Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’16-’17): Week 11

You have got to love this time of year. All games seem to take on a different perspective as Regional Rankings start getting rolled out, the end of the season can be seen, and teams are fighting for not only conference playoff positioning, but to make the tournaments in the first place. It seems to drive programs and even those who have struggled seem to find themselves when there is more on the line and the opponent has a bigger target on their back. Of course, the second time through conferences makes a different I am sure.

There is a lot less shaking of my head and lot more inquisitive looking at results. There are more answers despite there being more questions than a month or two, or three, ago. That said, there is far more head banging when it comes to voting in the Top 25 especially with the amount of parity we see around the country. (Have I mentioned parity before, recently?)

This week was a mix of things for me. I remained confident with some teams, I had to make some really hard decisions on who to move up and how far despite less than stellar results. I also had to debate how far to move teams down and despite recent results if a team was still better than the group around where I was slotting them. I also had to move teams into slots I didn’t think they fit – a common theme for months now – while wondering if I was missing something on the outside.

Ohio Wesleyan very nearly made Dave’s ballot this week… and he continues to wonder why he didn’t pull the trigger.

There are actually teams with more losses than on my ballot who I think are playing better than teams with less losses. That is tough to gauge. For example, I seriously considered putting Ohio Wesleyan on my ballot and not in the bottom four slots. Remember, I had the Battling Bishops in my Top 5 in the preseason poll. I like what they have. But when you start 2-3 on the season and 7-6 turning into early January… it’s bad. It certainly isn’t a Top 25 team. Since then, OWU is on a ten-game winning streak and handling their business. But does a 17-6 team seriously have a place in the Top 25 ahead of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 loss teams? I have 6-loss teams on my poll, so why not? I have them ahead of those other types of programs, so why not? I didn’t pull the trigger this week, but as I write this I beg the question why I didn’t do it.

People ask all of the time, is the Top 25 a statement for how a team is doing over the course of the entire season or a snapshot of how they are right now. I personally think it is a combination and what kind of mixture that is is dependent on the team. What I determine for one team is not right for another. There are too many factors involved. One team’s defense may be better and I like that over another whose defense isn’t as good, but whose offense tends to flourish. I also look at schedules and conference foes to get a sense of how competitive games are. For some teams, I need to see dominating wins to have confidence in them. In another team, close finishes tells me more because of who they are playing and where those games are. I don’t have a cut-and-dry formula that works for all and thus why the process is several hours instead of several minutes.

I debate all of those things on a weekly basis. How is a team doing right now, has their season given me concern or confidence no matter the current results, are the current results starting to trump what I have seen on a season-wide scale, what is the conference doing, who is on their schedule, are they in a lull or a peak in conference opponents on their schedule. The questions and analysis are endless. Add in what I have seen in box scores and on video web streams and what people are telling me or answering to my questions. I may have missed on Ohio Wesleyan this week and maybe left a couple of teams in who should be gone, but let’s see what the next week brings to justify my decisions or justify my second-guessing.

As a reminder, here is how I voted the last few weeks:

Now on to my ballot for the D3hoops.com men’s basketball Top 25 with some thoughts, but not a lot (it is a busy week):

1 – Babson (Unchanged)

2 – Whitman (Unchanged)

3 – Christopher Newport (Up 1)

Rochester’s win over WashU was impressive enough to Dave to override the concern the Chicago loss initially created.

4 – Rochester (Down 1)
Yeah, I only moved the Yellowjackets down one despite losing this weekend to Chicago. I made a point of watching as much of the Rochester at WashU game as I could (after realizing it started an hour earlier than I expected). They controlled the Bears. There was no sign to me that Rochester isn’t as good as I expected them to be. They didn’t blow me away as a Top 5 team, but to be honest… NO ONE has blown me away as a Top 5 team besides maybe Babson. My expectations of a Top 5 team from five years ago has to change. There is too much talent across the board in Division III now. Rochester held WashU at arm’s length and didn’t let the game go into the Bears’s control. Their loss to Chicago, let’s be honest, wasn’t all that shocking. The Maroons are a very good team who have just picked up too many losses in a tough schedule. What I saw from Rochester in St. Louis gave me confidence on where I have them in my poll.

5 – Ramapo (Unchanged)

6 – UW-River Falls (Unchanged)

7 – Middlebury (Up 6)
The Panthers are surprising me. I know I had heard and read a lot of confidence in Middlebury from people early on this season, but I brushed it aside. There was nothing on this team that impressed me from two 17-win and one 18-win campaign in the last three seasons. I didn’t think they had grown. But in the last few weeks, I have been watching them very closely and they have been putting teams away. Just in the 2017 side of the campaign, they have won their games by a margin of 16.7 points per game while only having two losses and only one of those was bad (Williams: 89-65). They handed Amherst the head of it’s old mascot 106-91 over the weekend before rolling over Trinity. The Panthers are playing really, really well and if they keep this up may be the team no one wants to face come the NCAA tournament… especially as Tufts is banged up, Amherst is reeling, and everyone else in the Northeast except Babson seems to be stumbling.

8 – Whitworth (Up 1)

9 – Washington Univ. (Down 2)
Normally, I don’t move a team down very far when they have lost to a team I, at least, had them ranked behind. However, I thought about moving the Bears down further. I just wasn’t blown away with their effort against Rochester. I think WashU is a good team, but not Top 10 good. Then again, when I don’t think my Top 5 is really Top 5 caliber, maybe WashU being below what I think a Top 10 team goes with the territory. While I have to both get the WashU teams of old out of my head and stop comparing them… I also have to stop looking for something that blows me away. I just didn’t feel like WashU was worse than the teams below them and thus while my thinking was to move them down further… the answer is I couldn’t. So a combination of things including a cushion keeps WashU in my Top 10.

10 – Marietta (Up 1)

Hope’s overtime win to Trine gave Dave pause.

11 – Hope (Down 1)
The overtime game against Trine concerned me. I know Trine and the rest of the MIAA are subtly better than people realized, but I think Hope needs to be a bit more assertive if they are in my Top 10. I also thought Marietta is playing a bit better basketball as of right now, so I shifted the two teams.

12 – Salisbury (Up 2)

13 – St. Norbert (Down 1)
I have been double-guessing this since I submitted my ballot and had been debating this non-stop prior. There is something about the Green Knights I think is good, but they frustratingly don’t always show it. The Grinnell loss bugs me, but I also realized Grinnell might be playing with a little bit of fire after having to forfeit game due to some kind of screwed up paperwork or whatever allowed a player to be playing when he shouldn’t have (is how I read into the explanation). My counter argument is I am putting too much stock in the Grinnell emotions and didn’t pay attention enough to the fact that SNC lost a game they should have won – no matter the style being played… this isn’t new to them. The problem, not many teams below St. Norbert are blowing me away, either. So they “float” here at 13. Probably should be around 20… but this is no-man’s land for my ballot.

14 – Denison (Up 4)
I don’t have a great breakdown for why I moved the Big Red up four spots besides the fact that a number of losses above them coupled with not many teams around or below them blowing me away forced me to put teams in slots that are far higher than I would like (I think I have shown a few examples of this already).

