Road Show: A chance meeting

Teams in airports are easy to spot, and I’ve certainly done that a lot in my travels. The most surprising sighting was one winter when I saw the Mary Washington tennis teams in the Minneapolis airport.

But in a UAA city, on a Thursday, it probably should not have been a surprise to run into the Emory basketball teams. Especially at the Delta baggage claim.

I am not seeing the Eagles play on this trip. Men’s coach Jason Zimmerman was well aware of this and let me know that he knew. I saw them play at home on the Southern Hospitality tour some years back, and I’m still trying to see some teams and gyms for the first time.

Emory is a shot away from being 6-1 in the league, specifically any of the ten 3-pointers Wash U’s Alan Aboona made against them a few weeks back. But the Eagles are rolling otherwise, beating teams by double digits.

Could Rochester sweep NYU and Brandeis this weekend? Zimmerman wouldn’t answer on the record. But he knows how hard it is on the road in the UAA.

Last time I was on this kind of road trip, it was really difficult to post a blog entry. Now there is an app and this post is done before I even get to the rental car place.

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 9

Whitworth has been battling its way through the Northwest Conference after an opening-game home loss to St. Thomas.
Photo by Jeff Halstead,

Another week in Division III basketball filled with upsets, questions and not many answers. I think I am starting to really feel comfortable with the top 15 teams in the country, maybe even 20, but after that it is a free-for-all. I decided to take a closer look at some teams closer to home this week and thanks to a trip to Oswego, N.Y. I was able to evaluate in person some teams I was considering. That along with some interesting results this past week allowed me to move some teams around – or not. I am really looking forward to next week (or the following, to be honest) when regional rankings come out and I can see real SOS numbers besides the flawed Massey numbers, though the efforts by some on the post-up boards has been invaluable.

1 – RochesterUp 1 spot
The Yellowjackets might have had a scare against Brandeis, but they came away with a solid victory behind probably the best player in the country. They have another tough test this weekend on the road, but Rochester has certainly earned my No. 1 vote.

2 – WhitworthUp 1 spot
I debated whether I would move Whitworth up or not. They continue to win with their only loss being the first game of the season against St. Thomas (albeit at home), but their conference doesn’t seem to be giving them too much of a challenge so I continue to struggle with whether this ranking is too high.

3 – St. ThomasDown 2 spots
The narrow lost to Concordia-Moorhead certainly doesn’t look good, but considering how the Tommies responded against St. Mary’s (Minn.) and Hamline, I decided to stay with the mindset that St. Thomas is one of the best teams in the country. They did beat Whitworth this season which could be a good enough reason to keep them ahead of Whitworth, however that game was the first of the season and Whitworth’s loss to St. Thomas is better than St. Thomas’ loss to Concordia-Moorhead.

4 – WPIunchanged

5 – UW-Stevens PointUP 1 spot

6 – MiddleburyDown 1 spot
The loss to Williams may not have been a surprise, but the Panthers were in position to win that game. Considering how many teams in the top ten lost this week, Middlebury ended up not moving that much though I debated strongly about moving them behind Catholic. However, it came down to the fact that Middlebury now only has one loss and it was against one of the top teams in the NESCAC.

7 – CatholicUp 2 spots
The Cardinals continue to play good basketball (including pasting my alma mater this past week). I think Catholic has taken advantage of the new Landmark schedule which has allowed them to avoid late season slides they had become known for. The core group is playing terrific basketball, but they have to stay focused on each team in the conference.

8 – Williamsunchanged
Yes, the Ephs did lose to Amherst, but they beat Middlebury. If they had beaten both, I probably would have swapped spots with Middlebury. I can’t knock the Ephs for the loss to Amherst in a major rivalry game, even if the score was not close. That being said, I can’t overly reward them for beating Middlebury since they lost to Amherst. I could go on circles on this for hours and never get the right answer – so my decision was to leave them where they were and not punish or reward them.

9 – Hampden-SydneyUp 3 spots
I continue to say the Tigers are an underrated team in a very tough ODAC. With wins over Randolph-Macon, Eastern Mennonite, Randolph, and Guilford in their last four, Hampden-Sydney has moved into first place in the ODAC and stated clearly they are the team to beat. They also may have one of the other top players in the nation clearly driving this team.

10 – Ramapounchanged

11 – Christopher Newportunchanged

12 –WoosterUp 1 spot

13 – AmherstUp 2 spots
The Lord Jeffs got a big win over Williams in non-conference action and then followed that up with a shellacking of Trinity (Conn.). I would have moved the Lord Jeffs up higher, but there weren’t a lot of teams I would have below them. Yes, you could argue they should move ahead of Williams, but with two-losses to the Ephs one I am comfortable with this position with a rematch looming in a couple of weeks on the road.

14 – Illinois WesleyanUp 4 spots
The Titans are certainly the class of the CCIW with a three game lead and six games to play. The win over North Central and then not overlooking Elmhurst clearly shows IWU is taking care of business. I am willing to move them higher, but with Augustana and Wheaton on the horizon, I didn’t want to get too hyped on this squad.

