I have no confidence in about 99% of the Division III teams, right now. None.
I talked to a few of the Top 25 voters this week as either I reached out to them to get their take on a few teams or they reached out to me and the one thing I quickly figured out: this is getting harder and harder. That may not mean something to non-voters or general Division III fans, but trust me when I say that this time of the season usually means less work on the Top 25 because teams have proven themselves and are ready for the last few weeks of the season.
Not this year.
I have almost no faith in my picks anymore. I have no confidence that where I have a team slotted is actually where they should be. I have a lot of confidence that I have some teams too high on my ballot and as a result I find myself stuck in no-man’s-land when dealing with losses even if a host of teams behind a team that has lost didn’t lose (see Cabrini).
I joked with one pollster that I want to submit my ballot with UW-Stevens Point number one… and leave the rest of the ballot blank. Not that no other team is a Top 25 squad, but because none of the teams I have in my Top 25 really seem like they deserve their ranking – they all may be too high!
And Cabrini really had me debating. Not necessarily because they lost, but because of who was behind them and how that would impact where they sat in the rankings. I actually changed my mind at least four times and came up with four different solutions… not liking any of them. I ended up staying pat with last week in hopes the coming week can give some better clarity.
As I begin, here is a reminder of last week’s ballot.
1 – UW-Stevens Point (Unchanged)
2 – Cabrini (Unchanged)
This will shock people and I really don’t know what to say. I could explain it six ways to Sunday and still not necessarily agree with it myself. It came down to a few things: was the loss to Baptist Bible bad? Yes. Was the last two weeks for Cabrini strange? Yes. Are they getting healthy again? Seem to be. Am I comfortable bringing other teams up to the number-two spot? No. Aaron Walton-Moss appears to be headed back from his injury and to paraphrase Mike Show from Baptist Bible, he is still a very dangerous player even on just one leg. This team does have a weak conference and their SOS shows that, but a weak schedule hasn’t stopped the Cavs from being minutes away from a national championship two years ago and making a challenging run to the elite eight last season. I am willing to trust my gut and Coach Markus Kahn on this one, but could I regret this decision in a week? Yes.
3 – Illinois Wesleyan (Unchanged)
Yeah, the Titans were knocking on the door of number-two thanks to Cabrini’s loss, but I just don’t feel they are the second-best team in the country… or even third-best. They have three-losses all in conference and could even lose the regular-season title to quirky Wheaton (Ill.) should they lose to the Thunder this week. Can I really be comfortable putting the Titans that far up my ballot if they may not even be the one-seed in their own conference tournament to a team I have on the outside-looking-in of my ballot? Yikes.
(EDIT: I mistakenly stated IWU has three-losses in conference, they indeed have two. I was thinking if they lost to Wheaton, they would pick up a third loss and incorrectly added that to their total. Furthermore, I should state that saying “they would lose the regular-season title” I meant they would lose the #1 seed. My good friend Bob Quillman pointed out my mistakes and I am grateful.)
4 – Wash U. (Unchanged)
More of the same with the Bears of Washington University. I have stated in past weeks I am nervous with this team this far up in ballot and I know I am not the only one thinking that. Again, had I moved Cabrini down it probably would have resulted in Wash U. moving up to number three and that simply makes me cringe. I like how the Bears are playing and they are rolling away with the UAA title, but I am not sure their conference standing is a sign of how good the Bears are or proves that the rest of the UAA took a step back (or for some more than one) this season.
5 – Wooster (Unchanged)
I seriously considered moving Wooster down this week not for what they did on the court, but for what the rest of the conference did – or didn’t do. The Scots now have a two-game lead in a conference that doesn’t have anyone really stepping up at this point in the season. If ever I would to demote a team for what the rest of the conference was doing, this would be it. However, I also thought it wouldn’t be fair to Wooster… for now.
6 – UW-Whitewater (Unchanged)
7 – Amherst (Unchanged)
8 – St. Norbert (Unchanged)
9 – St. Thomas (Unchanged)
10 – Williams (Unchanged)
11 – Wesley (Unchanged)
12 – WPI (Unchanged)
13 – Brockport State (Up 2)
14 – Texas-Dallas (Up 2)
Here is about the point in the ballot I am ready to throw things around and scream bloody murder… and maybe it actually starts with Brockport State as well. These teams seem too high up. In fact, they probably are too high up. Texas-Dallas is having a good year, but honestly their only resume highlight is that they are cruising in their conference. They also probably have to win the conference tournament to make the NCAA tournament thanks to the new 22-game schedule the ASC has implemented (though the Comets are #2 in the South Regional Rankings in Week 1). The second half of my ballot is nuts.