Susquehanna and Steven Weidlich enter Dave’s Top 25 ballot at #15. Courtesy: Susquehanna Athletics

15 – Susquehanna (Unranked)
I missed the chance to see the River Hawks in person this year (due to the Division III soccer championships) and I have been a bit more critical. The Landmark conference is not that amazing at the top this year, though the middle and bottom have become more interesting. Scranton and Catholic are no where close to their NCAA-selves of the past, so should I put that much stock in Susquehanna beating Catholic last week? What got me to put Susq in this slot was (a) every time you think a game will derail them, they come back strong and haven’t had a losing streak all season and (b), they blow Catholic out of the water on Saturday (88-64). This was a tough game schedule wise as Goucher and Drew were on either sides… a loss in this trio of games would not have surprised me. Frank Marcinek really likes this squad and that says a lot. I’ll buy in … for now.

16 – New Jersey City  (Unchanged)

17 – Swarthmore (Up 4)

18 – Benedictine (Up 6)
Last week I indicated I was comfortable with the Eagles near the bottom of my ballot. They hadn’t done anything in conference except lose a game. Then a birdy pointed me to something I should have noticed on my own: in Benedictine’s nine-game winning stream since their loss to Concordia (Wis.), they have beaten their opponents by an average of 25.7 points per game! They have shot .540 in that stretch improving their season shooting to .514! They are only allowing 69.7 ppg which has brought their season average down to 70.8. Something about that game against the Falcons woke this Benedictine squad up. Sometimes there are times we see a “good” loss … this might have been it for a team that I have to remember brought back a ton of talent from last year’s national championship appearance.

19 – Guilford (Down 4)
I’ll be quick, the win over Randolph-Macon was just what the Quakers needed. The loss to Roanoke… ugly.

20 – Tufts (Down 1)

21 – Oswego State (Down 4)
For a team that needs to keep dominating, losing by one to Fredonia and then barely beating Buffalo State by one… not what I wanted to see from the Lakers to remain confident that Sortino and gang can actually get it done.

22 – UW-Whitewater (Down 2)
This breaks my rule about moving teams down when they lose to a team ranked above them. The shift was mainly because of teams I was moving around above and around UWW. Had they won, they probably wouldn’t have moved up very far because of that movement as well. More a testament of where I think the Falcons fit in on this poll and what is happening around them.

Hanover has become a team to watch in the HCAC, but how much do we really know about them? Courtesy: Hanover Athletics

23 – Hanover (Unranked)
I have been debating about the Panthers for weeks. The loss to Rose-Hulman gave me pause. They aren’t blowing their conference competition out of the water, but I also think the HCAC has improved at the top quite a bit (certainly gotten deeper). And they only have three-losses at this point in the season! Granted, I (spoiler alert) punted teams with two and three losses this week, but I think Hanover is playing better than those other squads.

24 – Wesleyan (Unranked)
The Cardinals keep yo-yoing on my ballot. However, I can’t ignore they slayed Amherst for the second time this season. I could have easily not voted for them and put another Wesleyan (Ohio) in here in their stead, but the decision with who follows (another spoiler alert) triggered this one. Sometimes deciding where a team goes on my ballot, if they get on it, and if they are taken off of it also depends on other teams. In this case, Wesleyan making the poll was based more on the fact that …

Amherst’s inability to keep a loss from turning into a losing streak concerns Dave who nearly pulled them from his ballot after being in the Top 10. Courtesy: Amherst Athletics

25 – Amherst (Down 17)
… that the purple As didn’t fall off my ballot. I debated a long time on this. I seriously contemplated dropping Amherst from my ballot despite them being 8th the week prior. The four-losses in six games in late January/early February gave me pause and I dropped them. They then moved up the poll and into the Top 10 after getting back to their winning ways (six straight) while other teams fell around them. I didn’t love them in my Top 10 – but that has been discussed. They then lost two in a row (OT against Wesleyan before being handled by MIidlebury) and I nearly gave up. What is odd is the concerns I had at the beginning of the season, that I nearly forgot, seem to be cropping up now. They proved me to me earlier that those concerns were hog-wash… until now. I just don’t think they are as strong or as deep as we are used from the LeFrak residents. So why didn’t I just simply remove them? I do still think Amherst has the ability to make a run in the NCAA tournament if they get back in the right mindset  – though, not Salem this year (and yes, I didn’t think they could have gotten to Salem last year if Babson had Flannery at 100%… or even 75%) and THAT is why I dropped them. However, if I think they can make a deep run, I can’t remove them. Furthermore, if I drop Amherst then I drop Wesleyan leaving me two spots open. I have already admitted I would have put Ohio Wesleyan in in that case, but I don’t know who my second team was. I wouldn’t have left in any of the teams I dropped and the others I was considering didn’t make as strong a case in my opinion. So, Amherst (and Wesleyan by default right now) stay… and I second-guess myself the rest of the week.

Dropped Out:

Neumann (Previously 22)
This was the only team that had a chance to stay on my ballot, honestly. But the loss to Rosemont kills me. This is not a shot at the Ravens who I think is a very improved team, but to stay on my ballot from the CSAC, you have to dominate the conference. The loss to Rosemont doesn’t prove that to me. As good as Neumann is, it seems they are still trying to figure out personnel and maybe overlooking opponents. Both of those are red flags for me.

St. Thomas return to Dave’s Top 25 was short-lived.

St. Thomas (Previously 23)
I seriously considered replacing the Tommies with Carleton which would have been that second team I mentioned I was looking for to replace Amherst and Wesleyan (to go along with OWU). Carleton beat St. Thomas to end their eight-game winning streak and extend  the Knights, then, 10-game winning streak. For St. Thomas, that loss concerned me for a squad that had turned it around and looked to be on it’s way to another MIAC regular season title. And I didn’t want to vote for Carleton, because I was worried the win would be the emotional climax and they would stumble after it. Interestingly, St. Thomas lost their next game maybe revealing their emotional climax had been reached and Carleton dominated in their next game maybe revealing a new team for my ballot next week.

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Previously 25)
I knew this would happen. Almost immediately after putting CMS back on my ballot for the second time this season and just after convincing myself they were going to continue dominating the SCIAC… they lost to Pomonoa-Pitzer and before they could stop the bleeding La Verne knocked them down another peg. Just can’t vote for CMS who went from having a Pool C chance if they needed it… to having to now win to get in to the NCAA tournament.

I think that about covers it. Don’t forget Hoopsville will be on air Wednesday afternoon shortly after the Regional Rankings are published and will be on air Thursday and Sunday nights starting at 7:00PM. Also, please consider donating to the Hoopsville Fundraising efforts. We want to stay on the air for years to come and your public television-esque support is very much appreciated.

And if you are looking for my thoughts from earlier in the year, here you go:
Week 10
Week 7
Week 5
Week 4
Week 2
Week 1

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot – Week 10

Whitworth moved up in another shake up of Dave’s Top 10 – and the rest of the Top 25

BRUTAL!

It always seems that once a year the day Regional Rankings are released there is carnage… or at least the week of that release. But I did NOT see last Wednesday coming or what would result the rest of the week. I figured we had another week before things might get a little crazy as teams are focused on conference postseasons and such.

Nope. Last week was brutal.

You may remember last week I blew up my ballot, considered at least 20 teams outside of my Top 25, shook up most of the ballot, and replaced four of the teams on my ballot. Whelp, this week was nearly the same. I ended up writing down and diving deep into 23 teams (meaning I was seriously considering 48 teams!), reshuffled nearly the entire Top 10, and blew up basically everything from about 17 down. It results in replacing five teams and shaking my head quite a bit.

