Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’18-’19): Week 8

Last week was interesting. About midway through the week, it seemed like it might be a somewhat calm week in terms of outcomes and upsets. Then we entered the weekend and it got far more interesting. Big wins, surprising defeats, and incredible endings provided Top 25 voters (in both polls) a lot to contemplate Sunday evening and Monday.

The biggest question: Who should be the number one team in men’s basketball?

This is about the time of a season when the conference grind does present some interesting results. I am no longer surprised when several different outcomes suddenly change how I am voting or how I perceive teams. The challenge really has become determining who really is good and who may be rising thanks to smoke and mirrors.

I appreciate the fact there are 25 different voters from around the country even more in weeks like these as well. We all have different opinions and that not only makes for fascinating decisions, but also great conversation. My chat with Bob Quillman on Sunday’s Hoopsville was helpful and insightful just as my weekly conversations with Ryan Scott has become. It also proves that one can have two completely different viewpoints, and both realize the other could change your opinion.

Bob and I debated the “who is number one” question and I’ll admit, I was thinking about changing my decision after a while. He seemed to indicate the same. It could have gone on for hours, because when you start peeling back more and more layers, the more interesting discoveries and more questions are brought up.

Voting for who should be number one, or should be in any position on the poll, is not cut and dry even when it looks like it should be on paper. It only gets more difficult and more blurred the further down the poll you go. There are legitimately many teams that one could argue deserve to have some attention for the Top 25. There isn’t a single team in the country that isn’t flawed or unbeatable. I’ve said that since Day 1 of this season. I think we are seeing it more now than earlier in the season.

So who is my number one team? Well, I already gave that away multiple times before voting, but here is my ballot for Week 8. Just a reminder, here is how I voted in Week 7.

NWU remains Dave’s #1 pick thanks in part to precedent.

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan (NC)
I am not going to jump off the Prairie Wolves selection just because they lost. I’ve said from the beginning of the season that no team was going to go undefeated. That included NWU. The fact they lost to the second-best team in the ARC on the road is a large reason why I didn’t feel removing Nebraska Wesleyan from the top spot was necessary. I still think they are the best, deepest, most talented team in the country. I also would be hypocritical as a few years ago when Augustana lost their first game in CCIW play (something, again, that isn’t unexpected), I didn’t move them from number-one either.

2 – Augustana (NC)
I think Bob raised some good points as to why voting for the Vikings to be the top team in the country would make sense. He nearly got me to change my mind. Augustana does seem to be clicking well, but I am still a little leery of close results against teams that should be tight games in conference play. Yes, Augie hasn’t lost in the CCIW this season and that is becoming complicated. If they were to go undefeated (all else being equal), I am telling you now I am going to have to re-examine my vote here. In the meantime, Augustana’s close results in the last few weeks, coupled with a tough stretch ahead (especially on the road), plus the fact Loras has beaten both Nebraska Wesleyan AND Augustana (plus the DII Augustana) this season … gives me confidence in leaving by #1 and #2 picks solid no matter the outcomes this past week.

3 – Whitman (NC)

4 – UW-Oshkosh (Up 1)

5 – St. Thomas (Up 2)

6 – St. John’s (Up 3)

7 – MIT (Up 3)

8 – Randolph-Macon (Up 3)

9 – Williams (Up 3)

Willamette upended Whitworth which caused the Pirates to plunged down Dave’s ballot, but not out of the Top 10. (Courtesy: Willamette Athletics)

10 – Whitworth (Down 4)
I have said before I think this is the best Pirates squad I have seen on the court. Yes. That includes the overall number one team many moons back. I have also said that while they have the talent, I still am concerned about the drop off on the bench and how they can play “down” to their opponents. The NWC has improved and the bottom teams are no longer nearly as bad, however that doesn’t excuse the loss to Willamette (granted on the road). Those are games Whitworth must win to stay in the NCAA conversation AND allow the committee to get their way and split the Whits come NCAA Tournament time. Now there is also more pressure on the Pirates to win, on the road, at Whitman Tuesday night.

11 – Wabash (Down 3)
I didn’t move the Little Giants down as much as some may have expected due to their loss to Wooster for the following reasons: It was on the road at a difficult place to play; I am now more in the camp of understanding Wooster is a good team; there are plenty of teams below Wabash I still think they are better than. I may still have Wabash higher (and Wooster lower) than most, but I also think Wabash is a very good team. They got into a 14-0 hole against the Scots and stormed back. That speaks volumes.

12 – Capital (Up 1)

13 – Marietta (Up 1)

14 – Hamilton (Down 8)
The Continentals made Colby look good … or maybe Colby is good? Hamilton dropped a home game against a team they should have seen coming. The Mules had already knocked off Amherst the night before and had to travel to Clinton, New York. I don’t give Hamilton much slack for losing that game as a result. They didn’t shoot very well, and they struggled to stop a Colby team that clearly was confident, but again Hamilton should have seen coming and was prepared to handle. BTW, 11 turnovers to just five assists… those TOs are hurting Hamilton especially when they are shooting .393 for a game.

The image that has been seen around DIII this past week. Reactions from Loras after defeating previously undefeated NWU. (Courtesy: Loras Athletics)

15 – Loras (Up 1)
The Duhawks basically remained stable despite their win over Nebraska Wesleyan. They had lost to Wartburg earlier in the week which meant the game against NWU was close to a must-win. They also were the one team in conference I felt could beat NWU – that seemed clear after they beat Augustana earlier in the season. Loras’ problem is inconsistency (common refrain for many). They lose to NWU two weeks ago by 18 and then barely get past Coe. They blitz Central and then barely get past Buena Vista and lose to Wartburg. Loras is a good team, but they must buckle down the rest of the way especially considering their rival, Dubuque, who already knocked them off this season is next.

16 – Swarthmore (Up 1)

17 – Lynchburg (Down 2)
I considered dropping the Hornets a few more spots, but kind of ran into a bubble where I didn’t think they were worse than those below them. Losing two games last week is tough, though they lost to Randolph-Macon ranked ahead of them (thus expected) and to Guilford that is proving to be a giant killer in the ODAC (and probably underappreciated; clipped the Hornets twice this season). The only thing that bugs me was both games were at Turner Gymnasium. That feels unacceptable. I am not sure if Lynchburg rose too high too soon, but I will be watching games against Roanoke and others to see how they respond.

The Scots were a jumpin’ after defeating Wabash, at home, to split the series with the Little Giants and get Dave to now buy in. (Courtesy: Wooster Athletics)

18 – Wooster (NR)
Okay, I’m buying in to the Scots, for now. I just haven’t been that impressed in what has been a crazy Great Lakes and NCAC. However, they had a smart game-plan against Wabash and took advantage of opportunities. The stretch of three losses in December clearly was an example of “the reports of Wooster’s death are greatly exaggerated.” The real challenge now is not to let their guard down. Ohio Wesleyan is around the corner and rematch for Wittenberg looks … not to mention the rest of the conference including DePauw which would love nothing more than to knock off Wooster. But I’m buying in …

19 – Nichols (Up 1)

20 – North Central (Ill.) (Up 1)

21 – Pomona-Pitzer (NR)
I am also buying into the Sagehens, for now. There are only two things I chalk up to note worthy so far for Pomona-Pitzer: A double-overtime win over Whitman and having just one loss (to WashU following the Whitman game) on the season at this point. There are more question marks when it comes to their schedule than almost anyone else in the poll or being considered. The SCIAC is hard to grasp as so many teams play schedules unrelatable to the rest of DIII, so is a win over Occidental really all that great? But a 14-game winning streak and solid wins in their last three, including against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, left me very little reason to keep them off my ballot.

