Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’22-’23) – Week 2

Julianne Sitch led the UChicago men’s soccer team to it’s first-ever national title. In the process, Sitch became the first-ever woman to lead a men’s soccer team to a collegiate national title. (Courtesy: Dave Hilbert, D3photography.com)

Welcome back to my D3hoops.com Top 25 ballot blogs. I apologize for not getting my Week 1 ballot out as expected. The combination of basketball games (three) and Division III Men’s Soccer Championships coupled with some personal distractions caused this to be put on the back burner. I am hoping to make up at least by showing you my ballots so far in this blog. I will try and provide some comments about some of the teams, though not all (especially to keep these blogs shorter).

Please remember I am just one voter of 25 in this poll and I have never pretended to be one who is absolutely right on these nor do I pretend I am not wrong.

First, here is a reminder at my preseason ballot and a look at how I voted in Week 1 (Nov. 28):

Rank Preseason Week 1 +/-
 1. Randolph-Macon Christopher Newport +2
 2. Mary Hardin-Baylor Mount Union +3
 3. Christopher Newport St. Joseph’s (Conn.) +5
 4. UW-Oshkosh Case Western Reserve +2
 5. Mount Union Johns Hopkins +9
 6. Case Western Reserve UW-La Crosse UR
 7. Middlebury Oswego +9
 8. St. Joseph’s (Conn.) Randolph-Macon -7
 9. Oswego Keene State UR
10. Pomona-Pitzer Williams UR
11. Emory Middlebury -4
12. Trinity (Texas) Emory -1
13. Dubuque Rochester UR
14. Johns Hopkins Claremont-Mudd-Scripps UR
15. WPI Mary Hardin-Baylor -13
16. Hardin-Simmons Calvin UR
17. Rowan Mary Washington UR
18. Wesleyan Nazareth UR
19. Heidelberg WPI -4
20. Babson Hope UR
21. WashU Guilford UR
22. Stockton Swarthmore UR
23. Marietta UW-Oshkosh -19
24. St. John’s WashU -3
25. Nichols Stockton -3

Fell off the Preseaon ballot: Pomona-Pitzer, Trinity (TX), Dubuque, Hardin-Simmons, Rowan, Wesleyan, Heidelberg, Babson, Marietta, St. John’s, Nichols

Note: For both the preseason and Week 1 ballots, I did not refer back to how I had previously voted. Neither the end of last season or my preseason ballot. No notes, eye on positions, nothing. I certainly remembered a few items like Randolph-Macon had been my top selection, but nothing more significant.

That said, this week I went back to my more normal voting methods. I write down my previous ballot, then write down notes on results alongside each team, write additional note the print out receive, and then make decisions from there and finish my new ballot along side the old. I went back to it mainly because I noticed prior to my Week 2 ballot I had lost track of a couple of teams between Preseason and Week 1 that I would have spotted had the regular system been in place. So apologies to Dubuque, especially. They fell out of my ballot on Week 1 for no really good reasons, at the time. (I didn’t just put them back this week, the loss to Central gave me pause.)

Now to Week 2’s ballot. I may comment on a few of them:

Jahn Hines is leading CNU in scoring, but the Captains have a lot of weapons that make them the best team in DIII.

1 – Christopher Newport (unchanged)

2 – St. Joseph’s (Conn.) (up 1)

3 – Mount Union (down 1)

4 – Cast Western Reserve (unchanged)

5 – UW-La Crosse (up 1)

6 – Keene State (up 3)

7 – Johns Hopkins (down 2)

8 – Randolph-Macon (unchanged)

Brandon Roughley and the William Ephs are undefeated through the first-third of their season. (I’m shamelessly getting a pic of Roughley in as he’s a fellow Sarum Knight.)

9 – Williams (up 1)
I am not going to lie, I’m nervous about the Ephs. Their schedule is nothing to crow about, but at least they haven’t taken an early season loss that leaves everyone scratching their heads. The win over RPI stood out and gave me some confidence, though in the Top 10 feels too high. But as always, gaps develop on ballots and teams have to fill slots one wouldn’t have expected.

10 – Rochester (up 3)

11 – Emory (up 1)

12 – Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (up 2)

13 – Middlebury (down 2)

Oswego has lost two of their tougher games so far this season – that could be a concern.

14 – Oswego (down 7)
I think the Lakers are going to be a very good team and likely will win the SUNYAC, but they have already stumbled in a couple big tests. Losing to Nazareth (likely one of the top three teams in the region) is one thing and losing to Brockport isn’t a shocking result … but the loss to Brockport was at home and the offense barely scored xx. It is a bit concerning and I likely am holding on to Oswego a bit more than I should – and I likey should have had them behind Nazareth at this point.

15 – Mary Washington (up 2)

16 – Calvin (unchanged)

17 – Nazareth (up 1)

Heidelberg’s win over Mount Union put them back on the ballot. (Courtesy: Alexis Calhoun/Heidelberg Athletics)

18 – Heidelberg (unranked)
I’ve been a bit yo-yo with the Student Princes. Part of that is similar to what happened with Dubuque and my process with my Preseason and Week 1 ballots, but the other was I may have overreacted to the UWW loss and the tight outcome against Bluffton. I still think Heidelberg will be part of the absolute battle atop the OAC.

19 – Swarthmore (up 3)

20 – Guilford (up 1)

Muhlenberg’s only loss this season is an overtime defeat to Swarthmore. (Courtesy: Muhlenberg Athletics)

21 – Muhlenberg (unranked)
Going into the season, I had my eyes on Gettysburg as being a threat to the top two in the conference (and I bought in to that too much) – I should have remembered some notes I left myself at the end of last season. The Mules (or is it Muhls?) have been a sneaky threat for a few seasons now and had more weapons going into this season than I remembered. Muhlenberg beating Johns Hopkins (first loss other than to Swarthmore in several years) was a bit surprising considering how JHU has been playing, but not when one remembers how much of a threat Kevin Hopkins’s squad really is.