I keep threatening to throw darts. I am not sure why I didn’t resort to that this week.

Not much else I can say. I saw a lot of games this week in person or online (though, I missed an awesome opportunity to see a Top 10 battle, which I talked about on Hoopsville Sunday) and really tried to give as many teams I have questions about a fair shake. It is just amazing how many teams that ends up including.

Plenty more to say about a lot of the teams on my ballot, and who fell off, so here we go:

1 – Augustana^ (Unchanged)

2 – Benedictine (Unchanged)

3 – Whitworth* (Up 2)

Christopher Newport has a lot of good pieces, including on the bench, which make them dangerous. Courtesy: Christopher Newport Athletics

4 – Christopher Newport* (Up 3)
I got a chance to see the Captains in person this weekend. Damn they are good. Granted, the York (Pa.) game isn’t exactly the best place to compare against, especially since YCP played hard in the second half to make it interesting for a brief moment. However, Christopher Newport has a ton of weapons and to paraphrase Scott Guise at YCP they have players coming off the bench who could start for a lot of teams in the Mid-Atlantic. I agree with Ryan Scott who said recently this is a team who could make serious run for Salem considering the bracket they will probably run through.

5 – Marietta (Up 5)
The Pioneers put their foot down on the Great Lakes region this past week. Beating both Mount Union and John Carroll, they proved that the OAC and possibly those wanting to go to Salem via the Great Lakes will have to go through Marietta to get it done. Very impressive. Certainly a statement week. Here’s hoping the Pioneers use it to keep themselves motivated, versus losing focus after two major games.

6 – St. Thomas* (Down 2)

7 – Hope (Down 1)

John Carroll lost control of their season, ever so slightly, last week.

8 – John Carroll (Down 5)
Rough week for the Blue Streaks… who saw their 21-game win-streak to start the season come to an end. I wouldn’t have dinged them too much for losing to Baldwin Wallace first, though not the team I expected them to lose to, but they couldn’t regain their footing before Marietta kept them streaking in the wrong direction. I still think John Carroll is a dangerously good team, but they have to forget about these two losses with Mount Union up next and then a good showing needed in the conference tournament if they want to enter the NCAA Tournament strong.

9 – Ohio Wesleyan (Down 1)
I thought about moving the Battling Bishops down a little further after another odd loss, this time to Wabash, but there is a buffer below them where I don’t think the teams below are better. However, it is another head-scratching loss for Ohio Wesleyan. I hope they haven’t peaked too early and are running out of gas. A lot of teams this part of the season are licking their wounds from the grind and OWU is clearly in that boat, but they have to find a way to recover, rest, and respond… because they missed a prime opportunity to regain first place in the NCAC for themselves by losing to Wabash.

10 – Elmhurst (Down 1)

St. Norbert is still undefeated in conference. A feat that has them readily moving up the IIAC.

11 – St. Norbert (Up 2)

12 – Lancaster Bible (Up 2)

13 – Johnson and Wales (Down 2)
I actually figured the way the Wildcats were blistering the conference they would go undefeated in the GNAC. They proved that point by thumping Lasell (who is second in the conference) earlier last week, but Albertus Magnus made up for a 55-point beatdown earlier in the season with a confident eight-point win on Saturday. I give AMC’s Mitch Oliver most of the credit for that win considering his ability to adjust, but the Wildcats need to be a bit like Teflon and let that loss slide off and get back to work in the final week of the season before the conference tournament begins.

14 – Susquehanna^ (Down 2)

15 – Alma (Unchanged)

16 – Whitman (Up 1)

17 – Amherst^ (Up 3)

Plattsburgh State wants to make sure they are wearing white during the SUNYAC tournament.

18 – Plattsburgh State (Down 2)
Wow! The Cardinals got blitzed by Oswego State! At first, I thought about dropping Plattsburgh State significantly as a result, but then I considered two things: Oswego is playing really well (though digging out of an early season hole) and there really aren’t that many teams below Plattsburgh I would feel comfortable putting ahead of them. That one loss doesn’t change the fact they are in control of the SUNYAC which will mean a lot of teams making a very long trip to try and knock them off.

North Central (Ill.) finally cracked into Dave’s Top 25.

19 – North Central (Ill.) (Unranked)
OK… I am ranking the Cardinals. I still have some reservations with North Central, but they finally got a win I have been waiting for. NCC has played a lot of good teams this season, which means their have an incredible SOS, a respectable number of regionally ranked opponents, and more. However, they can’t seem to get a significant win until last week and some of their resume has faded near the end of the season (Chicago, Mount Union, etc.). So, I am ranking North Central this week, but I am rather confident they will lose at least one more game in the next two weeks (in the CCIW tournament) if they don’t do it first on the road against North Park this weekend.

20 – Rochester* (Unranked)
The UAA is just crazy this year! This was Chicago’s to take just a few weeks ago and all of the sudden it is Rochester who has won eight straight and sits in a tie with Emory on top of the rankings. And with three games to play, NYU and Chicago are only two games back waiting for Rochester and Emory to stumble. But back to the Yellow Jackets who, like I said, have won eight straight including beating NYU who beat Emory this weekend. Rochester is also well positioned in the first regional rankings and after this weekend I can’t imagine that changes … meaning if the UAA is going to get an extra bid to the NCAA Tournament, Rochester might be their best bet – if they don’t surprisingly win the conference!

Babson returns to Dave’s ballot thanks to winning 11 of their last 12 games.

21 – Babson^ (Unranked)
Hard to ignore the Beavers any more. They have won seven straight and 11 of their last 12 and taken firm control of the NEWMAC race. In the grand scheme of things, their five losses aren’t bad, though only one or two are “good” (Amherst and Tufts). However, this is how I expected this team to play this season and maybe they have found themselves at the perfect time to make a respectable run back to Salem.

22 – Virginia Wesleyan^ (Unranked)
Quietly, the Marlins are reemerging as the team to beat out of the South Region. Dave Macedo has gotten the squad pointed in the right direction and they have now won 9 of their last 10 (though, Randolph-Macon trounced them) and 12 of their last 14. But, I am a little nervous. They are still not dominating teams, though it looks like they have figured out how to scrap for wins and win tight games which where letting slip through their hands earlier this season. They are also now on top of the ODAC.. but that doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things because no match-up at the Salem Civic Center appears to be easy this year – or any year for that matter.

Tufts will due battle in the NESCAC conference tournament starting this weekend.

23 – Tufts (Unranked)
I have been watching Tufts for weeks. And while they have a recent loss to Trinity that has me uneasy (and debating about putting Trinity here instead), there is something about how Bob Sheldon’s team is play – including an impressive win over Amherst recently – that I like. Though, I will admit I didn’t like it necessarily last week. They have at least followed up the win with more wins. Coincidently they finished with a win on the road at Williams Saturday and will have a rematch this Saturday in the NESCAC quarterfinals (at Trinity). That is something that could easily derail the Jumbos if they don’t watch out.

24 – Northwestern (Minn.) (Down 3)
No major reasons I have been moving Northwestern down my ballot except I have been making room for teams I think are better than the Eagles. However, I will say when I see their SOS this week is unofficially** a .399 I get very concerned. Northwestern has basically played no one, especially in the UMAC. And while that didn’t mean much last season leading them to an incredible run in the NCAA Tournament… I think it is a telling sign this season. They also are not going to get into the tournament unless they take care of business in the UMAC tournament.

