BOOM! That sound sound you may have heard Sunday night or Monday morning was me blowing up most of my Top 25 ballot. Too many teams lost, I had too many questions about a lot of the teams, and things weren’t adding up. There was no way I could shuffle teams around without blowing up the ballot and taking a look at the data again and putting teams in order by what the new data coupled with what I was thinking revealed.
Well… I didn’t fully blow up the ballot. I didn’t even think to change my first place vote and I debated for awhile, but then didn’t change my second place team. After that… it was nearly a complete overhaul. I did keep teams around the area they had been, but moved teams up and down far more willingly then I normally would.
The result… I reshuffled the deck and made some hard decisions. I ended up cutting four teams from my Top 25 even though at least three of them deserved to stay in the poll. I brought in new teams and not just at the bottom, but placed a few midway up the poll. I dropped some teams pretty far despite just one loss while barely moving some others. I raised a couple of teams far higher than I expected before looking at more of the data. And ultimately I gave myself a new perspective.
As you know from previous blogs, I am known for blowing up my ballot a couple of times of year. This may tie for the latest in the year I have made the harsh decision, but it had to be made.
Besides wins, losses, and recent results, I also considered supposed SOS numbers and a version of the RPI that our friend KnightSlappy (alias on the D3boards) puts together. We won’t know if the math is dead on per what the NCAA will have until later next month, but it still gave me an idea of how team’s schedules stack up against one another and how they are doing in their regions. To be honest, I was surprised by some schools who had far higher numbers than I expected (Amherst, Dickinson, Wesley) and others whose numbers shocked me for as low as they were (Williams, Wittenberg). I also considered injuries, traveling or at home, other circumstances.
A quick reminder, here is Week 7’s ballot, before the carnage. And here is a look at this week’s:
1 – UW-Stevens Point (Unchanged)
Until the Pointers are knocked off, I am not going to change my mind. They continue to win in the very difficult WIAC and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do take a loss with UW-Whitewater still to play, but they are the best team in the country right now.
2 – Cabrini (Unchanged)
I seriously thought about moving the Cavaliers down especially with an SOS of .465, but their RPI is .599 and they haven’t lost a game. A big test against Wesley coming up next week, so I really won’t be sure I am comfortable with Cabrini at number two until then.
3 – Amherst (Up 5)
The Lord Jeffs numbers surprised me. Despite two losses (one to a Division III opponent in Emerson), Amherst has an SOS of .600. That is a surprising number to me considering the Lord Jeffs didn’t exactly challenge themselves to start the year. They chalked up their second win over Williams this past week and it was convincing. Amherst may be better than I was giving them credit for in the last few weeks.
4 – WPI (Unchanged)
The Engineers were another team that I thought I was maybe giving too much credit despite the fact they were seemingly playing so well without one of their best players all season. Their numbers were not shockingly good, thus why Amherst moved ahead of them, but they continue to play very good basketball and lead a deep NEWMAC by two games.
5 – Wooster (Down 2)
I didn’t know what to think of the Scots loss to DePauw. That was the second time the Tigers had beaten a ranked opponent in ten days – both of which away games for the ranked teams – and I didn’t expect Wooster to go through the conference slate unblemished. However, I thought they would have made sure to get past DePauw after already seeing them beat Wittenberg. Wooster also had strong numbers which helped offset my gut of moving the Scots down further. And when I thought about it, Wooster does seem like a Top 5 team at the moment.
6 – Illinois Wesleyan (Down 1)
Tough loss for the Titans. Carthage is clearly take no prisoners team of the CCIW this season and tripped up visiting IWU. 15-3 is a good mark overall, but the 5-2 at this point in the conference slate is surprising to me for the Titans. They have strong numbers and I really think this is a top tier program that has a real shot at making the trip to Salem. They just need to button some things up in conference action.
7 – Wash U. (Up 3)
I haven’t been completely sold on the Bears this season, but two weeks ago they beat Brandeis and NYU easily and then followed that up by staying focused and rolling through Case Western Reserve and Carnegie Mellon on the road. Their numbers didn’t shock me, but they were better than I expected (or maybe wanted to initially believe), so I felt comfortable with a big move up the poll. The Bears do have the challenging road trip of going to Rochester and then Emory this coming weekend, so they still bear some watching.
