, will be their bellwether. They face Emerson (away), Springfield (away), and WPI (home) in the next three games. If they come out of that 3-0 they will have proven themselves and forced me to pick between the two teams I think are the best of New England right now.

7 – Randolph-Macon* (Up 1)
Are you sensing a pattern? I am higher on the Yellow Jackets then many, but I also see how much talent is on this squad and we all know how good a coach Nate Davis has proven to be. Granted, the loss to Christopher Newport at the beginning of the season and then the head-scratcher of a loss at home to Frostburg are enough to give pause, but RMC has also beaten the likes of Virginia Wesleyan and Lynchburg in conference action and survived tests against well coached squads like Mary Washington, Mary Hardin-Baylor, Wittenberg, Cabrini, and others. The true test will always be ODAC play and they have Bridgewater (home), Guilford (home), Hampden-Sydney (away), Roanoke (away), and Virginia Wesleyan (home) in the next five games to prove themselves to others.

8 – Emory (Up 11)
In this case, I am finally joining the rest of the voting bloc. I haven’t been convinced the Eagles were that good this year despite wins over Guilford and Oglethorpe. The loss to Piedmont certainly concerned me and they didn’t exactly impress against Trinity right afterward. However, the break did them some good as they steamrolled Bates and Virginia Wesleyan to give me all the reason I need to push them well up my ballot. Now Emory has Rochester, Wash U, and Chicago all on the road (at some of the most difficult places to play in the UAA) in the next week and a half. Clearly the UAA will have plenty answered in a quick period of time.

9 – Dickinson (Up 3)
I am very apprehensive over the Red Devils on my ballot at number nine. I didn’t even include them in my preseason poll because I thought they lost far too much talent, especially at the point. However, they continue to win and the victory of North Central certainly showed me they are still capable of playing with the top teams in the country. While they haven’t played a lot of challenging teams outside of NCC, the Centennial will challenge them with a resurgent Franklin & Marshall squad along with a McDaniel, Gettysburg, and Johns Hopkins teams. Dickinson may be too high in the poll, granted, but at this point… everyone might be too high in the poll.

10 – Wooster (Up 4)
I can’t figure out the Scots. Not this year. Not any year. We always know Steve Moore will put together a good team, but this year they have lost to Hanover and Ohio Wesleyan (in back-to-back games) and have also beaten Hope who beat Ohio Wesleyan. In many of their wins they have blown teams out, but Mount Union gave them a hard time. Maybe this is the Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde team! Either way, Wooster has it’s work cut out for themselves in a rather challenging NCAC. There are probably four teams who have a valid opportunity to win this conference and as last year showed, you can’t assume anything on any night in this conference. I am leery Wooster will disappoint yet again, but in the meantime they are 9-2 and again… blowing out a lot of their opponents who are usually pretty good squads.

11 – Albertus Magnus (Up 2)
The Falcons are once again running through their season with reckless abandon and garnering plenty of hype. They at least challenged themselves with Richard Stockton at the beginning of the season, but in what all accounts was an ugly game both in play and in words/actions, AMC couldn’t pull off the victory on the road. Since then they haven’t really played anyone of note (the Purchase State game should have been a good test, but the Panthers were decimated with injuries this year) and have barely won some games they should be winning easier, it is hard to figure out if AMC is really good or it is once again smoke and mirrors. The conference will once again not provide any answers except if the Falcons lose. This is pretty much the ceiling on my ballot for this team.

12 – Virginia Wesleyan (Down 3)
The Marlins are probably one of the most consistent teams this century in Division III. It feels weird if I ever consider not putting them in my Top 25. Even if they have lost a bunch of talent, Dave Macedo has someone else in line to take over – consider it their version of the next man up. An early season loss to Randolph-Macon isn’t too concerning and while losing to Emory probably wouldn’t shake any heads, losing by 13 to the Eagles (and it wasn’t even that close) does. I know Virginia Wesleyan will be competing for a conference title, but they have a somewhat easy restart to conference action. First they have a very tough Lynchburg* squad before facing Washington and Lee, Shenandoah, and Emory and Henry. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Marlins return to my top ten relatively quickly.