PSU-Behrend nearly dropped out of Dave’s Top 25 after losing to Medaille last week.

25 – PSU-Behrend (Down 7)
Not only did they lose a conference game they shouldn’t be losing, but there are other teams surging that need to get put ahead of them in the poll – thus a drop of seven spots for the Lions. Here is another team basically in a win-the-conference-or-go-home boat – as they were last year when they missed out on the tournament. They may only have two losses, but Behrend doesn’t feel like a Top 25 team anymore… though I am staying with them for right now.

Dropped Out:

Mount Union (Previously 19)
For as good a week as Marietta had, Mount Union and John Carroll had the opposite. The problem with the Purple Raiders is they now have seven losses and are 4-4 in their last eight. Three HUGE games coming up including against John Carroll. If Mount Union wants to put together any hope for an at-large argument (assuming, thus, they have lost in the conference tournament), they cannot lose those three. (Of course, after I wrote this blog, but before i posted it, they lost to Muskingum on Monday night.)

Wooster (Previously 22)
Just when I thought the Scots had figured things out, they stumble again. You quickly forget about wins over Ohio Wesleyan when you come back and lose to Hiram. I know Hiram is a much improved team, that isn’t the issue. The issue is Wooster isn’t consistent this season and thus I am not comfortable with them in my Top 25.

Emory let the UAA lead slip out of their grip, but three games remain in what can only be described as a chaotic conference race.

Emory (Previously 23)
Just when I buy in, they stumble, too. I am not one of those voters who thinks NYU is a great team (or at least a Top 25 team), thus the loss by Emory is not a good one in my book. They had a chance to keep control of the UAA, but now put themselves in a must-win situation. Their saving grace is their insane SOS (.600) which will probably still keep them in the at-large conversation in a very loss-heavy South Region in less than two weeks.

Aurora (Previously 24)
Eh. Another team I buy into and suffers a loss I can’t explain or understand. It isn’t that Concordia (Wis.) is a bad team, but if Aurora is a Top 25 team they win that game. I like Aurora, but I don’t like that loss. It was part of the carnage, I realize. But when you are at the bottom of a voter’s ballot, any slip up will most likely cost you.

F&M is still a work in progress for a program that has been maybe over achieving since last season.

Franklin & Marshall* (Previously 25)
I got a chance to finally see the Diplomats in person this year (I usually see them at least once, more likely twice a season; saw a lot of them on video streams this year) and I wasn’t impressed. What I saw equaled what the voice in the back of my head had been saying for a long time. They have some nice players, but the starting five has a few holes and they cannot play consistent or a full 40 minutes. I saw a team that got frustrated at the drop of a hat and Johns Hopkins (who they were playing against) took full advantage when their only true inside presence had to take a break for foul trouble. What is also telling: when F&M fans I know tell me they don’t think the Diplomats are a Top 25 team, either (no, I am not going to name names).

* – teams I have seen in person this season
^ – teams I have saw in person last season
** – the number comes from Matt Snyder’s SOS math which last week was proven to be nearly identical to the NCAA’s data. You can find it here along with his regional predictions based on that data here.

Previous Ballots:

Week 9
Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

So now that we have gotten that out of the way, how this season has played out so far… I am bound to replace half of this Top 25 in the next two weeks as conference seasons come to a close and conference tournaments turn everything on its head. It has been an unbelievable year so far… why wouldn’t the last two weeks of the regular season be any different.

Buckle up… this is going to be fun… and insane.

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot: Week 5

Augustana remains the top team on my ballot despite a loss.

I’d be lying if I told you I don’t think about my Top 25 ballot throughout the week. I think about the next ballot from about the moment I submit the current week’s ballot until I vote the following week. However, I don’t think I have focused on my ballot more during any week than I did this week. For obvious reasons.

On Wednesday night, I watched one of the more exciting and well played in-season basketball games in a long time. That or the fact I got to see two top five programs dual it out into overtime two days after a classic of a game between #1 and #2 in Division I swayed me. Either way, Augustana and Elmhurst played a whale of a game that needed five more minutes and smart officiating to be decided.

I knew from the moment the game ended and Elmhurst won that there was a lot to think about. And it would have ramifications all the way down the ballot. I hinted at my thinking then on Thursday night’s Hoopsville and talked about the debate I had going on in my head not only about who do I consider voting for number one, but how other teams who didn’t even play in the game factor in.

It was also another crazy week in terms of losses. The top two-thirds of my ballot was relatively quiet (thank you gentlemen!), but the last eleven teams accounted for nine losses. Nine of the entire ten in my ballot (the tenth being Augustana). That caused me to go out on some limbs, get aggressive with some cuts, and debate about blowing the entire thing up. However, considering the top 14 teams did not lose (outside of Augustana), blowing up the entire ballot didn’t seem like the right thing to do.

So there were two major shuffles: at the top where deciding on the number one team had ramifications all the way down to the ninth spot on the ballot; at the bottom where the final eleven spots saw four new teams and a bit of back-and-forth as to where to slot people.

With that in mind… let’s get to the ballot!

1 – Augustana^ (Unchanged)
My thoughts on Thursday’s Hoopsville (further explained on Sunday’s show) ended up holding true. I thought about this several times a day since they lost on Wednesday. As I stated in last week’s blog, I knew Augustana was not going to get through the CCIW schedule undefeated (there is a reason no one has since 1973).

“Will Augustana go unfazed through conference action – NO! I expect Augustana to take a loss or two before we get to the NCAA tournament, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t think they are the best team in the country.”

If I knew that, then I am expecting my number one team to lose. Considering they lost to the second best team in the conference, on the road, by two points, in overtime said a lot to me. The Vikings had lost a game that no one should be surprised they lost. This isn’t a loss at home to Millikin or Carthage. It’s to a team I had second in my pre-season ballot and furthermore it was on the road for Augustana. And I’ve said this before, I don’t believe that just because a team wins a single game head-to-head that they automatically should be considered the better team. I still think Augustana is the best team in the country.

Elmhurst didn’t get my first place vote, but they moved up significantly after beating Augustana in overtime.

2 – Elmhurst (Up 5)
Beat the number one team in the country, on your floor, and in overtime… well done. THIS is the Blue Jays squad I expected in the pre-season. Not the team that lost to Benedictine by 20 (more on that shortly). Elmhurst played extremely well and deserve the victory. They came from behind in the second half and overtime while also giving up leads throughout the game. What do you expect from two very, very good basketball teams? I debated about making Elmhurst number one, but I don’t feel they can repeat this feat at Augustana nor do I feel if this game had been at Augustana the outcome, a win, would have been repeated. If played ten times, I think Augustana wins a majority of the games so thus, Elmhurst is number two.

3 – Whitworth* (Down 1)
It’s not what the Pirates did or didn’t do, it’s what Elmhurst did that precipitated this move. I did consider Whitworth for the top slot. However, I have seen the Pirates in person this year and Augustana both on video this year and in person at the Championship Weekend last year. I just don’t think Whitworth would be able to beat Augustana right now. They may have to do it in the NCAA tournament (because the Pirates always ended up in the toughest bracket), but right now they move down a spot just so I can put Elmhurst number two.