15 – St. Mary’sUp 1 spot

16 – CalvinUp 1 spot

17 – North Central (Ill.)Down 10 spots
I wasn’t going to knock the Cardinals too much for two tough losses on the road this past week (Illinois Wesleyan and Wheaton), but when you learn their top three players – maybe their only three weapons on offense – are injured or nursing some kind of ailment, you have to consider more than just the box score. Furthermore, Illinois Wesleyan is clearly the top team in the CCIW, so keeping the Cardinals ahead of them doesn’t make any sense.

18 – Rhode IslandUp 6 spots
This is a big move for a team that only beat Western and Eastern Connecticut teams this week, but there were a number of losses in this area of my ballot in the week, so the move was more “filling a spot” than it was by merit. The Anchormen host Amherst on Tuesday night in one of the biggest games in the Northeast this week, so we will see if they deserve to keep moving up.

19 – Wheaton (Ill.)unranked
A win over North Central got me to move them back into my Top 25 – adding a third CCIW team to the ballot. I can’t easily move them ahead of North Central considering they have split the season, but the Thunder appear to be recovering from injuries and illnesses that ailed them a few weeks ago.

20 – WesleyUp 3 spots

21 – DeSalesunranked
The Bulldogs may be the one team flying the lowest on the radar right now. DeSales has one loss after starting 1 and 2 and have a signature win over beat Catholic. They have a two-game lead in a slightly weak MAC Freedom, but are getting the job done. This might be a reach of a vote, but I am not the only voter considering the Bulldogs on my ballot.

22 – Transylvaniaunranked
I have had the Pioneers on my short list for a long time, but nothing has enticed me to put them back into my Top 25. However, they have now won 11 of their last 12 games including to HCAC front-runner Rose-Hulman along with Wooster, Franklin & Marshall, and Thomas More. This week a rematch with Rose-Hulman at home will let me know if I am getting too excited or Transylvania has figured out what was wrong at the beginning of the season.

23 – Rose-HulmanUp 2 spots

24 – Cortland Stateunranked
The Red Dragons are a pretty good team. I saw them in action against Oswego State this past weekend in what was a very good game. Cortland St. seems to have a lot of individuals who can take over but also come together nicely as a team. They also don’t panic when on the wrong end of runs or losing the lead. The Red Dragons may surprise come March – as long as they don’t trip up in a tough SUNYAC this season.

25 – Alverniaunranked
I have been staring at the Crusaders for a long time and decided it was time to put them on my ballot. They lead the MAC Commonwealth who many thought would have Lycoming or Albright battling it out for first place. But Alvernia has a one-game lead against their city-rival Albright (three over Lycoming) and have a chance to sweep the season series with Albright on Wednesday night.

Dropped out this week:
Stevens14th last week
The loss to Ithaca was one thing, but losing to Hartwick earlier in the week just didn’t look good to me. To make it worse, Ithaca crushed Stevens in a game the Ducks had to win. I will keep Stevens on my radar, but this week showed that maybe they are not near the top of the East Region like I had previously thought.

Albertus Magnus19th last week
It may have been the Falcons’ first loss in Division III this season, but it also showed that maybe Albertus Magnus is not as good as many thought. I hadn’t been moving them up very much despite blowout wins because those wins were coming in a pretty weak conference. The Falcons have no signature wins and are now just a game ahead of an Anna Maria team they decimated in the conference title game last season. I doubt the Falcons will return to my ballot unless they make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Brandeis20th last week
I expected the loss to Rochester and it was close, but to have lost two games this weekend – the other being to Emory – didn’t give me a good enough reasons to keep them in the last five spots on my ballot. The Judges get a chance to make a statement this coming weekend when they play Emory and Rochester again, this time at home.

Guilford21st last week
Whether it is injuries or battling in a very difficult ODAC this season, Guilford is in a tailspin right now. They have lost three in a row including to Washington & Lee and are now three games back of the lead in the conference. They have a chance to right the ship with Roanoke and Shenandoah this week before two tough games next week.

Virginia Wesleyan22nd last week
The Marlins just can’t get the job done when they need to. After losing four in a row earlier in the season I took a long look at Virginia Wesleyan and didn’t like what I saw. I thought last week they had finally turned things around before then losing to Washington and Lee on the road. They have a really interesting couple of weeks ahead, but I am not going to jump back on the Marlins bandwagon for a little while.

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 8

With Monday’s loss by St. Thomas, is the University of Rochester next in line to be No. 1?
Rochester athletics photo

This week, voting in the Top 25 was relatively easy especially when compared to last week’s overhaul that proved more challenging – though enlightening – than expected. You aren’t going to see a lot of changes this week. In fact, the first 12 positions in my poll didn’t move. I did have to deal with questions about close wins and surprising losses, but it was a handful of teams this time, not the entire ballot. So, here we go:

1 – St. Thomasunchanged

2 – Rochester unchanged

3 – Whitworthunchanged

4 – WPIunchanged

5 – Middleburyunchanged

6 – UW-Stevens Pointunchanged

7 – North Central (Ill.)unchanged

8 – Williamsunchanged

9 – Catholicunchanged

10 – Ramapounchanged

11 – Christopher Newportunchanged

12 – Hampden-Sydneyunchanged

13 – WoosterUP 5 spots
Very good week for the Scots who put their foot down on the NCAC. A win over Ohio Wesleyan on the road helped give the Battling Bishops their second straight loss and give Wooster a two-game lead in the conference.