13 – Ohio Wesleyan (Up 1)
Talk about a meteoric rise; a picture of the Battling Bishops would be in the Division III dictionary next to meteoric the way they started the season. That start included a convincing win over Calvin before dispatching Wooster and Denison a few weeks later. Since then, OWU is 2-2 with losses to Trine and Hope in the last month (and the Hope loss was bad). I’m not sure if most of us bought into Mike DeWitt’s squad took much (he certainly thinks we did), but with Wittenberg, Allegheny, and Wabash ahead before facing DePauw, once again our answers will only come if there are losses.

14 – Marietta (Unranked)
I did all I could to avoid putting the Pioneers in my ballot the last few votes. I knew they were undefeated, but it wasn’t like they had anyone that caught my eye on their schedule. Yes a win over Hanover to start the season was note-worthy, but until they spanked John Carroll and beat Eastern Connecticut I wasn’t convinced. They are now 12-0 halfway through the season and if they really are this good they will run through the OAC like a hot knife through butter. That being said and even if they stay undefeated, I’m not sure how much higher I could put Marietta on my ballot considering their SOS isn’t going to be that impressive.

15 – Richard Stockton* (Down 8)
The Osprey were way too highly ranked. I finally get to see Richard Stockton this past weekend and realized that my gut feeling of having them seventh on my last ballot was correct – they were too high. Even if they had beaten Franklin & Marshall on Sunday, they probably would have fallen at least five spots (maybe staying ahead of Ohio Wesleyan). This is a good team with plenty of talent, but they play immaturely, can’t keep their emotions in check, don’t seem to listen to the coaching staff at times (how else do you get a technical for too many men on the court out of a timeout), and don’t have a grasp of the game at other times (you never foul a buzzer beating three point attempt, for example). It is nice to see the Osprey back in the national conversation, but remember this is a very young squad who is probably riding the coattails of last year’s success in the eyes of other voters and has already proven can make a lot of mistakes. Oh, and they lost their point guard a while back and are still searching for that leadership on the court.

16 – Chicago* (Unchanged)
I am probably higher on the Maroons then they are of themselves. I am sure Mike McGrath is shaking his head that I have had Chicago as high as seven on a ballot this season. However, the UAA is full of good coaches and if they think Chicago is the team to beat, I take note. Yes, they couldn’t get past WPI and barely survived against Stevenson at the Hoopsville Classic, but that’s where I thought they proved things to me. Their losses to Wheaton and Illinois Wesleyan were disappointing, especially how much both squads are struggling right now, but they have a lot of good talent that seems to be coming together. Of course with Wash U, Rochester, and Emory coming to the Ratner Center in the next week and a half, this is the perfect time to prove themselves. Or maybe they are a year away from really being at their best.

17 – Eastern Connecticut (Up 1)
The Warriors are proving once again they are a very good team. They will most likely have their sixth straight 20-win season and top the Little East, but I wasn’t willing to jump on board at first when they lost to Hartwick near the beginning of the season. However, they have beaten some good teams like Stevenson, York (N.Y.), Rhode Island College, and Messiah since while barely losing to a clearly good team in Marietta. The Warriors are playing well and have a great test against Amherst that will have all kinds of regional implications coming up Tuesday.

18 – Husson* (unranked)
The Eagles had everything to prove and lose at the D3hoops.com Classic in Las Vegas and they proved everyone wrong, so welcome to the Top 25 Husson. Not only did they play extremely well against Scranton to earn the victory in their first game, they held strong against a very challenging Hampden-Sydney team and came away with a thrilling, buzzer beater win to close out day two at the South Point Arena. Warren Caruso has plenty of talent and many options on this squad whose only loss to Bates probably has done more to show how good Bates is as a team. Husson has Colby ahead before getting back into conference play. Conceivably the Eagles could go the rest of the season without a loss and will then look back on their Las Vegas experience when they enter the NCAA tournament – because they will have to prove people wrong once again.