4 – Hope (Down 1)
Same as Whitworth; needed to find room for Elmhurst. Another team I certainly considered, but if I had them behind Whitworth and said not to the Pirates, I don’t feel Hope has done anything as of late to change my mind.

5 – St. Thomas* (Down 1)
I feel like copying and pasting what I said for Whitworth and Hope and pasting it in here. Same reason(s). A win over Bethel is a nice feather, but expected. Not enough to warrant leap-frogging those ahead of them last week.

6 – Benedictine (Up 3)
Here is the most challenging team on my ballot. The Eagles are undefeated and they beat Elmhurst by 20. At least one voter decided they were worthy enough to get a number one vote. I can only assume that is based on the Benedictine beat Carthage, Carthage beat Augustana, thus Benedictine would also beat Augustana theory. It is a theory I just can’t buy into. I realize there are a ton of factors at play with every single game making no game equal. So, I am not one to buy into head-to-head should trump all or that you can play the Team A beat Team B, Team B beat Team C, thus Team A is better than Team C game. Benedictine is clearly a good team, but in a sub-par conference. They clearly have gotten it done out of conference (five games, five opponents from the CCIW). My concern is someone in their conference is going to beat them and that will raise more questions than it answers. I also don’t think Benedictine would be able to beat Augustana. So I moved the Eagles up, but I’m not sure I can move them much higher.

7 – Ohio Wesleyan (Down 2)
More moving of teams to find slots. I needed to get Elmhurst and Benedictine higher, so Ohio Wesleyan moved down. It has nothing to do with the Battling Bishops except I think those other two squads are better right now.

8 – Susquehanna^ (Unchanged)

Amherst got back to their winning ways after the Rhodes loss last week.

9 – Amherst (Down 2)
Again, moving down to create room. I am not blown away by the Lord Jeffs this season, but it isn’t like Dave Hixon doesn’t put together a solid program. Top 10 feels safe.

10 – John Carroll (Unchanged)

11 – Christopher Newport (Unchanged)

12 – Marietta (Unchanged)

13 – Chicago^ (Unchanged)

14 –Mount Union (Unchanged)

15 – WPI (Up 3)
At this point in my ballot last week is where teams started to lose thus creating a vacuum. WPI is having a good season, better than I expected which makes me leery. I know others are buying in. I am being cautious with the Engineers for right now. Granted, a win over an also-better-than-expected MIT squad was a good sign this week.

16 – Tufts (Unranked)
I have had my eye on Tufts for a while, but was sure if they were as good as advertised. The season started “eh” with losses to MIT and WPI and close games against opponents I figured they would dominate… so I waited. Then they beat Babson^, but I waited some more. Then they beat Whitman in a very high-scoring affair and I got intrigued, but wasn’t buying in. This week they rolled over Bowdoin and creamed Colby, two teams who have been getting Top 25 attention and are having very good seasons, especially Colby, and I decided to buy in. Now jumping to the 16th spot is a big jump for a team I was waiting on, but that vacuum created in this area of the poll needed to be filled. Their two wins I thought were better than what those lower on this ballot had put together for resume points, so here the Jumbos sit. Middlebury, Hamilton, and Wesleyan ahead.

17 – UW-Whitewater (Unranked)
Getting a bunch of transfers in to replace a ton of talent may be the new way to go in the WIAC! It clearly seems things are coming together nicely now for the Warhawks as they steamrolled through UW-Stout and then handed UW-Stevens Point their second loss in a row. My thinking has been the top of the WIAC has come down a bit this season, but the Warhawks are proving there may be a national contender in the making after all from the state of Wisconsin.

18 – Texas Lutheran (Up 2)
Winning the games in conference they are supposed to win. I am hoping to see them this coming weekend in person, but it is looking doubtful due to schedule conflicts.

19 – Northwestern (Up 2)
Also continue to win the games they are supposed to win. I appreciate that when it happens as it is easy to get complacent and trip up.

20 – Roanoke (Unranked)
I’ve been watching what the Maroons have been up to since the beginning of the season, but didn’t want to buy in ahead of a major victory. They got that last week. Page Moir’s squad is clicking on all cylinders. They even beat a Division I opponent which counts as a loss for North Carolina A&T, but not for the Maroons (exhibition). In almost all of those games, Roanoke has put up 100+ points (eight of their 13 games). And then they went and beat Virginia Wesleyan AT the Fish Tank! Roanoke is on top of the ODAC and playing some of the best basketball I have seen from this program in a very long time. I am actually excited just writing this because Page Moir is one of the best guys in Division III and I couldn’t have been happier to write down “Roanoke” on my ballot. Now the tough part: The target is on their back with Hampden-Sydney and Randolph-Macon coming up this week.

Trine has emerged as a dangerous team in the MIAA.

21 – Trine (Down 2)
Trine didn’t win both of their games this past week, but considering their loss was to a better-than-their-record Calvin squad, I am not surprised. What stood out to me was a comment by a MIAA follower on D3boards.com that stated Trine was “everything they said they are” which I took as a compliment. The MIAA race is deeper at the top than I expected, though I can’t see Hope not winning it, and it’s because teams like Trine have developed incredibly well while everyone has been watching Hope and Calvin.

22 – Bethel (Unchanged)
According to the polls (mine and the D3hoops.com poll from last week) the loss to St. Thomas was expected. Thus, no changes here.

23 – Brooklyn (Down 8)
For as great a start to the season it was for the Bulldogs, they aren’t stay very consistent right now. The eight spots is a bit harsh, but the vacuum created by them and others further up caused a bit of a fall after their loss to Baruch. I am just not seeing the same dominance they showed at the beginning of the season. Granted, the CUNYAC is far more difficult that people are giving it credit for this season. However, Brooklyn needs to focus on winning the games they should if they want to secure an at-large bid should Lehman or others win the conference AQ.

24 – St. Norbert (Unchanged)

Courtesy: Franklin and Marshall Athletics

Franklin & Marshall’s Glenn Robinson thanking the crowd celebrating his 900th career win.

25 – Franklin & Marshall^ (Unranked)
I am slipping the Diplomats onto my poll, though nervously. I have not bought in as many other voters have with this squad. I still see a number of weaknesses and I am not sure they can dominate a sub-par, compared to seasons past, Centennial Conference as they seem to be doing right now. However, I watched most of their game against up-and-coming Swarthmore and was impressed with how composed they were and how much they willed themselves to victory over a team that wouldn’t quit. Now, they were also playing to get Glenn Robinson his 900th victory (congratulations once again), so that may have been the driving force. And that is what worries me. They have hit the milestone mark that was on this season’s schedule. Can they continue to win now that the emotional mark has been passed?

Dropped Out:

Stockton^ (Previously 16)
Losing three in a row, no longer the leader of a crazy NJAC, and certainly not looking like their dominating selves, it was time to punt on the Ospreys. There just isn’t anyone in the NJAC worth noting in the Top 25 right now because they are beating themselves up. Even conference leader New Jersey City (6-1) has an “eh” overall record of 8-5. Stockton could have taken advantage of William Paterson’s major stumble at the beginning of the season, but in turn has stumbled themselves. Conference coaches may be right that the NJAC is the most difficult conference top to bottom, one through ten, but they are not the best conference nationally if the top of the conference can’t at least be a dominating team(s).

