The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: January 15, 2023: Surprises in the MIAA, WIAC, and NESCAC

By Riley Zayas

Welcome back to this Sunday morning edition of The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops. Wow, is it tough to remember the last time Hope lost to a team not named Trine. But here we are…let’s get into it and what unfolded in yesterday’s action!

  • I tend to always lead off the most surprising result of the day (in my opinion of course), and yesterday it seemed there was no bigger upset than Albion’s 69-53 win over fifth-ranked Hope. What gets me is the margin of victory…16 points! Albion has been near the top of the MIAA with a 6-1 record, but certainly wasn’t on my radar when I looked through yesterday’s slate of games. The defense was outstanding for Abion, holding Hope to just six points in the second quarter and a shooting percentage of 27.3% for the game. Hope did all it could to pull back into it as the second half progressed, but the damage had been done. Another stat that is notable is the assist numbers for both teams; Hope had just six, while Abion had 14. Albion seemed to be moving the ball better, which created higher-percentage shots as the first half progressed, allowing the Britons to gain a massive 31-18 lead at the half. I think Hope stays in the Top 10, though maybe ends up at #9 or #10. They’ll take a hit for sure in the Top 25 tomorrow.
  • But that wasn’t the only surprise yesterday. In the ever-competitive WIAC, UW-Stout took down #13 UW-Whitewater in a thriller, 72-65. It was a one-possession game for all but the final minute of the fourth quarter, and turned out to be perhaps the most competitive game of the afternoon. Stout came up with points on the offensive end time and time again, as the opponents exchanged scores. Stout raced out of the gates in their most impressive quarter, taking a 21-10 lead after the first. Whitewater outscored the Blue Devils by five in each of the next two quarters, before Stout pulled it out in the fourth. I was most impressed by the level of intensity shown from Stout, as there was no panic, and only confidence coming from that entire sideline, even as Whitewater hung in the game, taking the lead midway through the final quarter. The final team stats were relatively even, and Whitewater even shot 92% at the FT line. But Stout came up with a few more shots and a handful of key stops in the final minutes, not to mention going 6-for-6 at the FT line in the final minute. Miss one or two of those and it could’ve been a completely different result with the number of shooters the Warhawks have. Amanda Giesen was fantastic for Stout, scoring 19 points.
  • Sticking with the topic of the WIAC, UW-Oshkosh pulled out a massive 61-53 win over UW-La Crosse, a team I voted at #25 in this past week’s poll. I was responsible for 7 of UWO’s 10 points received in the poll (I had them at #19), and this is why. Though the sub-.500 WIAC record has turned some people off, I believe UWO is just as battle-tested as anyone in the conference (maybe minus Whitewater), and yesterday displayed that, with the Titans fending off the Eagles, even when the lead got down to three midway through the fourth. Oshkosh was so balanced offensively, and the three-point shooting made up for any size disadvantage in the post. UWO was 10-of-26 from beyond the arc, while UWL won the rebounding battle, 31-23. We’ll see where both go from here. Oshkosh, believe it or not, is likely still in the Pool C conversation, but every game is key at this point. UWO travels to UWSP on Wednesday while UWL hosts UWRF.
  • Yesterday I focused a lot on the NESCAC…and I can’t help but bring up the NESCAC again. Because two of the league’s three undefeated teams fell on Saturday, leaving Trinity (CT) alone atop the standings.
  •      Middlebury, after shocking Amherst and Bowdoin in consecutive games, fell by four, 63-59, at Colby, a sub-.500 team. Colby was much better offensively, and frankly, I wonder if Middlebury was just tired from having run up and down with Bowdoin less than 24 hours before. That NESCAC schedule can be rough on your stamina, especially when you have a small rotation.
  •     Tufts was the other one to fall, previously 2-0 in the league, as Hamilton, a team I’ve been high on for a good part of this season, won 59-43. Talk about stamina. Hamilton beat Bates in OT Friday, then came back with a huge home win yesterday. Hamilton is in the midst of one of the toughest stretches of the season for any team in the nation, having played at Ithaca, at Middlebury, at Williams, vs Smith before this weekend. And the Continentals travel to Babson tomorrow. Hamilton dominated Tufts defensively, holding Tufts before 10 points in each of the first two quarters, and Maggie Russell to just six points. Four Hamilton players finished above 10 points in scoring, but the key was getting it done on the defensive end. Hamilton has played so many high quality offenses already that the Continentals were already well prepared for the offensive threat Tufts posed.
  • S/O to my #1, Trinity (TX), who set a program record for points in a quarter, beating Southwestern, 125-89, in Georgetown. Yes, the game was over before it even began as the Tigers put 42 on the board in the opening quarter, shooting 69.6% from the field. Trinity connected on 20 three-pointers, and continues to be a very impressive shooting team. The Tigers are so deep, and play incredibly hard. The national championship game is in Dallas this year, just sayin’…it’d be pretty cool for an in-state team to make it, as Wabash did making the men’s final four last year.
  • Also, S/O to Luther, who could very well be one of those “deep dive” teams we typically talk about on Hoopsville. Sure, the Norse probably won’t end up ranked, but after beating Loras, are certainly in the A-R-C title race at this point. The blowout losses to Simpson and Gustavus Adolphus don’t look great, but they played Stout close early in the year, and have beaten both UW-Platteville and Loras. Luther pulled out an 94-89 double-overtime win in an offensive-dominated duel. Each team had a 32-point scorer, with Kailey Jones putting 32 on the board for Luther, and Kelsea Hurley scoring 32 for Central. Both teams shot above 40% and Jones’ jumper made it a three-point game with 24 seconds left. After missing on the other end, Central was forced to foul and that just about sealed the win for Luther, now 5-2 in the A-R-C.
  • Schreiner won its fourth straight game on the road on Saturday, beating Texas Lutheran in a tight one, 78-71. I’ve said it before, but Schreiner has something special going, and while nobody in the SCAC is competing to the level Trinity is right now, Schreiner is an up-and-coming team that could get the SCAC two tournament bids, maybe not this year, but next. DeMauria Miles had one of the best offensive performances of the day, putting 33 points on the board on 11-of-20 shooting. Also pay attention to TLU. They gave Trinity a bit of a run in the second half of Friday’s game. Another up-and-coming program that isn’t quite there, but on its way.