14 – Stevensunchanged

15 – Amherstunchanged
The Lord Jeffs did win three games this week, which would normally have me move them up. But first, there isn’t much room for moving upward and second, they only faced one team with a winning record and all three of the games were at home.

16 – St. Mary’s (Md.)UP 1 spot

17 – CalvinUP 4 spots
When you lay the wood to your rival Hope in one of the biggest rivalries in college sports, people take notice. Hope is clearly having a tough season (which featured another loss this week to Olivet), but the fact Calvin manhandled them in a game where a winless team would probably still make it interesting is rather telling. Calvin now has a two-game lead in the MIAA.

18 – Illinois WesleyanUP 4 spots
The Titans didn’t exactly beat anyone stellar in conference play this week, but they won both games on the road in a conference that has already shown that the top teams can lose to those struggling below .500. Big test coming up… North Central at home.

19 – Albertus Magnusunchanged

20 – Brandeisunranked
The Judges made a statement this weekend beating Chicago and then Wash U on the road. Brandeis has only two losses at the hands of Rhode Island College in the first game of the season and Amherst at the beginning of December. Seven straight wins has them tied on top of the UAA with Rochester who they will face at home on Sunday.

21 – GuilfordDOWN 5 spots
The ODAC is probably tougher this year than in years past with nine of the twelve teams with winning records and eight teams within four games of the top of the conference. Guilford got a win over Randolph midweek, which kept them from falling out of the poll with their loss to Washington & Lee, albeit on the road. And the road doesn’t get easier. They have Lynchburg at home and then on the road at Hampden-Sydney this week. Let’s see if they stay on my ballot.

22 – Virginia Wesleyanunranked
The Marlins do lead the ODAC with a perfect 8-0 and have won five straight. However, the four-game slide at the end of December and barely able to get by Roanoke (who seemed to have the game in hand) are signs that maybe this Marlin team is lucky to be 8-0 in the conference. They are on top of the ODAC recordwise, but I am not convinced they have figured things out.

23 – Wesleyunranked
Really can’t keep the Wolverines off my ballot any more. 10 straight wins including St. Mary’s and Salisbury in the last two show this team is playing very good basketball right now. Wesley has wins over Eastern Mennonite and Virginia Wesleyan as well this season and nearly got past Christopher Newport back in November (lost in triple overtime). The Wolverines have a rematch with St. Mary’s on Saturday that will determine who is in control of the CAC heading into February.

24 – Rhode Islandunchanged
The Anchormen didn’t exactly impress this week. In fact I thought about dropping them when considering they beat Mass-Dartmouth and Plymouth State – a combined 5-26 – by a total of nine points. The games were on the road and New England is probably distracted with the Patriots this week, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. A battle for the top of the LEC looms Saturday with Eastern Connecticut on the road – if Rhode Island doesn’t forget they play Western Connecticut first.

25 – Rose-Hulmanunchanged
The Engineers didn’t do anything to impress me this week, either. They beat Franklin (who is 11-6 and has a win over Illinois Wesleyan on their resume) easily, but then struggled at home against 7-10 Bluffton. So, I thought about moving Rose-Hulman off my ballot until I remembered they still only have two losses. Who would I have replaced them with? Transylvania who beat Rose-Hulman last week – so the reason would have been good.

Dropped out this week:

Ohio Wesleyan13th last week
Yeah, this might be harsh, but I wouldn’t have removed them from my Top 25 with just their loss to Wooster. Their lost to Hiram by 13 on the road midweek on the other hand made the loss to Wooster at home just the cherry on top. I like the Battling Bishops but they shoot horribly from the free-throw line and they have games like Hiram, Allegheny and others that have me shaking my head.

Washington Univ.20th last week
A trusted friend in the Midwest Region things the Bears are a Top 25 team and I agree with him, until they lose at home to Brandeis. Sure, on paper that shouldn’t be a surprised since Brandeis is clearly playing well. Except it was at home where Wash U. hadn’t lost all season and this is the Bears third loss in the UAA. Furthermore, Wash U is now 2-2 in the last four games. I watched the game against Brandeis and nothing impressed me. Something doesn’t seem to be working right now in St. Louis. Here is hoping they turn it around fast before they lose any chance of making the NCAA tournament.

