TAG | Middlebury
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)
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.
Albertus Magnus · Amherst · Brockport State · Cabrini · Centre · d3hoops · Division III · Hoopsville · Hope · Illinois Wesleyan · Mary Washington · Middlebury · NCAA · NCAA Tournament · NESCAC · Ohio Wesleyan · Purchase State · Randolph-Macon · Richard Stockton · Rose-Hulman · Scranton · St. Norbert · St. Thomas · Staten Island · Texas-Dallas · UW-Stevens Point · UW-Whitewater · Washington U. · Wesley · Whitworth · Williams · Wooster · WPI
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.
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.
Amherst · Augustana · basketball · Bowdoin · Cabrini · Calvin · CCIW · Christopher Newport · d3hoops · Dickinson · Division III · Hoopsville · Illinois Wesleyan · Mary Washington · Messiah · Middlebury · NCAA · NESCAC · Oglethorpe · St. Mary's (Md.) · St. Norbert · St. Thomas · Stevenson · UW-Stevens Point · Virginia Wesleyan · Washington U. · Wesley · Wheaton (Ill.) · Whitworth · WIAC · Williams · Wittenberg · Wooster · WPI
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.
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:
- Brockport State
- Ohio Wesleyan
- Richard Stockton
- St. Vincent
- SUNY Purchase
- William Paterson
Amherst · Augustana · basketball · Cabrini · Calvin · CCIW · Christopher Newport · d3hoops · Dave McHugh · Division III · Eastern Connecticut State · Guilford · Hoopsville · Illinois Wesleyan · Mary Washington · Messiah · Middlebury · NCAA · NESCAC · Oglethorpe · St. Mary's (Md.) · St. Norbert · St. Thomas · Stevenson · Top 25 · UW-Stevens Point · UW-Stout · UW-Whitewater · Virginia Wesleyan · Washington U. · Wesley · Wheaton (Ill.) · Whitworth · WIAC · Williams · Wittenberg · Wooster · WPI
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