Oswego State (Previously 17)
I debated about this. The Lakers lost only the second game going into this poll, but they lost by 38 to Oneonta State. Ugly isn’t the right word. I have been high on Oswego for most of the season, but they are in the middle of what is now a crowded race in the SUNYAC which sees two-thirds of the conference fighting it out at the top. If I am voting for Oswego, then I have to find room for Cortland, Plattsburgh, Buffalo State, Oneonta, etc. They all have nine-wins (Oswego with eight) and no more than three losses. But there isn’t enough room for those four squads, so Oswego comes out and I watch the SUNYAC race ever closer to try and figure out who is playing the best basketball amongst a lot of very good teams.

Scranton* (Previously 23)
Three games in the Landmark Conference this past week was a true test. It wrapped up six games in twelve days for the Royals who came out of it 5-1. So why drop the Royals from my ballot? It was a hard debate, but at least I got to see Scranton in person before making my decision. It came down to the fact they lost to Susquehanna on their home court by 15. The result was expected per the poll, but you can’t lose that game by 15 in your own gum. Then the Royals played one of the more incredible games shooting wise against Goucher on the road and had to come from 13 down in the second half along with getting bailed out thanks to a dumb foul by a Goucher played in the final five seconds to pull off a one-point victory. I am not faulting them for the game at Goucher as both teams shot over 57% for the game, but I saw some inconsistencies that worried me – mainly, the ability to get into an offense that is dominating and then as quickly as they got into it go away from it for no reason taking their foot off an opponent’s throat. I also saw Catholic this past week and think in many ways, but for different reasons, the two squads are evenly matched (yet again) and don’t feel comfortable voting for both. Scranton is out for now, but with Catholic on the horizon, they could easily be back in the poll soon.

Pacific Lutheran* (Previously 25)
Well that didn’t last long. I thought the Lutes looked really good at the D3hoops.com Classic. They then laid an egg twice against Linfield and George Fox both on the road. Not pretty. Those two losses are going to stick with me for a while should I ever consider Pacific Lutheran again.

* – teams I have seen in person this season
^ – teams I saw in person last season

Previous Ballots:
Week 4
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

Another crazy week in the Top 25. The middle of my ballot seems pretty solid, right now, which is saying a lot considering how wide open it had been from about number six down. Of course, that could change next week completely. Moving forward I have probably 70 teams I am watching to some degree and constantly realize I need to add another team to the list. There is only so much time I can give to these votes, so having a team slip through isn’t unheard of nor unexpected. At the same time, this is the time of year when usually I can start narrowing the list dramatically since the grind of conference season will weed out the pretenders. That being said, this year has proven to not fit any of the usual voting rhythms, so I am sure I will be on a plane headed back from Texas next Sunday wondering how much of Monday will be spent tearing my ballot a part.

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 12

This week the top half of the ballot was pretty simple, the bottom half… yeah… well… here we go again.

It is just difficult to really figure out who the best 25 teams are in the country this season. If I don’t have 40 teams I am considering, I am not spending enough time on the project each week. In other words, the more time I spend, the more teams I add to the list. Sure, it would be easy to save myself the time and the patience and just go with a short number of teams. However, this season I have had the bad feeling that I am missing out on someone or there is a team flying under the radar I just haven’t paid enough attention to. As a result, I keep looking around and finding others I want to at least consider – dive into their numbers and season and see what I find. Usually that leads me to teams like Penn State-Behrend, Southern Vermont, or others who have gaudy records, low SOS numbers, below-average conferences, and interesting out-of-conference results. Sometimes I wait these teams out a little longer; other times I go with my gut and add them. In all cases, I am waiting for my gut to be wrong (maybe I am a pessimist at this whole thing – especially this year).

This week, I certainly had 40 teams – leaving myself 25 teams to slot into the final ten spots. I decided to cut bait on some teams that are just not finishing the season well while waiting a couple others out. I left some teams out that probably deserve to be in; I left some on the ballot that probably need to go. It is a lose-lose scenario sometimes.

One thing I know for sure… in a week’s time… I suspect I will be throwing my entire ballot out and starting over. Does anyone really think the majority of the Top 25 is going to get through conference tournaments unscathed?

As always before we begin, here is a look at last week’s ballot:

1 – Randolph-Macon
2 – UW-Whitewater
3 – Babson
4 – St. Thomas
5 – Augustana
6 – St. Norbert
7 – WPI
8 – UW-Stevens Point
9 – Virginia Wesleyan
10 – Dickinson
11 – Marietta
12 – Albertus Magnus
13 – St. John Fisher
14 – Emory
15 – Johns Hopkins
16 – Ohio Wesleyan
17 – Elmhurst
18 – Chapman
19 – Whitworth
20 – Catholic
21 – Wooster
22 – New York Univ.
23 – St. Olaf
24 – Washington Univ.
25 – Penn State-Behrend

And now on to this week’s ballot with some explanations for some of the moves:

1 – Randolph-Macon* (Unchanged)
First undefeated ODAC season in program history and the first ODAC team to accomplish the feat since 2001 (Hampden-Sydney)… impressive! Now they have to get through the ODAC tournament at the Salem Civic Center. A gauntlet that has tripped up many a top-seed… including the Yellow Jackets just last year.

2 – UW-Whitewater (Unchanged)

3 – Babson (Unchanged)

4 – Augustana (Up 1)

5 – St. Thomas (Down 1)
I thought about moving the Tommies down even further than just one spot, but I just can’t move them below some teams right now. I am worried about consistency from St. Thomas. You can’t go and blow the socks off a team like St. Olaf on the road and then roll over against Bethel at home if you are really that good this year and want to make a decent run in the NCAA tournament. The advantage UST has is they will probably be on the road at least to start the NCAA tourney (women get rights to host first weekend), but that loss could have also cost St. Thomas a hosting chance at hosting the second weekend.

6 – St. Norbert (Unchanged)
Another undefeated season in the MWC. Wow. This is a really good team, it appears. But they are really going to have to prove themselves in the NCAA tournament because I just don’t see a way for them to avoid a major Central Region team in the first weekend.

7 – WPI* (Unchanged)

8 – UW-Stevens Point (Unchanged)

9 – Virginia Wesleyan (Unchanged)
If there is one thing I will say about the Marlins… who have they really beaten? They finished second in the ODAC and got beat by Randolph-Macon in some very good games, but I am starting to get nervous that Virginia Wesleyan doesn’t have a signature win this season. Are the Marlins overrated? Just stuff I ponder, but sure I believe just yet.

10 – Marietta (Up 1)

11 – Albertus Magnus (Up 1)
Despite a really close call to Emmanuel (buzzer beater to force overtime and then win going away), I just don’t have anywhere else to put other teams. Those now below AMC didn’t seem to deserve being ahead of the Falcons. I really hope AMC doesn’t trip in the conference tournament risking the chance to make the NCAA tournament, because I think the Falcons could be dangerous. I just don’t know what kind of match-ups are in store for AMC.

12 – Dickinson (Down 3)
The Red Devils are worrying me. They aren’t finishing the season strong. I still think they make the NCAA tournament even if they lose in the semifinals against Franklin & Marshall* on Friday, but the way Dickinson lost to F&M on Saturday is a little concerning. That’s three losses in the last five games with a win over Johns Hopkins in the middle. I probably should have moved Dickinson down a little more. Here’s hoping the talented senior class decides this is not how their careers is going to end – stumbling to the finish.

