The carnage continues… or at least those who I don’t expect to be losing games are still losing. It was another week of head-scratching games and plenty of questions who should be in the Top 25. It also raised questions about teams I was pretty confident in or had moved up recently due to other data. It has been a wacky year to be sure with plenty of good teams to consider. Usually by this point in time you have a pretty good handle on who should be in the Top 25 and have a few that are just on the outside. However, this year I think the bottom half is a pick ’em and there are a number of teams I am considering that aren’t on my ballot.
If you will remember, last week I blew up my ballot and practically started over. I am certainly not doing that this week, but three teams dropped out of my poll with two more giving me plenty of reasons to drop them as well. That meant three new teams with one making a significant jump when I looked at their data and what they had been doing recently. I would say I am looking forward to things settling down, but the way things are shaping up, the next three weeks are going to be anything but settled.
Here is my ballot for this week’s Top 25:
1 – UW-Stevens Point (Unchanged)
2 – Cabrini (Unchanged)
They got a good win against Gwynedd-Mercy and then rallied against an improved Rosemount squad while playing without one of the best players this season: Aaron Walton-Moss. Unfortunately, their game against Wesley for Monday was postponed due to weather for the second time this season and it is not looking good that it can be rescheduled. That will mean both teams and plenty of Division III fans will be missing out on one of the best games of the regular season.
3 – WPI (Up 1)
4 – Illinois Wesleyan (Up 1)
5 – Wash U. (Up 2)
6 – Wooster (Down 1)
The Scots are struggling it seems right now, though their only loss this past week was to a surging Ohio Wesleyan squad. I still think Wooster is one of the best teams in the country, but they have to get things tidied up in the coming weeks so they can position themselves well for the NCAA tournament.
7 – Wesley (Up 1)
The Wolverines are taking on all comers and winning the games they need to. Unfortunately, their game against Cabrini was once again postponed. I think they will do their best to find a date that works since it is an important game for SOS, vRRO, and other factors for both teams. However, even if they don’t get the game rescheduled, Wesley has a tough challenge ahead. They have Mary Washington, Christopher Newport, and St. Mary’s still to play in their final six conference games (only Mary Washington is on the road), so they have to take care of business in one of the toughest finishes in the country.
8 – UW-Whitewater (Up 1)
The Warhawks are quietly playing very, very good basketball. Wednesday’s rematch with UW-Stevens Point looms large, especially since coach Pat Miller will be off the bench due to surgery and former Pointer great Nick Bennett will coach UWW against his former team. I will have the chips and beer ready for Wednesday night!
9 – Amherst (Down 6)
Could the Lord Jeffs been looking ahead to their game against Bowdoin when they lost to Colby on Friday night? Who knows, but it was not a good result for a team who many claim is on track to another national title. As one Amherst alum put it to me, it was their worst loss in four years. Hats off to the Mules for pulling off the upset, but Amherst showed a lot of problems in that game and then scratched out a win against Bowdoin. I wonder if the Colby game (along with Emerson earlier this season) reveals more issues at Amherst then even their fans want to admit.
10 – St. Norbert (Unchanged)
11 – St. Thomas (Unchanged)
12 – Mary Washington (Unchanged)
13 – Williams (Up 1)
14 – Brockport State (Up 1)
15 – Ohio Wesleyan (Up 5)
I think the Battling Bishops are making a statement at the perfect time of the year. When I talked to coach Mike DeWitt at the beginning of the season, he indicated he didn’t think his team was the third best in the conference (as voted on by the coaches in the preseason poll) at the time. Now they look like they may be the best team in the conference. Big win over Wooster, but they have to stay focused with a struggling, but dangerous, Wittenberg squad next and DePauw in the last game of the season.
16 – Messiah (Unchanged)
17 – Randolph-Macon (Unranked)
Here come the Yellow Jackets once again, only this time they are on top of the ODAC. Remember how RMC made the NCAA tournament thanks in part to the best SOS numbers in the country and a ton (almost all) of their games featured those who had been regionally ranked (maybe one of the reasons the “once ranked, always ranked” rule was changed). Coach Nathan Davis once again has his team rolling and with wins over Virginia-Wesleyan, Hampden-Sydney, and Guilford in the last four games (did you see the Guilford score? 103-58!!!). The last time the Yellow-Jackets lost was on December 18 in a close game at Cabrini. I am not sure why I have been sleeping on this squad for so long.
