Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’18-’19): Week 6

Welcome to another installment of showing my D3hoops.com men’s Top 25 ballot. I’ve already failed this new year not getting a blog out last week. I’m trying to do better. 🙂

Before the holidays, I showed how I voted each week so far this season. If you haven’t seen that, click here.

Since I missed last week’s blog, here is how I voted in the first poll after the holidays (Week 5).

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan
2 – Augustana
3 – Whitworth
4 – UW-Oshkosh
5 – Whitman
6 – Williams
7 – Hamilton
8 – MIT
9 – UW-Stevens Point
10 – Marietta
11 – St. John’s
12 – Wittenberg
13 – Randolph-Macon
14 – Loras
15 – Rochester
16 – Plattsburgh
17 – St. Thomas
18 – Wabash
19 – Wheaton (Ill.)
20 – Johns Hopkins
21 – Lynchburg
22 – Salisbury
23 – Scranton
24 – Gordon
25 – Nichols

Remember, this was last week’s ballot (Week 5). How I saw things following the holiday season.

Now with that out of the way, let’s chat about this week. We just got done with a heck of a week of basketball. Some tremendous match-ups from Whitman at Whitworth to Top 25 battles in the WIAC, OAC, and elsewhere. There were even non-Top 25 match-ups in conference play worth tuning into. It felt like on any night there was several games worth watching.

It was fun.

And with parity, I knew there would be outcomes we either didn’t expect or games that would be closer than one would figure. Carthage nearly beat Augustana was one game that jumped out at me. As good as Augustana has proven to be, Carthage had them on the ropes. The rest of the games showed up in the number of Top 25 teams that lost – twelve loses on my ballot out of ten teams and teams seven through ten taking a bump in the night.

But I actually loved it. Well … to a certain point. I feel like I’m back at fishing for teams to fill out my ballot. There are so many teams I think are Top 25 worthy, but when push comes to shove and I have to fill out the ballot there aren’t any easy choices. Too many times I want to chose Team A, but that provides Team B and C an argument to be on the ballot, which then reveals in their resumes that maybe I should consider Team D. However, if I consider (or even insert) that team – or any of the rest – then Teams E & F have valid arguments. It seems to never end. There are no obvious choices. Every team has flaws. Every resume has holes.

Of course, that means we are going to have a thrilling rest of the season and an outstanding March.

Ok … enough of me waxing poetic? Yeah, not so poetic … you want to know my ballot and thoughts, so let’s get to business. Here is my Week 6 D3hoops.com Top 25 ballot:

Zach Hiller is one of five NWU players whose scoring average is in double-figures.

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan (NC)
There has been little to no reason to consider moving the Prairie Wolves off the top spot. All 25 voters have them number one and there I can’t see why we would move off that choice. Their depth, abilities, and coaching are outstanding. That said, they are a bit hobbled right now which could make them susceptible. They also worry me with their habit of playing to the level of their opponents. They end up winning games big a lot of the time, but some games are closer for all 40 minutes, or are closer than they should be in general, and that worries me.

2 – Augustana (NC)
While Carthage certainly gave the Vikings a moment, it shouldn’t surprise. Augustana will be challenged in the CCIW. They are still a darn good basketball team with plenty of options offensively and a very good defense. I grow more impressed each time I watch the team.

3 – Whitman (Up 2)
The win over Whitworth (and surviving the rest of their schedule last week) was enough for me to move the Blues back up. They still worry me with the same habit of playing to their opponent’s level to some degree. They also allow teams back into games – Whitworth last week after Whitman lead by about 13 late in the game; 1st half against Linfield when it seemed the Blues would blow the Wildcats out of the building. However, they also have plenty of offensive options and are one of the most aggressive defensive teams in the country – and depth is helpful.

Kyle Roach can be a single-man wrecking machine for Whitworth, but he’s also got a lot of teammates who can hit big shots when called upon.

4 – Whitworth (Down 1)
The Pirates have impressed. Seeing them in Las Vegas was beyond helpful. Seeing their size and speed in person helped translate what I had been seeing on only video. No team is perfect, including Whitworth. I’d love to see them utilize Ben Bishop more, Kyle Roach can sometimes lose focus (which has many different results), and their lack of depth can be a concern. They have seemed gassed in the second half of games and they, sometimes, don’t adjust well to officiating and that means the deep bench is put in at times the coaching staff probably rather not. However, they also proved against Whitman how they can also overcome nearly all of those and still win – or come close in that case. This may be the best Whitworth team I’ve actually ever seen.

5 – UW-Oshkosh (Down 1)
The Titans only moved down a slot because I needed to move Whitman up. UWO has proven that despite a major coaching change in the off-season they are still a very difficult team to face. The challenge is going to be the rest of the WIAC. Getting past UW-Stevens Point the first time around was a good start, but the conference slate is going to be brutal. As long as the Titans can take the lumps and not get too beat up, they will make the run to Fort Wayne rather interesting.

6 – Williams (NC)
The Ephs are off to the best start in program history and that should worry people. They broke the record of 14-straight wins to start which was set in 2002-2003 – when they went on to win a national championship. What is interesting is they start one of the larger five – three forwards, a center, and a guard. It isn’t typical and gives them plenty of advantages. Of course, like most teams, focusing and playing full 40 minutes against every opponent is key, but Williams has shown with two wins over Wesleyan and a successful trip to Maine already they are in a very good place.

David Stokman helps the Johnnies tick. He finds a way to get the job done or find the right guy at the right moment. (Courtesy: SJU Athletics)

7 – St. John’s (Up 4)
I made a significant move up with the Johnnies for several reasons. First, I do think St. John’s is a good basketball team. They have shown that so far this season. The other, so many teams who were ahead of them stumbled this past week and I don’t think are playing as well as SJU right now. The interesting thing about the Johnnies is how I think they are actually flying a bit under the radar. They just may not convince people how good they are until much later in the season.

8 – UW-Stevens Point (Up 1)
Yes, the Pointers lost this past week, but to a team ahead of them in the polls and it doesn’t take away from the fact that UWSP is a good team. One of the trademarks of Bob Semling teams is solid defense. When Semling has a chance to coach a core group for a long time, like four-year seniors, the defense is always ridiculously good. Last time we saw this kind of scenario: 2014-15 and a National Championship. Like for UWO, UWSP has to get through the conference grind.

9 – Hamilton (Down 2)
I wanted to move the Continentals down a little more, but there was only so far I could move them down off a single loss to Wesleyan. The concern is how much Hamilton tends to throw the ball away. Ryan Scott is the first who made me aware of the turnover problems and it causes many games to be far closer than they should be. It also allows opponents like Wesleyan to take full advantage. Hold on to the ball, Hamilton!

UST has returned to Dave’s Top 10 – unexpectedly. Just how good are the Tommies?

10 – St. Thomas (Up 7)
I didn’t think I would have any reason to be voting for the Tommies this season, nor did I expect to jump them into my Top Ten. The scary thing is UST has quietly returned to the fray and every time I look they have surprised me again. Their only flaw is the first game of the season. They have dominated some good teams including UWSP (I may have to move UST above UWSP at some point, FYI). Their battle with Augsburg was one of those classic in-conference games, but may have also shown some flaws with the Tommies. As more attention is given to their program, the question becomes: can they live up to the pressure?

11 – Wabash (Up 7)
Much like St. Thomas, the Little Giants have been impressing at every turn. They have taken on every team in their conference, including Wittenberg, and come away with wins. Their loss to Wilmington is the only question mark I have on their schedule. Can they continue this run? It has been awhile since they were in the national spotlight … and from when the entire conference was gunning for them. As they turn into the second round of conference games, I will be intrigued in how they stand up.

12 – Randolph-Macon (Up 1)
The Yellow Jackets intrigue me. They have some losses that maybe should be expected (parity means losses, right?), but they also have wins that make you turn your head. I am not sure as of yet what they are doing so well or what causes them to derail (like against CNU and Guilford). They are about as high as I feel comfortable voting for them – maybe a little too high – but they do deserve to be here.