13 – Emory (Up 1)

14 – Johns Hopkins* (Up 1)
I debated about flipping the Blue Jays and Dickinson, but decided the recent win by Dickinson was good enough to not make that move. However, Johns Hopkins may very well be the better team of the two. The blue-collar, bring a lunch pail to work mentality to this team doesn’t overwhelm you when you watch them, but they get the job done. Hopkins is one of those dark horses who might surprise in a few weeks.

15 – Ohio Wesleyan (Up 1)

16 – Whitworth (Up 3)

17 – St. John Fisher (Down 4)
Not the time of the year to start losing! The Cardinals lost to Alfred and Stevens in the last three games – all in the past week – but luckily had such a commanding lead in the Empire 8 it didn’t cost them. However, it might be hard to get the right match-ups in the NCAA tournament now and if St. John Fisher loses again they might be out as a host the first weekend! Talk about all that hard work being for nothing. Hopefully SJF takes flight again and finds their mojo!

18 – Wooster (Up 3)

19 – Washington Univ.* (Up 5)
Ok… good weekend for the Bears. Beat Brandeis and New York Univ.* to make up for the lousy trip to New York City last month. Despite a crazy season, Washington Univ. is positioned to win the UAA title and get the automatic bid to the tournament. They just have to get past Chicago* which handed them one of their worst losses of the season. The one thing going for Wash U – Chicago has to go to St. Louis. It will be a mini-conference title game between the Bears and Maroons with Emory hoping for just the right outcome (along with a win) to take the title from both of them!

20 – St. Mary’s (Md.) (Unranked)
Here’s one of those teams that might have been flying under the radar. I took a long, hard look at the Seahawks this week. They are 20-4 right now (producing their sixth 20-win season in the last seven years), they are on a 12-game winning streak, and they haven’t had a “close” game (less than double-digits) since a five point win over Mary Washington on February 4. They may not have a great SOS (thanks to losing two games and a lousy bottom part of the conference), but they are also markedly improved from the team that lost to Eastern Mennonite and Delaware Valley* to start the season. Could I be buying in a little too much? Maybe. But this team could create some nasty match-up problems in the NCAA tournament. Who knows… maybe the year no one was paying attention to SMC was the perfect year for them.

21 – Catholic* (Down 1)
I can’t say I was surprised Catholic lost to Scranton* on the road. Scranton needed that win badly and playing in the Long Center is anything but easy. It did bring to the end a 15 game winning streak. The Landmark Conference tournament still goes through Washington, DC and hopefully CUA realizes that loss is the perfect jolt to their season.

22 – Southern Vermont (Unranked)
Hmm… could the Mountaineers be one of the most underrated teams in the Northeast? Ok, I might be going a little too far, but considering Southern Vermont hasn’t lost since a close game against Bates on January 3 and has gone undefeated in a conference they hadn’t won more than 10 games in … ever … SVC may be a team to watch. They once again started the season with a win over Williams, but hard to read them with a ho-hum out-of-conference schedule. But as I have said in the past, I look at win streaks this time of year with a little extra credit… 15-straight for the Mountaineers means they haven’t beaten themselves just yet.

23 – Penn State-Behrend (Up 2)

24 – St. Olaf (Down 1)
I am tried not to jump to too many conclusions with the Oles lost to St. Thomas. Yes, it was on their home court and, yes, it wasn’t close. Those are all big concerns for me. However, St. Olaf is 21-4 and that is a significant mark for this squad. Maybe I should be cutting bait like I did last time, however I also regretted that move a week later. Let’s see how St. Olaf does in the MIAC tournament.

25 – Elmhurst (Down 8)
They played one game this week and got blown out on the road at Illinois Wesleyan. I know the CCIW is tough this season, but at some point you have to stand up and at least be competitive in a game you had a week to prepare for! Those are all the reasons I probably should have dropped the Blue Jays from my ballot. The only reason I didn’t… I just couldn’t argue anyone else ahead of them right now. Or I could, but I wasn’t confident in them either. Rematch with IWU (at Augustana) is coming this week.

Dropped out:

Chapman (Previously 18)
Chapman is struggling to keep it together, it would appear. They have lost four of their last eight in groupings of two-at-a-time and have lost two of those games to 9-15 Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer. I know the SCIAC is “interesting” this season, but Chapman might be running out of gas at the wrong time in the season. And watch out… a red-hot Caltech team is coming to town Tuesday night. I just can’t keep riding on the Panthers bandwagon right now.

New York Univ.* (Previously 22)
Guh. Talk about not matching what I have seen in person. The Violets jumped into the national conversation with a pretty darn good weekend at home against Wash U* and Chicago*, but just haven’t been able to keep up the pressure since including losing badly to Wash U (97-75) and Chicago (77-60) on the road this past weekend. I think NYU is a dangerous team if they make the NCAA tournament. The problem is I think they just ended any hope of playing in the NCAAs with this past weekend’s results.

* – teams I have seen in person versus most who I have seen on video.

Previous ballots:
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 11

This week was hard. Plain and simple. Hard.

The most challenging part was picking a number one team. Simply put: who really is the best team in the country this season? There is no way there will be a consensus pick (as I write this before the rankings have been published). I ended up coming down to picking between four teams. I could see an argument for six.

I considered St. Thomas, UW-Whitewater, Randolph-Macon, and Babson and eventually went with … Randolph-Macon. It wasn’t easy. I probably thought about the number one vote in some capacity for three or so hours. I mulled over schedules, results, SOS numbers, lottery numbers, quantum physics, and even threw a dart or two. Every single team I considered had results on their schedules I didn’t like, flaws with their teams, and concerns with the last two weeks. There just wasn’t a team that jumped up and looked like a number one team.

But it got harder after that. So many teams once again lost last week. I had twelve losses on my previous ballot. Not a record, but certainly not good. I tried to stick with many of the “rules” I had set to governing how I moved teams around, but some of those rules (like losing to a team ranked ahead of you) got me in trouble with leaving teams on my ballot that really argued to not be there anymore. And of course with a season so wide open, there are far more teams I am considering for the Top 25 than I have room for on my ballot.

As always before we begin, here is a look at last week’s ballot:

1 – St. Thomas
2 – UW-Whitewater
3 – Marietta
4 – Randolph-Macon
5 – Babson
6 – Virginia Wesleyan
7 – St. Norbert
8 – Augustana
9 – WPI
10 – Dickinson
11 – Chapman
12 – Albertus Magnus
13 – St. John Fisher
14 – UW-Stevens Point
15 – Johns Hopkins
16 – Emory
17 – Ill. Wesleyan
18 – Ohio Wesleyan
19 – Whitworth
20 – Elmhurst
21 – Catholic
22 – Wooster
23 – New York Univ.
24 – Washington Univ.
25 – Chicago

And now on to this week’s ballot with some explanations for some of the moves:

1 – Randolph-Macon* (Up 4)
I’d be lying if I told you this felt comfortable. The loss at home to Frostburg State on November 30 still bothers me. But here is the kicker: The Yellow Jackets haven’t loss since. 18 straight. And with an ever larger target on their back, Randolph-Macon continues to get the job done even when the games might not be pretty. We already know RMC is playing in one of the toughest conferences in the country, but they have also beaten everyone including Virginia Wesleyan twice. Undefeated in the ODAC with two to play… that just doesn’t happen! In fact, the last time a team went undefeated in the ODAC was 2000 (Hampden-Sydney)!