22 – Wheaton (Ill.) (unranked)
I finally got a CCIW team on my ballot. I like what the Thunder have on paper, I just for some reason always want to see what happens ahead of them. I finally told myself to stop waiting.

23 – UW-Oshkosh (unchanged)

24 – Catholic (unranked)
I could have gone a bunch of different directions looking for the final team to add to my ballot. I felt stuck and dove into several corners looking for what I was missing .., and ultimately the Cardinals stood out.

DJ Campbell is leading Stockton in scoring (21.9 ppg) and rebounding (5.7 rpg) while taking twice as many shots as anyone else. (Courtesy: Stockton Athletics)

25 – Stockton (unchanged)
I am unsure if the Ospreys are a Top 25 team right now. I’ve left them on my ballot knowing they are down a few starters and other key guys haven’t been a full strength. My concern is I don’t think Stockton is the best of the conference (Rowan beat them good already this season; but has stumbled themselves) and I don’t know if the NJAC will do more than beat the heck out of themselves. Unsure when the next game will be to answer questions (other than a loss).

Fell off Week 2 ballot:

Mary Hardin-Baylor (previously 15)
Once again the Crusaders have had a turbulent start to the season. I loved that they went to the West Coast and got two quality wins with one interesting loss. However, a month off followed and that resulted in stubbing their toes again dropping the next game to Concordia-Texas. We will have to wait a bit longer to see if UMHB is going to be what we expected this season, but any at-large back-up plan is already in jeopardy.

WPI is off my ballot though is still a team I think we will still be talking about in March. (Courtesy: WPI Athletics)

WPI (previously 19)
I may be heavy-handed here with WPI, but I’ve been unnerved since the first game of the season (yes, I know it was a midnight game). Their schedule hasn’t been great other than their game against Hamilton which they loss. I think I’m going to wait and see … on a team, again, I was high on to start.

Hope (previously 20)
The Dutch have had a good start to the season. A loss to UW-Oshkosh isn’t bad and really the loss to Hanover isn’t too bad, either. However, when I’m looking for reasons to get other teams that I think deserve to be on my ballot I start to nit-pick for reasons to remove teams. Two-losses at this point along with a loss to the Panthers (which I don’t think is a Top 25 team) was my reasoning this week.

WashU (previously 24)
Like others, I think the Bear are going to be a very good team this season, but when looking for reasons to get other teams on the ballot kinks are magnified. A one-point win (following a loss) to Webster, a one-point win over 2-5 Augustana, and then the loss to Pomona-Pitzer (who I thought was going to be good but is 5-4 right now).

Again, I have never said I think I know who are the best teams, the Top 25 order, etc. The one theme over the last decade (or more) is how much more difficult it is to narrow things down each ballot. There are so many teams that have legit points and arguments while also having their own flaws. There is a reason there are 25 voters, and arguably have even more, for this poll – there needs to be that many opinions to truly suss out who the best are in Division III.

 

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’22-’23) – Preseason (Part 1)

Welcome (back) to my Top 25 blog and the 2022-23 Division III basketball season.

This was originally written two weeks before the start of the DIII basketball season. And then I put it aside to deal with other things and … well … here we are. Please keep in mind that what I have written here are my preseason thoughts. None of this is based on results so far.

For those not familiar, I used to blog out my Top 25 ballot nearly each week … but it’s been a while. I didn’t think it had been missed, but I would get inquiries about it nearly every week last season so I figured I would try and get back to it. Hopefully I will be able to blog each week the Top 25 is released.

For this D3hoops.com Top 25 Preseason Men’s poll, I made one significant change to my usual process – I never looked at how I voted nor what the final Top 25 poll looked like at the end of last season. I wanted to try and come in with a clear(ish) mind. The only thing I remembered was Randolph-Macon finished atop my ballot and the poll … obviously.

I’m unsure this new plan worked as I hoped it would.

The idea was to have as little prejudice, obvious or subliminal, as I researched and read about each team being considered. If I couldn’t remember how I or others voted for them at the end of the season, I could maybe have a fresher take on how I expected them to be this season (or at least start).

However, I found myself struggling more to read the “tea leaves.” Having an understanding how I felt a particular team finished last season is useful information. And it helps me appreciate how much a team has lost or gained in the offseason. By coming in without that info, my analysis of a team’s strengths and weaknesses was broader. I felt more unsure about where I felt a team was or wasn’t when it came to my ballot.

I appreciated that I did it differently. There is a real chance I considered some teams more than I may have in the past. And I stuck with the plan even when near the end I was searching for a decision point when trying to slot teams – or even include or not include them on my ballot.

I still have not looked at last year’s information before writing this blog. When I do, I suspect some of my decisions, especially teams I left off my ballot, will feel like errors.

One other important item. For years before COVID-19 disrupted everything, we talked extensively about parity in Division III Men’s Basketball. While teams do tend to rise to the top, the number of programs which legitimately could be considered Top 25 quality outnumbered how many we could vote for each week. That parity has continued to increase. While we were given data on 53 teams in the Top 25 Preseason info to consider, there were others any of us likely considered. When I got to the point of putting my ballot together, I had whittled my short list down to only 40 or so.

I left some really good teams off my ballot, and I am in no way thinking I got it right.

On last thing to mention before revealing my ballot: I do not, nor have I ever felt, that how I vote is “right” or the most accurate. There is a reason Pat Coleman (and Gordon Mann on the women’s side) makes sure not only there are 25 voters distributed around the country, but they represent different perspectives – media, coaches, SIDs, etc.

With that in mind, here is my Top 25 ballot with some brief thoughts on each team along with where I had them in last season’s final Top 25 (information I’m looking up for the first time for this blog).

Miles Mallory is leading RMC with a near-double-double (15.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg) to start the 2022-23 campaign.