13 – Capital (NR)
Well hello Crusaders! Wow! I decided to insert them all the way up in 13th on the poll, after not voting for them at all previously, because I felt that I both waited too long to start voting for them and they made a statement this past week. 12-game winning streak with the last three games being wins over Mount Union (home), Marietta (away), and John Carroll (home). The win at Marietta jumped out the most, but to beat two teams at the top of the conference and another who is known for being difficult to play was impressive to me. I did wait to vote on them last week because of this schedule, but I also feel I should have voted for them sooner none-the-less.

14 – Marietta (Down 4)
The Pioneers drop was multi-faceted. The first reason is because they obviously lost to Capital and they had lost two of their last five. I have mentioned previously that in other seasons Marietta seems to have these moments … where they take a few losses and seem to not live up to the hype or ranking. Ryan on Sunday’s Hoopsville put it in a way I think is better to say: The Pioneers sometimes don’t live up to the expectations others (we) set. That is probably a far fairer way of saying it. Per that, I felt I needed to lower the expectations that I have. To not get over-hyped. They are good, but that doesn’t mean the bar gets placed higher and I get disappointed when suddenly they take a loss that doesn’t meet that bar. That’s not their fault. That also doesn’t mean they still aren’t a good team. They seem to have some pieces in place that makes them better than in years past – if that is possible.

Cam Wiley has grabbed plenty of attention over the years for Swarthmore, but this year’s team has a lot of other parts you should be watching. (Courtesy: Swarthmore Athletics)

15 – Swarthmore (NR)
I made a mistake thinking I had voted for the Garnet last week. They certainly were on my list of teams to consider, but I forgot I didn’t put them on my ballot. That was also a mistake. I most likely have been putting too much stock in back-to-back, buzzer-beater, losses in conference earlier in the season. Seeing Swarthmore in person against McDaniel last week impressed me. I realize they may have had the perfect game, but there is more there. They are deeper team than I’ve seen before, their size and skill inside is tough to handle (rebounding and block numbers are insane), their offensive game-plan (especially the inside, outside game) is tough to stay with, and players like Cam Wiley have seemingly settled into roles that actually make them more dangerous. What is the most impressive is the defense. Opponents can’t get good looks inside, they close out on outside shooting very quickly, and they throw curve balls constantly. Their defensive numbers are crazy good, though their steal numbers are shockingly low considering. Swarthmore is better than last year.

16 – Loras (Down 2)
Moving the Duhawks down two spots is simply repositioning them while also moving other teams into the poll. Loras is good, though they are showing some inconsistencies. Losing to Nebraska Wesleyan is the least shocking result to see. Their close game to Coe is a little more interesting. That said, the IIAC, eh, ARC is far more competitive than people may realize. I like the game Loras puts together. They also have very good results including a narrow win to Augustana – that game still impresses me.

17 – MIT (Down 10)
This might surprise people on a team that only lost their second game of the season last week. However, the Engineers are dealing with key injuries. One expected starter hasn’t played the entire season. Another key player has been injured lately and it’s unclear how long he may be out (from what I’ve learned). And a third injury forces the team to go deeper on the roster. That said, they also seem to be a darn good team. The loss to Emerson is odd because I would have thought it would lead to a loss to Wheaton (Mass.), but it didn’t. Larry Anderson is a good coach. I am watching to see how they continue to react to the latest set-back.

18 – Plattsburgh State (Down 2)
The Cardinals moved down, much like Loras, because I was readjusting teams this poll. I can’t put a finger on who Plattsburgh is this season. We all know how good Jonathan Patron is, but I can’t get the memory of how they left the NCAA tournament last season. I am not grading them on that result, but I am trying to figure out just how good Plattsburgh is this season considering there isn’t much to base anything on. Their schedule isn’t one that stands out. The win over Middlebury was good; the loss to Brockport (10-4) is hard to read into right now. I am actually all over the place with Plattsburgh, so I am comfortable with the Cardinals being in a 15-20 slot.

“As goes Francis, so goes Wheaton,” says Dave.

19 – Wheaton (Ill.) (NC)
As goes Francis, so goes the Thunder. That may not be completely fair, but it is pretty close to accurate. Aston Francis has had one of the more amazing seasons, so far, that not many in recent history have had. Incredible, buzzer-beating, game-winning shots, awe-inspiring offensive games, and he is averaging more than 30 points a game! However, no one else is in double-figures offensively. He also leads the team in rebounding as a 6-1 guard. That’s pretty impressive, but I think it also would be concerning. Francis needs a second option that is going to hurt opponents. Until that really develops and is consistent: As goes Francis, so goes the Thunder.

20 – Lynchburg (Up 1)
I’ll admit, I don’t know what to make of the Hornets. Their lone loss is to Guilford (what is with the Quakers?!) and they have win over Emory & Henry, but they haven’t played RMC or Roanoke in conference play as of yet. They also have close results against opponents that seem they should have had easier times with (darn paper match ups!). I just can’t figure out if the 15-1 record is for real and I am completely low-balling Lynchburg or if it really is smoke and mirrors. Help!

21 – Rochester (Down 6)
It was a rough weekend for the Yellowjackets in their trip to Chicago and St. Louis. Losing both games caused me to seriously consider removing Rochester from my ballot. That said, I also appreciated that Rochester has had a pretty good season so far. They seem to be one of the more intellectual teams in the Top 25 – that being they sometimes accomplish things because they figure it out on the court, not in a timeout or at practice. They adjust in the moment. It didn’t work out on a rough trip to the Midwest, but that doesn’t discount they may be the best team in the UAA – though, Chicago has made a serious claim for that as well.

Garrisson Duvivier is averaging a double-double (17.2 ppg, 13.0 rpg) to help lead Gordon this season. (Courtesy: Gordon Athletics)

22 – Gordon (Up 2)
The Fighting Scots have impressed. They have rolled through a lot of teams this season including Nichols and Endicott recently. However, a lot of their results are maybe too close and that could bite them. They also don’t have an overwhelming resume which certainly makes me wonder if I am buying stock a little too soon.

23 – Nichols (Up 2)
The CCC having two teams on the ballot is pretty good for the conference, but much like Gordon the Bison have an interesting resume. They got into the headlines for the wrong reasons at the start of the season, but they also have dominated opponents including Trinity and Wesleyan! However, the loss to Salisbury was somewhat surprising and then Gordon nipped them. Honestly, I’m not that sure Nichols isn’t the better team in the CCC despite a Gordon victory and that only one of them should be ranked … but these two have to show me more before I pull that rip cord.

24 – North Central (Ill.) (NR)
Watching the Cardinals in Las Vegas was interesting. I was both impressed and left scratching my head. They dominated an over-matched Husson squad, but then stumbled against a less than stellar Ohio Northern team. They also were seemingly over-matched against Augustana, but they have beaten Illinois Wesleyan, Wheaton (in an emotional game), and others. They also have some darn good talent and seemingly have adapted to well to the loss of Aiden Chang for the season. There is something about NCC …

25 – Wesleyan (NR)
You can’t escape seeing the Cardinals involved in important results every week. They lost games earlier in the season to Nichols and Wesleyan and those results weren’t close, but important none the less. But more recently, they have wins over Plattsburgh State, Middlebury, Hamilton, and Amherst – all in the last six games. A lone loss to Williams in the middle of that stretch. Of their four losses, three of them came in a four-game stretch that encompassed less than two weeks.

Dropped Out:

Wittenberg fell out of Dave’s ballot after a rough stretch the last two weeks.

Wittenberg (Previously No. 12)
Losing three of the last four, I just couldn’t justify holding on to Wittenberg. I, arguably, had them too high to begin with. I have had this mentality that they were a better team and positioned to do great things this season. I don’t know where I had that thinking as I can’t find my notes on it (for some odd reason). They are 11-4 and probably still a good team, but … three losses in four while playing the both the top and bottom of the conference.

Johns Hopkins (Previously No. 20)
I really like the Blue Jays. If I had gotten my blog out last week, you would have read about how impressed I was in Las Vegas (though, you could have heard that on thought on Hoopsville as well). Despite losing two games, I thought they were the best two-loss team we had ever had at the D3hoops.com Classic. They had lost Connor Delaney, but they didn’t seem to show that in Vegas. However, they followed that up with some time off and then a loss to Muhlenberg. I realize the Mules are tough, but it was a home game and that shouldn’t have happened. JHU, though, is on the short list to get back on my ballot. I really like the pieces they have in place under Josh Loeffler.

