Of the 25 teams on my previous ballot, seven teams lost nine games with four of those teams and five of those losses happening in my top six. As a result, there is some major adjustments at the top of my ballot and not the bottom, for a change.
This was rivalry week with almost everyone playing an arch-rival, so I did consider that major fact while looking at some losses and wins this past week.
1 – St. Thomas – Up 1 spot
In the matter of three weeks, the Tommies have moved out of the top spot on my ballot and then back. They have moved past their lone loss and looking like one of the toughest teams in the country.
2 – Hampden-Sydney – Up 6 spots
I have stated numerous times that I think the Tigers are the most underrated team in the country. They play in one of the toughest conferences in the country and seem to be putting their foot down emphatically. They trounced their arch-rival, Randolph-Macon, on the road to sweep the season series for the first time in years. And when you look at the SOS numbers, they are impressive. Ahead they have a major clash with Virginia Wesleyan coming up Wednesday in which the Tigers could clinch the ODAC regular season crown.
3 – Middlebury – Up 2 spots
Middlebury may be a bit overrated at #3, but with so many teams losing in this part of the ballot, they simply migrated up the poll. I didn’t feel comfortable placing the Panthers #2 because of the number of close games and their one-point win over Williams now looks less interesting with Amherst looming on Tuesday night.
4 – Illinois Wesleyan – Up 4 spots
Last week I said the Titans would probably have to win the CCIW to crack my top five, but thanks to numerous losses ahead of them and another dominating week in the CCIW, they have moved up accordingly. The only test left for an undefeated conference season is North Central on the road… if they don’t overlook Millikin first.
5 – WPI – Down 3 spots
Almost everyone was waiting for the Engineers to lose their first game and it never seemed to be coming until Springfield got the job done Sunday afternoon. Springfield is having a good season and has a win against Amherst on their resume as well, so losing to the Pride on the road isn’t a shock. Now whether it was the delay thanks to an historic blizzard or just playing in a tough place, WPI has to right the ship quickly since they have MIT and Clark on the road to finish.
6 – Rochester – Down 2 spots
We know the UAA is a tough conference mainly because of the travel required, so we shouldn’t have been surprised that Rochester couldn’t stay undefeated in the conference. But Rochester is now 2-2 in the last two weekends and is holding on to a one game lead in the conference with three to play. And the team behind them, Wash U, dominated Rochester in St. Louis which you hope doesn’t mean Rochester peaked too soon.
7 – Amherst – Up 3 spots
The Lord Jeffs had already thumped their arch-rival Williams in a game a couple of weeks ago, but when they did the same thing, holding the Ephs to 48 points at home, it made me notice. It was Amherst’s only game of the week, but they are now on top of the conference with an important battle with Middlebury coming up.
8 – Catholic – Down 2 spots
The Cardinals losing on the road to Scranton shouldn’t be too surprising, except at times it isn’t clear what Scranton team will show up on the floor. Catholic did have to come from 20 points down to within 2, but couldn’t pull off the victory. The match-up is a bit of a rivalry, so I wasn’t going to bring them down the poll too far.
9 – Whitworth – Down 8 spots
Two losses probably would have resulted in a further slide down the poll if not for the number of losses by others and the fact that some of the teams below the Pirates didn’t seem like top ten teams. However, the loss to George Fox at home does give me great pause since this conference didn’t seem to be that big a challenge.
10 – St. Mary’s (Md.) – Up 3 spots
I am not sure the Seahawks are a top ten team, but they have migrated up thanks to a few factors: the number of losses my others and the fact they still have only loss two games this season (both to teams on my ballot). St. Mary’s has clearly played better than many expected especially since they don’t have any significant inside presence.
11 – North Central (Ill.) – Up 4 spots
The Cardinals appear to be playing better basketball than a few weeks ago when they were dealing with injuries to their top three players. I probably would have moved North Central into my top ten, except that while they beat Augustana handily on the road they couldn’t do the same to Millikin on the road. They have a major game against Illinois Wesleyan this week that could change the landscape of the CCIW.
12 – Ramapo – Down 3 spots
Another loss in the NJAC is not what the Roadrunners need right now before the conference tournament. The loss was to the third place teams in the conference on the road, but Ramapo needs to avoid these losses if they want to be ready for post-season play.
13 – Wooster – Up 4 spots
The Scots got through rivalry week with a win in overtime against Ohio Wesleyan and an easier win over Wittenberg. Wooster is a good team that just has to focus on all games and not forget what the goal is when playing teams like Wabash.
14 – Calvin – unchanged
Here is where I took a rivalry game into mind. Calvin losses a close game on the road at Hope which probably shouldn’t have been that unexpected just based on the history in this rivalry. Plus the fact, you had to figure Hope wanted revenge for the embarrassment in the first game. I still think Calvin is a good team and shouldn’t fall because of the biggest rivalry in Division III.
15 – UW-Stevens Point – Down 3 spots
The Pointers went 1-0 this past week, but their move downward is because they seem to be racked with injuries. I am not sure what has gotten them to this point in the season can allow them to hold on to the end.
16 – Rhode Island – Up 2 spots
17 – Rose-Hulman – Up 3 spots
18 – Williams – Down 7 spots
The Ephs got embarrassed on their own court by a team that has now embarrassed them twice this season. Yes, it was a rivalry game, but Hope showed they could show up at home against Calvin. Williams didn’t seem to show anything. The game was delayed several days because of the blizzard, but since it was at home that is less of an excuse in my book than a team that would have been on the road. It appears the Ephs were a little overrated in previous ballots.
19 – Wheaton (Ill.) – unchanged
20 – Cortland State – Up 1 spot
21 – UW-Whitewater – Up 1 spot
22 – Washington Univ. – unranked
The win over Rochester told me that the Bears may have figured out whatever was wrong and are back on track – at least at home. I think Wash U. is a team to watch out for, but I still have questions on where their season is headed especially because they may have to hit the road in the NCAA tournament.
23 – MIT – unchanged
24 – Wesley – unchanged
25 – SUNY Old Westbury – unchanged
Christopher Newport – #16 last week
The Captains are in a tail spin. They have lost three straight including to now 11-10 LaGrange on the road. Of course the previous two games were losses at home. I am not sure exactly what is wrong, but this is the worst time of the season to be dealing with a significant losing streak.