Dave’s Top 25 ballot – Week 7

Sam Longwell
Sam Longwell and his WPI teammates moved up on Dave McHugh’s ballot.
WPI athletics photo

After the week of carnage in the men’s Top 25, I decided to completely overhaul my ballot. Last week I went through a gut check; this week I started over. I looked at teams I already had on my ballot, teams I was considering, teams that was provided to voters, and teams that caught my attention as I went through each region. The result was initially about 50 programs on the table. Then after a quickly cutting based on a quick look at the teams on the table, I was left with 41 schools to consider for this week’s ballot.

From those 41 I started anew going through each team’s results up to this point and painstakingly looking at their wins, losses, travel, what other factors could have been at play and their overall statistics. As a result, you will see a lot of changes on my ballot compared to last week including, maybe, some surprising moves.

No.1 St. ThomasUnchanged
The Tommies may have actually solidified their No.1 ranking in my ballot through the overhaul.

No.2 – RochesterUnchanged
The Yellowjackets certainly proved they are a very good team this past weekend with not only the win over Chicago, but a very strong win over Wash U. They are shooting very well this season and winning by an average of 18.6 points a game.

No.3 – WhitworthUP 2 spots
I am a little nervous about the Pirates this high after the week they just had. They barely survived against Whitman (who lost two games this week) and George Fox (who then beat Whitman). And some of their stats have me worried like only outrebounding their opponents by 2.4 a game. However, they have four players averaging double-figures this season and continue to win.

No.4 – WPIUP 4 spots
The Engineers are still undefeated though they didn’t really get tested this past week. They do have the most wins in Division III including a victory over Rhode Island a month ago. However, I have the same concerns with WPI as I do with Whitworth.

No.5 – MiddleburyDOWN 2 spots
The Panthers are still undefeated, but they are barely getting it done. Yet another weekend in the NESCAC sees Middlebury barely beat an opponent this time at home. My confidence is shaky despite the fact they are beating opponents on average by more than 15 points and shooting 51.9% a game with four players in double-figures.

No.6 – UW-Stevens PointUP 12 spots
The Points big move up my ballot is based on not only the fact they beat Stout and La Crosse this week by an average of 12 points, but also the fact I took a longer look at all teams. Stevens Point has five players averaging more than 10 points a game while they only turn the ball over about ten times a contest. I do have questions on whether the Pointers can get through the conference unscathed, but they have a two game lead in mid-January so they are pretty well positioned.

No.7 – North Central (Ill.)DOWN 3 spots
The Cardinals were bound to trip up in the CCIW, but I didn’t see it happening to a struggling Carthage team. They did right the ship against Augustana, but I said last week I wasn’t confident with the Cardinals. Now North Central has some impressive wins and are not only beating their opponents by more than 13 points a game, but they are holding opponents to an average of 56 points a game. However, I doubt the Carthage game will be their only bump in the road the rest of the season.

No.8 – WilliamsUP 12 spots
I have not been giving the Ephs enough credit. When I took a longer look at their season, their lone loss to Stevens became less of a concern for a team that is outscoring their opponents by 19.1 points a game and shooting a very impressive 52.2% from the floor. With four players in double-figures leading a team that has swept Wesleyan and beaten Springfield and looked better against common opponents than Middlebury, it was high time I bought into the Ephs.

No.9 – CatholicDOWN 3 spots
I didn’t think the Cardinals could get through the Landmark unscathed (especially since they still have to play Scranton twice), but the loss to Juniata on the road gave me pause. Catholic teams of the past would have taken a loss like that and turned into a losing streak. Maybe the new Landmark schedule allowed CUA to stop the bleeding by Saturday or they are showing they can handle a few bumps and bounce back.

No.10 – RamapoDOWN 3 spots
The Roadrunners got tripped up by a single point by William Patterson this week which certainly had me shaking my head. However, Ramapo has five guys averaging between 11 and 16 points a game while outrebounding their opponents by nearly seven boards a game. Ramapo seems to be playing well despite concerns their top player Will Sanborn takes nights off.

No.11 – Christopher NewportDOWN 1 spot
The loss in double-overtime to North Carolina Wesleyan was both expected and unexpected. Sure, NC Wesleyan would be gunning for Christopher Newport and the game was on the road. However, it showed the Captains may have to stay focused for every game in their conference this season. Now, they have three players averaging more than 15 points a game and their two losses have been by eight total points. So, I feel comfortable… for now.

No.12 – Hampden-SydneyUP 2 spots
I was actually more impressed the more I looked at Hampden-Sydney this week. They are outscoring their opponents by nearly 23 points a game while shooting 51.1% from the floor and getting seven more boards a game. They are even dishing nearly 20 assists a game! The Tigers just have to stay focused in what will be a tough run of Randolph-Macon, Eastern Mennonite, Randolph, Guilford and Lynchburg in the next five games.

No.13 – Ohio WesleyanUP 2 spots
The Battling Bishops are playing very solid basketball right now. However, they have Wooster this coming Saturday at home. That will give all of us a chance to grade both teams and see who is in control of the NCAC.

No.14 – StevensUnranked
I said when I dropped Stevens out of my poll last week it was not because of Stevens, but when I took a closer look I couldn’t believe I had made the move to begin with. Stevens has beaten Williams and only lost to NYU (by 6). They have three players averaging more than 14 points a game and are outscoring their opponents by than 10 points a game.