Salisbury (Previously #22)
I wasn’t all that confident voting for the Sea Gulls last week. They ended up being the last team I wrote down. I should have gone with Swarthmore, but after going around and around with it, I went with “one loss to Rowan” over Swarthmore’s double-buzzer-beater results. Probably not a smart choice. Salisbury is having a great season, but I just can’t really buy in. They followed a loss to Mary Washington (who had just lost to Frostburg) with a barely-go-by win at Southern Virginia. I know those are back-to-back tough road trips, but I just can’t buy in.

Scranton (Previously #23)
The Royals were the last undefeated men’s and women’s combo in Division III. Impressive. Also, any time I talked to a coach who had played them or seen them, the quotes were usually “really good” or “impressive.” However, this past week some of those same coaches changed their tune. Seems some injuries have gotten to Scranton and back-to-back losses to Elizabethtown and Moravian weren’t pretty. From all reports, this Scranton team is legit. I am going to dive in deeper soon enough, but I just didn’t feel they were playing their best basketball since the holiday break.

There are a lot of teams I am considering each week. I am also considering a lot of “new” teams which is fun. The last ten slots are always full of question marks, though one could argue the entire Top 25 is full of those as well. There are some teams that feel too high, but those slots have to be filled. I am sure I am missing others, though I do my best to check every conference for an outlier who should be considered. I may be putting too much stock in teams many feel aren’t that good. I am sure I am not putting enough stock in teams others think are stellar. That’s the great thing about this … so many different opinions.

I’m just one vote of a total of 25. For much of this season (and recent seasons), I haven’t seemed to be on the same page for half my ballot. This week, I saw teams I jumped significantly also jump in the polls. Seems maybe I am more in tune with the rest of the voters than I have been prior. It also just could be dumb luck.

There are teams even as I look at my ballot even now I question why I voted for them when there are others sitting on the outside.

Parity has produced not a lot of great teams, but a lot of good teams. Trying to figure out what good teams are Top 25 teams is the most challenging part.

Until next week … enjoy the games! And don’t forget, Hoopsville is on the air Sunday and Thursday nights starting at 7:00 p.m. ET – with Sunday’s show featuring the “Top 25 Double-Take” with Ryan Scott. We will either give you our Dubious, Dark Horse, or Debatable selections each week. Or we will “Buy or Sell” on squads both in and out of the Top 25. For more information on the show, go to www.d3hoopsville.com or follow us on Twitter (@d3hoopsville and #Hoopsville) or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Hoopsville).

Edit: Earlier version erroneously indicated Williams had beaten Hamilton twice this season. That was supposed to be Wesleyan. It was also indicated Loras narrowly lost to Augustana. That was meant to say “beat.” We also indicated Plattsburgh beat Brockport – NOPE! We know they lost to Brockport, but apparently we shouldn’t be writing this thing late at night. Note taken. Those have been corrected. We apologize for the mistakes.

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

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

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

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

It is just part of the process.

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

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

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

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

Here is the rest of the ballot:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is my Top 25.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy, everyone!

Dave’s Preseason Ballot (’18-’19): The Top 10

Dave McHugh, Ryan Scott, and Pat Coleman on the “Hoopsville Courtside” set in the Salem Civic Center (Courtesy: Dave Hilbert, d3photography.com)

Welcome to the 2018-19 season. I cannot believe we are already here in mid-October and the season starts officially in less than a month. Feels like yesterday I was packing up and walking out of the Salem Civic Center.

If anyone listened to Hoopsville any of the last two seasons, one theme was clear: there is a ton of parity in men’s basketball. Anyone who has read these blogs has seen another part of that theme: it is hard to gauge who really is a Top 10, Top 15, etc. team. Many times, I commented that I had a team in, say, the tenth spot that in any “normal” year they would be further down. They didn’t seem like a ten-spot team, but I had to put someone in there. That I could realistically go from 5 to 15 and not slot anyone. There have been a lot of good teams, but just not a lot of great teams.

This season will be the opposite, and probably to the other extreme. There are so many teams entering this season that appear to be loaded, stacked, etc. The talent level on rosters is incredible and there are teams who showed last year they are going to be difficult to stop. We are still in an era of parity, but the level of that parity has taken a significant step upwards. There are a lot of teams one could argue (and will as we progress this season) are top ten squads, but there just isn’t enough room for them all. There will be teams left out of the Top 25 or my ballot who probably should be Top 25 teams, but there just isn’t enough room for them all.

With that in mind, I tried not to spend too much time on the Preseason Top 25 this year. I’m not saying I just rushed through it, but I really didn’t want to get bogged down in it, either. Bogging down just ends up not helping me nor making my ballot any better than it might have been spending half the time.

Nebraska Wesleyan is the Preseason #1 pick in the D3hoops.com Top 25. Is that a good thing?

A couple of notes before we get started:

  • I am not including last year’s final ballot (sorry for not posting that or my final regular season ballot; I was far too busy). I just don’t think it is relevant and I have been somewhat guilty of relying, or leaning, on it too much in the past. I feel the new season should be somewhat new in terms of analysis as well (though, past seasons are important barometers and information)
  • In a twist, I am not releasing my entire ballot with this blog. This is one of three I will publish breaking up my ballot, so they aren’t too long to read. We will stick to one blog per ballot during the regular season (when time allows)
  • Did you know, never in the history of the D3hoops.com Men’s Top 25 has a team held the top ranking from the preseason all the way through the final poll? WashU (twice) and Stevens Point won the national titles after being Preseason #1 picks, but they didn’t hold that spot the entire season. Um, bad news Nebraska Wesleyan?
  • Hamilton and NJCU have hit their highest rankings … ever in the overall Top 25.
  • Of the ten teams that have been ranked the most often in the poll’s history, eight are ranked again (Amherst and St. Thomas being the only two not ranked).

With that, here is my D3hoops.com Top 25 Preseason Ballot … starting with the Top 10:

Jack Hiller is one of four starters returning to a very talented Nebraska Wesleyan squad who are the defending national champions.

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan
This seems obvious. The Prairie Wolves are the defending national champions, return basically the entire squad (85% of their points) AND bring in two all-GPAC (NAIA) conference selections as transfers. This might have been the only thing I knew about the upcoming season leaving Salem last season. Nebraska Wesleyan will have a target on their backs, but their offense can score points quickly and their defense can snuff out a small wildfire. I cannot imagine NWU isn’t a favorite to get to the championship weekend once again.

2 – Whitman
If anyone listened to Hoopsville the second half of last season, they would have heard a common refrain: Whitman is going to be better despite losing Tim Howell. The super guard has left, but the entire rest of the team returns including two players, Harrison and Wiggins who played extensively on the national runner-up squad, who return from injury. They also bring in a wealth of talent which also features some size inside. The Blues have lost a total of three games in two years; two of those coming in the Sweet 16 or Final Four to the eventual champions. They also have one of the more suffocating defenses in the country. There is nothing I see that says they won’t be in the national championship weekend conversation again this season – well except for bracketing. Head’s up national championship committee… there is a serious problem brewing come March (more on the first Hoopsville episode this season).

3 – Whitworth
Well, the Pirates will have something to say about whether Whitman wins another NWC title. Whitworth made sure Whitman didn’t have the easiest of times last season, winning the conference title game in Walla Walla (and ending a seven-game losing streak to the Blues as well). They return… everyone and everything from last year’s squad including Kyle Roach who is a beast. That said, I feel Whitworth needs to get the inside game going a bit more and that means more scoring from Ben Bishop. If they get the inside-outside game clicking, they are going to be nearly impossible to stop.

Augustana’s Crishawn Orange is part of a loaded Vikings squad who will try and make Rock Island the destination for most this season.

4 – Augustana
Hard to not expect the Vikings to be not only at the top of the CCIW, but national rankings as well. Four starters and nine players who played more than ten minutes return including Pierson Wofford who has only been stopped by injury or off-court distractions. Augustana should be tough to stop and are extremely deep, talented, and experienced. I don’t expect them to go unscathed through the CCIW race (no one does that, anyway), but the Central(ish) region will have to go through Augustana this year.