2 – UW-Whitewater (Unchanged)
It came down to the fact I couldn’t knock the Warhawks for losing to a certainly underrated UW-Stevens Point squad. Furthermore, Whitewater didn’t have probably their best player on the floor due to apparently a personal matter (just as Stevens Point didn’t have their best player on the floor due to injury when the two teams first met). Maybe I am giving the Warhawks a little too much credit since they have three losses – two of them in Division III. However, there is something unflappable about UWW that just makes me feel fine with them at number two.

3 – Babson (Up 2)
I think the Beavers are underrated. They have lost twice to very good teams, Bates and WPI, and avenged that conference loss to WPI* a few weeks ago. Certainly they have had some tight games, but they are winning and getting contributions deep on their bench. They have also played a far more difficult schedule than people want to give them credit for including wins over Bowdoin and Amherst this season.

4 – St. Thomas (Down 3)
I actually debated about leaving the Tommies in first despite their loss. Heck, UW-Whitewater would have moved up one despite a loss if I had given them number one slot. However, it came down to the fact St. Thomas lost to a middle-of-the-MIAC team in Concordia-Moorhead and thus couldn’t put the MIAC regular season title further out of reach with three games left to play. Call it a mental lapse. That loss to Moorhead is worse than the loss to Stevens Point for Whitewater and thus why the Tommies fell three spots.

5 – Augustana (Up 3)
Not only did the Vikings get a big win over Illinois Wesleyan in dominating fashion on the road (82-56), they avoided the mental collapse in the trap game that followed against Millikin. That performance means the CCIW playoffs will have to go through Rock Island where, despite IWU’s earlier win this season, is not the easiest place to play in the Midwest. I realize I might be buying in a little too much with Augustana since we aren’t that far removed from the collapse against North Park and North Central in back-to-back games, but I also think those games woke Augustana up.

6 – St. Norbert (Up 1)
I’m not sure I can keep moving St. Norbert up. They have a slightly below average SOS and their conference just isn’t that competitive at the top (the Green Knights have won 41 straight conference games). I’m only setting myself up for disappointment if St. Norbert doesn’t go far in the NCAA tournament because, remember, this is still a somewhat young team.

7 – WPI* (Up 2)

8 – UW-Stevens Point (Up 6)
I am fully on board with the Pointers, now. Message received. I have been downplaying Stevens Point all season, but finally woke up a few weeks ago. They have their best player back and the win over UW-Whitewater looks to make the conference home court decision come down to a coin flip – yes, a coin flip. Well done Pointers.

9 – Virginia Wesleyan (Down 3)

10 – Dickinson (Unchanged)
Well, I was going to ding the Red Devils pretty good for their loss to McDaniel*. However, reports were they had a lot of players sick which happens this time of year. That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to move them down a couple of spots anyway until they turned around and beat Johns Hopkins* to at least make the Centennial finish a little more interesting.

11 – Marietta (Down 8)
It is one thing to lose your unbeaten streak at this point in the season, but I thought Marietta could at least stop it at one loss. Nope… two. Everyone knew this past week was going to be tough with Mount Union and John Carroll on the schedule, but I figured at worst it would be 1-1 for the Pioneers. Hopefully Marietta stops the latest streak in its tracks or they could be in trouble. The only reason I didn’t move Marietta even further down for two untimely losses… the simple fact they lost to two very competitive teams in their conference.

12 – Albertus Magnus (Unchanged)

13 – St. John Fisher (Unchanged)

14 – Emory (Up 2)
Held serve at home. Very important weekend for the Eagles and they got the job done against Washington Univ.* and Chicago*. That makes up for the trip to the Midwest where they lost both of those games. Now Emory is in a bit more control of the rest of the season and it’s thanks to the fact most of the back-end of their conference schedule lets them enjoy their Atlanta home.

15 – Johns Hopkins* (Unchanged)

16 – Ohio Wesleyan (Up 2)

17 – Elmhurst (Up 3)

18 – Chapman (Down 7)
I know they only lost one game this past week, but after starting the season undefeated the Panthers have now lost three of their last five including to two teams in the middle of the conference standings. And with that Chapman has also lost some control of whether the SCIAC playoffs come through Harold Hutton Sports Center. Their game against Cal Lutheran this weekend looms very large.

19 – Whitworth (Unchanged)

20 – Catholic* (Up 1)
I got to see the Cardinals in person for a third time this season and the first since the Hoopsville Classic and they are very much improved. However, I still have some concerns. They beat Goucher* 100-85 with their starters scoring 97 of their points. There just isn’t a lot of contributions from the bench except in minutes and some defensive help. If Catholic wants to make a run this year, I think they need more than minutes coming off their bench. They need some offensive help.

21 – Wooster (Up 1)

22 – New York Univ.* (Unchanged)

23 – St. Olaf (Unranked)
My concerns for the Oles may have been premature. Since losing back-to-back games, St. Olaf has won seven straight to leave themselves a half game behind St. Thomas atop the MIAC. And of course, they have a showdown with the Tommies coming up on Monday (as I write this). It is a big game for both teams. St. Thomas wants to not have a losing streak and St. Olaf would love to wrestle the regular season title and home court advantage away from the Tommies. Should be a great game in St. Paul.

24 – Washington Univ.* (Unchanged)
I probably should have dropped the Bears, but am sticking it out for another week. This split-the-weekend experience is getting old even if it is in the tough UAA. I realize the loss to Emory on the road doesn’t look bad on paper, but WashU is 4-4 in their last eight and 6-5 in conference action! In hindsight, I really should have dropped them. However, they have three straight home games remaining against NYU*, Brandeis, and Chicago* and those games could not loom larger.

25 – Penn State-Behrend (Unranked)
I’ve got nothing witty to say about the Lions except they have only lost two games this season, so it is probably about time to recognize that fact. Their SOS is pretty poor which tells you they are winning their games in a below-average conference and a not-so-great out-of-conference schedule. However, they are still winning (10 straight) and that can’t be discounted too much.

Dropped out:

Illinois Wesleyan (Previously 17)
If the Titans only loss this past week had been to Augustana, fine. If they had kept the game against the Vikings close, fine. But you get trounced by Augustana and you lost to North Park who you know has been gunning and beating plenty of good teams and I have seen enough. I realize the CCIW is tough this year, but Illinois Wesleyan is just so inconsistent this season. I just can’t keep rewarding IWU when can’t seem to win games they should be winning. Not to mention the fact, they cost themselves home court in the CCIW tournament as well.

Chicago* (Previously 25)
I have stated it often here, I don’t knock teams for losing to teams I have ranked higher. My ballot clearly states I expect that loss to happen. In other words, the loss to Emory by Chicago was expected. And until the very last minute I wasn’t going to drop Chicago. But it bothered me. As with WashU*, Chicago has been inconsistent in a very tough UAA. 4-4 in their last eight losing to nearly the same teams WashU has (except for Brandeis). So it came down to this, while the loss to Emory was close… 15-7 in the Top 25 seemed inappropriate. I still like the Maroons as a team and think next year they are going to be dangerous. They are home for the next two including a very important game against NYU. Then they hit the road where WashU is looking for some payback. Interesting finish to the UAA schedule is an understatement.

* – seen in person this season.

Previous ballots:
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10