No.15 – AmherstUP 9 spots
I had been holding the Lord Jeffs kind of low this season, so it was a good thing I took a longer look this week. They have six players scoring 10 points or more while outscoring their opponents by 15.6 a game. Sure, the loss to Babson at home still raises concerns, but the Lord Jeffs appear to be better than I was giving them credit for.

No.16 – GuilfordUP 6 spots
The Quakers continue to roll right now having won eight straight games. They are playing pretty good basketball in all aspects and have some very good wins on their resume this season.

No.17 – St. Mary’s (Md.)DOWN 8 spots
It is a big drop for the Seahawks who beat Franklin and Marshall, but they lost to Wesley this past week as well. I think Wesley is a good team, but now St. Mary’s has lost two games that weren’t even close (13 to Catholic and 14 to Wesley) and they all but blew a huge halftime lead on the Diplomats. They are also being outrebounded by 3.1 a game which could be a big problem the rest of the season. I need to take pause and see how St. Mary’s responds to Saturday’s loss before I consider moving them back into the top 15.

No.18 – WoosterDOWN 2 spots
There isn’t anything the Scots did to slide this week, I just did some rearranging in the overhaul. They are dominating on the boards and are shooting well. However, they are turning the ball more than their opponents and they have a big test on Saturday against Ohio Wesleyan.

No.19 – Albertus Magnus – DOWN 2 spots
The Falcons are certainly having a very good season on paper, but they really haven’t played anyone while only outscoring their opponents (including Yale) by five points a game and also being outrebounded by more than five boards a game. Nothing else stands out to me as they work their way through a weak conference. I am leery this could be more smoke and mirrors than anything else.

No.20 – Washington (Mo.)DOWN 8 spots
The Bears have me nervous. They have now lost three games this season all on the road. Granted, Rochester is proving to be a very good team, but Wash U. was barely able to get past Emory making me realize they seem to struggle away from their home court. They are dominating on the boards at an 13.6 average and they have six of the next eight at home, so I will be watching to see if the home court is truly their advantage.

No.21 – CalvinUnranked
The Knights may not have an impressive schedule especially with a loss to Carthage and a very low scoring output against Wheaton, but they are outscoring opponents by more than 17 points a game, outrebounding by nearly 11, and shooting very well on average. I would think this week they should beat Hope who is struggling this season, but anything is possible in a rivalry game – so I will be watching.

No.22 – Illinois WesleyanUnranked
The Titans are getting the job done when they need to. Yes, the loss to Franklin is still quick to remind me they can overlook teams, but they are holding opponents to about 62 points a game while outrebounding them by over nine a game. The biggest concern is they are shooting just 65.3% from the free throw line though they have shot 81 more free shots than their opponents helping make up for the misses. A win over Augustana and dominating Carthage was good enough for me to move them back into my Top 25.

No.23 – RandolphDOWN 3 spots
The loss to Virginia Wesleyan wasn’t unexpected. It was on the road and just a six point spread, so I am not going to knock the Wildcats too much for that. They are still outscoring opponents by nearly 15 points a game and have maybe one of the most underrated players in the country. If they can solve a weak rebounding game, they could be a team to watch out for in February or later.

No.24 – Rhode IslandUnranked
The Anchormen have given me fits this season. However, they seem to have left their two-game slide in the rear view mirror having won five straight. Not many challenges await them in the conference for a team that holding opponents to less than 60 points a game. They just need to remain focused on each game.

No.25 – Rose-HulmanDOWN 4 spots
Their loss to Transylvania didn’t cost them that much since I think Transy is playing well (despite a loss to rival Hanover). It was only the Engineers second loss of the season, though it was at home. What impresses me the most is that they are holding opponents to 48.2 points per game and outscoring them by more than 15. That along with the fact that opponents are shooting just 26.6 from beyond the arc really makes me appreciate Rose-Hulman’s defense and defense is the key to winning as we all know.

Dropped out this week:
Franklin & MarshallNo.11 last week
I wasn’t really going to knock the Diplomats for the loss on the road at St. Mary’s, but when they couldn’t beat winless Washington College I knew I had to take a long look at F&M. To start the season, F&M played 5 of its first 7 and 8 of 12 at home. They now have three road losses including to a Shoremen team that they had beaten by 19 earlier in the season (granted, Chestertown tends to be a tough place for the road teams). Factor in the inconsistencies of Honorable Mention preseason All-American Hayk Gyokchyan and it has me thinking the Diplomats are overrated. And Centennial conference isn’t through with them yet. The Diplomats are in the middle of six of seven games on the road and opponents may not be that awestruck by F&M.