UW-Lacrosse is one of several teams at the bottom of Dave’s ballot who have five losses, but four of the Eagles losses happened in November. (Courtesy: UWL Athletics)

22 – UW-Lacrosse (NR)
Welcome to the “Five-Loss Club” of my ballot. I struggled mightily with this part of my ballot. The Eagles are sitting a game out of first place in the WIAC and any team that high should probably be ranked in the Top 25. That said, their losses this season to Ripon, Central, and Elmhurst make one shake their head – because if they are good enough to be near the top of the WIAC, they should be good enough to win those games. Granted, three of their losses came in a four-game stretch in November, but they still lost to Elmhurst in late December. You then counter that information with wins over Whitewater (twice), Stevens Point, and Platteville in conference play and it change the equation again. So, I’m riding what is happening more now than in November … but UWSP and UWP are the next two games on tap. Take note.

23 – UW-Stevens Point (Down 4)
Despite winning two games this past week, the decision to move the Pointers down was more about where other teams were being positioned. I also felt Lacrosse was playing better than UWSP and I couldn’t justify Stevens Point being higher. So, no fault of their own, but maybe a “heat check” on where I had UWSP in the first place – I didn’t bring them far enough down last week.

24 – Guilford (NR)
Similar to UW-Lacrosse, I felt I needed to recognize the “now” from the Quakers versus the earlier season results. They, too, lost most of their games in November. Four out of five to be exact in a six-game, 15-day span. Those losses were all two-possessions or less as well. Since then, they have lost just one game in 13 and have a sweep of Lynchburg and win over Randolph-Macon. The only reason they aren’t head of Lynchburg with that sweep is that five losses and a loss to Roanoke is holding down. There is a real chance they flip with Lynchburg later.

25 – Wheaton (NC)

Dropped Out:

Rochester has a lot of good weapons at their disposal but 3-3 in their last six games has resulted in coming off Dave’s ballot. (Courtesy: Rochester Athletics)

Rochester (Previously 19)
It almost feels like the old “NYU Effect” with the Yellowjackets, except that I know they played a pretty decent out-of-conference schedule. However, conference play hasn’t been as good. Rochester is 3-3 in their last six games in UAA play and dropped a game this past weekend to, improved, Brandeis. I am just not sure the UAA has a Top 25 team right now. The conference turns the page on the schedule this week and the cream will most likely rise to the top very soon. Then Rochester or whomever (Emory, Chicago, WashU) may reemerge as a Top 25 team.

Amherst (Previously 22)
When there is as much parity and diversity of teams in Division III, I struggle to keep a team in the 20s ranked when they take a loss, I figure, they shouldn’t. Losing to Colby, even if it was the first game, is hard to swallow especially when it comes somewhat on the heels of an emotional win against Williams. Colby was also at LeFrak Gymnasium which makes that loss a bit harder to wrap one’s head around. The NESCAC is always a grind, but these are the games the top teams should be winning.

Many will tell you Arcadia is a very good team that is flying under the radar with a stellar defense. Unfortunately, they couldn’t stop Rosemont. (Courtesy: Arcadia Athletics)

Arcadia (Previously 23)
The Knights lost the day I put them on my ballot. Dropping the game to Rosemont is not a quality result. Nothing against the Ravens who I think haven’t had as good a season as they should be having, but Arcadia should have dominated that game. They then followed it up with a narrow win, on the road, against a depleted Stevenson unit. I still buy in that Arcadia is a darn good defensive team that may make waves in March, but they need to refocus here in January and early February.

Wesleyan (Previously 24)
While the Cardinals dropped their fifth game which puts them in the same company as UWL, UWSP, Guilford, and Wheaton, the difference is Wesleyan did it this past week and the rest of that core did not. Furthermore, the loss to Tufts (10-10) doesn’t look as good as it did in the last few years. The Cardinals continue to be plagued by inconsistency, by my vantage point, and can ill-afford to lose very more games if they have NCAA hopes.

Previous Ballots:
Week 7
Week 6
Week 4
Preseason (Top 10, 11-20, Final Five)

There you have it. Yes, there are a lot of teams I don’t have on my ballot that some feel should be there. I feel they have a place as well, but I don’t have more than 25 slots. I went through a lot of versions that had the 18-25 positions constantly being erased and new teams inserted. This was the best I could settle on for this week.

Next week could be a completely different story.

Don’t forget to tune into Hoopsville Thursday and Sunday nights throughout the season. While we are normally on the air 7-9 PM ET those evenings, Thursday this week we have the annual “Marathon Show” which will start at 12pm ET and run until about 8pm. We are also moving Sunday’s show to Monday due to some conflicts (and Super Bowl Sunday) and start at 7pm ET. To watch the show, log onto www.d3hoopsville.com or follow us on Twitter (@d3hoopsville) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/Hoopsville) for direct show links and more information.

“Because if you want to talk about Division III basketball, you’ve got to watch Hoopsville!”

Division III has leverage in important NCAA-wide vote

D-III Business Session at NCAA Convention (Courtesy: NCAA.org)

I will start admitting it is far too late to bring up these ideas if no one in Division III has thought or discussed them. The time to think and debate on these was the past few months. There is also not a lot of time in Orlando this week to think or debate these because the NCAA wants the media recognition.

Division II and Division III have a golden opportunity this week at the annual NCAA Convention in Orlando. They have the chance to remind not only their brethren in Division I, but the entire country, that despite how it looks the NCAA is truly run by its membership – and not just those in the Power Five.

A major vote to be considered by all three divisions is to change the structure of the NCAA Board of Governors. In the fallout of the recent Division I men’s basketball situation regarding shoe companies and payments to recruits, their families, and members of coaching staffs, one of the major recommendations from an independent review is to add five non-NCAA, conference, or school members to the Board of Governors (BOG).

The 20-member BOG is made up of NCAA membership comprising of 1voting members and four non-voting members (i.e. NCAA President, former members, etc.). Of those 16 voting members, eight are chancellors or presidents from the D-I Board of Directors from the Football Bowl Subdivision institutions, two from the D-I Board of Directors from the Football Championship Subdivision, two from the Division I Board of Directors from Division I at-large, two from Division II, and two from Division III.

The recommendation to add five independent members to the BOG will be decided at a rare Thursday vote to be held in conjunction with the official opening of the NCAA Convention and “state of the NCAA” speech from NCAA President Mark Emmert. However, there has been some discussion on whether Division III should support the vote.

