It’s Monday. And you what time that is! The Top 25 poll from D3hoops.com will be released tonight. As a voter for D3hoops.com, this is a day that is both a lot of fun, and a bit challenging. Getting up to No. 20 wasn’t all that hard, but filling those final five spots is always a real challenge. Bob Quillman, a D3hoops men’s voter, made a comment yesterday that voters will have to vote for teams they are not 100% sure on yet. That’s where I’m at in my Week 2 ballot. With six Top 25 teams falling to unranked opponents on Saturday alone, putting together this one was a little tougher than last week’s.
Anyway, here’s a look at how I’m putting together my Top 25 ballot…with context (though for the sake of time and word count, I did not put my full thinking on paper when writing up this post).
#1 Hope: Hope looked like a national title team at Calvin Wednesday night, making good in-game adjustments and putting tremendous pressure on the ball defensively. It resulted in a 62-56 win for the Flying Dutch over the nation’s #15 team, and makes No. 1 the easiest spot to fill in my ballot. An 86-64 win over Wittenberg improves Hope to 7-0.
#2 NYU: NYU slides up to No. 2 on my ballot after a week in which the Violets dominated in duels with Brooklyn and Connecticut College. They have continued to look sharp, and are playing all-around near-perfect basketball. Once they get into UAA play, that will be the real test, but for the time being, NYU is looking very unstoppable.
#3 Transylvania: No. 2 was really a 50-50 between NYU and Transylvania, though I felt (and the computer rankings backed this up) that NYU has been more complete in their contests up to this point. With that said, I would say Transy has faced slightly better competition early in this season (though they also just beat a Rose-Hulman team on Saturday that soon after canceled its season) and proven itself to be one of the nation’s best. Don’t want to take anything away from Transy here. Really not sure when we’ll see them actually tested…likely best possibility will be Dec. 29 against Wisconsin Lutheran.
#4 Trinity (TX): Against two opponents a combined 1-19 this season, the Tigers rolled to a pair of victories, including a 100-point performance at Centenary. They’ve met every challenge thus far, and for now, it appears the SCAC title is theirs to lose.
#5 Christopher Newport: Against a 6-1 Bridgewater team on Wednesday, CNU won by 28, and picked up another road win over Greensboro days later. CNU is playing very well on the offensive end right now, and remains at No. 5 in this week’s ballot.
#6 Scranton: I was interested to see how Scranton would fare against its first Top 25 opponent of the season in #14 Ithaca on Tuesday. The Lady Royals left little doubt in a 74-53 win, at least for me as a voter. Say what you want about the weak non-conference schedule for any of these highly-rated teams, but when they show up and play the way Scranton did against Ithaca, that’s what gives me confidence to slide them up to No. 6.
#7 Amherst: Amherst also moves up, having taken care of business against an NJCU team that I still can’t quite figure out. Amherst controlled the game for the larger part of three quarters, though NJCU did make a run in the closing minutes, but to no avail. The Mammoths are 5-0, and despite a close five-point win over Emmanuel earlier in the week, they’re still the favorite to win the NESCAC in my opinion.
#8 Baldwin-Wallace: At 7-0, Baldwin Wallace continues to impress, and I see no reason not to slide the Yellow Jackets up to No. 8. They came up with a solid victory over Wilmington (who is 5-2) in OAC play on Saturday, winning by nine, and added a 54-41 win over Heidelberg to open conference action on Wednesday.
#9 UW-Eau Claire: The only WIAC Top 25 team that did not lose on Saturday, UWEC instead came up with what I’d rate as its best win of the year, beating an 8-2 UW-La Crosse team 68-56. To add to that, the Blugolds edged UW-River Falls on Wednesday, winning 74-71, which is notable considering UWRF rebounded by beating #9 Whitewater on Saturday.
#10 UW-Whitewater: Before you say anything, I get it, Whitewater has two losses. But this poll is about grading the top 25 best teams, not the top 25 best records. The Warhawks have dropped two games by a combined margin of five points to two teams that I value somewhat highly (Calvin, UW-River Falls). Plus, they were impressive in a 64-56 win over UW-La Crosse, who was unbeaten entering Wednesday’s matchup. So while Whitewater does slide down four spots in my ballot, I am going to keep them in the Top 10 for the time being, especially considering the fact that we know deep the WIAC is this year.
#11 Mary Hardin-Baylor: The Crusaders needed a late layup to beat Schreiner on the road on Wednesday, but remain perfect, at 4-0, having opened ASC play with a 78-57 road win at Concordia (TX) Saturday. I haven’t seen Mark Morefield’s team play enough to get a good enough feel for where UMHB stands against the rest of the nation’s best, but by this point, I’m feeling good about where the Crusaders are at, heading into a notable matchup at ETBU on Dec. 10.
#12 Smith: Smith drops back two spots in my ballot, as I just haven’t seen it from the Pioneers yet. A 78-74 loss at Framingham State is not a bad loss by any means, but I just haven’t seen a Top 10-caliber performance yet. The talent is certainly there, and I believe it will only be a matter of time before Smith gains serious traction and is considered for a Top 10 spot once again, at least in my ballot.
#13 Tufts: Tufts fell on the road to a good Emory team who is 7-1, though I would’ve liked to have seen the margin be smaller than 15 points. It was not a great showing by Tufts, and on Sunday, the Jumbos did get back in the win column, edging Piedmont, 79-78. This really seemed to be an off weekend on the road, considering Piedmont is fairly good, but not great (4-3 overall).