New York Univ.No.13 last week
I realize that the Violets didn’t do anything for me to drop them out of my Top 25. They won three games last week including two conference games at home. I also realize that since I was their only voter last week that was the only points in the poll they were getting. Now, that being said… it gave me great pause to realize I was the only one voting for them and it wasn’t like I had them in the 20’s. Sure, they only have two losses on the season, but they got beat up by Brandeis over a week ago and didn’t exactly play the best game of the season against Carnegie Mellon. And their only significant win was to SUNY-Old Westbury in early December. I will keep my eyes on the Violets, but taking the time to reexamine my Top 25 cost them a spot.

UW-WhitewaterNo.23 last week
I indicated last week that a loss this week would cost the Warhawks a spot in my poll and they ended up losing to 7-9 UW-Superior who had just gotten throttled by UW-Platteville earlier in the week. When looking at their stats, the Warhawks also didn’t impress me. They are playing a lot of close games and are not outrebounding their opponents. They are allowing teams to shoot nearly 40% from beyond the arc and are losing at the free throw line. Yes, the Warhawks are the defending champions, but they are showing just how much they lost from that team.

WheatonNo.25 last week
I know they beat North Park and Millikin by an average of 22 points this week, but when I took a deeper look at things I just couldn’t hold them in my 25th spot. Sure, they have four guys averaging between 10 and 20 points a game and they are outscoring their opponents by 14 a game. But, they are tied for fourth in the CCIW with Augustana (whom they play this week) and if I can’t put Augustana in my poll, I am not sure I can justify Wheaton. I do like the Thunder as a team and if they can go on a run, they could be back in my poll soon.

Dave’s Top 25 ballot

Derek Raridon
Dave McHugh doesn’t have North Central No. 1, or even in his top three, and he’ll tell you why. photo

In an effort to provide more information and give the fans of Division III basketball something to ponder each week, I thought I would try and give you a look at my men’s Top 25 ballot and give you reasons for most, if not all, of the teams on my ballot. I will also give you a reason for the teams I removed. This by no means will explain why some teams are in the actual Top 25 or not. This is simply a chance for you to see how I voted and some of the reasons behind it.

Now, I am certainly not perfect in my voting, as I will describe, and I am certainly not fool-proof in my thinking. So, please take this information simply for what it is … information. Healthy debate is more important than bashing my particular ballot.

Of course, there have already been five previous weeks of Top 25 polls plus a preseason poll, so I am a bit tardy on the season with this. However, it is never too late to start and this is certainly when voting in the poll becomes much more interesting.

This week, I did a little house cleaning, “blowing up” part of my poll and the thinking behind it. You will see some big movers that are due to the fact I had them too low to begin with or I am changing my mind on other teams. I also eliminated teams despite no losses because I have other teams I think I am not giving a fair shake to.