1 – Randolph-Macon (#1)
I felt most of the off-season that RMC would likely remain my number-one vote, though I was very conscious of the fact that the team was losing more than just Buzz Anthony. Anthony was a unique, generational talent that will leave a large hole, however Josh Merkel has the services of Josh Talbert, Miles Mallory, and a number of others back. RMC still lost some good players along with Anthony, but they were so much better than everyone else last season that it is hard not to vote for them as the top team.

2 – Mary Hardin-Baylor (#7)
If there is a scary team this season to keep an eye on, it is probably UMHB. They have everyone back from a team that arguably underperformed last season. Yes … underperformed. They were darn good especially in their March run, but they were never 100%. What makes them scary is that Josiah Johnson is back, and he played most, if not all, of last season on an injured knee. Add in a more experience for Ty Prince, Luke Feely, and everyone else and it is already a very talent team.

Jahn Hines is leading CNU in scoring with 20.0 ppg and .556 FG% to start the season.

3 – Christopher Newport (#6)
The Captains were the only team to defeat Randolph-Macon last season and looked like RMC’s biggest threat to a national title until CNU’s 24-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of Marietta in the elite eight. John Krikorian once again has a very talented team with plenty of depth. I’m sometimes more amazed how CNU hardly ever has to rebuild, always plugging guys into slots to keep the engine humming. The Captains will once again have to deal with a funky schedule that their C2C conference situation presents, but what should be scary come March is they are used to it now.

4 – UW-Oshkosh (#5)
The Titans have become very consistent in a very turbulent WIAC. Reminds me of the heyday of UW-Stevens Point or even back to UW-Platteville’s dominating years under Bo Ryan. And have done it under two different coaches. UWO has all their starters back and their success will start with Levi Borchert.

Collen Gurley returns to Mount Union along with other transfers which has many expecting big things in Alliance, Ohio,

5 – Mount Union (#19)
I don’t listen a lot to off-season talk about who has transferred where or what high schoolers have committed to what program. However, it seemed the topic of who was likely suiting up for Mount Union popped up in a lot of places this summer – including chats with coaches not necessarily associated with the Purple Raiders. Four of last season’s starters return, plus they bring in some fascinating transfers – one of them is former Raider Collen Gurley who was an All-OAC 1st-Teamer two seasons ago.

6 – Case Western Reserve (#10)
I may be higher on the Spartans than others, but that was the case for most of last season as well. I admittedly could have CWR a tad high right now considering how much they lost from a break-out squad, but I also know the pieces returning along with who has transferred in making them look formidable. Add in the confidence and excitement a near final four run last season brings with it and I’d be surprised if Case isn’t a team we are talking about all season. The real challenge will be a very difficult UAA.

Alex Sobel averaged a double-double (18.3 ppg, 12.1 rpg) plus nearly 4 blocks a game for Middlebury last season.

7 – Middlebury (unranked)
This is a part of the ballot where teams are slotting in a bit higher than I anticipated. Middlebury is also a team were not looking at least season’s finish may have contributed (though, hard to not know the Panthers were not on my final Top 25 ballot). Jeff Brown seems to have a darn good team in Vermont, but I had originally expected to put them somewhere in the 10-15 range. I just didn’t have enough teams to fill out my Top 10 and had to pull from those in the next level down. While our data information didn’t have a ton about Middlebury, it is hard to ignore they have everyone returning – 100% of their offense in every statistical category.

8 – St. Joseph’s (Conn.) (unranked)
One might argue the biggest loss the Blue Jays experienced was the retirement of Jim Calhoun, but that also happened in the middle of last season and St. Joseph’s continued to click right along. Furthermore, Calhoun had already been limited in his coaching and Glenn Miller was basically running the show. This could be the end of St. Joseph’s buildup from the bedrock foundation, but it is a strong group that should roll through the GNAC where they have won 35-straight games. And they are challenging themselves – their entire out-of-conference schedule are teams that made the NCAA tournament last season – it’s just too bad we can’t get them to Las Vegas … yet.

Julien Crittendon is back to help an Oswego team improve upon what was a record-breaking season in 2021-22.

9 – Oswego State (#9)
The SUNYAC will once again be a beast, but the Lakers should be the top of the heap. Jason Leone has six of the top eight scorers back and the team says they have two transfers coming who should make an immediate impact. How do you improve on a season that was a program best? Can you really do better than 27-3? Sure, but I think Oswego will be better while likely being under-appreciated.

10 – Pomona-Pitzer (unranked)
Some of the best basketball in DIII takes places in Southern California and the Sagehens will once again show that this season. It won’t be easy in the SCIAC, but Pomona-Pitzer has shown the last few seasons to be able to go toe-to-toe with the best of Division III … and do so on the road. Pomona-Pitzer returns four of their five starters including All-American Brendan Mora and SCIAC Newcomer of the Year Pete Boyle. And they have a lot more talent including nine players who were significant contributors last season.

Next up, I’ll share 11-20. Then numbers 21-25 with some final notes.

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’18-’19): Week 10

Dave is watching everything … usually. It isn’t as helpful as one hopes.

Welcome once again to my D3hoops.com men’s Top 25 ballot blog. This is just to try and provide insight on how one, single, voter of 25 tries to understand the landscape of Division III men’s basketball.

This time of year, it becomes understood that teams, many teams, are going to lose especially when conference tournaments are in full swing. It also seems like February brings with it a new “understanding” for teams. With Regional Rankings out, teams have a larger target on their back. At the same time, others realize they are not in as good a position as they may have perceived previously. And conference races and tournaments change the mentality. Teams are fighting to get into tournaments or better seeding.

Now a game that even a month earlier might have had no motivation for the lesser team, suddenly has more incentive and new importance. The top-dog is a sitting duck.

Staying focused can be challenging as the regular season comes to a close.