Alright, going to shift my attention to the UAA and my Top 25 ballot, which I hope to have out much earlier tomorrow than I did last week (we’ll see…). I can tell you Trinity (TX) will stay as my #1 (I know, no big surprise there), but after that, it will be interesting. Until tomorrow’s post, have a great rest of your weekend, enjoy the NFL playoffs, and God Bless.


January 2, 2023: Recapping the weekend in D3 women’s hoops

2023 is officially upon us! Hope you had a great final day of 2022 on Saturday. 2022 National Player of the Year Kenedy Shelton (formerly Schoonveld) made the comment Saturday on Instagram that the year feels like it went in two parts for her, as the national championship run for Hope feels quite long ago, actually. It’s easy to forget that even as we discuss all the ups and downs in this first half of the current season, we witnessed a thrilling month of February and the NCAA Tournament that followed back in March. 2022 was a year filled with so many memories. Let’s hope 2023 has the same in store.

So on the final day of 2022 and the first day of 2023, what stood out to me? Here’s a few thoughts…

  • DeSales is almost a lock for my Top 10 at this point, but the Bulldogs put a performance on the floor yesterday against CCNY that was nothing short of remarkable. It’s also one of the most lopsided scores I’ve seen this season. DeSales trounced CCNY, 82-18. Yes, you read that right. A 64-point victory for the nation’s #12 team. Everyone who played scored for DeSales and interestingly enough, the stats were not all that eye-popping on the offensive end. They shot a respectable 42.7% from the field, struggled from beyond the arc (1-of-19 on three-pointers), and were just 55% at the free throw line on 20 attempts. But defensively, CCNY had just one scorer with multiple made shots, as they were just 7-of-40 shooting. CCNY turned the ball over 37 times, and scored just two points in the entire fourth quarter.
  • #6 Amherst lost its second game of the week, a very uncharacteristic showing from a team that is normally very consistent defensively. After falling to Concordia-Moorhead on Thursday, the Mammoths fell to Chapman, 69-64, on Sunday. Chapman turned the ball over just six times, which is impressive against a defense of Amherst’s caliber, and though the Mammoths had the lead entering the fourth quarter, Chapman put 18 points on the board in the final quarter. Amherst had just 12. We’ll see how Amherst begins conference play against Williams on Friday. The tough thing about the NESCAC schedule is you play on back-to-back days every week, so your game prep and the way you go about keeping your roster healthy is different than teams in other top conferences where a Wednesday/Saturday or Thursday/Saturday schedule is typical. I’ve always wondered whether playing consecutive days during conference play (SCAC often does it too) is more of a benefit or a challenge.
  • Eastern Connecticut is somewhat on my radar, not necessarily as a Top 25 candidate, but as the likely favorite to win the Little East Conference. The Warriors are 9-3, 3-0 in LEC play, and those three losses have come to Babson, Trinity (CT), and Smith. Not bad. They took down Middlebury in double overtime on Saturday for their fifth straight victory. Anna Barry might end up being the LEC Player of the Year, and put up a very strong stat line on Saturday, with 16 points and 22 rebounds in 48 minutes. Talk about a career day. She added three steals and three blocks.
  • I was actually a little bit surprised by the 67-49 road win for Colorado College over Schreiner on Saturday. Maybe CC caught Schreiner on a bad day, but this was a Schreiner team that took down a respectable D-II program just before Christmas. The offensive rhythm was not there at all for the Mountaineers, who had just eight points in the fourth quarter. I really liked how CC attacked the boards, outrebounding Schreiner 55-29. Still, Schreiner managed to force 22 turnovers, a handful coming from the Mountaineers’ full-court press, which is very well run. CC just broke the press enough times that it didn’t play as big of a factor as it had in previous games for Schreiner.