15 – Randolph-Macon (Down 1)
This may surprise people since the Yellow Jackets lost to Eastern Mennonite this past week, but to me I considered a couple of things. This was RMC’s first loss since losing a close game at Cabrini on December 18, Eastern Mennonite actually has some solid wins this season, the game was on the road, and the ODAC has probably more parity from top to bottom this season then in a long time (ten of the twelve teams have above-.500 records right now). Coach Nathan Davis has proven he can get his team clicking late in the season, so I can’t fault a single loss in the last fifteen games. One other factor, there was enough turmoil in the lower half of my Top 25 ballot that there was only so far for the Yellow Jackets to fall.
16 – Whitworth (Up 2)
Guh… I am pretty sure this is too high for the Bucs. I like how Whitworth plays and they are well coached, but my concerns coming out of Las Vegas have not changed. They are short on the bench, especially on the inside, and they sometimes lack the fire power they need to put teams away. Those concerns had me keeping Whitworth low on my ballot ever since. Now they are sneaking up and I am not thrilled. Sure, I am not surprised George Fox took them to the wire, but that is a game Whitworth needed to make a statement with.
17 – Purchase State (Up 3)
18 – Mary Washington (Down 5)
Frederick, the Eagles have landed! Mary Washington has lost three straight games in conference action and each of those losses I have a problem with. Salisbury: sure the Seagulls are tough, but if the Eagles are that good they win. Christopher Newport: a game that Mary Washington needed to use as a way to forget about Salisbury and stay in great position on top of the conference. Wesley: certainly not a surprise that the Wolverines won, but Mary Washington didn’t even look like a factor in the game. Maybe Mary Washington has peaked too early and if that is the case it is a shame because Mary Washington had been having one of the best seasons in program history. Oh, and they only feel five spots because I couldn’t imagine teams behind them ahead of them.
19 – Albertus Magnus (Up 3)
20 – Ohio Wesleyan (Down 3)
I will admit, along with Mary Washington, I may have had the Battling Bishops up too high. Just the single loss to Wabash may not have resulted in dropping three spots, but Ohio Wesleyan is now 2-2 in the last four and if you look at their overtime win, it was to 5-18 Alleghany. Maybe the NCAC race was too good to be true.
21 – Centre (Down 2)
22 – Rose-Hulman (Unranked)
Believe it or not, the Engineers have won 16 of their last 17 games and seem to be playing the best basketball when it counts the most. They also have a potential All-American in Julian Strickland leading the way with more than 25 points a game and leading in almost every other category as well. Rose-Hulman had a disappointing finish to last season, but this is an experienced squad who may be a dark horse depending on the set-up in the NCAA tournament.
23 – Staten Island (Up 2)
24 – Scranton (Unranked)
Against my better judgment, I placed the Royals into my ballot. I know they have only lost three games this season and their SOS is surprisingly high, but if there is one conference I know very, very well… it is the Landmark and nothing impresses me about this conference this season. Juniata has disappointed, Catholic has not been as good as expected, and the rest of the conference is playing at about an “ok” level. Certainly there is more parity this season in the conference, but that doesn’t mean the teams are good. Welcome to my Top 25 Royals, just don’t let me regret the decision (I am already regretting being a Top 25 voter this season).
25 – Richard Stockton (Unranked)
WHAT AM I DOING?! I am getting desperate, I think, to find teams that seem to fit in the Top 25. I have been watching the Ospreys for a while, but just have not been impressed with their resume, the NJAC, or anything else for that matter. However, they have won 20 games and are now at least tied for the top of the conference. I just have a feeling I am grasping at straws and happen to grab Richard Stockton’s from the other fifteen potential candidates.
Messiah (Previously 21)
Considering who I put into my Top 25, maybe pulling the Falcons out was too rash. However, they lost their second game to Stevenson (this time at home) and now all of their losses are conference losses. Messiah has had the chance several times this year to put their stamp on the conference, but can’t seem to put teams away and may have more match-up problems than I realized when watching them last month. Time will tell if this was a rash decision.
Bowdoin (Previously 23)
I really like how the Polar Bears have played this season, but the loss to Tufts coupled with the fact it was their second loss in three games makes me concerned the Polar Bears are on thin ice. Could they have peaked too early? They can prove myself and others wrong or right by how they perform in the NESCAC tournament which starts this weekend.
Dubuque (Previously 24)
I should have seen this coming. The only other time I placed Dubuque in my Top 25, they promptly lost. This time they lost both games (Loras and Central) and now probably won’t make the NCAA tournament unless they win their conference. I wanted to route for the underdog here, but they are making it hard to believe they can meet the challenge.