Courtesy: NCAA.org

This past fall, the Division III President’s Council (the highest board in Division III’s governance) showed general support for the added members, but there was also some concern. Some voiced a need for transparency for how the new members would be selected and interest in diversity not only in who the individuals are, but the fields in which they originate.

Meanwhile, the Division III Commissioners Association (DIIICA) expressed concerns that the five new members on their own would out-number Division III representation further diminishing Division III representation (new membership would outnumber D-II and D-III representation combined). They formally requested that the process of selection of the new members to include one-on-one time with Division III Board of Governor representatives. They also requested that individuals with a “Division III perspective” also be considered for the selections.

I have also been told by several source that there are institutions in Division III who have voiced their interest in voting down the BOG plan. There is also interest by some in DII to do the same.

While I support the idea of five “public members” to be added to the NCAA Board of Governors, I think there is an opportunity for Division II and Division III to make sure they are properly heard and represented. Unfortunately, the vote on this measure will take place on Thursday evening which is unheard of for any kind of vote, even division-wide measures. The last division-wide measure requiring all three divisions to approve was held a few years ago when women’s beach volleyball was added as a 90th sport in the NCAA. That vote was held during the usual Business Sessions on Saturday mornings where all three divisions gather in their own convention rooms (halls) and vote individually on division-only and NCAA-wide legislation.

This Thursday vote is being done for one obvious reason: media attention. The NCAA gets to say this has been “approved” on Thursday night and all-day Friday it is discussed (and, the NCAA hopes, applauded) by the media on Friday. Wait until Saturday to vote as would be the norm … and you won’t hear any serious discussions (or applause) until Monday when it already might be a distant memory.

Division III voting at NCAA Convention (Courtesy: NCAA.org)

Because the vote is taking place on Thursday evening, there is less time for Division II and III to possibly make a power move. Discussions will have already needed to take place over the phone, email, or in random gatherings. Not at the usual “Issues Forum” held on Friday mornings where Divisions come together to discuss the current legislation to be voted on and take straw votes on possible future legislation and ideas.

What kind of power move could Division III, or combined with Division II, make? Remember, Division III is made up of 450 institutions. Compare that to less than 350 in Division I and around 300 in Division II. Division III has more membership and with the help of Division II – even a little more than half – they could derail this vote and force Division I to listen to Division III’s concerns or ideas.

There are two ideas that could benefit Division III that would be worth pursuing. The first, which I’m told is already being discussed, would be to make sure one of the five public positions on the BOG must be a Division III individual. Someone with a Division III background and understanding that could represent the Division from the more public point of view. Division II could demand the same causing the balance on the BOG to remain somewhat the same as now.

The other idea: More money.

Division III operating budget for 2017-18 (Courtesy: NCAA.org)

We constantly discuss, complain, and shake our heads at how Division III being the largest division in the NCAA only gets 3.18% of the overall NCAA operating budget – the smallest allocation. That equates to around $30.2 million (per the 2017-18 budget), but we see how in all sports where the championship committees must make sacrifices to stay within the budgetary limits put in place. 75-percent of the D-III budget goes to championships and that still isn’t enough for the 28 team championships each year in the division. It isn’t enough to make sure two top ten football teams don’t face off in the first round or several conference foes in basketball don’t see each other in the opening weekend.

Division III could use its leverage to get a little bit more money from Division I.

Of course, Division I brings in about 98% of the operating budget to begin with thanks primarily to the TV contract with CBS/Turner to put on the Division I men’s basketball tournament. It is their money they are giving up, by NCAA rule, to the other divisions. However, that doesn’t mean this isn’t an opportunity Division III could capitalize on for the betterment of the division — a division even D-I speaks highly of for being the champion of the “student-athlete.”

Imagine if four or five percent of the NCAA operating budget went to Division III? D-II gets 4.37% of the overall operating budget. That equated to $42.7 million in the latest figures put on NCAA.org. That is $12.5 million more than D-III, for a division that has two-thirds the membership. Could you imagine how far that additional $12 million a year would go in D-III?

Again, I am coming at this a little late. I would hope that those at the DIIICA, President’s Council, or others have maybe already thought this through and maybe had these discussions. While D-III understands it doesn’t bring a ton of money to the table ($436,500 in membership dues), D-I needs D-III (along with D-II) to go along with this vote to be sure it passes. D-I would have egg on its faces if this vote were to fail, so making sure either one of the new public five BOG members is a D-III representative or the division has its budget allocation raised a percentage point or two (or both!) isn’t the worst deal to make. It is a drop in the bucket, literally.

By the way, a budgetary increase for Division III would also require an NCAA-wide vote and that’s where this plan becomes complicated. If I were in these conversations, I would make sure that budgetary increase was approved first before D-III then voted on the BOG membership. If it was done the other way around, there are no guarantees D-I or others would approve the increase after the fact. If that happened, D-III would have lost its leverage.

It seems D-III and D-II have an opportunity to not only help D-I improve itself (and thus the image of the NCAA), but improve their situations as well. Unfortunately, I am not sure there is time to pull it off.

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’18-’19): Week 7

Welcome to my D3hoops.com Men’s Top 25 ballot blog. If you are familiar with this and have read it before, thanks for coming back. If you are new, welcome. I try and do this as often as I can – weekly is the goal – to give those interested insight on how at least one voter approaches the time and work to put a ballot together and how this voter ends up voting. A reminder that I am just one voter and I don’t expect any other voters to vote like I do, nor necessarily agree with my approach or reasoning. My take on things may be completely off one week and spot on the next (ok … maybe not that last part LOL).

This week I found my ballot had developed at least three “sections.” A top tier of team I am very comfortable knowing are some of the best in the country. A second tier I think are teams who are very good and could compete with the top tier but have shown flaws or inconsistencies so far this season – or I am just not sure are as good as their resume seems to indicate. Then a third tier of teams that are flawed, are not rising to their potential, or are difficult to truly grasp how good they are … or are not!

Whitman Blues are one of five teams Dave is comfortable saying are the best in the country.

One thing that has developed for quite a few weeks, I’m pretty set with my top five. They have shown to be the best in the country and no other teams have shown they should be in that group. It is the ballot spots after the top five where things get more interesting.

I can explain it more later, but I found myself in an endless loop near the end with the final five, maybe eight, poll positions. I could insert a number of teams that both felt like Top 25 teams, but also didn’t feel like squads that should be there. There are probably 15-20 teams I could slot into those five to eight spots and no combination was going to make me feel I had the right teams in the right spots.

In the last few blogs, I shared my thoughts on all the teams on my ballot. I won’t be doing that moving forward. I will select a few based on either movement up or down, being added or removed. If you are interested in my thoughts on teams, I have links shared with each ballot throughout and at the bottom of each blog.

The one thing I do feel comfortable saying: there are a lot of very good teams in Division III men’s basketball. We expected that fact this season and while some teams haven’t lived up to expectations, others have emerged who we are now talking about. March is going to be wide-open and the national committee is going to face a real challenge trying to balance the bracket the best they can with the limitations they are given.