Then there is the other factor for a lot of teams: wear and tear. Some teams have maybe peaked a little early or have been banged up and vulnerable as the regular season comes to a close. It almost feels like some of the top teams see the end of February coming and let off the gas ever so slightly. They’ve had a good season, so far, and don’t realize it can come unraveled quickly if they don’t stay focused – something that is hard to do when mentally, and physically, worn out from roughly 18 weeks of a 20 week season (it’s 19 weeks officially, but 20 weeks on the calendar to some degree).

It all adds up to a number of normally head-scratching losses and eye opening results. Teams are also stumbling or faltering coming to the finish line. In the meantime, others seem to found a second (or third) wind and are stretching winning streaks into conference changing results. Teams written off a few weeks or months ago are now back in the spotlight and teams thought to be the top of the heap are lost in it.

This week it resulted in a Top 25 ballot I don’t really like. I debated about starting over half a dozen times. I even slept on my initial feelings only to then redo it a number of times over the first cup of coffee of the day. What I submitted, I didn’t like. I wasn’t going to like anything I submitted.

This looks like Dave (yes, he’s that good looking!) contemplating ballot decisions this week (and most weeks).

The strangest thing about this ballot and the number of losses: I only removed one team from my previous ballot. For reasons I may be able to explain below, I didn’t remove any of the four teams that went 0-2 this week. They all came came dangerously close to being punted individually or as a group in one version or another, but I wasn’t that positive of their replacements being any better.

Okay, enough of me rambling on. Let’s get to my Week 10 ballot. As always, here is a reminder of last week’s ballot. (Quick note: I was stunned to see my previous top eight and the Week 9 top eight were identical. I haven’t gone that deep in a very long time where my thinking and the consensus was identical. It went haywire after those eight. LOL This week, just my top five were identical, to no surprise.)

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan (NC)

2 – Whitman (NC)

3 – UW-Oshkosh (NC)

4 – Augustana (NC)

The Yellow Jackets is now in the Top 5 while securing their spot at the top of the Regional Rankings. (Courtesy: RMC Athletics)

5 – Randolph-Macon (Up 2)
Wow. The Yellow Jackets are top five? Yeah. Considering they have only lost twice this season, haven’t lost since January 5, and have gone through some tough ODAC opponents recently, this is where RMC has risen to on my ballot. It seems high for where I thought they would end up, but I also thought they couldn’t get through ODAC play without more blemishes. This would very much be an “under the radar” team despite their ranking.

6 – Swarthmore (Up 3)

7 – St. Thomas (Down 2)
We should have probably seen a loss coming in MIAC play. There was no way any team in the conference was going to walk away with the season. I also have been waiting for the youth of this team to show their inexperience. I do not think the loss to Augsburg during a three-game week was because of youth, but I am also not surprised the Tommies didn’t get through the week. I moved them down because it is their third defeat and I do worry it could be an opening others can take advantage. I’ll wait and see.

AJ Jurko has been the glue for MIT, but he has also been banged up which has affected their results. (Courtesy: MIT Athletics)

8 – MIT (Down 2)
The Engineers are once again without the services of AJ Jurko who appears to be out with an injury (new or old, I am not sure). While MIT is still a very good team, Jurko seems to be what makes them click as the second leading scorer on the team. If Jurko (and everyone else) is healthy, MIT is going to be very difficult to stop in March. If not, this senior class is unfortunately going to have things end earlier than expected.

9 – Amherst (Up 11)
Yeah. The Mammoths are flying up my ballot (Jumbo reference maybe? Nope, Tufts isn’t in this conversation). I had been debating even having them on my ballot for the last four weeks, but when you reevaluate what they are doing coupled with beating both Middlebury and Williams on the road and Amherst takes on a completely different look. They are going through a very difficult finish to the season and they are the only ones not losing in the NESCAC. One game left, against Hamilton, which has a lot of ramifications – despite the fact Mother Nature is trying to delay it for the second time. However, watch out for what Hixon has been able to get to work, because they could easily be a surprise team in Fort Wayne this year.

10 – Hamilton (Down 2)

11 – St. John’s (Up 1)

12 – Wooster (Down 2)

13 – Capital (Up 1)

Isaiah Hernandez seems to be the go-to guy for the Pirates recently. (Courtesy: Whitworth Athletics).

14 – Whitworth (Down 4)
My concerns the Pirates are “leaking oil” continue. Watching their games against Linfield and George Fox did not help with that worry. Yes, they won, but they barely survived. Compare that to how Whitman played the same two teams and it is night and day. Maybe Whitworth already peaked at the D3hoops.com Classic and though the Whitman loss in early January. The other problem, they may be left out of the NCAA tournament if they don’t win the NWC tournament (beating Whitman most likely) because their best win right now is against Johns Hopkins.

15 – Nichols (Up 3)

16 – Pomona-Pitzer (Up 3)
There really isn’t anything I can say about the Sagehens. I don’t love having them up this high on my ballot. The SCIAC hasn’t really shown to be a beast of a conference and they have one game – one – of note: A win over Whitman back in late November. However, they have risen because while others are taking losses in conference, Pomona-Pitzer has escaped losing that kind of focus at least. I also didn’t feel the teams I slotted behind them have proven they can be as consistent.

17 – Arcadia (Up 5)
The Knights, Captains, and Colonels (what a great trio of mascots!) rise because of a vacuum created a bit last week moved a little down the ballot to this area this week. Those four teams which went 0-2 caused a number of teams to slide up.

18 – Christopher Newport (Up 6)

19 – Centre (Up 6)

The Tigers have stormed back into the national conversation thanks to a win over rival Wooster. (Courtesy: Wittenberg Athletics)

20 – Wittenberg (NR)
I have brought the Tigers back to my ballot thanks to the accurate point by Ryan on Sunday’s Hoopsville. Wittenberg stumbled and looked like they were going to limp to the end of the season, but they seemed to have fixed the flat tire and have come storming back taking out Wooster to split the series this season. They seem to be back to playing good basketball, though I don’t think they are the Top 10 team I thought they were earlier in the season.

