Parity… it has to be parity. Twelve teams in the D3hoops.com Top 25, including mine, lost a game in the last week. Eighteen teams receiving votes by voters lost a game. It has to be parity. What else could explain why this late in the season trying to figure out where teams fit on a Top 25 ballot is still a head-scratching experience.This week, because of the number of teams that lost from top to bottom, some teams didn’t really shift that much on my ballot. Teams moved up and down, but only one made a dramatic move (Rose-Hulman) and once again I was thinking about who I should have in the last five spots.
So with just one ballot left until the NCAA tournament begins (and two total), here is this week’s version:
1 – St. Thomas – Unchanged
2 – Illinois Wesleyan – Up 2 spots
I am not sure if the Titans are the second best team in the country, but when everyone else doesn’t seem to want that distinction, the mantle passes to IWU. The Titans have a chance to be the first team since 1973 to get through the CCIW schedule undefeated if they can past North Central on Tuesday – but that game could also mean I am searching for another #2 next week.
3 – Hampden-Sydney – Down 1 spot
I still think the Tigers are a team that could make a serious run in the NCAA tournament despite their loss this week. Of course their loss was at home, but it was to an always tough Virginia Wesleyan team that used the game to wrestle the regular season title away from the Tigers. Considering there will be no home court advantage in the ODAC tournament, I think Hampden-Sydney has the best chance to win the conference title.
4 – Amherst – Up 3 spots
I stated on Hoopsville that I even after the triple overtime win over Middlebury I didn’t think the Lord Jeffs were a top five team. However, I also admitted that Amherst could move into the top five simply because of the number of teams that loss. I think Amherst is a really good team, but they have some things that give me concern on whether they can make a significant run in the NCAA tournament – similar concerns that cost them a deeper run last year. Let’s see if they prove me wrong in March.
5 – WPI – Unchanged
The Engineers lost to MIT on the road, but held onto the top seed in the NEWMAC thanks to a double-digit rally against Clark. The only two losses for WPI came back-to-back against Springfield and MIT on the road in what might a testament to just how tough the NEWMAC has been than any weakness of WPI may have. Thanks to those already discussed losses by other teams, moving WPI down didn’t make any sense.
6 – Middlebury – Down 3 spots
The Panthers made an great comeback on Amherst, but were the victims of an incredible purposely missed free throw put back to force a third overtime which they would eventually lose. I was chatting with Pat Coleman during the game that if Middlebury won, I would consider keeping them at #3. I also stated that if they lost, I could move them down to where Amherst was. Well, they are a spot above where Amherst was on my ballot last week and I am fine with that. The Panthers are a good team, but like Amherst I think they have some flaws that could cost them a significant run in the NCAA tournament. And like Amherst, let’s see if they prove me wrong.
7 – Catholic – Up 1 spot
I saw the Cardinals for the fourth of fifth time in person this week and once again they reminded me why I feel so confident in their squad. They came back from a loss to Scranton with a beatdown of my alma mater, despite the game not starting all that well (Goucher can force that in teams this year). In fact, they were playing so well in the second half, I swear Coach Steve Howes was using the opportunity to practice different offensive and defensive looks they made need in March. Now they have a chance at their first Landmark Conference championship title and first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 – their last year in the CAC.
8 – Whitworth – Up 1 spot
9 – North Central (Ill.) – Up 2 spots
10 – Rochester – Down 4 spots
Have the Yellowjackets peaked too early? They had a two-game lead in the UAA, three games over Wash U., at the beginning of the month. Now they have to beat Emory to win the UAA. Should they lose, they will finish in a three-way tie at the top of the conference and will lose in the tie-breaker. They have lost two of the last three including Sunday’s six point loss at home to now 12-12 Case Western Reserve – ending a 35 game winning streak at the Palestra. Sometimes a loss near the end of the season is the perfect kick in the butt for a team, but you would have thought that loss would have been at Wash U. last week.