  • I know I’ve already said this, but keep an eye on UW-River Falls in the WIAC. Under interim head coach Shelby Lyman, the Falcons are 11-2, having turned the corner in the big three-point win over UW-Whitewater back in December. Now, beating UW-Superior as they did Saturday is not the same as beating a WIAC power, but the way that UWRF is playing is eye-opening. When you watch them, there is a great balance between the posts and the guards, which really spreads the defense out. Macy Nilsen has to be in the WIAC Player of the Year discussion, She’s averaging 14.2 PPG, and 6.4 RPG averaging around 24 minutes per game. Then there’s Julia Siedel, who had 11 points, and Zoey Buchan, who had 13, in Saturday’s 16-point win over UW-Superior. UWRF has so much depth on the roster, it really plays to their advantage.
  • Admittedly, I dropped Millikin out of my ballot fairly quickly (though I left them in for a week longer than most voters) when the Big Blue struggled in the early part of the season. Now, you look, and think, how are they not ranked? Give it another week, and I think we’ll be seeing Millikin receiving significant votes again. The Big Blue is 10-3, 4-0 in CCIW play. Bailey Coffman is back after a horrific jaw break a day after a big-time performance in an exhibition against E. Illinois in early November. It was nice to see her back on the floor, and she can really give Millikin an advantage in the post. Coffman played 16 minutes in Saturday’s 81-63 win over Greenville, scoring eight points.
  • Looking ahead to today’s action, I think the game of the day is in Belton, where #16 Mary Hardin-Baylor faces #18 UC Santa Cruz at 3 pm EST. Now, because we haven’t voted since before Christmas, it’s likely both teams would be in the 20-25 range right now, but ranked nonetheless. These are two talented squads, who both need this game for regional ranking purposes. It took a lot to keep this game on the schedule, with all the flight craziness late last week. Initially, this contest was scheduled for Friday, but instead it was moved to Monday, making it the game to watch this afternoon. The guard play will be huge. Arieona Rosborough, Payton Hicks, Lauren Baker, and Jaycie Brisco are all guards who can score and get to the lane quickly. Tess Oakley-Stilson and Aubrey Wagner are UCSC’s top guards. The Banana Slugs have the advantage in the post, so I’ll be interested to see how UMHB defends that. Plus, UCSC is so experienced, this group has developed a cohesion that UMHB is working on forming, but just hasn’t had as much time.
  • But don’t forget about the showdown in Ithaca, where #24 Ithaca battles Hamilton in what should be a really good game. Tipping at 2 p.m. EST , this pits Ithaca, who hasn’t played a game since Dec. 7, against Hamilton, who had #8 Baldwin Wallace on the ropes this past Friday on the road. Ithaca needs to find its rhythm early, as you don’t want to fall behind by too much to a team like Hamilton. Hamilton is one of those teams who could potentially end the year outside of the Top 25, just because there is so much parity, but could absolutely become the Cinderella team of the NCAA Tournament. There are just so many playmakers on that roster, if the defense is a little better than it was against BW in the second half, Hamilton should have a good chance to win some big games down the stretch this season. Winning today would be big for Hamilton especially, since the Continentals play in a very deep NESCAC and RRO wins will come in handy once tournament time rolls around. Not to mention, a few key victories, such as one today, could put Hamilton into the Top 25.

