In the previous blog on my preseason ballot I gave a brief idea of my methodology this preseason along with a look at who was in the Top 10 of my D3hoops.com Preseason Men’s Basketball Top 25. Here we will go through 11-20. A quick reminder, here are the Top 10 on my D3hoops.com Men’s Preseason Top 25 ballot:
1 – Randolph-Macon
2 – Mary Hardin-Baylor
3 – Christopher Newport
4 – UW-Oshkosh
5 – Mount Union
6 – Case Western Reserve
7 – Middlebury
8 – St. Joseph’s (Conn.)
9 – Oswego State
10 – Pomona-Pitzer
Reminder, the note after each team in parenthesis is where I ranked them at the end of last season – information I did not know or look-up prior to voting this season.
11 – Emory (#12)
One of the most consistent programs in the last decade has been in Atlanta. Jason Zimmerman has built a very good program not only in the deep south, but the UAA. Emory had the winningest class in program history graduate, including two starters and 60% of their points. That may seem like a lot for a near-Top 10 team. Like Middlebury, I didn’t initially expect Emory to be this high, but I needed to fill in areas with teams I initially expected to be lower. The Eagles do have their leading scorer, Logan Shanahan, back who was also second in rebounding and tops in blocks. Plus, watch out for Max Fried who gained a lot of experience and his game excelled in the final half of last season.
12 – Trinity (Texas) (unranked)
I spent much of last season watching the Tigers wondering when their balloon would pop. I had my own red flags placed on Trinity, but they continued to prove to not only be the best in the SCAC, but one of the best in Texas – which is saying something. Jimmy Smith has all five starters returning including multiple all-conference selections and SCAC Player of the Year Kaleb Jenkins. Trinity also has Ben Hanley returning after showing he would be a key contributor before a season-ending injury. The challenge will be they can’t fly under anyone’s radar anymore.
13 – Dubuque (unranked)
While doing the lead-up work and putting my ballot together I couldn’t get a voice in my head to stop saying “you may be the only one putting Dubuque (this high) on your ballot.” It did make me wonder if I was over-thinking things. Yes, losing a two-time conference player of the year stings, but there are still three starters back and half the team with lots of experience. I was also intrigued with some of the transfers coming in including one who played in every game for UW-Parkside last season.
14 – Johns Hopkins (#21)
I debated putting JHU higher on my ballot, but I am curious how the Blue Jays adjust to losing Conor Delaney who helped shoot Johns Hopkins to a couple of Centennial championships. Hopkins has a wealth of talent back for a program that under Josh Leffler has returned to its former glory. The conference should be a tougher road this season, but JHU seems to be in the driver’s seat and Goldfarb Gymnasium is usually pretty difficult for visitors.
15 – WPI (#11)
I’m nervous on whether I’m making the right call with the Engineers. I mentioned on Bob Quillman’s Q-Cast in October that WPI is a team to watch. They had a seemingly unexpected, but great season last year and I mentioned I am expecting them to be even better. However, I then wondered if I had misread things when we got the Top 25 data. That data showed WPI graduated 35% of its offense. I still think WPI will be at the top of a competitive NEWMAC and looking to make waves, but they are 15 when I had initially thought they would be a Top 10 program.
16 – Hardin-Simmons (unranked)
Texas could be an interesting place to watch in DIII this season, especially the ASC. The Cowboys bring back a lot while losing some key pieces. However, I am more intrigued with the core group returning along with the transfer the team informed us via the Top 25 data request. They also may be a faster, more up-tempo, team than in the past and that could make Hardin-Simmons far more difficult to beat. They just must stay consistent. I thought about waiting to see more on HSU before buying in but went with a vote for the Cowboys anyway.
17 – Rowan (unranked)
The NJAC is always competitive as a lot of teams in the last few years have had coaching changes and are building strong programs. Rowan is a great example of that shift. Joe Crispin took over the program a few years ago and has seemingly re-built the Profs. Last year’s squad was pretty good but fell short a conference title. They bring back four starters, eight players who saw significant time, which adds up to most of their offense. Plus, they bring in a few DII transfers and Ryan Ems formerly of Scranton who is a large presence inside for Rowan.
18 – Wesleyan (16th)
The Cardinals are coming the program’s best ever season. Yes, like many programs, Wesleyan graduated some of their talent, but they still have a wealth of experience returning. The NESCAC will not be easy (has it ever?). The bottom of the league has become more competitive and coaching changes in the last few years are starting to show results. I like Wesleyan and think they could maybe surprise while everyone is watching Williams, Middlebury, and others.
19 – Heidelburg (unranked)
The Student Princes surprised everyone last season and likely were a year ahead of expectations. Four starters and more than three-quarters of their scoring returns and they will need all the experience they can muster. The OAC will be yet another battle at the top with half the conference capable of winning the title.
20 – Babson (unranked)
Something about Stephen Brennan’s squad has me intrigued. I didn’t think I would be voting for more than one NEWMAC team when I started this, but the Beavers have peaked my interest. They may be one of the riskier teams I’m eyeing as they have three starters and less than 30% of their scoring returning. However, Amado and Kirkpatrick are a strong duo and some of the talent coming in looks like it could contribute immediately.
In the final installment of the blog, I’ll share with you my 21-25 ranked preseason Top 25 men’s teams in Division III along with some final notes and personal reactions.