19 – Amherst* (Down 4)
The Lord Jeffs are far younger than I kept reminding myself. Not sure how I ever convinced myself they should have been as high as number two – though, I know I kept telling myself how good a coach Dave Hixon is an how much he gets out of his players. The problem is, Aaron Toomey was just that good and it at least got me spoiled into thinking everyone else was that good, too. Amherst is a very good team with plenty of talent to watch out for, but they are not the same team as they have been the last three or so years. I saw them lose a 16-point second half lead and need a buzzer beating three just to tie Goucher (2-9) and force overtime. They had barely survived against a tough Drew squad before that. And we all remember what happened in their final two home games before the holiday break. Amherst may be the team to beat in the NESCAC, but despite two wins I moved them down because they are not as great a team as I was giving them credit.

20 – Scranton* (Down 4)
The Royals are once again a very consistent and challenging team. They just aren’t as good as I was indicating in my previous ballots. The loss to Misericordia now makes more sense to me after seeing them play Husson and Hanover in Las Vegas and then watching them barely survive against King’s and Wilkes this past weekend. Scranton seems to never put together 40 minutes of basketball and certainly can’t do it over a multiple-game spread. I think they are well coached and I think they have plenty of talent, but that talent never gels on the same day. If Ross Danzig is hitting shots early, you better watch out; if he is cold early, his decision making process goes cold as well. Brendan Boken is a very talented post player with great, quick moves, but if you take him out of his game like Husson did, Scranton struggles to find other options. Scranton is going to win the Landmark conference and make a return trip to the NCAA tournament. However, the Royals have got to figure out how to play consistent basketball game in and game out before they are going to be a real threat.

21 – North Central (Ill.) (Unranked)
I just haven’t been convinced the Cardinals were that good this season. They beat UW-Stevens Point and I told myself UWSP isn’t that good this year. They then faced Dickinson and if they had won I was prepared to argue that proved the Red Devils weren’t as good as others thought they were. But now they have beaten Illinois Wesleyan (to complete a rare Cardinals sweep of the Titans in men’s and women’s basketball) and coupled with the fact they have found ways to win throughout the season and I can’t ignore NCC. They have Milikin and Wheaton ahead, but the games I am keying on are January 14 and 17. They will play Augustana and Elmhurst respectively. That will help me get a better gauge of the Cardinals along with the rest of the CCIW this season.

22 – Illinois Wesleyan (Down 11)
Talk about a rough holiday break for the Titans. Did they get coal in their stockings? Illinois Wesleyan blitzed Nazareth and then apparently forgot to show up against Cal Lutheran the next night. They followed that up with a loss at North Central in an important opening game to CCIW play. Some of the comments Ron Rose said of his team, especially after the Cal Lutheran game, should cause concern especially since I don’t think the team headed those words before facing North Central. I am not sure what to make of Illinois Wesleyan right now and with games against Wheaton, Carthage, Milikin, and North Park to come… we might not get a better understanding until they face Augustana on January 21.

23 – Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Down 3)
The Stags are clearly on everyone’s radar, but I think everyone is trying to figure out what to make of CMS. They started the season with a strange loss to Ohio Northern, but then when on a tear before losing to UW-Stevens Point. They clearly have a talented squad, but with so many games against questionable teams or non-Division III teams (three), the Stags are putting themselves on an even bigger island than they and the rest of the SCIAC already are. Chapman (10-0) is another SCIAC who is off to a great start, but it is so hard to figure these teams out. (Tournaments like the D3hoops.com Classic could really help teams in the SCIAC.) I liked CMS in the preseason, so I am riding them for now.

