This is being posted just a few days late! I apologize for the delay. The Hoopsville Marathon took up a lot of time this week, not just on Thursday. I wrote this late Tuesday night, but never got around to posting it. However, better late than never. Enjoy!(?)
Welcome to yet another look at my D3hoops.com Top 25 men’s basketball ballot. Another week, another few hours spent scratching more of my hair off my head.
I’m not sure what to add at this point. This is a challenging week with launching the Hoopsville Fundraising Campaign while also getting ready for the Hoopsville Marathon Show on Thursday. I had plenty of things to consider this week, but the amount of time spent on the other two major projects this week has not only already delayed publishing this blog, but left me with not much to comment on.
I will say this: I am clearly not on board with some or a lot of voters on a couple of teams. North Central (Ill.) is about mid-pack, but not on my ballot. I completely understand why some are voting for them, but many of those reasons are why I can’t vote for them. The biggest one – their losses have been to some very, very good teams, but they haven’t won any of those games either. They do have a solid win over Elmhurst, but that is pretty much the only team of note (NCC did beat Mount Union, but they have fallen out of the Top 25). That win over Elmhurst has me nearly including them on my ballot, but I guess I am just looking for the Cardinals to prove they can win more than just one big game out of six (or two out of seven).
I wanted to make sure I addressed that elephant in the room before I got to my ballot. There are others, but you can figure them out when you read through my ballot.
So here we go:
1 – Augustana (Unchanged)
2 – Whitworth* (Unchanged)
3 – St. Thomas* (Unchanged)
4 – Benedictine (Unchanged)
5 – John Carroll (Unchanged)
6 – Hope (Up 3)
The Dutchmen have moved up, but I am a little worried this is a little lofty all of the sudden. Could Hope have peaked too soon this season? They just don’t seem to be playing like they were a month ago and now find themselves no longer in control of the MIAA which might mean having to go on the road to secure an AQ and position themselves for home games in the NCAA Tournament (granted, that last point may be moot considering the women have hosting priority in the first weekend the Hope women are playing well enough to secure those for themselves). Hope moves up, but mainly because I needed to shuffle some others down.
7 – Ohio Wesleyan (Down 1)
Yes, the Battling Bishops lost to Wooster who isn’t even ranked let alone on my ballot. Falling just one spot seems awfully kind as a result. However, I am realistic enough to understand that playing at Wooster has historically been one of the more difficult things to accomplish. The game was terrific with both teams trading free throws in the final three and half seconds. I am a little worried with Ohio Wesleyan as I am with Hope. They seem a little banged up going through a tough NCAC, but I also think they are still far better than many of the teams below them.
8 – Elmhurst (Down 1)
I honestly would have been shocked if Elmhurst had beaten Augustana in Rock Island especially after the Vikings had the motivation of overcoming the earlier loss to the Blue Jays. What I didn’t expect was the second half. The game was tied at halftime, but Augustana made quick work of Elmhurst in the second half. It is the Blue Jays second loss in the last two weeks (four games) and that has me a little concerned. While the rankings say I shouldn’t move Elmhurst down for losing to a team above them (let alone the top team in the country accordingly to my ballot), the combination of being taken out of the game in the final 20 minutes against Augustana and losing two games in the last four had me shift them slightly.
9 – Christopher Newport (Unchanged)
10 – Marietta (Up 1)
11 – Johnson and Wales (Up 2)
12 – Susquehanna^ (Down 2)
As I have said with many other programs, I didn’t expect the Crusaders to get through Landmark play unscathed. Losing at Catholic, sure I could see that happening. Losing by 21 and giving up 101? Um, no. Ouch. Granted, both teams shot the lights out of the building, but I talked to an official who called the game and he told me he felt Susquehanna played horribly. That gave me pause. I really think Susquehanna will win the Landmark and play in the NCAA Tournament and probably go deep, but I also hope the Catholic game is not a sign of the future.
13 – Alma (Up 3)
I am going to repeat myself: at the beginning of the season, Hope’s Greg Mitchell told me on Hoopsville that Alma was the team to watch in the MIAA. Boy was he right. Now Mitchell and the Dutchmen are looking at the Scots ahead of the in the conference… with a big game between the two coming up on Saturday at Hope. One could argue the game will be the biggest in Alma’s at least recent history.