5 – UW-Oshkosh
Finish national runner up, bring back a huge portion of the team, but lose their head coach to a dream job. That’s where I find myself with the Titans. I expect Oshkosh to be good. They have the talent and experience, but how different will this season be? New head coach (I know he was an assistant; personal experience says that doesn’t always pan out as it says on paper), but also a LARGE target on their backs. The WIAC may end up being, once again, the most difficult and bone crushing conference in the country. The question will be if UWO can stay above the fray or fall victim to it.

6 – Wittenberg
By Matt Croci’s own admission on the show, the Tigers were a year early in their success last season. That isn’t a knock, that’s a warning. Witt returns four of their starters, eight players who played more than half a game on average, and 81% of their scoring. They are also not senior laden as their starting lineup will probably only feature one senior – the rest are juniors. I also don’t think Wittenberg will get as much of a battle in the NCAC to beat them up making them possibly fresher come March.

Al Jurko was the second leading scorer on an MIT squad that nearly made the final four with their best player hobbled by injury.

7 – MIT
Watching this, under-appreciated, team in the NCAA playoffs last season was incredible. They were a shot away from returning to Salem with a squad no one had given much of a chance. They are back-to-back NEWMAC champions, return 93% of their scoring including six starters and a player to watch in Bradley Jomard (who was recovering from injury during that NCAA tournament run). They also feature two former Defensive Players of the Year in the NEWMAC and have one of the more talented, and highly sought after, coaches in the country in Larry Anderson. This Engineers squad may be better than their Final Four squad of 2011-2012 which only lost two games and finished in the national semifinals.

8 – Williams
I didn’t expect to have the Ephs this high when I started this process. Williams has seemed somewhat of an enigma. It isn’t like they haven’t been good, but we can all point to results that make you question everything. This Williams team does feature four returning starters, seven who have played more than half of games on average, and three-quarters of the points. They also return Scadlock (edit: previous version said “Scadlove,” we are still determining how that happened. LOL) who missed most of last season (injury) which could result in a trio of Ephs players that will eclipse the 1,000-career point mark this season. The more I looked and examined what Williams had on the roster, the more I realized this could be a special season in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

9 – Springfield
Originally, I was convinced I would have the Pride in my Top 5 when thinking about it the last few months. With Jake Ross back, there was just NO way they would be any lower. Now, don’t for one moment think that because I have then in the 8-spot that I think less of Springfield. Ross is one of the better players in Division III, but they did lose a couple of key pieces from last season’s headline-making squad. That gave me a little pause especially since Springfield started 6-6 last season before going on a tear. That said, the Pride will still be a very good team and their battles against MIT will be must-watch.

Hamilton’s Michael Grassey is one of four seniors returning to a squad looking to take the next step forward from last year’s success.

10 – Hamilton
Last season, I was leery at times about the Continentals. I just felt like maybe it was smoke and mirrors. I saw them courtside in the NCAA and certainly was impressed with what I saw. However, rightly or wrongly I still feel like I’m being fooled somehow. They return four starters, all average in double-digits in scoring, along with eight players who played half of most games … AND that all equals more than 80% of their scoring offense. Seriously?! That’s a lot of fire power returning. Plus, Hamilton shoots the lights out of the building especially from deep. The race at the top of the NESCAC is going to be fun to watch from the western side of the conference.

There is my Top 10. Yes, I am sure there are some of you wondering why your team didn’t make it into my list. Not to worry, first off, I will release another part of my ballot soon enough. Secondly, I have already admitted there are more teams than there are spots for the Top 10.

Stay tuned!

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’17-’18): Week 10

There never seems to be enough time in a week for everything.

Another ballot blog that starts and will include the following items:

  • – Apology to those who find these interesting enough to read for not getting the blog out last week.
  • – Once again, struggled to figure out what to do with teams starting around the fifth spot on down.
  • – Not sure who to include or add to the ballot when dealing with teams that should drop.
  • – Have I mentioned parity?

So yeah… sorry about not getting my ballot out last week. I was even thinking about slamming something together that at least showed you my ballot, but I got tied up prepping for the 5th Annual Hoopsville Marathon. One idea in the future on challenges weeks is to see if a fellow poster would like to write something we can feature instead. That way we don’t leave the blog unwritten for a week.

Before we go any further, here is what my ballot looked like for Week 9 (January 29 ballot) – by the way, new technique on indicating movement; see below the ballot for notations:

WashU continues to be second-ranked on Dave’s ballot, but they may be the strongest team in the country. (Courtesy: WashU Athletics)

1 – Whitman (NC)
2 – WashU
(NC)
3 – Wittenberg (NC)
4 – St. John’s (NC)
5 – Middlebury (+1)
6 – MIT (+3)
7 – Emory (-2)
8 – Illinois Wesleyan (+6)
9 – Emory & Henry (+1)
10 – York (Pa.) (-2)
11 – UW-Platteville (+6)
12 – Wesleyan (+2)
13 – Swarthmore (+5)
14 – UW-Whitewater (-2)
15 – Hamilton (-4)
16 – Whitworth (+3)
17 – Maryville (+3)
18 – Augustana (-3)
19 – Gwynedd Mercy (+2)
20 – Williams (+3)
21 – Eastern Connecticut (+3)
22 – New Jersey City (-6)
23 – Wooster (NR)
24 – Cabrini (-2)
25 – Baldwin Wallace (-18)

NC – No Change from previous ballot
NR – Not Ranked on previous ballot
+ – Movement up – number of spots – from previous ballot
– – Movement down – number of spots – from the previous ballot

The feeling Dave has some nights when he looks at the D3hoops.com Scoreboard.

Earlier this season, especially in early January, it was all about “Bloody Wednesdays.” On several occasions, Wednesday nights would include a LOT of red (indicating losses) especially in men’s basketball. This past week it appears to have been the weekend instead of Wednesday, primarily …. though, Wednesday was pretty rough as well. My Week 9 ballot saw fifteen losses amongst twelve teams; seven losses amongst eight teams in my Top 15.

Ugly.

It has been like that nearly every week. When doing Week 9’s ballot, my ballot had ten losses amongst eleven teams. That might be the least amount of losses so far.

It has resulted in one major challenge the last few weeks: teams ranked in spots that feel far, far too high. I spoke a few weeks ago that starting at number five just consider everyone five spots lower. That continues. I am not trying to be disrespectful towards any team, it is just that I don’t think their body of work and their play currently represents a team that is, say, tenth best in the country. I am somewhat comfortable with the top four. Once I hit number-five, I don’t think they are the fifth, sixth, seventh, etc. best teams in the country. However, we aren’t allowed to leave spots blank, but we have discussed that before.

And then the other challenge: who should be in the Top 25? Each week, the other big challenge is who to include. Each week teams come off, others are added. The challenge is… how many and who? The further down you go on the ballot, the harder it is to figure things out. That isn’t new, but because of parity the pool has gotten deeper in recent years and in recent weeks. Three, four, five-loss teams and others are a very large group of teams with resumes that run the gamut.

When it comes down to these teams, one of the things I battle with is whether the team I’m considering can continue playing well and won’t take a loss (ore a series of them) in the near future. I’m not sure if it is the right way to think about it, but I hate the feeling of adding a team to the ballot and the next week immediately removing them. It feels like an “oops.” I have had it happen often, but it doesn’t mean I like it. My mentality is if I select a new team for the Top 25, they are rising and should stay there.

Let’s just get to the ballot for Week 10. A friendly reminder, I am just one of 25 voters, so my ballot only carries the weight of one voter.

Whitman remains the top team on Dave’s ballot. This week features a rematch with Whitworth. Plenty of questions will be answered… hopefully. (Courtesy: Whitman Athletics)

1 – Whitman (NC)

2 – WashU (NC)

3 – Wittenberg (NC)

4 – St. John’s (NC)
Yes, the Johnnies suffered their first loss in the MIAC when St. Olaf took them down. However, I didn’t expect SJU to get through the conference schedule unscathed. St. Olaf did a nice job slowing down a really good offense. I just didn’t feel it meant I needed to drop them into the melee below.