Allen County War Memorial Coliseum – destination for DIII men’s basketball this season.

I was talking with a voter and another person familiar with the process recently and we all agreed, there are 12, maybe more, teams who could get to Fort Wayne and battle for a national title. Whoever wins this year will not have taken an easy road – no matter where they are in the country.

With that, let’s get to my Week 7 ballot. As a reminder, here is how I voted last week. For reference: NC (No Change); NR (Not Ranked).

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan (NC)

2 – Augustana (NC)

3 – Whitman (NC)

4 – Whitworth (NC)

5 – UW-Oshkosh (NC)

6 – Hamilton (Up 3)
I didn’t want to move the Continentals up at all, but I due to other results and decisions someone had to fill the six-spot. Hamilton got passed SUNY Geneseo in non-conference action, but their only conference game, against Amherst, had to be postponed due to the massive winter storm (I don’t follow the winter storm names, crap; read more why here). That game would have been very helpful and Hamilton benefits as the result of there being no game. Turnovers are still a concern for me especially in conference play.

UST has skyrocketed up Dave’s ballot and are once again back in the conversation atop the MIAC. (Courtesy: Ryan Coleman, D3photography.com

7 – St. Thomas (Up 3)
The Tommies continue their meteoric rise on my ballot (and the overall Top 25 poll) thanks to other results and John Tauer’s ability to get the most out of his team … and get them to focus on doing just that much better than their opponent. UST being back in the picture really makes the Central/West Region national conversation more interesting and complicated. Voters cast their ballots before St. Thomas’ game against St. John’s Monday evening. Tommies prevailed in overtime, but the two teams proved to me why the MIAC has two serious national contenders this season.

8 – Wabash (Up 3)
The Little Giants moved up, like others, mainly because of other results with other programs. I think Wabash is a good team, but this is starting to feel a little too high. I am not sure they are a top ten program. I might be wrong, but I am still leery with this position. These kinds of developments, along with Hamilton’s positioning, usually leads me to completely blow up my ballot in the near future.

9 – St. John’s (Down 2)
The Johnnies are a good team, but they didn’t have a good game against Carleton on Saturday. Stokman, one of the better guards in the country, was 0-10 from the field! Just one or two shots made and SJU is headed into their game with St. Thomas 14-1! I still think, despite their ranking, St. John’s is an under-appreciated program who should prove that between now and March. Of course, SJU ends up losing to UST in their first rivalry game of the season on Monday evening. My thoughts, compiled before the game, aren’t changed too much with that result. However, it did change my thoughts on the control St. John’s has on the MIAC and if they can use the home court to their advantage.

MIT’s AJ Jurko returned from what appeared to be a very scary injury to pour in 37-points against Babson in an OT win. (Courtesy: MIT Athletics)

10 – MIT (Up 7)
For most, the “yo-yo effect” talks about losing and gaining weight. In my voting world, it refers to a team I have all over my ballot from week to week. The Engineers fit that bill currently. If you have read these blogs or listened to Hoopsville, you know I think MIT is a very good team this season. However, they have been dealing with injuries especially with their core five all season. I dropped them significantly last week mainly because three guys were out, and it wasn’t clear when they would return. Don’t look now, two of the three are back including AJ Jurko whose injury against Coast Guard looked severe enough to not only be back boarded to an ambulance and on to the hospital, but also ended the game with just under three minutes to play. His return: 37-point explosion in an overtime win against Babson on Saturday. Hamilton Forsythe has also returned after missing most of the season and reports are Cameron Korb will be back this week – meaning MIT is going to be back at relatively “full strength.”

11 – Randolph-Macon (Up 2)

Williams dropped two games last week to Amherst and Middlebury which caused them to tumble a bit on Dave’s ballot.

12 – Williams (Down 6)
The Ephs had a bad week. First, they dropped their rivalry game at Amherst on Wednesday. Okay. That happens. One should expect that in their rivalry. It ended their unbeaten streak to start the season. I wouldn’t have done much with that. However, Williams then played host to Middlebury and lost that as well. That one is harder to figure, especially coming after a loss when you expect teams to be more focused on being sure to play well.

13 – Capital (NC)

14 – Marietta (NC)

15 – Lynchburg (Up 5)
I have probably been soft pedaling the Hornets for a few weeks now. I haven’t really bought in until now, though they are also in the midst of a very challenging stretch of games. They have gotten through Virginia Wesleyan, Washington & Lee, and Eastern Mennonite. However, the stretch continues with Guilford, Randolph-Macon, and Roanoke in the next three. (The ODAC’s demise is greatly exaggerated.) One little bird shared with me that Lynchburg reminds them of Ramapo from last season. It’s an interesting comment. I look forward to watching at least the next three games.

16 – Loras (NC)

17 – Swarthmore (Down 2)

Bob Semling always seems to have a team clicking defensively, but it seems the Pointers are off their defensive game lately.

18 – UW-Stevens Point (Down 10)
Williams wasn’t the only team who had a rough week. UWSP has had a rough two weeks. They have lost three of their last four to Oshkosh, La Crosse, and Platteville. Sure, the WIAC is the toughest conference in the country currently. Losses aren’t a surprise, so dropping a game to UWO was expected. The UWL outcome was a bit of a surprise, but the Eagles are also having a very good season. It was the UWP defeat that raised my eyebrows. The Pioneers were expected to be a good team this year (I had them on my ballot early in the season), but they have been very inconsistent. Having lost two of three heading into the UWP game, I figured UWSP would respond and show their medal. It didn’t happen. Feels like the rip cord suddenly got pulled. I may have been completely wrong when I felt this team was reminding me of the 2015 national champion squad. Ryan and I discussed the Pointers during the “Top 25 Double-Take” segment on Hoopsville this past Sunday night.

19 – Rochester (Up 2)

20 – Nichols (Up 3)

21 – North Central (Ill.) (Up 3)

22 – Amherst (NR)
The win over Williams gave me some reassurance that the Mammoths were maybe as good as advertised. I just really wish they had the Hamilton game to at least finish off the week and give me a result to counter-act the Williams game. Would they fall trap to Hamilton after the emotional win against the Ephs? Would they actually finish the week with another strong victory? How would it all play out? Amherst didn’t have the game thanks to Mother Nature, and it left me a little leery with this selection … for now. Side note: Our thoughts are with Dave Hixon and his family as they mourn the death of his mother last week.

23 – Arcadia (NR)
The Knights are one of those teams that has been flying under the radar for a while now. They are in one of the most competitive conferences in the country (MAC Commonwealth) that just hasn’t produced a national power. When talking to those who play against Arcadia, they site their solid defense, senior core, and a sophomore who may be the best player in the conference. The challenge with Arcadia is that their schedule doesn’t reveal a lot. You actually get more out of their losses to Salisbury and Swarthmore than their wins. My voting luck can be wrapped up with Arcadia quite well: I buy in and put the Knights on my ballot, and they follow it up immediately with a loss to Rosemont Monday night. This is why voting near the bottom of the ballot can cause one to pull their hair out.