21 – Marietta (Down 8)
First team that went 0-2 last week. I saw the loss to Mount Union coming. I think the Raiders are sneaky good. However, that didn’t wake Marietta up and they proceeded to lose to a challenging Wilmington squad as well. This is now three losses (all on the road) in four which probably should have had me pull the rip cord and let the Pioneers go. These kinds of stretches can completely derail a season. Two home games remaining before the conference tournament where Marietta is going to have to win on the road at some point to prove themselves.

22 – North Central (Ill.) (Down 7)
I feared the Cardinals could have a rough stretch. Losses this week to Illinois Wesleyan and Wheaton after a big win over Augustana is one thing, but BOTH losses were at HOME! Here was another team I considered just pulling off my ballot altogether, but I wasn’t sure if there was any teams I would replace them with that were absolutely better. We shall see, for now.

Williams has Dave like …

23 – Williams (Down 7)
The Ephs have ephed up things down the stretch. Three losses in a row including home losses to Amherst and Hamilton. If anyone (me) thought the overtime loss, on the road, to Bowdoin would be the perfect wake up call, were wrong. Williams was sitting off my ballot in at least half of my previous versions. I decided to hold off that idea to see what happens in the NESCAC tournament. Williams has a week to compose and find themselves because the very good Williams team of earlier in the season seems like a distant memory right now.

24 – Wabash (Down 7)
The Little Giants are now 3-2 in their last five games including a loss to DePauw this past week. Here is another example of after the fact I am second-guessing the reasons I left a team on my ballot this week. Ultimately, I didn’t think four losses on their resume were worse than other teams’ resumes. I really worry Wabash, as good a season as they have had, peaked early. They are at Wittenberg this week – probably another reason I should have pulled them out this week, right?

25 – Loras (Down 2)
The Duhawks didn’t move down my ballot because of anything negative. I just felt that those ahead of them, despite stumbling, were still better than Loras. Interestingly enough, I may have had Loras higher had I pulled the teams on my ballot out and replaced them with others.

Dropped Out:

Marcus Curry and the Quakers, while off Dave’s ballot, should be watched in the ODAC tournament. (Courtesy: Guilford Athletics)

Guilford (Previously 21)
I still think the Quakers are a good team and playing well, but they were on a short leash to begin with before losing to Roanoke this past week. With so many teams with four or more losses, there are a lot of teams to consider each week and I just felt as good as Guilford had been playing, a loss would indicate they weren’t necessarily better than anyone else.

Previous Ballots:
Week 9
Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 4
Preseason (Top 10, 11-20, Final Five)

Yep … this sums it up.

As you can see, I am torn with a number of teams. While I only dropped one squad this time around, I probably had a reasonable argument to drop four more. And it came down to this: either I was pulling all five or just pulling one. I couldn’t pull just one or some of the four teams left on my ballot (Marietta, NCC, Williams, and Wabash) without pulling them all because they all had the same reasons for either going or staying.

When I pulled those four teams, I was left trying to find four teams I thought were better. While there are teams with very good (or better) records, their resumes aren’t necessarily better. Or their results are not against the same quality opponent the quad-group faced in their losses. None of them lost to bad teams. Others’ wins over bad teams just do not compare … for now.

With conference tournaments starting this week, a better grasp of who is playing their best is possible. That said, there will be more losses because remember: Parity.

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’18-’19): Week 9

Welcome to my weekly (kind of) blog that breaks down my D3hoops.com Top 25 men’s ballot. I apologize for being a little late on this. UW-Stevens Point Investigation had me a bit “distracted” earlier in the week.

This week featured a lovely vacuum in the middle of by ballot. Losses by each of the teams from 9 to 13 on my ballot from last week plus other losses and such created a huge hole where I wasn’t really sure where to put teams.

12 teams on my ballot (yeah half) suffered 13 losses. That results in a lot of questions, research, moving of teams, and other considerations. I like Ryan Scott’s approach where he basically started from scratch each week. However, I don’t like going completely from scratch. I have moved from being more slaved to my previous order to a hybrid effort. Some teams I feel comfortable with I move around accordingly. Other teams and sections of the ballot I don’t hold firm to where teams were previously placed.

In the past, I certainly was more prone to simply move teams, that continued to win, up when there were holes by losing teams ahead of them. It wasn’t the best idea and I didn’t do it all the time, but it was an inappropriate habit that didn’t necessarily create the best ballot. As the years have gone on, I have changed my voting habits many times. I am now to the point where, with some teams, I move them up because that’s where they fit. Other teams either don’t move at all despite spaces open above them, some are added anywhere on the ballot if that’s where they seem appropriate (I would only add in the bottom in the early days), and I leap-frog teams a lot more than in the past. I will even move teams down despite the fact they are winning.

Ok… that was a lot. My basic point is that this week I ran into a circumstance where the middle of my previous ballot had faltered, and I wasn’t really that confident with what teams to fill those spots. Moving some teams up didn’t feel like the right decision, but that would mean teams I no longer felt were the “x” ranked team would not move at all. It caused me to seriously scratch my head and come up with some interesting decisions.

With that, let’s just get to the ballot. I may not put in a lot of thoughts for these teams, but it can still give you an idea how this single voter is considering things.

A reminder, here is last week’s ballot.

Now on to my Week 9 ballot:

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan (NC)

2 – Whitman (Up 1)

3 – UW-Oshkosh (Up 1)

Augustana was tripped up in the CCIW which should have surprised no one.

4 – Augustana (Down 3)
The Vikings losing in the CCIW is the least surprising news this year. Of course they were going to lose in the conference. I am not surprised they lost at North Central. Per that, though, the reason I moved them down is games have been a bit closer than I would have expected in the last few weeks. Some games have been in hand, but games against Carroll, Elmhurst, and Carthage give me pause. It was nice to see the Vikings explode against North Park.