5 – Middlebury (NC)

6 – UW-Platteville (+5)
I realize UW-Stevens Point is leading the conference, but the turnaround and the way the Pioneers are playing this season really impresses me. I do think I have them a bit high, but everyone is high at this point.

7 – York (Pa.) (+3)

IWU’s eight-game win stream came to an end this week, but Dave didn’t move them. (Courtesy: Illinois Wesleyan Athletics)

8 – Illinois Wesleyan (NC)
I know the Titans lost to Augustana, but it was close. Not like the IWU win over Augie earlier this season. Honestly, a narrow loss gives me more confidence in IWU than it makes me confused about the two. If Augie had smoked IWU, I would have put them next to each other … well, that “other” result had something to do with it as well. IWU is good, just not sure just how good.

9 – Hamilton (+6)
I am not thrilled I have two NESCAC teams in my Top 10. Dave Hixon’s thoughts on the Hoopsville Marathon Thursday only confirmed what I had been thinking – the top of the NESCAC may not be great, but the conference is pretty damn good from top to bottom. The Continentals escaped their second weekend in a row in Maine with no losses. They are doing what others are not doing: they keep winning.

10 – MIT (-4)
I am a bit nervous with the Engineers. Jomard suffered what sounds like a significant ankle injury in their loss to Babson. They barely beat Wheaton (Mass.) in overtime the following game, Jomard was out, and they only played seven players. He is their best player. This could leave them exposed especially late in the season. I’m going to watch MIT closely.

11 – Emory (-4)
I have preached that I don’t drop teams if they lose to squads I have ranked higher. However, Emory has now lost on back-to-back weekends to WashU in games that didn’t even feel as close as the score. They also struggled against a better-than-their-record Chicago team. I just feel if Emory is as good as I am ranking them, I’d see maybe a tighter game with WashU and be in more control against Chicago.

12 – Whitworth (+4)

E. Conn moved up Dave’s Bllot considering they continue to win and get the job done. (Courtesy: ECSU Athletics)

13 – Eastern Connecticut (+8)
One thing the Warriors aren’t doing… losing games. I moved EConn up in a big way because there are a number of teams who continue to pick up losses and EConn isn’t. They may be better than I have been giving them credit for this season.

14 – Williams (+6)

15 – Wooster (+8)
It can be understandable if you haven’t been watching the Scots because you are blinded by Wittenberg’s incredible season and the implosion we seem to be seeing out of Ohio Wesleyan. I felt Wooster wasn’t going to put much of a season together. They are playing pretty darn consistent, though. It is hard to ignore.

16 – Emory & Henry (-5)
Talk about a bad week. I considered moving E&H further down after losing to both Roanoke and Lynchburg. Both on the road and as I have said in the past, the top teams in conferences win games on the road in conference.

17 – Swarthmore (-4)
Inconsistent. Lost to Muhlenberg and struggled with McDaniel. Need to tighten things up if they want to be a threat.

18 – Cabrini (+6)

19 – Augustana (-1)

UWSP continues their impressive run in WIAC play. The three-game losing streak in December is long-gone.

20 – UW-Stevens Point (NR)
I still am surprised the Pointers are doing so well in the conference. Clearly, the patented Bob Semling defense is making a significant difference. I am reminding myself that the last title for UWSP featured one of the more smothering defenses I ever seen despite the fact the offense never blew you away. Six losses is a lot; I know that. I witnessed two of those losses in front of me. Continue to lead the WIAC with one loss, I can’t justify not voting for them any more.

21 – Salem State (NR)
I’ve had the Vikings on my radar for several weeks. While the MASCAC is nothing to write home about, Salem State at least is avoiding losing games they are supposed to win. The balance on this team is impressive to see. There just may be something special going on here.

22 – Hobart (NR)
I have struggled to figure out what exactly is going on with the Statesmen, but like others they continue to win. The Liberty League is topsy-turvy this season with Skidmore falling off a cliff and Ithaca not having the same form late in the season as they did early on (losing four straight). Hobart has risen above the fray. Early season losses are still a note, but no longer a concern as we seem to be well past those games (see WashU).

Wesleyan has not made things as easy as a slam dunk of late. (Courtesy: Wesleyan Athletics)

23 – Wesleyan (-11)
I thought about dropping the Cardinals altogether. My opinions on the NESCAC have changed is one factor, but the other is that as many times that Wesleyan has gotten a key win, they have also lost a game that was important (i.e. Purchase and Trinity).

24 – UW-Whitewater (-10)
The big problem with UWW is that they are 3-3 in their last six and 5-4 in their last nine. Those are similar to Amherst’s results last year at this time. Probably should have dropped the Warhawks altogether.

25 – Maryville (-8)
I like what the Saints have put together for a season, but losing to Covenant can’t happen. This is the same argument I’ve made numerous times about making sure to get the job done against opponents you are supposed to get the job done against especially when the challenge is on the road.

Dropped Out (Previous Ranking):

GMC had a rough week at the wrong time. (Courtesy: Gwynedd Mercy Athletics)

Gwynedd Mercy (19)
Two losses in two games including to Lehman. I know that Lehman is at the top of the CUNYAC, but Cabrini won their CUNYAC-CSAC game and GMC missed the chance… especially after coming off a loss against Cabrini earlier in the week. Rough week.

New Jersey City (22)
I know the NJAC can be a tough conference, but the Gothic Knights are letting an incredible opportunity slip through their fingers. NJCU is 8-5 since December 29 and 3-2 in their last five including an inexcusable loss, at home, against Rowan. NJCU needs to stop losing games if they want to be in good shape come March.

Baldwin Wallace (25)
Just when I buy into the Yellow Jackets, they lose three in a row. They are now 4-4 in their last eight and have been swept by Ohio Northern. I knew the OAC race was going to be wide open, but BW has allowed the race to be wide open.

Previous Ballot Blogs:
Week 9 – not available (see above)
Week 8
Week 7 – not available (see Week 8 blog for ballot)
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3 – not available (see Week 4 blog for ballot)
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

There are a number of teams not on my ballot that I am strongly considering, but it sometimes feels like a crap shoot. Some I wanted to see go one more week due to some key match-ups coming. Others are in reserve for those in the rankings who have big weeks coming up as well.

For those wondering, I do look at the NCAA SOS numbers, but don’t weight them heavily right now. I like to see those numbers settle down a little before I read into them too much (much like Massey and Bennett). I’m already reserving time next week to do a deep dive into everyone now that all those numbers are a bit more solid to consider. However, they won’t replace any of my other items I use to consider.

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’17-’18): Week 8

Joey Hewitt and Whitman continue to be Dave’s top pick in his Top 25 ballot.

First of all, let me apologize my Top 25 blog out last week. It was an odd week and having Hoopsville on Monday afternoon to “compliment” the time usually spent the work on my weekly ballot… time got away from me.

It is too bad, because there was a lot to talk about. Most of it can still be covered this week. However, before we get to this week’s ballot, here is last week’s along with notation of any movement related to Week 7‘s ballot:

1 – Whitman (Unchanged)
2 – WashU (Up 1)
3 – Wittenberg (Up 4)
4 – UW-Whitewater (Up 5)
5 – UW-Oshkosh (Up 5)
6 – St. John’s (Up 2)
7 – York (Pa.) (Down 1)
8 – UW-River Falls (Down 3)
9 – MIT (Up 3)
10 – Augustana (Down 8)
11 – Hamilton (Up 9)
12 – Williams (Down 8)
13 – Wesleyan (Down 2)
14 – John Carroll (Up 3)
15 – New Jersey City (Down 1)
16 – Emory (Unranked)
17 – Middlebury (Up 8)
18 – UW-Platteville (Up 5)
19 – Ohio Wesleyan (Down 6)
20 – Swarthmore (Up 3)
21 – Whitworth (Unchanged)
22 – Baldwin Wallace (Down 6)
23 – Nichols (Up 1)
24 – Emory & Henry (Unranked)
25 – Illinois Wesleyan (Unranked)

Actual GIF of Dave at his desk last week doing his ballot (ok, not really, but pretty good impersonation!)