11 – St. Mary’s (Md.) – Down 1 spot
12 – Calvin – Up 2 spots
13 – UW-Stevens Point – Up 2 spots
14 – Wooster – Down 1 spot
15 – Ramapo – Down 3 spots
The Roadrunners are once again making me wonder what is going on. Yes, William Patterson is a good team, but they aren’t world-beaters. You would have thought Ramapo would have given the conference a message by beating the Pioneers and maybe set up the NJAC tournament up a bit differently. Instead, they will have to face the Pioneers in the conference semifinals Tuesday. They have lost both games this season to William Patterson and if they don’t want to find themselves on a fragile bubble they better figure out how to actually beat the Pioneers.
16 – Rhode Island – Unchanged
17 – Williams – Up 1 spot
18 – Wheaton (Ill.) – Up 1 spot
19 – UW-Whitewater – Up 2 spots
20 – MIT – Up 3 spots
The Engineers are back in the conversation thanks to winning eight straight games including a win at home against WPI. They still don’t have two of their top players from last year’s team back from injury, but Will Tashman has stepped up with the rest of this teammates, like Michael Kates, and has become the first MIT player with 1000+ points and 1000+ rebounds in his career. They may be a team to watch out for in the NCAA tournament because they aren’t going to be nervous.
21 – Cortland State – Down 1 spot
22 – Rose-Hulman – Down 5 spots
Man, did the Engineers lose a bad game or what? Granted, Earlham finished the week with a two-game winning streak, but they were 2-21 entering the game against Rose-Hulman. The Engineers did win on Saturday and will host the HCAC tournament – which they won on the road last year. I wasn’t going to take Rose-Hulman out of my rankings for the loss to Earlham, but I certainly thought long and hard about doing it.
23 – Virginia Wesleyan – Unranked
Last time I put the Marlins back in my poll, I said it looked like they might have righted the ship… then they lost. So, I do put them back in my poll while knowing they could easily loss in the ODAC tournament despite being the top seed. However, a win on the road against Hampden-Sydney to take the top seed away from the Tigers along with winning six straight and 12 of the last 14 while battling through the ODAC is worth noting.
24 – Alvernia – Unranked
The more I talk to different coaches in the Mid-Atlantic, the more Alvernia’s name keeps popping up. Many coaches think they are one of the best teams in the region. They won the MAC-Commonwealth regular season title by two games over crosstown rival Albright and beat a pretty good Lycoming team this past week. The road to the NCAA Tournament will go through this Reading, Penn. gym and not the other, so I like the Crusaders chances.
25 – Hobart – Unranked
Coach Mike Neer is proving again he can get a team rolling at just the right time of the year. They have won 11 straight and dominated the Liberty League. While they may not have the strongest out of conference schedule, they also didn’t exactly have the strongest schedule last year before nearly getting to the Sweet 16.
Washington Univ. (Mo.) – #22 last week
The Bears just can’t figure out road games! They loss to a decent NYU team in a game they shouldn’t have lost on the road Friday night. They certainly rebounded well on Sunday against Brandeis, but the damage was already done. I appreciate the abilities this Wash U. team has and the schedule they have played and I realize they are in a good position in the regional rankings to probably make the NCAA tournament as a potential Pool C bid, but I just don’t have any confidence they can make any type of run in the NCAA tournament.
Wesley – #24 last week
The Wolverines are a pretty good team, but they already knew Salisbury had beaten St. Mary’s earlier in the week so you would have thought they would be ready for the Seagulls in the last game of the season. Wesley is now 2-2 in the last four losing to the other top teams in the CAC and after winning 11 straight games I wonder if like Rochester they peaked too early.
Old Westbury – #25 last week
I realize it was the Panthers first loss since NYU on Decemeber 5th and it was their first loss at home, but it was to now 13-12 Sage and would have meant an undefeated season in the Skyline Conference. I think maybe the Panthers were looking ahead. I like how Old Westbury has played and overcome many adversaries this year, but they have to stay focused. And when you are already at the bottom of my ballot, one loss will usually cause you to slip out.