#14 Trine: Trine actually doesn’t move in my ballot this week! It’s almost as if I had projected they would take down #15 Calvin on Saturday, by putting them No. 14 when they ended up No. 20. But the one thing I know about Trine is that even with two losses, the Thunder are deep and have begun playing better defensively. It led to a 2-0 week, and I’m keeping them at No. 14 for the time being.
#15 Springfield: Springfield also stays at #15 for me. The Pride put up a 12-point win over a Middlebury team at .500 on Saturday, and I see no reason to move them down. Springfield is 6-1 overall with the lone loss coming at Amherst.
#16 Babson: I’ll need to see more from Babson to move them higher, but they remain perfect at 6-0, having taken down a 6-2 Bridgewater State squad by a convincing 22-point margin at a neutral site, and came back for a 59-56 win over Williams on Williams’ home court.
#17 DeSales: Still undefeated, DeSales breaks into my ballot, having defeated #25 Messiah on Monday night very convincingly, 61-35. That win alone was enough for me to put DeSales into the Top 20, but they then followed that by making a statement against winless FDU-Florham, with a 113-32 victory. A 77-35 win over King’s made it a 3-0 week for DeSales.
#18 Ithaca: Ithaca did not meet the challenge against Scranton to the level I had thought they would, falling by 21 on the road, leading me to drop the Bombers by three spots. With that said, I still think their resume is very strong, with wins over Cortland, SUNY-Geneseo, and at Catholic. And to put it this way, I was 50-50 between Ithaca and Calvin, but ultimately, Ithaca’s three most notable wins compared to really just one for Calvin (over Whitewater) led me to put Ithaca just ahead of Calvin.
#19 Calvin: Yes, Calvin lost twice this past week. But show me a tougher span of four days than what the Knights faced a few days ago, hosting Hope then traveling to Trine. No doubt an extremely challenging start to conference play, I’m looking past the scores as I evaluate the overall body of work. Calvin played Hope tougher than I’ve seen any other team (including UW-Eau Claire) this season. That is worth a lot in my opinion. The 15-point loss at Trine is the main reason I expect Calvin will drop, though the win at UW-Whitewater is enough of a resume boost to keep Calvin in the Top 20.
#20 Hardin-Simmons: HSU looked sharp in an 81-65 home win over ETBU, who received votes in last week’s poll. The Cowgirls rebounded nicely from losing to Trinity twice a week ago, displaying that facing tough competition, regardless of the result, often proves beneficial in the long run. HSU is 2-0 in ASC play, having beat LeTourneau by 29 on Thursday as well. Also should note that UTD played without starting PG Paris Kiser for both games this week.
#21 Rochester: Rochester has notable wins this season over UT-Dallas, Messiah, and St. John Fisher, but falls back by three spots due to a five-point loss at Hamilton on Saturday. Because the loss was on the road, by single digits, to a team I’d likely rank in the Top 35, I’m going to keep Rochester at No. 21 for now.
#22 Whitman: Every voter has a couple teams in which he/she spends more time on when putting together a ballot than any of the others. For me that was Whitman and Puget Sound this week. Here’s why. Whitman went to Puget Sound on Saturday, and lost by 15 in their first D-III loss of the year. Now, the trouble is that Puget Sound lost at home to Wheaton (5-3 overall), just two weeks ago. 62-56. Because they are so similar besides those two results, I’m not going to put Puget Sound above Whitman just yet. They do share a common opponent in Chapman, whom they both beat rather easily, though Whitman was on the road, while Puget Sound was at home. I don’t see a bad loss on Whitman’s resume, and losing at Puget Sound is much different than losing on your home court. Time will tell. One of these two will separate itself.
#23 Puget Sound: Reference my explanation above when discussing Whitman. But side note that the Loggers looked really good on Saturday, as well as in the win over Whitworth. Definitely a team trending upwards in my opinion, which is why they jump up to No. 23 after a 2-0 week.
#24 UC Santa Cruz: UCSC’s lone game of the week was on the road at D-I Santa Clara, and ended in a 74-30 loss. As I said last week, I really try not to let non-D3 results affect my rankings all that much. So I’m putting UCSC at No. 24, especially when you consider that leading scorers Kaylee Murphy and Ashley Kowack did not even see action at Santa Clara. The win for Puget Sound over Whitman forced me to slide UCSC down, though the margin between Whitman, Puget Sound and UCSC is relatively thin in my opinion. I’m interested to see how UCSC fares against Linfied and Cal Lutheran next weekend.
#25 Ohio Northern: ONU has crept up on a lot of people, with a solid resume, but little attention. The Polar Bears had just 1 vote in last week’s poll, and it wasn’t from me. But I’ve been tracking ONU’s progress, and the 11-point win over Marietta on Saturday was enough to land ONU a spot in my ballot. They won by three at Trine, and also handed Washington & Jefferson its only loss thus far. Fairly strong team at No. 25. I could see ONU moving into the Top 20 by the time we hit the new year.
Dropped out: Millikin, UW-Oshkosh, Illinois Wesleyan
Who I’ll be watching this week: Bowdoin, Hamilton, WashU, UW-Stout
Got comments? Questions? Opinions? Drop them below!