Last week was nuts. I could have ranked teams in the 10 to 25 spots in any order. I wanted to put them all in the 20th slot or maybe the 17th. I found most of them somewhat equal for all kinds of different reasons and was going around and around (and around) in what order to put them. Those high felt too high; those low felt too low. Flip them and they still felt wrong.

On Sunday’s “Top 25 Double-take” on Hoopsville (below), Ryan stated this was maybe his easiest week voting in the Top 25. I didn’t find it easy. His perspective is different. I think he had twice as many teams on his radar than I did (I had 45 in Week 7 that I was considering), so if he does any kind of whittling of his list it is probably going to feel easy. However, Ryan also said he thought his order was more set than in the past. That was me several weeks ago. I thought I had my order and with so many losses happening within the group the way it was ordered, I felt good.

That feeling is gone. I don’t have any sense of order right now. Last week I couldn’t really settle on 10-25 with any satisfaction. This week that got more problematic.

So, I tried to overhaul things. Kind of like blowing up my ballot, but with the element of trying to use information I hadn’t been leaning prior (basically because I didn’t have the time). This week, I talked with some coaches some of whom reached out to me. There are a number of coaches I trust when it comes to their judgement and eye. They are the kind who will be frank and give it to me straight even if it is at the detriment of their team. They might resort to “coach’s speak” when on Hoopsville, but they don’t do that when we talk off-air. I appreciate that and this week I get a little bit of an idea of how some of them saw things. It was invaluable and helped me see things maybe in a different way.

I got more aggressive this week in an effort to find answers to questions that were stumping me. I also was trying to grasp with the WIAC-yness of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. I went deeper outside the Top 25 packet of information, and my radar, to see what I might be missing. This included double-checking some conferences races to see if I had missed a team who had heated up.

That look Dave gets when dealing with a “gap” in the ballot and UWSP leading the WIAC by two games. LOL

The one major problem I ran into: a massive gap in my Top 25. While I was confident in my top nine last week, that was quickly cut to just the top four. After that… I didn’t want to rank anyone until at the least the tenth spot. You might hear me and others say that and think it is just a talking-point used as an example. However, I actually practiced the idea this week. I put down my top four, then skipped to putting teams where I felt they seemed right. I didn’t have any teams until the tenth spot. As I worked through my list of teams, no one made me want to put them in 5-9. I was left with a list that went 1-4 and then 10-whatever (I sometimes rank teams beyond 25 especially when I am looking to move teams in and out of the poll despite decent weeks).

I spent a good amount of time trying to convince myself to move teams into the gap ahead of my teams in 10-15, for example. It wasn’t happening. Yes, I could make arguments for them to move up, but they weren’t convincing and full of holes in my opinion.

What resulted was a massive jump up into a territory I don’t know is accurate for some teams. Others stayed around where they had been despite not the best of weeks. And others didn’t move down nearly as far as I intended to move them. Even looking back at the ballot 24 hours later, I don’t like the results. It feels like a jumbled mess, but all this time later I don’t have any answers and I don’t have that, dreaded, moment where I realize a solution and made the mistake of not voting accordingly.

With that, here is my D3hoops.com Top 25 ballot for Week 8. Notes for a lot of these teams, which makes the read longer (apologies), but some people seem interested:

1 – Whitman (Unchanged)
The Blues don’t blow me away, but no one has beaten them and they have taken on some solid challenges. I think last year’s squad was better, but that doesn’t mean this year’s team can’t make the same run or even win a championship this time around. The straw that stirs this team’s drink is not Tim Howell. They have other guys who are the keys and the fact they have more than one threat makes them tough to beat.

WashU has impressed and moved up to be knocking on the door of No. 1 on Dave’s ballot (shh, he’s even considered them for the top spot!).

2 – WashU (Unchanged)
I got a text message out of the blue from a coach who simply said, “this is a final four team.” WashU has incredible senior leadership this season that has been building for the last few years. They are dominating, by their standards, their opponents and it is has been impressive to watch. They are not perfect, clearly, but they seem to be improving when others don’t seem to be. They still have Emory and Rochester ahead in UAA play (twice each, same weekend, both), but I like what the Bears have produced so far.

3 – Wittenberg (Unchanged)
Several coaches and another contact basically didn’t mince words when it came to the Tigers: they are damn good. Maybe this season is happening an year earlier than some expected, but Wittenberg’s coaching staff have a team on their hands that seems nearly unbeatable. I don’t think they get through NCAC play unscathed. I think Ohio Wesleyan could trip them up the second time around and Wooster is improving as well, however Wittenberg should be a team to watch out for especially if they have home court advantage until Salem.

4 – St. John’s (Up 2)
I’ve been high on the Johnnies since the beginning of the year, though nervously. In years past, SJU eventually showed flaws and took hits by this time of the season. Not this year. Last week showed me a lot with a beatdown of Macalester (not looking past the Scots) and then a strong 15-point win over St. Thomas. St. John’s is in the right place to end the Tommies dominance of the MIAC, but the target is only getting bigger.

From this point on, consider teams five spots below where they are on my ballot. That may help you understand where I truly think teams are in the Top 25… not where I had to put them because I needed to fill the gap.

Emory skyrocketed up Dave’s ballot, thanks to good play and a huge gap that needed to be filled. (Courtesy: Emory Athletics)

5 – Emory (Up 11)
Yeah. Wow. Big jump here for the Eagles. I know I have them far higher than where they are on the ballot. Seems appropriate for how many teams this situation is flipped. Emory hasn’t lost since their bad loss to Hamden-Sydney at the beginning of December. Emory seems to be getting stronger, much like WashU, and has dispatched teams rather convincingly in a lot of cases. They have a huge test ahead: Chicago and WashU on back-to-back weekends. They at least get to start the home-and-home series in Atlanta.

6 – Middlebury (Up 11)
I have stated a number of times, especially on Hoopsville, that I think Middlebury is the best team in the NESCAC. However, they didn’t seem very good after the holiday break. Losing three of five nearly had them slide right off my ballot. It appears the Panthers have solved their woes and have turned the ship around. Last week saw them beat Williams after a huge battle with tough-to-beat Albertus Magnus. I like Middlebury. I don’t love Middlebury. They may be the best team in a conference that is overrated in terms of top-end strength.

7 – Baldwin Wallace (Up 15)
The win over John Carroll was the result I was looking for from the Yellow Jackets. I know I am higher on BWU than most voters. The loss to Ohio Northern on January 10 probably gave many pause. I get that. I also don’t think they are a Top 10 team, but here they are this week. The road doesn’t get easier, but the difference between this Baldwin Wallace team and others, they are still in the conversation – if not controlling it – in late January.

8 – York (Pa.) (Down 1)
The Spartans have pieces that almost any team in the country would love to have, including two centers/forwards who can play the four position and even step out and shoot the three for percentage. However, they aren’t as deep as I thought they would be. Their starting five all scores in double-figures which is outstanding, but the drop-off after that is significant. In other words, they can’t get into foul trouble. An improving Mary Washington team handed YCP their first loss of the season on the road. Not surprising York lost – they were bound to lose – but, I think it puts far more pressure on them to beat Christopher Newport, also on the road, than it did prior. Let’s see how the Spartans deal with pressure.

9 – MIT (Unchanged)
The loss to Springfield surprised me. Springfield has been all over the map, literally, this season. They have one of the best guards in New England, but they haven’t been able to raise their game against top competition. I figured, the Engineers would get a battle against the Pride, but not to be down big and have to rally back … and lose by three. MIT has a lot of what makes York dangerous and hearkens back to the couple-year run MIT had that saw them get to Salem. That makes them dangerous, but they also prove that anyone can beat anyone this year.

Emory & Henry is a squad that may be playing better than people realize. Picked to finish 4th in ODAC, they have a one-game currently. (Courtesy: Emory & Henry Athletics)

10 – Emory & Henry (Up 14)
Another big move up the poll for a team and one many probably aren’t talking about. However, this past week the Wasps took full control of the ODAC and I believe firmly entered the national conversation. Okay, maybe didn’t firmly take control of the ODAC, but certainly made the conference take notice. Wins over Lynchburg and Randolph-Macon have given E&H not only a one-game lead in the conference, but also a six game winning streak since their only loss of the season (Wooster). Also, wins over Maryville, Transylvania, and others are starting to look better and better as those teams continue to do well.