1 – St. Thomas (Minn.)UP 1 spot
The Tommies moved into my #1 position this week due to solid play so far this season. They have very good wins over Whitworth, Whitman and UW-Stevens Point and just pasted Augsburg which had come in looking like they were having a really solid season. They certainly will have some challenges in the conference, but the Tommies look good.
2 – Rochester (N.Y.)UP 1 spot
I will first admit, I am leery and very worried this is just too high for the Yellowjackets. They are an impressive 12-0 and have an solid win over Ohio Wesleyan while also rolling through their region, so far. Their toughest test comes up this weekend with Chicago and Wash U. coming to the Palestra. Stumble here will have me disappointed in myself and have Rochester falling quickly.
3 – MiddleburyDOWN 2 spots
I had the Panthers No. 1 in the last poll, but after watching their game against Tufts, I couldn’t keep them there. I have hardly, if ever, dropped a team from No. 1 without a loss. However, the game against the Jumbos was just bad. If Tufts could have hit the shot at the end, I probably would have dropped the Panthers even further. Now, don’t get me wrong, Middlebury looks really good this season considering they lost Ryan Sharry due to graduation, but I need to see they are playing better basketball before I am even comfortable with them at No. 3.
4 – North Central (Ill.)UP 1 spot
I actually moved the Cardinals up a spot from last week and realize I am the only voter with them outside of the top three spots. After seeing North Central in Las Vegas, I just don’t see them surviving the CCIW unscathed and I am not sure I can see them getting to the final four, let alone Salem in general. Landon Gamble is a terrific player inside and Derek Raridon is good forward. However, when the Cardinals did not handle expressive, pressure defense from Ramapo and UW-La Crosse very well, I took pause. Raridon actually disappeared at times against the pressure. North Central did get past Wheaton (who had some flu issues) this past week, but Augustana looms this week and Illinois Wesleyan on January 23rd.
5 – WhitworthUP 2 spots
I probably undersold Whitworth all season, but have moved put them in my Top 5 this week. They have been playing pretty good basketball after their lone loss of the season being to St. Thomas on opening night. That being said, Whitman is basically the only strong contender they will face the rest of the season. Time will tell just how good the Pirates really are.
6 – CatholicUP 3 spots
I have loved the Cardinals since the Hoopsville Classic. They are a very talented team, despite going only about eight deep. However, they certainly seem like a team that has jelled. Catholic has a chance to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament if they can keep playing at this level, but they have also shown in the past when things get tough they tend to derail. Here is hoping they keep their focus when foes in the Landmark, including Scranton, start gunning for them.
7 – RamapoUP 3 spots
The Roadrunners were another mixed bag in Vegas. I love the play from guys like Stephon Treadwell and Elgin Brown, but was very disappointed in Will Sanborn. I could find a slot machine far easier than his teammates seemed to find him on the court. If Sanborn continues to want to take games off, Ramapo isn’t going to get very far. However, when he is on and with the likes of Treadwell and others contributing, the Roadrunners could be a big surprise by the end of the season.
8 – WPIUP 7 spots
I actually can’t believe I have the Engineers this high in my poll. They are undefeated with a win over Rhode Island College on their resume, but that is it. Their conference looks to be their biggest test as they still have two games each with MIT and Springfield ahead. However, the Engineers have not had a lot of close games, so they certainly seem to be in control.
9 – St. Mary’s (Md.)UP 7 spots
Here is another team I have kept low on my ballot until recently. With their lone loss being to Catholic, the Seahawks are playing very good basketball. They have wins over a tough Randolph-Macon squad along with Christopher Newport and F&M the night this poll came out. The Seahawks have shown that even with the loss of a major inside presence in the offseason, they can find ways to win even when they aren’t putting a lot of points on the board. What I am worried about is if the Seahawks can stay focused.
10 – Christopher NewportUP 2 spots
Here is another one-loss team that is quietly getting things done. They lost to St. Mary’s (a future conference opponent) on the road and have tested themselves with Randolph-Macon, Salisbury, Wesley, and Eastern Mennonite and got victories in all of them. Ahead is the conference which doesn’t seem all that challenging, but teams like Ferrum and N.C. Wesleyan will be gunning for them.
11 – Franklin & MarshallUnchanged
I actually moved a few teams ahead of the Diplomats this week, because they are heading into a challenging few weeks. Their loss to Transylvania wasn’t that surprising to me, so I didn’t really punish them earlier (they have been in and around this spot in my poll for most of the season). However, they have shown some inconsistent play especially from their big man inside who produces one night and disappears the next. How they hold up with six of seven games on the road (though, they lost the first already to St. Mary’s) will give me a better sense of whether they are too high in my poll.
12 – Washington (Mo.)DOWN 8 spots
Just as I bought into the Bears, they stumble against Chicago. I actually had Wash U. No. 4 last week, but their loss to the Maroons was their second road loss of the season (the other being to Wheaton) and has me a little worried. They have to travel to Atlanta and then Rochester this weekend and while Mark Edwards always has his team ready, but I wonder if sometimes they are looking too far ahead.
13 – New York Univ.DOWN 4 spots
OK… I admit… I am the only voter voting for NYU. Why? I am not as sure as I was a week ago. I actually had them #9 until they lost to Brandeis this past weekend. And while I usually subscribe to the theory of not buying into NYU in non-conference play, something about what I saw in preseason and during the beginning of the season had me maybe a little too confident. I also thought their loss to New Jersey City was simply a blip on the radar. Heck, they handed Stevens their only loss of the season. Now I am very nervous. The Violets face Case Western Reserve and Carnegie Mellon this weekend. Certainly not overly challenging competition, so one stumble here will have them out of my poll next week.
14 – Hampden-SydneyUnchanged
I think the Tigers are very underrated. They are 11-2 this season with their loss to N.C. Wesleyan the only head-scratcher. The loss to Guilford was almost written in the cards as you will see below. Hampden-Sydney has maybe the best talent in the ODAC if not the country including Harrison George. However, they do have the tough task of playing in the ODAC and with games against Randolph-Macon, Eastern Mennonite, Randolph, and Guilford (again) in a four-game stretch starting Jan. 16. A lot of questions will be answered before the end of the month.