If you’re wondering where my Top 25 ballot is, which I typically publish on here every Monday, the voting has been delayed by a day due to New Year’s, so I’ll have that tomorrow. Games from today will be accounted into that ballot (I would think), so I’m waiting on a few results (ref. above) before making my final ballot. There’s going to be so much movement between the last poll and this one. Anyway, enjoy your day as we move into 2023 and keep supporting D3 women’s hoops!

If you know someone who you think might enjoy this blog, feel free to share it! As always, your comments are always welcome, and you can also email me at Have a great day!


The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: What a finish to 2022.

December 31, 2022

By Riley Zayas,@ZayasRiley

Let me start by saying this. The day that we had in D3 women’s basketball yesterday I can only equate to the feel of an NCAA Tournament slate. We had scores from nationally-relevant games coming in throughout the day, plenty of on-the-edge-of-your-seat finishes, and a good number of unranked teams challenging Top 25 opponents. You really did not know what to expect from one game to the next, and that is the sort of slate we very well may not see again until March. 18 Top 25 teams were in action. Two of them lost, and five won games by less than 10 points. That should give you an idea of the sort of day in was with so much action playing out at one time. I guarantee you that come tournament time, we will still be talking about at least a few of yesterday’s results.

I didn’t know where to start with this, so I figured I should just go from the top…literally.