5 – St. Thomas (NC)
I write something here only to say, I never considered moving the Tommies into my Top 4 despite Augustana’s loss. I think the top four are their own entity. Losses in that group, unless getting to excess, will most likely result in just a rotation in that top four. St. Thomas is good, but I am also nervous that this young team is flying a little too close to the sun.

6 – MIT (Up 1)

7 – Randolph-Macon (Up 1)

8 – Hamilton (Up 6)
Yeah… the Continentals are all over my ballot and I couldn’t really tell you why. Depends on when you ask me the question. There are times I am bullish on only two losses, outscoring opponents by 20+ points, and other strong “on paper” items. There are other times that I am more bearish on what Hamilton is doing this season. Results against opponents I didn’t think should be close (Tufts) or turnover-plagued games concern me. And sometimes, I probably just over think it. Hamilton jumps up thanks to the fact that I am more bullish right now and the vacuum allowed significant jumps.

9 – Swarthmore (Up 7)
Ryan describe Swarthmore well on Hoopsville Monday night – saying a lot of how I feel. They are a darn good team, but sometimes they don’t seem to be in the right gear on offense. Having seen them, I have the pieces of a very dangerous team that could get to Fort Wayne … but then they have results like a loss to Ursinsus (who is good, but …) and a close game to Haverford causes me to shake my head. The Garnet is very good … trust me.

Wooster has skyrocketed up Dave’s ballot as he has bought in on the Scots in the last few weeks. (Courtesy: Wooster Athletics)

10 – Wooster (Up 8)
The vacuum on my ballot really cased some craziness. Heck, the Scots weren’t even on my ballot a few weeks ago (they were on my radar). I am finally bought in. Here is another example of a great conversation with Ryan on Monday’s Hoopsville. We finally see the Scots are actually for real and understand the three-game losing streak in December was just … weird.

11 – Whitworth (Down 1)
The Pirates might be leaking oil. No, a loss to Whitman didn’t surprise me. Basically not being in that game (until late) and then nearly dropping the game against Lewis & Clark later in the week is surprising. I couldn’t tell you exactly what’s wrong. Illness certainly could be a factor as Kyle Roach wasn’t himself against Willamette (though, he played 32 minutes) and he didn’t seem 100% against Whitman, but coaches will tell you that isn’t an excuse (Logie actually did say that on the Hoopsville Marathon). I just am worried Whitworth has boxed themselves into a corner. A win over Whitman would have been huge this season. They might not only play themselves out of giving the national committee a chance to shift them somewhere in the country the first weekend, but they may be in danger of not even making the tournament as an at-large team.

12 – St. John’s (Down 6)
Could the Johnnies have peaked too soon? It’s a thought I’ve had recently. Losses to Carleton and Bethel are … they can’t happen. Coupled with a loss to St. Thomas already and SJU is in a spot where they now have to win out to be in a good position in the MIAC race AND stay in the conversation about even hosting, or being in a good pod, the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Four losses … for a team that is far better than that.

13 – Marietta (NC)

14 – Capital (Down 2)

North Central has been relying heavily on Connor Rairdon due to other injuries this season. (Courtesy: North Central Athletics)

15 – North Central (Up 5)
I should probably just direct you to my comments on Monday’s Hoopsville where I picked the Cardinals as my Dubious selection. I know they got a win over Augustana at home and they only have a few losses, but it feels like they are just getting by. A close win to Millikin throws up flags for me. And I know it took place a month ago, but I still can’t the loss to Ohio Northern out of my head.

16 – Williams (Down 7)
The loss to Bowdoin bugs me. That shouldn’t have been a game if the Ephs are as good as they have seemed. It was a great game by the Polar Bears, but it went to overtime and Williams allowed that to come down to a last second shot in the corner. Middlebury played the same two teams this weekend (in reverse order) and didn’t seem to have as much trouble. Maybe I am overacting. I just feeling somewhat bearish and have for a while.

17 – Wabash (Down 6)
I can’t keep writing about every team, but some of these squads I am losing faith in how I felt previously. The Little Giants’ loss to Allegheny … was … it just … I mean … really? The follow up to a big game, and loss, to Wooster was a loss to Allegheny? By 12? I am very glad Wabash refocused to get past Hiram, but the damage has already been done.

18 – Nichols (Up 1)

19 – Pomona-Pitzer (Up 2)

Amherst is back on Dave’s ballot after going through the week unscathed. (Courtesy: Amherst Athletics)

20 – Amherst (NR)
I am so undecided about the Mammoths. I had them ranked two weeks ago, then they lost, so I removed them from my ballot. Then this past week Amherst blows through Tufts and Bates, but that wasn’t really something that I would rank them. I got to a point in this level of the ballot where there were not a lot of great options. I looked at a lot of teams and

didn’t feel comfortable with a majority of them being consider “Top 25 squads.” Amherst feels more like a Top 25 team right now than the others.

21 – Guilford (Up 3)

22 – Arcadia (NR)
Just read the Amherst reasoning and consider Arcadia. I like the Knights and really like their defense. That said, I still don’t love their close results this past week. I actually second guessed this decision after the poll was released and it was too late to change my vote. That said, I am not really sure who I would have replaced Arcadia with.

23 – Loras (Down 8)
You cannot defeat the (then) number one team in the country and it is the FILLING to a loss-sandwich (Wartburg and Dubuque before and after). You also cannot lose to a team like Dubuque, rival notwithstanding, for the second time in the season. I know very well that Loras is a good team, but they are the definition of inconsistent right now. I was very tempted to drop them altogether, but a five-loss team that has recently defeated one of the top team in the country is going to get the benefit of the doubt, slightly, from me right now.