8 – Wesley (Up 5)
As the season has progressed, I have thought more and more that the Wolverines were going to be the real surprise of the season. They lose one of the best players in program history and are now turning in one of the best seasons ever. Wesley continues to take on all comers and beat them with a larger and larger target on their backs. And then I looked at their numbers: .583 SOS and .670 RPI – WOW! This is a team that usually doesn’t get that rewarded for their schedule, but the conference is really coming through this season and the Wolverines are playing better teams. Oh, and those numbers don’t take into account Cabrini who they will play on Monday. This could be one of the games of the year.
9 – UW-Whitewater (Down 3)
I know teams in the WIAC are going to surprise other teams, but I didn’t expect the Warhawks to lose to UW-Lacrosse. The only reason Whitewater didn’t fall further down my poll was because their SOS and RPI numbers are so strong. If not for that, I seriously thought about moving them down to maybe fifteenth because I am just not that sure they can compete with UW-Stevens Point for the top of the conference and thus make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
10 – St. Norbert (Up 1)
11 – St. Thomas (Down 5)
Yes, the Tommies lost to rival St. John’s (second time in three years) and they probably wouldn’t have fallen too far except there was a lot of moving and shaking going on. I think St. Thomas is a good squad once again this season, but the loss to St. John’s gives me concern they may not be completely in focus on the task at hand. They got back on their horse against Augsburg, but they still have a lot of MIAC games left to play.
12 – Mary Washington (Up 4)
The Eagles just won’t lose. Their two losses this season are to Hampden-Sydney and Wesley and they are playing better and better despite no longer being the underdog. Mary Washington is the biggest reason the CAC is probably one of the top ten conferences in the country this season.
13 – Augustana (Down 1)
They lost to Elmhurst which probably should have forced me to move them down further… but Elmhurst was a buzz-saw this week in the conference. Also, Augustana is probably one of the most talented teams for their youth in the country. Of course, how they respond to that loss could show if their youth is simply something we read on a roster. Better have short-term memory because North Central is looming.
14 – Williams (Down 5)
I just don’t think the Ephs are a Top 10 team… and Amherst showed me reasons to think that. Not only are injuries starting to become a problem, but they just aren’t a sound defensive team. I may have been giving Williams a bit too much credit up until this point and their numbers showed me something I didn’t expect. As good as Amherst numbers were, Williams were not on the same level (.515 SOS and .589 RPI). I am not even sure Williams is a Top 15 team, to be honest.
15 – Brockport State (Unranked)
Hello SUNYAC! I have been pushing Brockport State aside for many reasons including the fact the SUNYAC doesn’t blow my socks off as a conference. However, when your SOS is .578 and your RPI is .666, I’m the one being the devil by not including them in my Top 25. The Golden Eagles continue to win including roaring back to beat New Paltz this week. The only loss Brockport has suffered was the second game of the season to (now) undefeated SUNY Purchase. It seemed pretty obvious for Brockport to fly up my ballot.
16 – Messiah (Down 1)
I was going to ding the Falcons pretty hard for their last second loss to Hood. After all, it was their second loss in three games and despite Hood being a good team, Messiah should have put them away. However, Hood is major player now in the MAC Commonwealth and Messiah’s numbers are pretty solid (.549 SOS and .630 RPI). I like how Messiah plays the game and if they can secure the tight games down the stretch, they are going to be major player in the post season.
17 – Texas-Dallas (Unranked)
The Comets have only lost one game (as of the poll and voting) and are in control of the SCAC. Not sure why it took me this long to get Texas-Dallas onto my poll, but it might be because I have been looking elsewhere. Coach Terry Butterfield always has a team that plays well and has been a surprise around the country… I think this year people may have been looking the other way for too long.