24 – Wesleyan (Up 1)

25 – Wheaton (Ill.) (Down 6)
Those who know me might be surprised I dropped the Thunder so severely when they lost to second-ranked Augustana. As I mentioned last week, the Thunder are living and dying on the play of Aston Francis. He played well. That isn’t the issue. It’s the fact that Wheaton now has four losses on the season, and I am expecting a few more before things are all said and done. At some point, I want to see them beat a significant team. They upset UW-Oshkosh early this season which put the Thunder on everyone’s radar (along with Francis’ play). Since then, Wheaton hasn’t beaten a significant team while mixing in losses to Illinois Tech and North Park (4-14!) – they escaped NPU (82-75) in their rematch last week. Can I keep voting for a team which only has one significant result on it’s resume?

Dropped Out:

Plattsburgh’s Jonathan Patron is most likely not as happy with the position the Cardinals currently find themselves in the SUNYAC.

Plattsburgh State (Previously 18)
Going 0-2 in conference games last week was enough for me to step away from the Cardinals. Jonathan Patron is an outstanding talent, but teams seem to have clipped Plattsburgh’s wings. They just don’t feel like the same, strong team we saw last season. They now have three losses in the SUNYAC which puts them 2.5 games back of first place (Oswego State) and tied with Cortland who just beat them. All three teams in the top four (Oswego, Brockport, & Cortland) have defeated the Cardinals so far this season. Coincidentally, Plattsburgh was another team Ryan and I discussed in the “Top 25 Double-Take” on Hoopsville back on January 13.

Gordon (Previously 22)
I mentioned my nervousness last week about the Fighting Scots. The win over Nichols was good, but they had a lot of results that were tighter than I was comfortable with for a Top 25 team from the CCC. Gordon lost to Western New England this week and I decided it was enough to pull them from my ballot. You could say I was looking for an excuse, but harder to make that excuse when a team keeps winning.

As I indicated above, the last five to eight slots on by ballot could be a mixture including ten to twenty different teams. I have gone ‘round and ‘round this week and in the last few trying to determine who I think should be in those slots. I know other voters are doing the same, though I am surprised there aren’t more teams getting votes each week as a result of those debates. And of course, my luck showed with the choice of Arcadia only to have them promptly lose to Rosemont on Monday evening. Those are literally head-shaking moments for me as a voter.

So, the bottom five to eight can basically “represent” the third tier of men’s basketball which includes several teams and not all can be fit in. That’s little solace to those fans (even coaches) who want to see their team on someone’s ballot and especially the poll, but we can’t vote for everyone. Some may notice there are several one, two, and three loss teams I am not voting for that I have lumped into this third tier. Those teams just haven’t convinced me they are as good as gaudy records seem to indicate. Time will tell which is more accurate, I’m wrong or the records are gaudy, with each individual team.

Previous Blogs:
Week 6
Week 4
Preseason: Final Five
Preseason: 11-20
Preseason: The Top 10

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’18-’19): Week 6

Welcome to another installment of showing my D3hoops.com men’s Top 25 ballot. I’ve already failed this new year not getting a blog out last week. I’m trying to do better. 🙂

Before the holidays, I showed how I voted each week so far this season. If you haven’t seen that, click here.

Since I missed last week’s blog, here is how I voted in the first poll after the holidays (Week 5).

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan
2 – Augustana
3 – Whitworth
4 – UW-Oshkosh
5 – Whitman
6 – Williams
7 – Hamilton
8 – MIT
9 – UW-Stevens Point
10 – Marietta
11 – St. John’s
12 – Wittenberg
13 – Randolph-Macon
14 – Loras
15 – Rochester
16 – Plattsburgh
17 – St. Thomas
18 – Wabash
19 – Wheaton (Ill.)
20 – Johns Hopkins
21 – Lynchburg
22 – Salisbury
23 – Scranton
24 – Gordon
25 – Nichols

Remember, this was last week’s ballot (Week 5). How I saw things following the holiday season.

Now with that out of the way, let’s chat about this week. We just got done with a heck of a week of basketball. Some tremendous match-ups from Whitman at Whitworth to Top 25 battles in the WIAC, OAC, and elsewhere. There were even non-Top 25 match-ups in conference play worth tuning into. It felt like on any night there was several games worth watching.

It was fun.

And with parity, I knew there would be outcomes we either didn’t expect or games that would be closer than one would figure. Carthage nearly beat Augustana was one game that jumped out at me. As good as Augustana has proven to be, Carthage had them on the ropes. The rest of the games showed up in the number of Top 25 teams that lost – twelve loses on my ballot out of ten teams and teams seven through ten taking a bump in the night.

But I actually loved it. Well … to a certain point. I feel like I’m back at fishing for teams to fill out my ballot. There are so many teams I think are Top 25 worthy, but when push comes to shove and I have to fill out the ballot there aren’t any easy choices. Too many times I want to chose Team A, but that provides Team B and C an argument to be on the ballot, which then reveals in their resumes that maybe I should consider Team D. However, if I consider (or even insert) that team – or any of the rest – then Teams E & F have valid arguments. It seems to never end. There are no obvious choices. Every team has flaws. Every resume has holes.

Of course, that means we are going to have a thrilling rest of the season and an outstanding March.

Ok … enough of me waxing poetic? Yeah, not so poetic … you want to know my ballot and thoughts, so let’s get to business. Here is my Week 6 D3hoops.com Top 25 ballot:

Zach Hiller is one of five NWU players whose scoring average is in double-figures.

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan (NC)
There has been little to no reason to consider moving the Prairie Wolves off the top spot. All 25 voters have them number one and there I can’t see why we would move off that choice. Their depth, abilities, and coaching are outstanding. That said, they are a bit hobbled right now which could make them susceptible. They also worry me with their habit of playing to the level of their opponents. They end up winning games big a lot of the time, but some games are closer for all 40 minutes, or are closer than they should be in general, and that worries me.

2 – Augustana (NC)
While Carthage certainly gave the Vikings a moment, it shouldn’t surprise. Augustana will be challenged in the CCIW. They are still a darn good basketball team with plenty of options offensively and a very good defense. I grow more impressed each time I watch the team.

3 – Whitman (Up 2)
The win over Whitworth (and surviving the rest of their schedule last week) was enough for me to move the Blues back up. They still worry me with the same habit of playing to their opponent’s level to some degree. They also allow teams back into games – Whitworth last week after Whitman lead by about 13 late in the game; 1st half against Linfield when it seemed the Blues would blow the Wildcats out of the building. However, they also have plenty of offensive options and are one of the most aggressive defensive teams in the country – and depth is helpful.

Kyle Roach can be a single-man wrecking machine for Whitworth, but he’s also got a lot of teammates who can hit big shots when called upon.