18 – Bowdoin (Unchanged)
Unlike some voters, I don’t knock teams if they lose to teams I have ranked ahead of them. Isn’t that what my ranking indicates would happen? If #18 losses to then #3, then I shouldn’t demote #18 for the loss. Bowdoin dropped their game to Amherst, but by just three points. The Polar Bears are positioning themselves to host at least the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament and that could make them dangerous.
19 – Virginia Wesleyan (Up 4)
I am going to start calling the Marlins the Yo-Yos. They keep going up and down my ballot as a rough week is followed by a good week. A convincing win over Lynchburg was a very nice outcome and keeps them near the top with Hampden-Sydney and Guilford still to play in the regular season.
20 – Texas-Dallas (Down 3)
Welcome to my Top 25… and now lose. Not what I had hoped from the Comets thanks to a loss to Hardin-Simmons, but it is only their second loss of the season, so I am not willing to drop them completely from my ballot. They are controlling the ASC by three games and just need to play consistently good basketball the rest of the way.
21 – Whitworth (Up 4)
22 – Centre (Unranked)
I have been watching the Colonels for a few weeks as they have been playing better and better basketball, probably living up to some of the preseason expectations. Nine straight wins and an SOS that looks pretty solid has me jumping on the bandwagon. Of course as luck would have it, they have a game against Oglethorpe coming up on Friday. I know they beat the Stormy Petrels nearly two weeks ago, but that result will probably have no bearing on this game.
23 – Eastern Connecticut (Unranked)
Here is another team I have been watching for a few weeks. The Warriors have won eight of their nine games in 2014 (only loss to Amherst) and have a surprisingly good SOS number. They are in control of their own destiny in the Little East and probably on track to make a reappearance in the NCAA tournament.
24 – Oglethorpe (Down 5)
This drop is probably a bit steeper than I normally would have for a single loss in a week, but their loss to Birmingham-Southern put them in a tie for second place with BSC, two games behind Centre. Also, I was going to move them down and because they lost at home earlier this season to Centre, I had to move them somewhere behind the Colonels.
25 – Augustana (Down 12)
I seriously considered dropping the Vikings completely from my Top 25. They have lost three straight, albeit one of them to Wheaton (Ill.). However, the other two are to teams behind them in the CCIW and now Augustana finds itself two games back of the conference leaders two of those top dogs (Illinois Wesleyan and Carthage) to play in the next two games. If the Vikings don’t turn the ship around quickly, they could be out of the CCIW playoff race and thus out of consideration for the NCAA tournament.
St. Mary’s (Md.) (Previously 21)
The newly revamped CAC has caused major problems for the Seahawks. Normally a loss to Salisbury late in the season wouldn’t be a big deal, but now SMC has five losses on the season with three of those losses coming to conference opponents. The Seahawks have Mary Washington, Christopher Newport, and Wesley in their final six games and cannot afford another loss if they still want to make the NCAA tournament. If SMC doesn’t win the automatic qualifier for the conference, that means they have taken at least one more loss in the conference tournament assuming they haven’t dropped at least one game against the previously mentioned three teams. The Seahawks are on very thin ice which could have a perennial favorite to make deep runs in the NCAA tournament watching 62 others teams play basketball.
DePauw (Previously 22)
The Tigers were surging until they apparently forgot they were playing Denison and Oberlin this past week. They barely got past Denison and then dropped their game against Oberlin. DePauw has proven they can beat Wittenberg and Wooster, but they have to play everyone well or they aren’t a Top 25 team.
Dickinson (Previously 24)
The Red Devils have found the worst time of the year to pick up conference losses. Their second in as many weeks was to Muhlenberg leaving them just a game ahead of McDaniel and Franklin & Marshall when they had been in control of the Centennial Conference. The conference is more competitive at the top than expected, but that may have more to do with Dickinson coming back to the group leaving the chance of an extra bid from this conference looking doubtful.
* – SOS numbers are from information sent to me by our friend KnightSlappy (alias on the D3boards).