24 – St. Olaf (Down 1)
The Oles got on my radar when they beat UW-Stevens Point and only had Bethel as their lone loss. They certainly got on other radars as well and when I was looking for new teams a few weeks back to add to my ballot, they got the nod. However, I am leery. They just haven’t played anyone of note besides UWSP and Bethel. Conference action will certainly help answer some questions especially when they play Augsburg and St. Thomas in the coming weeks. Could the Oles really be that good?

25 – Franklin & Marshall* (Unranked)
I could make arguments for why the Diplomats should be higher; I could make arguments for why the Diplomats shouldn’t even be ranked. After watching them on Saturday, I didn’t think they stood a chance against Richard Stockton. Then watching them get a 20 point lead into the second half I couldn’t believe what I was watching. They pretty much blew that lead and needed to hold on to dear life to win. This is a squad that is very young and is still looking for not only its identity, but some leadership. Clearly Glenn Robinson has gotten some talent on this squad that will contribute for some time to come, but I can’t help but think the Centennial schedule is going to rear its head against F&M. No longer are people in awe when they arrive at Mayser Center and no longer is F&M the team to beat in the conference. Dickinson, Johns Hopkins, Gettysburg, and McDaniel all will get additional shots at the Diplomats and should F&M come out of that relatively unblemished and can keep their heads at places like Swarthmore and Washington College, then I will tell you publically F&M is a team to worry about come March.

Dropped out:

Centre (Previously #21)
The Colonels are a good team, but when you lose two of your last three to Johns Hopkins and Sewanee, I can’t keep you in my Top 25. I have mentioned Hopkins a few times as teams in the Centennial will have to deal with, but on a national scale Top 25 teams should beat the Blue Jays. And then Centre lost to Sewanee on the road starting conference play on a real rough note.

Bethel (Previously #22)
I just don’t know what to make of the Royals. They lost to a very good Buena Vista squad (picked to win the IIAC) and they beat St. Olaf earlier in the year. But they lost to St. John’s in a game that clearly would have stated Bethel was ready for conference action. Not sure they have a resume to keep them on a Top 25 ballot.

Stevenson* (Previously #24)
I have liked the style of play the Mustangs play for a while now. They are very well coached by Gary Stewart, but the loss to Albright after barely beating Macalester on the road and having a tougher battle than I expected against Allegheny is cause for concern. They had previously beaten Widener is what can only be described as an ugly game. Now they have Messiah, Alvernia, and Hood ahead who are all well coached and all have the capabilities, even if they aren’t the same squads as last year, of getting a quality win over Stevenson. The next few weeks are critical for the Mustangs if they hope to win the conference and ever return to the NCAA tournament.

Bates (Previously #25)
I took a flier on the Bobcats in the last poll because they were undefeated with wins over Babson, Husson, and Bowdoin. And while I think they are still very good team, they lost back-to-back games to Emory and Birmingham-Southern while in Atlanta. If they had gone 1-1 with their lone loss to Emory, I would have left them on my ballot. They have some really good tests ahead with Brandeis and Middlebury in their next two games and of course the rest of NESCAC action ahead. The Bobcats may still be a Top 25 team, they just have to prove they can recover from their Atlanta trip.

* – teams I have seen in person. I am not indicating who I have watched online as they are too numerous to keep track of accurately.

There you have it. I could make arguments for teams I left in my Top 25 to be taken off the poll. I could make arguments for teams I have been considering, but just haven’t placed on the ballot as of yet. I could argue I have teams too high, too low, etc. There are undefeated teams who haven’t played anyone of note. There are teams with three or more losses who have played a litany of good teams. It is a challenging year to vote in the men’s Top 25 and I don’t think it is going to get any easier as the season moves forward.

In the meantime, I will stew over this ballot for the next week and figure out what I am missing or over analyzing. Who knows… I might blow the whole things up in the coming weeks.