11 – Hamilton (Unchanged)
I hinted at it earlier. The national strength of the NESCAC might be overrated and the Continentals may have given everyone a sneak peak at that this week. No, they didn’t change spots, but I had intended to move them down (technically, they slipped five spots on my ballot originally). Hamilton was handed their first loss of the season by Amherst and it wasn’t close. Coach Adam Stockwell, though, made an interesting point on Hoopsville Sunday night, and I am paraphrasing: our team can beat anyone in the Top 100 on any given night. Now, don’t focus on “Top 100” and think of the bottom. Think of the top. This year especially, they very well could have a team that could beat Whitman – they also have a team that Amherst is able to beat. There are a lot of teams who could beat anyone in the Top 100. I’d argue anyone in the Top 100 could beat anyone (i.e. 100 could beat 1). So, Hamilton could be a damn good team, or more likely is just as good as everyone else, but not great. That leads to whether the NESCAC might be overrated… you have to wait for more on that.

12 – UW-Whitewater (Down 8)
Getting my first chance to tackle the WIAC here. As with the NESCAC, I’ll break it down in several sections, but with none of my Top 25 candidates even leading the conference, I had to change my evaluation of the conference. I have said many times I think the WIAC is the best race in the country and thus the best conference this year. Top to bottom it is insane. Anyone can apparently beat anyone on any given night. I thought UW-Stout was damn good when I saw them in Las Vegas, but I couldn’t come to terms with the idea they may not be in the top four. Whitewater and the rest have not had a great start to the conference schedule, but that might be because the conference is very, very good… but not great. Like the NESCAC. Maybe the top isn’t as great as I had considered previously, but have a ton of good teams and the result will just be the conference beating each other to a pulp. Despite not leading the conference, I think Whitewater is the best team in the WIAC and of those I’m voting for the better team.

13 – Wesleyan (Unchanged)
This coming out less than 24-hours after Wesleyan lost on a buzzer beater to SUNY Purchase is what is called horrible timing. I’m losing confidence in the Cardinals, as I have with the NESCAC. Honestly, Wesleyan should have rolled over Purchase if they truly are a Top 25 team. No, I am not trying to diminish Purchase who was 9-6 entering that game. I realize this may be further proof of just how deep the parity is in Division III this season. However, these are the games Wesleyan has to win if they are as good as others say. The problem is, Wesleyan has now lost four of their last eight with a crazy win over Middlebury being the lone highlight. I voted prior to the Purchase game which left Wesleyan on my ballot. Next week they most likely won’t be here.

Illinois Wesleyan has gone from unranked to well up Dave’s ballot in quick order, but not with plenty of pulled hair. (Courtesy: Dean Reid, D3photography.com)

14 – Illinois Wesleyan (Up 11)
Here I enter a hornet’s nest. I am not sure what to do with the Titans. In the last few weeks, I have torn my hair out. Part of me screams that IWU is damn good and going to be in play for the CCIW championship. The other part points to inconsistencies I’ve seen this season and reasons I’ve hesitated to vote for them in the past. Last week, I slotted them on my ballot 25th – their first appearance. I didn’t like, but I had so much trouble finding a spot I liked for them. I took the time to chat with some people who have seen then to try and get a better sense of what I was missing. I even read the CCIW-boards, not always helpful but usually decent insight. It honestly made me more confused. I like Illinois Wesleyan. I think they are a good team. 14th good? Eh. The difference for me right now is that their losses to WashU and Emory are becoming less damaging and their current run through the conference more impressive. That loss to Carthage, though… still tough to deal with… and I have to wait until February 17 to see the return match.

15 – Augustana (Down 5)
I had Augustana well ahead (in poll terms) than IWU last week. Those on the CCIW boards didn’t like that. So be it. No one saw the dozen or so versions prior to my last ballot that had these two teams swapping places multiple times. Hard to prove that kind of thing. I think Augustana is still the best team in the CCIW, but they probably aren’t showing that right now. That very well could be they haven’t found a solution for the loss of Wofford. I have spoken before about my concern on this. At first, I wasn’t concerned, then I remember that last year’s go-to guy after Wofford departed was Jacob Johnson and … he isn’t around any more. I finally decided to lean more on the loss to Wheaton (who has been sporadic this season) and the near loss to Carroll despite them being the previous week. Wheaton lays ahead and so does IWU before the end of the month. I will feel a little more confident in the CCIW race in about a week’s time.

16 – New Jersey City (Down 1)
Here I am blogging about a team that may not be on my ballot next week – thus the disadvantage of not getting these blogs done earlier (may need to find a way to change the timing). I’ve like the Gothic Knights and especial Sam Toney, but once again an NJAC team is showing inconsistencies. Most in the region will say the NJAC is a tough conference and they beat each other up. I get that. Not disagreeing, but if an NJAC team wants to prove they are one of the best in the country… they have to step above that fray and put conference opponents behind them. NJCU has now lost three of their last seven – all to conference opponents. They have lost control of the top of the conference and sit two games behind TCNJ and Ramapo – who they have split with so far. Prior to the Monday night loss to TCNJ, I would have said I liked NJCU, but they need to start controlling their destiny. Now, I will tell you they have to buckle down and prove they are as good as they claim to be. TCNJ, Montclair, and Ramapo all still to play.

Dave is buying in that UW-Platteville is a Top 25 team, but there are seven squads in the WIAC who could probably make at least a claim to the idea. (Courtesy: UW-Platteville Athletics)

17 – UW-Platteville (Up 1)
I like what the Pioneers are doing more than others in the WIAC. Of course, they have been a victim of Stevens Point just like nearly all the rest. THey have beaten Oshksoh along with Stout, Eau Claire, and La Crosse (not something everyone can say they have done). I find themselves tied for second with Whitewater in the WIAC race … for now. They still have two with Whitewater to play and maybe there is more to prove, but for not I like how the Pioneers are playing more than others. Maybe it is just the timing of the conference schedule more than anything.

18 – Swarthmore (Up 2)
I am confused by the Garnet. I saw them in person, granted against struggling McDaniel, and really liked what I saw. Deep team, plenty of talent. Good inside-outside capabilities. Too many threats to be able to stop all of them, no matter how much McDaniel tried to shut down Wiley. However, their loss to F&M still bugs me (considering the Diplomats had a loss to Muhlenberg prior and followed the Swat win with a loss to Dickinson). Swarthmore followed the loss to F&M with an OT battle with Haverford (6-11) and a tight game with Dickinson (908 including a loss to resurgent Washington). With nearly the entire second half of the conference slate ahead… the Garnet aren’t showing me they are that strong. Thus why I originally had them 23rd.

19 – Whitworth (Up 2)
I am not going to take anything way from the Pirates and what they have for talent. They are young and the Northwest race for the next few years is going to be on another level, but I don’t think they are outstandingly good this year. The Whitman game was … okay. And they struggled this past weekend with Linfield and Willamette. I figured Linfield would give them a game (they did the same to Whitman), but to only beat Willamette by two and turn around and not put away Linfield only made me feel more confident Whitworth is a 20-25 team this season. Granted, they are the team I have picked to beat Whitman when they face the Blues in Spokane, but that doesn’t make them a Top 10 team this year. Doesn’t mean I’m right… just may take on it at this point.

Maryville’s Colt Nokes is one of four players (nearly five) in double-figures for the Scots who have been playing very well in the USA South.

20 – Maryville (Tenn.) (Unranked)
Here we get to teams I did a deep dive on and … feel like I was missing something prior. The Scots may seem like a surprise pick, but when I realized how they’ve been playing of late, I kind of liked them here. They shutdown the once-DII Pfeiffer squad that has been blitzing through the schedule so far (though, waiting to hear something major for Pfeiffer that would change my mind about this game). Their only other loss in 2018 was to Brevard – who like Pfeiffer still has some DII in them. Maryville also has losses to Emory and Emory and Henry (psst, stay away from “Emory” teams!) which on my ballot looks okay. Yes, the loss to Centre (10-7) to start isn’t pretty, but that is becoming less of a factor for me. They are in control of their side of the USA South – and probably the entire conference thanks to their win over Methodist as well. By the way, Maryville’s DIII opponents’ winning percentage: 148-117 (.559). Pretty good. The Scots may be better than people are giving them credit.