4 – Whitworth (Down 1)
The Pirates have impressed. Seeing them in Las Vegas was beyond helpful. Seeing their size and speed in person helped translate what I had been seeing on only video. No team is perfect, including Whitworth. I’d love to see them utilize Ben Bishop more, Kyle Roach can sometimes lose focus (which has many different results), and their lack of depth can be a concern. They have seemed gassed in the second half of games and they, sometimes, don’t adjust well to officiating and that means the deep bench is put in at times the coaching staff probably rather not. However, they also proved against Whitman how they can also overcome nearly all of those and still win – or come close in that case. This may be the best Whitworth team I’ve actually ever seen.

5 – UW-Oshkosh (Down 1)
The Titans only moved down a slot because I needed to move Whitman up. UWO has proven that despite a major coaching change in the off-season they are still a very difficult team to face. The challenge is going to be the rest of the WIAC. Getting past UW-Stevens Point the first time around was a good start, but the conference slate is going to be brutal. As long as the Titans can take the lumps and not get too beat up, they will make the run to Fort Wayne rather interesting.

6 – Williams (NC)
The Ephs are off to the best start in program history and that should worry people. They broke the record of 14-straight wins to start which was set in 2002-2003 – when they went on to win a national championship. What is interesting is they start one of the larger five – three forwards, a center, and a guard. It isn’t typical and gives them plenty of advantages. Of course, like most teams, focusing and playing full 40 minutes against every opponent is key, but Williams has shown with two wins over Wesleyan and a successful trip to Maine already they are in a very good place.

David Stokman helps the Johnnies tick. He finds a way to get the job done or find the right guy at the right moment. (Courtesy: SJU Athletics)

7 – St. John’s (Up 4)
I made a significant move up with the Johnnies for several reasons. First, I do think St. John’s is a good basketball team. They have shown that so far this season. The other, so many teams who were ahead of them stumbled this past week and I don’t think are playing as well as SJU right now. The interesting thing about the Johnnies is how I think they are actually flying a bit under the radar. They just may not convince people how good they are until much later in the season.

8 – UW-Stevens Point (Up 1)
Yes, the Pointers lost this past week, but to a team ahead of them in the polls and it doesn’t take away from the fact that UWSP is a good team. One of the trademarks of Bob Semling teams is solid defense. When Semling has a chance to coach a core group for a long time, like four-year seniors, the defense is always ridiculously good. Last time we saw this kind of scenario: 2014-15 and a National Championship. Like for UWO, UWSP has to get through the conference grind.

9 – Hamilton (Down 2)
I wanted to move the Continentals down a little more, but there was only so far I could move them down off a single loss to Wesleyan. The concern is how much Hamilton tends to throw the ball away. Ryan Scott is the first who made me aware of the turnover problems and it causes many games to be far closer than they should be. It also allows opponents like Wesleyan to take full advantage. Hold on to the ball, Hamilton!

UST has returned to Dave’s Top 10 – unexpectedly. Just how good are the Tommies?

10 – St. Thomas (Up 7)
I didn’t think I would have any reason to be voting for the Tommies this season, nor did I expect to jump them into my Top Ten. The scary thing is UST has quietly returned to the fray and every time I look they have surprised me again. Their only flaw is the first game of the season. They have dominated some good teams including UWSP (I may have to move UST above UWSP at some point, FYI). Their battle with Augsburg was one of those classic in-conference games, but may have also shown some flaws with the Tommies. As more attention is given to their program, the question becomes: can they live up to the pressure?

11 – Wabash (Up 7)
Much like St. Thomas, the Little Giants have been impressing at every turn. They have taken on every team in their conference, including Wittenberg, and come away with wins. Their loss to Wilmington is the only question mark I have on their schedule. Can they continue this run? It has been awhile since they were in the national spotlight … and from when the entire conference was gunning for them. As they turn into the second round of conference games, I will be intrigued in how they stand up.

12 – Randolph-Macon (Up 1)
The Yellow Jackets intrigue me. They have some losses that maybe should be expected (parity means losses, right?), but they also have wins that make you turn your head. I am not sure as of yet what they are doing so well or what causes them to derail (like against CNU and Guilford). They are about as high as I feel comfortable voting for them – maybe a little too high – but they do deserve to be here.

13 – Capital (NR)
Well hello Crusaders! Wow! I decided to insert them all the way up in 13th on the poll, after not voting for them at all previously, because I felt that I both waited too long to start voting for them and they made a statement this past week. 12-game winning streak with the last three games being wins over Mount Union (home), Marietta (away), and John Carroll (home). The win at Marietta jumped out the most, but to beat two teams at the top of the conference and another who is known for being difficult to play was impressive to me. I did wait to vote on them last week because of this schedule, but I also feel I should have voted for them sooner none-the-less.

14 – Marietta (Down 4)
The Pioneers drop was multi-faceted. The first reason is because they obviously lost to Capital and they had lost two of their last five. I have mentioned previously that in other seasons Marietta seems to have these moments … where they take a few losses and seem to not live up to the hype or ranking. Ryan on Sunday’s Hoopsville put it in a way I think is better to say: The Pioneers sometimes don’t live up to the expectations others (we) set. That is probably a far fairer way of saying it. Per that, I felt I needed to lower the expectations that I have. To not get over-hyped. They are good, but that doesn’t mean the bar gets placed higher and I get disappointed when suddenly they take a loss that doesn’t meet that bar. That’s not their fault. That also doesn’t mean they still aren’t a good team. They seem to have some pieces in place that makes them better than in years past – if that is possible.

Cam Wiley has grabbed plenty of attention over the years for Swarthmore, but this year’s team has a lot of other parts you should be watching. (Courtesy: Swarthmore Athletics)

15 – Swarthmore (NR)
I made a mistake thinking I had voted for the Garnet last week. They certainly were on my list of teams to consider, but I forgot I didn’t put them on my ballot. That was also a mistake. I most likely have been putting too much stock in back-to-back, buzzer-beater, losses in conference earlier in the season. Seeing Swarthmore in person against McDaniel last week impressed me. I realize they may have had the perfect game, but there is more there. They are deeper team than I’ve seen before, their size and skill inside is tough to handle (rebounding and block numbers are insane), their offensive game-plan (especially the inside, outside game) is tough to stay with, and players like Cam Wiley have seemingly settled into roles that actually make them more dangerous. What is the most impressive is the defense. Opponents can’t get good looks inside, they close out on outside shooting very quickly, and they throw curve balls constantly. Their defensive numbers are crazy good, though their steal numbers are shockingly low considering. Swarthmore is better than last year.

16 – Loras (Down 2)
Moving the Duhawks down two spots is simply repositioning them while also moving other teams into the poll. Loras is good, though they are showing some inconsistencies. Losing to Nebraska Wesleyan is the least shocking result to see. Their close game to Coe is a little more interesting. That said, the IIAC, eh, ARC is far more competitive than people may realize. I like the game Loras puts together. They also have very good results including a narrow win to Augustana – that game still impresses me.

17 – MIT (Down 10)
This might surprise people on a team that only lost their second game of the season last week. However, the Engineers are dealing with key injuries. One expected starter hasn’t played the entire season. Another key player has been injured lately and it’s unclear how long he may be out (from what I’ve learned). And a third injury forces the team to go deeper on the roster. That said, they also seem to be a darn good team. The loss to Emerson is odd because I would have thought it would lead to a loss to Wheaton (Mass.), but it didn’t. Larry Anderson is a good coach. I am watching to see how they continue to react to the latest set-back.