18 – Bowdoin (Up 2)
19 – Oglethorpe (Down 5)
They lost to Centre worried me, not because Centre isn’t a good team, but because I am fearful the Stormy Petrels may get their wings clipped after flying too high too soon. Their SOS numbers are not that spectacular and the only reason they may not have fallen further was because I had them further up in my poll. However, the Centre loss was only their second of the season and the two losses are against teams who are a combined 24-10 – really can’t knock that in this second of the ballot.
20 – Ohio Wesleyan (Unranked)
The Battling Bishops are probably playing better than Coach Mike DeWitt expected this season – especially after a challenging start to the campaign. The biggest key, they are winning the games they are expected to win including against DePauw last week. I think the NCAC is a better conference especially in the last few weeks and could still have some surprises left in it with OWU maybe supplying some of them.
21 – St. Mary’s (Md.) (Up 2)
When I saw the Seahawks numbers my initial instinct was that I was right all along about this team and I better move them much further up the poll. After all, their SOS was .607 and their RPI was .634 – that’s on par with Amherst! However, I quickly reminded myself this St. Mary’s squad has lost four games this season with three of those losses to teams ranked higher and one to a team they shouldn’t have held home court against. I can’t move the Seahawks high up on the poll with those results (though, they got a very good result after the poll came out this week against Christopher Newport).
22 – DePauw (Unranked)
My gut after seeing the Tigers beat Wooster was to push them high up the poll like Brockport State and Texas-Dallas, but I had to temper myself. They beat a Wittenberg squad that may have peaked too early and they couldn’t beat an Ohio Wesleyan squad when the timing was ideal. DePauw has better numbers than Ohio Wesleyan, but I couldn’t move them ahead of the Battling Bishops due to the head-to-head. I am also concerned that DePauw has an unconscious let down after such a huge couple of weeks. Time will tell.
23 – Virginia Wesleyan (Down 6)
Every single time I buy in to the Marlins, they drop another games. Yes, that could simply the ODAC talking, but after last week’s run through the conference, I was hoping to see that trend continue. Instead, they drop a very important game to Randolph-Macon. Furthermore, their numbers weren’t that great: .515 SOS and .574 RPI. There are a lot of good teams in the ODAC and my gut tells me more teams should be on my ballot… and that leaving VWC on my ballot isn’t being fair to Guilford or others.
24 – Dickinson (Down 3)
After losing to sub-par F&M this week, I thought about pulling the Red Devils completely from my poll, but their numbers were actually better than I expected for playing in a bit of a down conference. I like how Dickinson plays the game and so I tempered my quick-trigger mentality… for at least this week.
25 – Whitworth (Unchanged)
Stevenson (Previously 18)
The Mustangs blew two leads this past week including another massive advantage against Lycoming and a late lead in the game against Elizabethtown. Stevenson’s Achilles heel this season is holding onto leads and playing 40 minutes. I may have tried to ride the Mustangs a bit longer, but their SOS of .510 did not give me any reasons to keep them in my poll.
Wittenberg (Previously 19)
This was a hard decision. The Tigers have looked really good this season, but that might be because their competition hasn’t been that challenging. The Tigers have an SOS of .491! All of those blowout wins may have had an obvious reason to them. Yes, they didn’t lose any games this past week, but when Wooster and DePauw beat you in consecutive games and you had to come from behind to beat Ohio Wesleyan before that… the signs were there that maybe this team isn’t as good as they were perceived.
Calvin (Previously 22)
I told a friend that I had the Knights in my Top 25 after he asked because he thought they were a Top 25 team. I was confident I would keep them in my poll, but I just can’t ignore the .449 SOS and the RPI of .529. Rather, I would have ignored it if Calvin hadn’t lost four games this season with those kinds of numbers. Calvin could be the best team no one is appreciating, but I think they have to prove a lot while probably having to win the conference automatic qualifier to make sure they are in the NCAA tournament.
Dubuque (Previously 24)
Suffer your first loss of the season and you are unceremoniously dropped from the Top 25. It happens and I didn’t feel good about it, but their numbers don’t warrant them staying in the poll… which is also why it took so long for them to get into the Top 25 in the first place.