Christopher Newport appears on Dave’s ballot of the first time this season. (Courtesy: CNU Athletics)

24 – Christopher Newport (NR)
So, I am now voting for the Captains, but I don’t have to like it! I am sure they are thrilled to read that. Some of the reasons I think CNU has the record they have is they are in what is a down Capital Athletic Conference. Their losses aren’t bad, but for some reason I can’t figure out what is about this team that makes them a Top 25 team (considering their ranking leading up to this week). Maybe I am missing it, but this week I voted because I had a spot and CNU was better than others I was considering – I think. Hopefully, I can learn more about the Captains on Thursday’s Hoopsville when John Krikorian joins us (knock on wood).

25 – Centre (NR)
I’ve been keeping an eye on the Colonels for a while now. Much like CNU and others, I am just not sure if Centre is that good or if the conference is a by-product of their success. Meaning: the wins are coming from a conference that isn’t able to compete. Centre also has a bad loss to Augustana, but I have also chalked that up to a team in this part of my Top 25 is probably not supposed to be on the same level as those in the top four or five. Thus, that result isn’t really a surprise.

Dropped Out:

Lynchburg (Previously 17)
This is going to be short and simple: The Hornets have lost four in a row. No chance I can keep them on my ballot with those circumstances.

UW-Lacrosse (Previously 22)
With the Eagles it came down to this: The win over Stevens Point was very good, but the loss to Platteville not-so-much. That isn’t to say that the Pioneers aren’t good enough that it’s consider a bad loss, but for me it was the wrong game to lose last week. The WIAC is difficult, but the best teams need to rise above it. With a sixth loss, I’m a little nervous.

UW-Stevens Point dropped off Dave’s ballot in part to the fact that UW-Lacrosse also dropped off. (Courtesy: UWSP Athletics)

UW-Stevens Point (Previously 23)
The Pointers at least didn’t lose the wrong game last week (River Falls), but they did lose to Lacrosse. The decision came down to this: I removed Lacrosse and I couldn’t justify also leaving UWSP on the ballot; 14-6 is a hard record to keep on a ballot despite how difficult the record.

Wheaton (Ill.) (Previously 25)
As goes Francis, so goes the Thunder. I’ve said that before, but it isn’t entirely true. Francis continues to play well, but Wheaton has gotten to a point in the season where they needed to have another option to keep opponents from only focusing Francis. That said, losing to Carroll could be a season-shortening result. There were points in the second half Wheaton was down double-digits. Inexcusable. Unacceptable.

Previous Ballots:
Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 4
Preseason (Top 10, 11-20, Final Five)

Not sure if I learned anything this week let alone you as the reader. Heading into the first Regional Rankings and the final few weeks of the season, I am not sure anything is clearer as to who are the top teams in the country. A number of teams seem to be fading, others surging, and some just coasting along. Best I can tell you is outside of the top four, I am not really sure I have my finger on things properly. I may have a completely different point of view next week and change all these positions radically.

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot (’17-’18): Week 12

WashU is one of the strongest teams in the country with results in the first half that make you look twice. (Courtest: WashU Athletics)

The regular season is coming to a close and I think there are still plenty of questions as to who are the top 25 teams in the country. There could be arguments made for a number of teams to be in the poll and a number of arguments against those in the poll (or being discussed). That’s because there are a lot of good teams, not a lot of great teams, and a number of teams can beat others on any given night. That also makes comparing games, like second conference matchups, more complicated.

The other complication I have noticed this season is the dramatic difference between the beginning of the season and the end. We are all used to teams improving from start to finish, but it feels this season there are a number of squads who are completely different than they were in November and December. Sometimes looking back at those games to get a sense of a team is beneficial. This season it just makes one scratch their head more. WashU is one of the strongest teams in the country right now, but they were dominated by Augustana earlier this year. Granted, Augie is no longer at full-strength, but WashU doesn’t even seem to resemble that previous squad. Plattsburgh State has a player now playing who missed the first eight games that makes their squad completely different. There are plenty of other examples. The difference between the first half and second half seems more extreme this season.

Now, for those of you who are screaming I shouldn’t worry about the first half when ranking the Top 25 because the poll should be about now, not cumulative, I hear you. I am not indicating I am ranking based on November. However, early season results also gives you an understanding of where this team has been, where they have come, and most importantly the type of team they are against other opposition. I may lean more on the last few weeks currently, but the entire season provides insight… usually.

Of course, Sunday on Hoopsville Ryan Scott and I discussed the poll in the “Top 25 Double-take.” You can watch the segment below (just click on play; segment is cued up):

The fascinating part about the ballot work this week was … this was the easiest week of the season for me. I had teams to drop and needed to find teams to replace them, that wasn’t easy, however the vast majority of the ballot work was somewhat easy. I moved a few teams around, but it seemed more obvious this week. There were only seven losses amongst seven teams on my ballot this week – that is a piece of cake in comparison to the rest of the season. I know full well there will be more losses next week, but we know that most of the ballot will lose in the final week.

Since I got through my ballot quickly, we might as well wrap up this blog quickly. Let’s get to how I ranked teams. A reminder, here is last week’s ballot. And with that, here is my D3hoops.com Top 25 ballot for Week 12:

UW-Platteville has had a tremendous turn-around from last season.

1 – Whitman (NC)

2 – WashU (NC)

3 – St. John’s (NC)

4 – UW-Platteville (+1)

5 – Wittenberg (-1)
I am a little nervous about the Tigers. Lost two in a row before pulling off a spectacular win over Wooster in the regular season finale. The loss to Hiram I worried opened up the flood gates. It was followed by a loss to Heidelberg, who has beaten some very good teams on the road this season, which seemed to show the dam coming apart. However, Witt got back on top of things against Wooster. The simple fact it was a close game made me breathe a sigh of relief. I’m still nervous that the late season losses could bring the season to a close with a thud.