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After the last few weeks and with conference schedules wrapping up and tournaments beginning, I was pretty much expecting my weekly Top 25 efforts to once again be challenging. So I was pleasantly surprised when watching the week and weekend unfold and seeing very little carnage on the men’s side. Of the 25 teams, only seven took losses and all were single losses. It gave me a chance to take a deep breath before what will surely be plenty of carnage for Week 12’s ballot.

It seemed to be a birthday present to me of which I am very grateful!

With the lack of carnage also meant for the first time in weeks I had very few possibilities to bring in a new team to my ballot. That did make it challenging in terms of who to pick from at least ten teams, but it also made selecting who would fall out of the poll a bit easier.

So, here is my Top 25, which you will notice features ten teams that didn’t move up or down and features 24 teams I had in last week’s poll. As we get started, here is a reminder of my rather frustrating ballot last week.

1 – UW-Stevens Point (Unchanged)

2 – Cabrini (Unchanged)

3 – Illinois Wesleyan (Unchanged)

4 – Wash U. (Unchanged)

5 – Wooster (Unchanged)

6 – UW-Whitewater (Unchanged)

7 – Amherst (Unchanged)

8 – St. Norbert (Unchanged)

9 – Williams (Up 1)

10 – Wesley (Up 1)

11 – WPI (Up 1)

12 – Randolph-Macon (Up 3)
The Yellow Jackets continue to play very good basketball in one of the toughest conference in the country. They had a big rivalry game against Hampden-Sydney and it turned out to be no contest. I think that alone told me a lot about RMC since in any rivalry game and no matter the records going in, things happen.

13 – St. Thomas (Down 4)
A single loss isn’t usually the death nail for a team, but the loss to St. John’s marked a season sweep of the Tommies by the Johnnies. Do you know the last time that happen?! Ok, it’s the second time in three years, but if the Tommies are that good it should never have happened! I am not sure if I have been overrated with the Tommies, but the MIAC tournament will give all of us a better sense of just how good or not St. Thomas really is.

14 – Texas-Dallas (Unchanged)
The Comets take a loss and don’t move in my rankings. I know, even I had to look long and hard at that for a while. The loss was to Mary Hardin-Baylor who have now rattled off eight wins in a row and could cause plenty of problems in the ASC tournament (heard that script before?), so I wasn’t going to knock the Comets too hard for that in the first place. However, I also couldn’t justifying moving them behind teams further down the poll. Many pollsters talk about what I call the pillow effect: a team only falls as far as those below them allows. In some cases, if there are enough losses happening further down the poll, a team can only fall so far. In this case, there are teams behind Texas-Dallas I don’t think are 14th in the country, limiting their fall to… zero.

15 – Mary Washington (Up 3)
This may be a steep rise for the Eagles who seemed in disarray and are only back to their winning ways because they played the bottom of the CAC in the last few weeks, but I also didn’t have a good reason to move teams behind them ahead of them. So consider this filling in the empty spot at 15 instead of my indication that I think everything is okay in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

16 – Albertus Magnus (Up 3)
Another example of maybe too big a leap in my Top 25. I think the Falcons are a good team, but I am not convinced they are world beaters and will go far in the NCAA tournament (they are welcome to prove me wrong). They are moving up, though, thanks to Purchase State losing. Despite a head-to-head win over Albertus Magnus over Purchase State, I had the Falcons behind because of a bad loss in conference. Now Purchase has picked up a similar resume blemish and thus AMC moves ahead.

17 – Centre (Up 4)
Similar to Mary Washington, I was going to move the Colonels up the rankings anyway, they just moved a little further north then I intended. These kind of moves and my concern they are too big a leap further explains why I didn’t feel comfortable moving Texas-Dallas down and opening up the 14-hole.

18 – Whitworth (Down 2)
Losing to Lewis and Clark on the road in overtime probably deserved a bigger drop, but there is only so far I can drop the Pirates before I run into teams I think Whitworth would beat on any court. The loss doesn’t bode well for Whitworth’s post-season aspirations of playing deep into March, but it could also be the spark that finally ignites a team I think has been playing below-par all season.