14 – Amherst^ (Up 1)
15 – St. Norbert (Up 4)
I really expected to see the Green Knights drop a game or two in the Midwest Conference the season. They haven’t lost in conference since 2013(!) and with what they lost during the offseason, this seemed like a safe bet. Nope. Not yet. With their hard fought win over Carroll, SNC has now won 57-straight conference games, have a two-game lead on the conference, and look to be securing yet another conference title and NCAA tournament bid. By the way, have you seen how well the women’s team is playing as well? Time to stop focusing on the WIAC in Wisconsin and take a look at the other green program in Green Bay… because St. Norbert is clearly very, very good.
16 – WPI^ (Down 2)
17 – Chicago^ (Down 5)
Whelp. This past weekend for the Maroons proved one thing: it doesn’t matter how well you are playing, it can change quickly. Emory and Rochester came to the South Side and left Chicago wondering what happened. Chicago didn’t play very well from what I could see. Almost looked like the problems they faced in the opening weeks of the season. Now, Chicago in the difficult situation of having to go to Atlanta and Rochester this coming weekend needing to win to get back in control – or semi control – of the UAA. If not, the automatic bid could be gone and the Maroons will find themselves caught in a very, very difficult Central Region fighting for an at-large bid. It is amazing how quickly things can change.
18 – Lancaster Bible (Unchanged)
19 – Northwestern (Up 2)
20 – PSU-Behrend (Unranked)
At some point, a team’s record trumps whatever else I think about them. The Lions only have one loss (LaRoche on Dec. 5) and have now won thirteen in a row while once again rolling through their conference. The problem is, the loss to LaRoche isn’t good and they don’t have an impressive win at all on their resume. Ok, maybe the fact they beat Carnegie Mellon (by 22) and Case Western Reserve should be noted. But that’s it. Nothing else. Behrend is once again in a situation that should they not win the conference AQ they won’t be going to the NCAA Tournament. But again, they have only lost once so far in 18 games. There are a lot of teams who wish they could be winning that many games this season.
21 – Plattsburgh State (Unranked)
I’ve been looking for a reason to get a SUNYAC school on my ballot, especially after I not only swung and missed on Oswego Stae, but also held on to the Lakers far too long. But each week I check out the SUNYAC, they have once again beaten each other up leaving me with no one to pick. Not this week! The Cardinals are actually seemingly pulling away from the rest of the conference. Plattsburgh is two games up on the conference and playing pretty well, but now that the spotlight is on them I am sure the conference will bring them back to earth. Right?
22 – Mount Union (Up 1)
23 – Tufts (Up 1)
24 – Franklin & Marshall^ (Up 1)
25 – Texas Lutheran (Down 8)
I am not sure what to think about with the Bulldogs. Dropping eight spots may seem cruel for a team that knocked off their rival for the top of the conference (TLU and Colorado College were tied atop the SCAC entering last weekend), but Texas Lutheran lost the trap game! They went to Centenary (La.) and lost to a team that had lost three straight and is barely above .500. That isn’t good enough! We have entered that part of the season where you can’t skate by and you don’t get second chances. I just feel TLU has moments where they are coasting. Bad sign.
Roanoke (Previously 20)
Not a good week if you are a Maroon fan (Chicago or Roanoke) as both squads lost two games back-to-back. For Roanoke, they lost to .500 Randolph and then to sub-par Virginia Wesleyan… both at HOME! For many conferences this season, the top has come down to the middle as it has in the ODAC. Roanoke has a chance to taken advantage of this, but instead squander a chance to take control of the standings. It also set-up a scenario that may leave the ODAC with just one team in the NCAA Tournament.
Brooklyn (Previously 22)
It wasn’t that long ago Brooklyn was in my Top 10. They aren’t the first team to be in my Top 10 and then fall out of the poll a few weeks later, they are just the most recent. I am not sure if I bought in too much or if the Bulldogs just aren’t living up to their own expectations. They are battling in what is a far more difficult CUNYAC than in the past, but to be in the Top 25 from that conference you have to take control of the top. Barely beating Lehman and then losing to Staten Island leaving the squad in third place in the conference just isn’t cutting it.
* teams I have seen in person this season
^ teams I have saw in person last season
I am not that comfortable with the bottom half of the ballot. I could go around and around, removing and adding teams for hours. I don’t think I could be comfortable no matter how much time I took. There are a ton of teams with three or four losses that leaves you wanting more – oh, and then add in those five loss teams that seem like they should be in the conversation as well!
I may go back to throwing darts … or blow up the ballot next week.