21 – Gwynedd Mercy (Unranked)
I’ve had my eye on the Griffins for a large part of the season. They are playing better than I expected and when I saw them in person realized they have a multi-faceted offense. I didn’t jump too soon. I wasn’t going to be able extrapalate much with their game against Goucher, but then they up-ended Cabrini and I put them on my list for consideration. They have made up for their one-point loss to Immactulata (8-8) and have a strong win over Neumann. They force bad match-ups and go up-tempo or slow down. They can go big or small on the court. Just seems John Baron has a squad that is only getting stronger.

22 – Cabrini (Unranked)
Yeah, I decided to double-dip in the CSAC. Cabrini has been playing weel for some time, though their loss to Neumann the night the poll is released is going to make this pick look … strange. It very well could be another team I remove from my ballot next week thanks to a Monday night loss (hey, teams… stop playing games on Monday nights when the poll is released! Thanks! LOL). Prior to the Neumann result, I liked how Cabirni was playing. The win over Eastern Connecticut (see below) was noteworthy and I wasn’t getting the Cavs in if I didn’t like Gwynedd Mercy as well (Cavs lost in OT to the Griffins). I am not reevaluating this one.

23 – Williams (Down 11)
This is part of the “NESCAC may be overrated” part. I want to repeat, I think the NESCAC is a very tough conference from top to bottom, I am just starting to think maybe the top isn’t as good as I thought it was. Doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the best conferences in the country, but Williams is the barometer for me. They still seem to now know how to replace Scadlock who they lost weeks ago to a season-ending injury. They played Middlebury tough and that’s why they are still on my ballot, but they have lost two of their last five including to Tufts (13-5) who hasn’t seemed like the Tufts of old this season. Easier opponents like Mass College, Yeshiva, Vassar, Westfield St, Fitchburg St., etc. can sometimes make things confusing. Gaudy record, but against who? The loss to Hamline (9-8) still bugs me. Time will tell if my thinking on the Ephs and the NESCAC bears out… or I am on a island on my own.

24 – Eastern Connecticut (Unranked)
I have voted for the Warriors off and on this season. Something about what they are putting together has caught my eye. Their losses are to WPI (10-7) and Cabrini. I felt I had to put the Cavs on my ballot to return EConn as well. Not sure how Cabrini’s loss this week will affect my thinking here. However, the Warriors also have wins over WPI (yeah, played twice; lost the second game), Montclair State, Amherst, and Keene State. Those are note-worthy in my book. At least I am not the only one.

Lycoming makes their first appearance on Dave’s ballot… maybe by mistake? Dave is still nervous, but the Warriors also keep winning no matter what. (Courtesy: Lycoming Athletics)

25 – Lycoming (Unranked)
Hello Warriors. I am finally voting for you, but in a moment you readers are going to realize it might be by mistake. I have not been high on Lyco. Their opponents’ winning percentage continues to be pretty low (132-156 .458) and I peaked at Matt Snyder’s (@FFTMAG/KnightSlappy) NCAA SOS numbers out of curiousity and saw it was .506. That’s okay, but their non-conference SOS is .422. Not great. However, it came down to an adage many a coach has said to me on many an occasion: no matter the schedule, if a team keeps winning you should take note. Lycoming continues to win. They are now 6-1 versus teams with above .500 records – a significant change in a few weeks – and despite a loss to a pretty good Lebanon Valley team have at least won the games they should. Who else can you say that about? Not many.

Dropped Out:

UW-Oshkosh (Previously 5)
This was part of my effort to recalibrate the WIAC in my head. Yes, I understand UW-Stevens Point leads the conference by two (though, will play Oshkosh for the first time this week). However, I am not prepared to vote for UWSP as of yet on my ballot (I’ve talked about it on Hoopsville of late). As a result, maybe my thinking on the WIAC is … out of wack. Maybe it is a darn competitive and good conference, but the teams aren’t as good as I had been giving them credit. I readjusted this week and after going 0-2 with losses to Platteville and Eau Claire to go along with four losses in their last seven, I decided to drop Oshkosh from my ballot. Time will tell if I am overreacting or not.

UW-River Falls (Previously 8)
Another WIAC team I felt I needed to aggressively adjust. They, too, have lost to Stevens Point (just this past week) and now have lost three of six including to the previously named Oshkosh. If I was going to drop UWO, I had to drop UWRF. Not sure either team is playing their best right now, anyway.

Oops. Dave didn’t intend not to vote for John Carroll. Maybe something subconscious? (Courtesy: John Carroll Athletics)

John Carroll (Previously 14)
I am going to admit something maybe I shouldn’t: I screwed up. I had intended to leave John Carroll on my ballot, but they got lost in my efforts to look outside my radar for teams I may have been missing. I actually check-mark teams from my old ballot and on my info-sheet when I have slotted them on my ballot. Even taking the steps to go back and erase check-marks when I start to make changes. JCU’s initial check-mark was erased. Then as I got caught up in my research and efforts to fill slots, I never confirmed what I had done with the Blue Streaks. That all said, they were in this position on my ballot of being left off because I am not as confident as others with JCU. They can score, seemingly, at will and I have had several coaches tell me why they like them – especially their former DII point guard. However, I have stated (as you saw in the Top 25 Double-take) that their defense concerns me. I know they play 94-feet and in a team’s face, but they also still give up points when they need to get stops. The loss to Baldwin Wallace honestly told me more about BWU than it did about JCU, but it didn’t help JCU’s cause – who have they really beaten? Marietta? Ohio Northern? Their resume is harder to defend.

It appears Ohio Wesleyan’s hot shooting and playing has cooled off significantly since the D3hoops.com Classic. Maybe it stayed in Vegas? (Courtesy: Larry Radloff, D3photography.com)

Ohio Wesleyan (Previously 19)
I can’t believe that just a few weeks after seeing the Battling Bishops in Las Vegas, I would be removing them from my Top 25 ballot. However, OWU has not been playing at the same caliber I saw at the D3hoops.com Classic. Not sure if the “fame” of dismantling Ramapo and nearly knocking of No. 1 Whitman got to their heads or not, but they seemed to have gotten stuck in gear. Three losses in four game and four in six (before beating DePauw) are eye-opening. Yes, One of those four-out-of-six losses is to Whitman, but of the three out of four, one is to Hiram and another to Wooster. I can forgive the Wittenberg loss, except it was by 21! If OWU was as good as I saw in Vegas, they maybe only loss to Wittenberg since I saw them. The Bishops are simply not playing well together and are in jeopardy of quickly realizing they have to win the conference AQ or they won’t even see the NCAA tournament. Say what?!

Nichols (Previously 23)
No. The Bison did not lose this past week. They have not lost since Jan. 6 to Western New England in overtime. However, they too are not playing the same they were earlier in the season. What once was a dominating squad (including a 19 point win over Wesleyan) has turned into a squad who is barely getting past Eastern Nazarene and Roger Williams. If Nichols is as good as I thought, those games aren’t close. They got their point guard, DeAnte Burton, back from injury, but that hasn’t seemed to make them better. They have now, since I voted, lost to Univ. of New England making my decision better understood.

Previous Ballots:
Week 7 – No blog; see ballot above
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3 – No blog; Stagg Bowl Week
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

In the future, I do hope to talk to more coaches I know have a good sense of what they are seeing not only on the court in front of them, but even on web streams around the country. I realize I shook up my ballot quite a bit this week and even took some turns not many others are taking. Maybe it will open eyes to other great pretty good teams in the country or maybe I will be proven to have lost my mind this week. However, just realize that these decisions aren’t made on a whim. I make them after following what my research says and what those I trust say. I may like a team and want to vote for them, even after seeing them in person or having them on Hoopsville, but that doesn’t always mean when I do my research it adds up.