18 – Plattsburgh State (Down 2)
The Cardinals moved down, much like Loras, because I was readjusting teams this poll. I can’t put a finger on who Plattsburgh is this season. We all know how good Jonathan Patron is, but I can’t get the memory of how they left the NCAA tournament last season. I am not grading them on that result, but I am trying to figure out just how good Plattsburgh is this season considering there isn’t much to base anything on. Their schedule isn’t one that stands out. The win over Middlebury was good; the loss to Brockport (10-4) is hard to read into right now. I am actually all over the place with Plattsburgh, so I am comfortable with the Cardinals being in a 15-20 slot.

“As goes Francis, so goes Wheaton,” says Dave.

19 – Wheaton (Ill.) (NC)
As goes Francis, so goes the Thunder. That may not be completely fair, but it is pretty close to accurate. Aston Francis has had one of the more amazing seasons, so far, that not many in recent history have had. Incredible, buzzer-beating, game-winning shots, awe-inspiring offensive games, and he is averaging more than 30 points a game! However, no one else is in double-figures offensively. He also leads the team in rebounding as a 6-1 guard. That’s pretty impressive, but I think it also would be concerning. Francis needs a second option that is going to hurt opponents. Until that really develops and is consistent: As goes Francis, so goes the Thunder.

20 – Lynchburg (Up 1)
I’ll admit, I don’t know what to make of the Hornets. Their lone loss is to Guilford (what is with the Quakers?!) and they have win over Emory & Henry, but they haven’t played RMC or Roanoke in conference play as of yet. They also have close results against opponents that seem they should have had easier times with (darn paper match ups!). I just can’t figure out if the 15-1 record is for real and I am completely low-balling Lynchburg or if it really is smoke and mirrors. Help!

21 – Rochester (Down 6)
It was a rough weekend for the Yellowjackets in their trip to Chicago and St. Louis. Losing both games caused me to seriously consider removing Rochester from my ballot. That said, I also appreciated that Rochester has had a pretty good season so far. They seem to be one of the more intellectual teams in the Top 25 – that being they sometimes accomplish things because they figure it out on the court, not in a timeout or at practice. They adjust in the moment. It didn’t work out on a rough trip to the Midwest, but that doesn’t discount they may be the best team in the UAA – though, Chicago has made a serious claim for that as well.

Garrisson Duvivier is averaging a double-double (17.2 ppg, 13.0 rpg) to help lead Gordon this season. (Courtesy: Gordon Athletics)

22 – Gordon (Up 2)
The Fighting Scots have impressed. They have rolled through a lot of teams this season including Nichols and Endicott recently. However, a lot of their results are maybe too close and that could bite them. They also don’t have an overwhelming resume which certainly makes me wonder if I am buying stock a little too soon.

23 – Nichols (Up 2)
The CCC having two teams on the ballot is pretty good for the conference, but much like Gordon the Bison have an interesting resume. They got into the headlines for the wrong reasons at the start of the season, but they also have dominated opponents including Trinity and Wesleyan! However, the loss to Salisbury was somewhat surprising and then Gordon nipped them. Honestly, I’m not that sure Nichols isn’t the better team in the CCC despite a Gordon victory and that only one of them should be ranked … but these two have to show me more before I pull that rip cord.

24 – North Central (Ill.) (NR)
Watching the Cardinals in Las Vegas was interesting. I was both impressed and left scratching my head. They dominated an over-matched Husson squad, but then stumbled against a less than stellar Ohio Northern team. They also were seemingly over-matched against Augustana, but they have beaten Illinois Wesleyan, Wheaton (in an emotional game), and others. They also have some darn good talent and seemingly have adapted to well to the loss of Aiden Chang for the season. There is something about NCC …

25 – Wesleyan (NR)
You can’t escape seeing the Cardinals involved in important results every week. They lost games earlier in the season to Nichols and Wesleyan and those results weren’t close, but important none the less. But more recently, they have wins over Plattsburgh State, Middlebury, Hamilton, and Amherst – all in the last six games. A lone loss to Williams in the middle of that stretch. Of their four losses, three of them came in a four-game stretch that encompassed less than two weeks.

Dropped Out:

Wittenberg fell out of Dave’s ballot after a rough stretch the last two weeks.

Wittenberg (Previously No. 12)
Losing three of the last four, I just couldn’t justify holding on to Wittenberg. I, arguably, had them too high to begin with. I have had this mentality that they were a better team and positioned to do great things this season. I don’t know where I had that thinking as I can’t find my notes on it (for some odd reason). They are 11-4 and probably still a good team, but … three losses in four while playing the both the top and bottom of the conference.

Johns Hopkins (Previously No. 20)
I really like the Blue Jays. If I had gotten my blog out last week, you would have read about how impressed I was in Las Vegas (though, you could have heard that on thought on Hoopsville as well). Despite losing two games, I thought they were the best two-loss team we had ever had at the D3hoops.com Classic. They had lost Connor Delaney, but they didn’t seem to show that in Vegas. However, they followed that up with some time off and then a loss to Muhlenberg. I realize the Mules are tough, but it was a home game and that shouldn’t have happened. JHU, though, is on the short list to get back on my ballot. I really like the pieces they have in place under Josh Loeffler.

Salisbury (Previously #22)
I wasn’t all that confident voting for the Sea Gulls last week. They ended up being the last team I wrote down. I should have gone with Swarthmore, but after going around and around with it, I went with “one loss to Rowan” over Swarthmore’s double-buzzer-beater results. Probably not a smart choice. Salisbury is having a great season, but I just can’t really buy in. They followed a loss to Mary Washington (who had just lost to Frostburg) with a barely-go-by win at Southern Virginia. I know those are back-to-back tough road trips, but I just can’t buy in.

Scranton (Previously #23)
The Royals were the last undefeated men’s and women’s combo in Division III. Impressive. Also, any time I talked to a coach who had played them or seen them, the quotes were usually “really good” or “impressive.” However, this past week some of those same coaches changed their tune. Seems some injuries have gotten to Scranton and back-to-back losses to Elizabethtown and Moravian weren’t pretty. From all reports, this Scranton team is legit. I am going to dive in deeper soon enough, but I just didn’t feel they were playing their best basketball since the holiday break.

There are a lot of teams I am considering each week. I am also considering a lot of “new” teams which is fun. The last ten slots are always full of question marks, though one could argue the entire Top 25 is full of those as well. There are some teams that feel too high, but those slots have to be filled. I am sure I am missing others, though I do my best to check every conference for an outlier who should be considered. I may be putting too much stock in teams many feel aren’t that good. I am sure I am not putting enough stock in teams others think are stellar. That’s the great thing about this … so many different opinions.

I’m just one vote of a total of 25. For much of this season (and recent seasons), I haven’t seemed to be on the same page for half my ballot. This week, I saw teams I jumped significantly also jump in the polls. Seems maybe I am more in tune with the rest of the voters than I have been prior. It also just could be dumb luck.