6 – Whitworth (NC)

7 – Wooster (NC)

8 – Emory (+1)

9 – Hamilton (+1)

10 – Williams (+1)

11 – Plattsburgh State (+1)

12 – Eastern Conn. State (+1)

13 – Illinois Wesleyan (+1)

York (Pa.) has lost two of their last three and four of their last nine. Not the best of finishes for the Spartans. (Courtesy: YCP Athletics)

14 – York (Pa.) (-6)
I said weeks ago that the final game of the regular season at Christopher Newport would be a bell-weather for the Spartans. Unfortunately, it was even more important after a couple of additional losses in the conference season. York ended up squandering away the home-court advantage in the loss to CNU and with it I worry have put themselves in a tough spot this season. It has been a magical season and I still love what they have in their starting five – but they are exposed if they have to go to the bench.

15 – Cabrini (+1)

16 – Augustana (-1)
The Vikings appear to have lost another starter for the rest of the season. I debated about moving them down further on that news, but thought it be more fair to see how they perform this week. Sadly, I am not seeing a lot of signs that a return to Salem is in the cards with this latest injury, but I do want to see how they respond.

17 – Salem State (NC)

18 – Wesleyan (+1)

19 – Nichols (+1)

Hobart’s 15-game winning streak came to an end against Union in the regular season finale. (Courtesy: Hobart Athletics)

20 – Hobart (-1)
The Statesmen finished the regular season with a loss to Union. Ok then. Not exactly a sign of strength in my opinion. The loss ended a 15 game winning streak. I realize Union is decent this year (16-8 overall), but I expected a win to finish things there. Maybe the loss will be well timed. We shall see.

21 – Johns Hopkins (+1)

22 – Swarthmore (+1)

NWU has a schedule that leaves lots of questions. Are they as good as many expected? (Courtesy: Nebraska Wesleyan Athletics)

23 – Nebraska Wesleyan (NR)
I have said several times I am not in love with the Prairie Wolves schedule. Their out of conference schedule left a lot to be desired and not a lot to truly gauge. They then entered IIAC play and immediately got thumped by Buena Vista. Just when it seemed they shook that off, they have a head-scratching loss to Simpson. So why did I vote for them? I’ve been turning towards teams that have at least still winning late in the season. NWU returned the favor on BVU (on the road) and then handled Loras and Wartburg in their last few. I have plenty of questions still, but Nebraska Wesleyan is doing more than most right now.

24 – Christopher Newport (NR)
Ryan Scott reminded me of the Captains when he brought them up on Hoopsville Sunday (see above). I have seen CNU in person this year and while they aren’t the squad we expected, they are playing well and those who weren’t going to get any experience are very seasoned now. They defeated York to finish the season and now control the CAC playoffs through southeastern Virginia. I am not sure if CNU is nearly at the same level as the last few years, but they are returning to form with new players.

Marietta is back in Dave’s ballot because someone from the OAC should be. (Courtesy: Marietta Athletics)

25 – Marietta (NR)
I have to vote for some OAC team. The conference has been too competitive not to, but I really struggled as to who to vote for this week. I had John Carroll on my short list for a few weeks. I had been voting for Baldwin Wallace (pretty high recently) before they become unglued. I’ve been watching Marietta much of the season and they haven’t been blowing me away, but they seem to be more consistent than others right now. Some could argue JCU is the better team and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, but the lost to Capital to finish the regular season resulted in my selection of the PIoneers and not the Blue Streaks.

NC – No Change from previous ballot
NR – Not Ranked on previous ballot
+ – Movement up – number of spots – from previous ballot
– – Movement down – number of spots – from the previous ballot

Dropped Out (Previous Ranking):

UW-Stevens Point (21)
The Pointers have been the talk of the WIAC the entire conference season. They have surprised all with how well they have played, but their loss to Eau Claire was maybe more surprising considering their success to date. The BluGolds were 3-10 in the conference (all in the 2018) before that game and got past the Pointers by a point. SMH Maybe UWSP comes back roaring and will be just as dangerous, but that finish had me remove them from my Top 25.

Middlebury (24)
Three losses in a row and I can’t keep riding the Panthers. I get that they have done this before this season, but that is the problem… this is the second time they have gone through this kind of rough spot. They went from having the NESCAC tournament come through Vermont for the very first time to losing the hosting and out of the tournament in a week’s time. Now they sit for two-weeks before probably playing in the NCAA tournament. Like UWSP, this may be well timed. I’m not that confident.

Maryville (25)
I like the Scots, but I am not sure they finished the season strong, either. Last week they had three games and only lost one, but it was to Huntingdon and – again – not the team to lose to if you are proving you are that good. Maybe well timed (did I mention that?), but we have to wait to see

Previous Ballot Blogs:
Week 11
Week 10
Week 9 – not available (see Week 10 blog for ballot)
Week 8
Week 7 – not available (see Week 8 blog for ballot)
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3 – not available (see Week 4 blog for ballot)
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

There is one more poll coming before we head into the NCAA tournament (with the final poll coming after the championships are handed out). I am sure there will be a ton of different results to sift through next week. Ryan has already said he is blowing up the entire ballot (see above). I am quite sure I will do something of the same, though I will be very busy at the same time.

Speaking of which, don’t forget there are a few must-watch items coming up in the next week:

  • Hoopsville Thursday Edition – Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7:00 PM ET
  • Hoopsville: Selection Sunday Special – Sunday, February 25 at 6:00 PM ET (or earlier)
  • NCAA Men’s Bracket Reveal – Monday, February 26 at 12:30 PM ET*
  • NCAA Women’s Bracket Reveal – Monday, February 26 at 2:30 PM ET*
  • Hoopsville Bracket Breakdown – Monday, February 26 at 3:30 PM ET
  • * – times may adjust

Follow Hoopsville on Twitter (@d3hoopsville), Instragram (@d3hoopsville), and Facebook (www.facebook.com/Hoopsville) along with D3hoops.com on Twitter and Facebook and the front page for more information on all of those shows.

It is a very exciting part of the season. Allow us to help guide you through the craziness!