15 – Ohio WesleyanPreviously unranked
Every time I went to buy in with the Battling Bishops, something made me take pause. A loss to Rochester and narrow victories against Defiance, Otterbein, and DePauw had me wondering what Mike DeWitt’s squad was really all about. But then they beat Wittenberg on the road by 12 and I put more chips on their spot – in fact they went from unranked to No. 15 as part of my gut check this week. This is a good squad that is tied with Wooster on top of the NCAC and has a real shot of winning of the conference or at least making the tournament if they don’t.
16 – WoosterUP 1 spot
Two losses for the Scots at this point in the season isn’t bad. They did lose to Adrian at home which had me worried, but their loss to a tough Transy squad on the road is nothing to be worried about. They are in the middle of my Top 25 because they need to make a statement to move up. Of course they have to play two against Ohio Wesleyan and still have one more against Wittenberg that could make things a little more interesting.
17 – Albertus MagnusUP 1 spot
The Falcons only loss this season is to D-I Yale … but they really haven’t had too many challenges. They have beaten a surprisingly down Wesleyan squad and a scratch-your-head Trinity (Conn.) team. And they have no challenges in their conference. How good are the Falcons? I really don’t know.
18 – UW-Stevens PointUP 1 spot
Yes, it took this long to get down to a WIAC school. Surprised, aren’t you? In some ways I am surprised as well, but I can’t get a read on the WIAC this season. Either the teams are really good, but can’t beat everyone, or they are more “average” than they have been in the past. That doesn’t mean a team like the Pointers isn’t good, but when you look at a loss on the road to Concordia (Texas) two games after losing to St. Thomas … I take pause. The chances of them getting through the conference unscathed are about as likely as me winning the lottery. Stout, La Crosse and Platteville are the next three (all at home) before seeing Whitewater on Jan. 23. The next two weeks will tell me if the Pointers are for real or if this placement in the Top 25 is appropriate.
19 – RandolphUP 2 spots
I thought I would be voting for an ODAC team with Randolph in the name this season, but I thought it would be Randolph-Macon (which I did do in the preseason). However, Clay Nunley certainly has things going well in Lynchburg. The Wildcats are undefeated with wins over Ferrum and Johns Hopkins causing me to take notice. However, their win over Randolph-Macon impressed me (and other voters) and so they have moved up. They do have Virginia Wesleyan and Guilford coming up which will give me a better sense of where the Wildcats are and especially just how good Colton Hunt is (some think he is the best player in the conference).
20 – WilliamsPreviously unranked
Yeah, I may be underselling the Ephs here. They have wins over Wesleyan and Springfield, but they also lost to Stevens. Not all bad, but from the preseason on I haven’t felt like Williams was a top team and their road trip out west didn’t sell me either. I have them in my Top 25 for the first time and I am looking to see how they do in the coming weeks especially vs. Amherst on Jan. 23.
21 – Rose-HulmanPreviously unranked
The Engineers are off to the best start in program history – that is 100 seasons of basketball – and they are stealing the headlines from their HCAC foe Transylvania. Jim Shaw has a good squad that has only lost to Carroll. However, Transylvania is resurging and Hanover won’t be a push over (they beat them by just one earlier this season). My eye is on Rose-Hulman because as good as I thought they would be, I didn’t think they would be 12-1.
22 – GuilfordPreviously unranked
The Quakers popped on my radar a few weeks ago when they beat Eastern Mennonite and Randolph-Macon in back to back games. Then they lost badly to Virginia Wesleyan which at the time I didn’t think was that big a deal. When they slapped Hampden-Sydney around and won by 14, I decided they deserved some attention. The Quakers won’t see another big test until Jan. 26 when they rematch with Hampden-Sydney. So, I am giving them a shot.
23 – UW-WhitewaterUnchanged
I can hear the WIAC fans already screaming that I have the defending champs too far down my poll. But to be honest, even when I had them far higher, I was nervous. Remember how much this team lost from last season? While they have wins over Illinois Wesleyan, Stout, and La Crosse, they also lost at home to Stevens Point and on the road at St. Norbert. They barely beat a sub-par Carthage and River Falls squads while also blowing others. That all adds up to inconsistency. I can truly reevaluate them starting on January 19th when they face Stout again and then Stevens Point. If they get through those games unscathed, I will be happy to move them up.
24 – AmherstUnchanged
Who are the Lord Jeffs this season? They have played one team of note, Springfield, and lost, and even lost to Babson at HOME! I am just not sure what I should be expecting from an 11-2 squad that also has put up over 100 points twice, though in a relatively close game against Curry. They won’t get a real test until January 23rd when they face Williams, though they will take on Wesleyan in a week. Until they really blow me away, I am going to continue to keep Amherst around – for now.
25 – Wheaton (Ill.)DOWN 19 spots
I nearly eliminated Wheaton this week, but kept reminding myself that their two losses were probably partially due to the fact several of their players have been down and out with the flu. However, this was also their best chance to put a stamp on the CCIW with games against Illinois Wesleyan and North Central and they couldn’t do it, especially leading at the half against the Cardinals. They will get their chance again, but still have Augustana first and any stumble at this point will drop them out of more than just my poll.

Dropped out:
AdrianPreviously ranked No. 13
I had already felt uncomfortable with where I had Adrian, so two straight losses to Calvin and Hope didn’t help their cause on my ballot. Calvin is having a good season, but Hope is having a really tough one. So, I decided to drop Adrian out and see how they handle the losing streak.
Virginia WesleyanPreviously ranked No. 20
Four straight losses is just too much to handle. They already fell from No. 1 to No. 20 the previous week and even though they won a game, you can’t ignore four straight losses. Now let’s see if they have figured things out.
LycomingPreviously ranked No. 22
The Warriors are a good team, but I was a little leery with the fact I had them in my ballot. Their loss to 4-9 Widener didn’t make me feel any better. Lycoming is going to need to prove that was just an oddity to make it back in.
StevensPreviously ranked No. 25
They didn’t lose and yet I still moved them out. They were 8-1 when the voting information came out and I don’t think they don’t deserve to be in my poll but I just had too many teams I wanted to get on my ballot that also deserved it. Stevens is on the short list to get back on when necessary.