There are teams even as I look at my ballot even now I question why I voted for them when there are others sitting on the outside.

Parity has produced not a lot of great teams, but a lot of good teams. Trying to figure out what good teams are Top 25 teams is the most challenging part.

Until next week … enjoy the games! And don’t forget, Hoopsville is on the air Sunday and Thursday nights starting at 7:00 p.m. ET – with Sunday’s show featuring the “Top 25 Double-Take” with Ryan Scott. We will either give you our Dubious, Dark Horse, or Debatable selections each week. Or we will “Buy or Sell” on squads both in and out of the Top 25. For more information on the show, go to www.d3hoopsville.com or follow us on Twitter (@d3hoopsville and #Hoopsville) or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Hoopsville).

Edit: Earlier version erroneously indicated Williams had beaten Hamilton twice this season. That was supposed to be Wesleyan. It was also indicated Loras narrowly lost to Augustana. That was meant to say “beat.” We also indicated Plattsburgh beat Brockport – NOPE! We know they lost to Brockport, but apparently we shouldn’t be writing this thing late at night. Note taken. Those have been corrected. We apologize for the mistakes.

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’18-’19): Week 4

Nate Schimonitz and NWU have been the one constant on Dave’s Top 25 ballots so far this season – #1.

It has been an interesting opening six weeks to the 2018-19 season. Almost every men’s team looks beatable while also showing how good they can and could be. There really isn’t a team I think is dominant. They are all vulnerable. Yes, all of them including Nebraska Wesleyan.

Most know that I blog out every (most) of my ballots every season. So far this season it has been a challenge. Too many, understandable and enjoyable, reasons have kept that from happening since the Preseason ballot(s) (Parts 1, 2, & 3).

Last week, I tweeted that I would make that up to everyone this week. I would at least show everyone how I voted each week and give my thoughts on the season so far.

So how have I voted so far this season? Here are each of my ballots from Preseason to this week’s poll.

Preseason Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
1. Neb. Wesleyan Neb. Wesleyan Neb. Wesleyan Neb. Wesleyan Neb. Wesleyan
2. Whitman Whitworth Whitworth Augustana Augustana
3. Whitworth Augustana Augustana Whitworth Whitworth
4. Augustana UW-Oshkosh UW-Oshkosh UW-Oshkosh UW-Oshkosh
5. UW-Oshkosh Whitman Whitman Whitman Whitman
6. Wittenberg Wittenberg Williams Williams Williams
7. MIT Williams Hamilton Hamilton Hamilton
8. Williams Hamilton Ill. Wesleyan UW-Stevens Point Marietta
9. Springfield UW-Stevens Point UW-Stevens Point Ill. Wesleyan MIT
10. Hamilton Ill. Wesleyan Wittenberg Marietta UW-Stevens Point
11. UW-Stevens Point MIT MIT MIT Wittenberg
12. New Jersey City Wheaton (Ill.) Plattsburgh St. Wittenberg St. John’s
13. Maryville Loras Randolph-Macon St. John’s Loras
14. St. John’s New Jersey City Marietta Wheaton (Ill.) Randolph-Macon
15. UW-Platteville Plattsburgh St. St. John’s Randolph-Macon Wheaton (Ill.)
16. Ill. Wesleyan St. John’s Loras Plattsburgh St. Plattsburgh St.
17. Johns Hopkins Randolph-Macon Rochester Loras Nichols
18. Plattsburgh St. Swarthmore New Jersey City Rochester Rochester
19. St. Olaf Middlebury Nichols Nichols Johns Hopkins
20. Swarthmore John Carroll John Carroll Johns Hopkins Wabash
21. Hope Springfield Johns Hopkins Wabash St. Thomas
22. John Carroll Nazareth Wheaton (Ill.) Scranton Scranton
23. Middlebury Emory & Henry Middlebury Middlebury Middlebury
24. Roanoke Johns Hopkins Montclair St. Montclair St. Montclair St.
25. Nazareth Hope Hope New Jersey City New Jersey City
Out: Maryville (13th)
UW-Platteville (15th)
St. Olaf (19th)
Roanoke (24th)
Swarthmore (18th)
Springfield (21st)
Nazareth (22nd)
Emory & Henry (23rd)
John Carroll (20th)
Hope (25th)
Ill. Wesleyan (9th)

There are a lot of places I could go from here. Explaining all the teams I moved up or down (or out), why I did or didn’t move teams, or why I am or am not voting for teams is one idea – but it would be a lengthy read. That usually works on a week-by-week basis and we can get back to that for the first poll after the holidays (scheduled for Jan. 7).

Nolan Ebel and Augustana are in Dave’s top tier of DIII men’s teams, but the CCIW race will be a definite challenge.

Instead, just a few thoughts … starting with that word we’ve used a lot: parity. Maybe we need to find another way to describe what is going on, but what is clear is there are two basic tiers when it comes to the top teams nationally. There is the top tier which is deeper than in many years and there are no dominating teams in the group. It consists of about fifteen teams and they are very good. They all are favorites to get to Ft. Wayne and win a national championship.

The second tier is pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. They are capable of knocking off those in the top tier, but they are also likely to make you scratch your head with a puzzling loss to a program one wouldn’t consider being in either tier. Consistency is the challenge in the second tier and in an era where no teams seem scared of others, crazy wins and losses run amock at this level.

This all adds up to some fun games on any given night. It also means you can’t take a night off in DIII basketball without something happening.

For voters, it makes for some interesting decisions and choices every voting week. I’ve actually enjoyed it somewhat in the opening six weeks. I’m digging a little deeper than I expected to see if there are teams who are maybe a bit under the radar – because with so many teams on voters’ radars, programs can easily be under the radar for awhile.

Maryville has not had the start to Randy Lambert’s final season as coach as Dave expected.

For some specifics, I do have to admit it looks like I had some misses in my preseason ballot. Maryville (4-4) and St. Olaf (5-4) had rough starts. The Scots lost their first three (they don’t like teams that start with “E”), though they have won three straight to get back to .500. The Oles had a brutal start to the season with four losses to UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stevens Point, Whitworth, & George Fox to start. Now, since then they have won five straight, but they whole has already been dug.

New Jersey City has also struggled out of the gates with three losses. I still have them on my ballot, but I’m concerned NJCU is taking too long to find themselves and consistency is a problem. Having them 12th on my preseason is looking a bit ambitious.

And before I sign off, let’s be clear on something – I do NOT expect anyone to be undefeated this season. Nebraska Wesleyan is my top pick, but they will lose this season. The American Rivers Conference (formerly Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) is far deeper and Loras and others have already shown they are playing well this season. NWU has also seemed to have a penance for playing “down” (or “up”) to their opponents and that can get them in trouble as well.

Look for a weekly blog on my thoughts starting with the first D3hoops.com Top 25 poll in January. In the meantime, have a safe, merry, and hopefully relaxing holiday season.

Oh and be sure to tune into Hoopsville Sundays and Thursdays throughout the basketball season.