19 – Purchase State (Down 2)
Again… I can only drop Purchase State so far before there are teams I don’t think they deserve to be behind on the ballot. Their loss this past week to St. Joseph’s (Long Island) is unforgiveable and is not going to help them when it comes down to possible hosting opportunities in the NCAA tournament, but maybe they can use the loss as the motivation they need to focus on the task at hand.

(Side note: Does anyone else find it interesting that Albertus Magnus and Purchase State both lost to St. Joseph’s teams in their conference? AMC to St. Joe’s of Main and Purchase to St. Joe’s of Long Island. Fascinating.)

20 – Hope (Unranked)
There are plenty of teams I thought about bringing on to my ballot with better records, but Hope is playing better than most, I think. The Flying Dutchmen have won 11 in a row and are blowing teams out in their conference. They have a season sweep of Calvin and are very highly ranked by the NCAA regional (and national) committee. I have honestly been waiting for the shoe (pun intended) to drop thus why I have been leery about putting Hope on my ballot. However, they appear to be getting stronger and could end up being a surprise in the NCAA tournament after their season started 1-4 and 3-5!

21 – Brockport State (Down 8)
Yes, the Golden Eagles went 2-1 with just that lone loss to a good Oswego State squad, but they are playing without their best player who may be out for the reason of the season with a knee injury. John Ivy is a tremendous player, but his status is known (I have heard nothing official from anyone) and I have to work under the assumption he is out for the year. That changes this squad completely and I don’t think they are nearly as good as they were with him in the line-up. Brockport will make the NCAA 7tournament, but without Ivy they are not a Top 15 team.

22 – Staten Island (Up 1)

23 – Scranton (Up 1)

24 – Rose-Hulman (Down 2)
The Engineers eight-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of Mount St. Joseph’s (what’s with the St. Joe’s-named teams?!), but I don’t think that is a horrible loss for Rose-Hulman. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt since they had the conference regular season wrapped up and were going to host the conference semifinals and championship no matter the outcome (they had swept Defiance this season).

25 – Richard Stockton (Unchanged)

Dropped out:

Ohio Wesleyan (Previously 20)
I don’t know what to make of the Battling Bishops or for that matter the NCAC. After DePauw looked great, they fell apart. After Wittenberg looked great, they have struggled. Now Ohio Wesleyan looked great and they seem to be unraveling. Mike DeWitt’s team is 3-3 in the last six games. I just don’t think they are playing like a Top 25 team.

Other ballots:
Week 11
Week 10
Week 9
Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
Week 3
Week 1

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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.

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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
– Ohio Wesleyan
– Richard Stockton
– Springfield
– St. Vincent
– SUNY Purchase
– William Paterson

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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.

Illinois Wesleyan moved into #2 on Dave’s ballot, but whether they stay there will depend on whether they can finish the CCIW campaign undefeated after their tussle with North Central.

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. ThomasUnchanged

2 – Illinois WesleyanUp 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-SydneyDown 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 – AmherstUp 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 – WPIUnchanged
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 – MiddleburyDown 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 – CatholicUp 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 – WhitworthUp 1 spot

9 – North Central (Ill.)Up 2 spots

10 – RochesterDown 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 – CalvinUp 2 spots

13 – UW-Stevens PointUp 2 spots

14 – WoosterDown 1 spot

15 – RamapoDown 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 IslandUnchanged

17 – WilliamsUp 1 spot

18 – Wheaton (Ill.)Up 1 spot

19 – UW-WhitewaterUp 2 spots

20 – MITUp 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 StateDown 1 spot

22 – Rose-HulmanDown 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 WesleyanUnranked
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 – AlverniaUnranked
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 – HobartUnranked
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.

Dropped out:

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.

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