  • Top-ranked NYU was truly tested for the first time on Friday afternoon, in a 2020 NCAA tournament rematch with Bowdoin that certainly lived up to the hype. It was like a chess match from start to finish, both teams executing their offenses with remarkable effectiveness and poise. Both shot above 40 percent from the field (41.2% for Bowdoin, 49.2% for NYU) and it really came down to a few big forced turnovers from NYU late in the fourth quarter that kept Bowdoin from retaking the lead. Bowdoin turned the ball over twice with less than 1:20 left, but at no point did the Violets fully pull away. The lead changed hands a whopping 36 times and I was very impressed by the way both sides found ways to stay in the game with the pressure mounting. A 16-of-28 performance at the line is something NYU will need to improve on, but overall, the Violets got a very nice showing from Belle Pellecchia, who shook off a disappointing performance at Tufts in mid-December with 22 points. She is once again in the All-America conversation. Sydney Jones had 28 for Bowdoin and all signs are pointing towards her having a huge season for the Polar Bears.
  • Bowdoin’s fellow NESCAC rival Trinity (CT) pulled perhaps the most impressive win for an unranked team on Friday, taking down #13 Springfield ON THE ROAD, 58-45. Winning at Springfield is hard to do, but here’s the stat that jumped off the page in my opinion: Trinity outrebounded Springfield, 52-29. Yes, you read that right. Reilly Campbell and Emma Wax were exceptional on the boards, with 11 rebounds apiece. Springfield had just three second-chance points. When you can do that on the defensive end, you’re going to win nine times out of 10. The defensive effort was what impressed me the most about this big win for the Bantams. We know they can score, but solid defense will take you a long way in a deep conference highlighted by Amherst, Tufts, and Bowdoin.
  • Oh, and it’s probably time to expand the “NESCAC contenders” list beyond those four. Because Hamilton is making waves. The Continentals already boast wins over St, John Fisher and Rochester, and nearly shocked #8 Baldwin Wallace on Friday, falling 72-65. Hamilton actually led (at Baldwin Wallace), 51-50 heading into the fourth quarter. Credit to BW, who really turned it on in a 22-point fourth quarter, but I was very impressed by the way Hamilton approached this game. I had BW #5 in my unofficial Top 25 this past week for good reason, and aside from the Trine game back in November, hadn’t seen the Yellow Jackets tested the way they were Friday. Taylor Lambo had 28 points for Hamilton, 14 in the fourth, in a solid offensive performance. Hamilton gets another shot at a top-level team, when it plays at Ithaca on Monday. They’ll get Amherst and Trinity (CT) back to back on the road come late January.
  • So what did Baldwin Wallace do right? The Yellow Jackets were balanced, and let their depth power them to victory. 12 players played at least nine minutes, and performances like Kira Philpot coming off the bench to score 11 points in 19 minutes really drove BW to victory. The fourth quarter is when things really started to click, but I’d argue the Yellow Jackets’ best run came in the closing minutes of the second, after Hamilton had established a 33-21 lead. BW roared back, mounting an 11-1 run to go into halftime trailing by just two, 34-32. Obviously it would have been a much different story had that run not happened, and BW had gone into halftime down 12, or possibly more.
  • #9 Babson had a bit of an upset scare on their home court against Middlebury (another NESCAC program that could make some waves in conference play), and was tied 42-42 entering the fourth quarter. Babson put 19 points on the board over those final 10 minutes, and held Middlebury to just 10, but it was not a very convincing performance overall from Babson. The Beavers actually trailed 28-20 at the half, and could not really get anything going consistently on the offensive end. They had looks at the rim, but were unable to finish in the paint. 21 turnovers did not help either. We’ll see where Babson ends up in the next Top 25 poll, but I won’t have them in my Top 10. Chances are, this was a bit of the holiday break showing its effects, which is understandable. I’ll be interested to see how they fair against Tufts, Springfield and Hamilton (in that order) in mid-January.
  • Funny enough, for all the great basketball that was played, just one Top 25 vs. Top 25 matchup was on the slate. That was #7 Scranton’s home duel against #19 Tufts, a game that Scranton prevailed in, 68-59. Maggie Russell had 24 for Tufts, but it just wasn’t enough to take down a Scranton team that remains undefeated. Scranton led by a single point entering the fourth, but a 9-0 run created some significant separation. Tufts did not score for the first five-and-a-half minutes of the fourth, which isn’t a stat you want in a Top 25 matchup. Side note: I’ve heard of small rotations but Scranton might have the smallest rotation I’ve seen this season, playing just eight in this one. That says a lot about the stamina of the starting five, four of whom played 30+ minutes. Just six of the Lady Royals’ 68 points came from the bench.
  • In non-Top 25 news, UW-Stout lost its second straight game, as WashU rebounded nicely after a one-sided loss to UW-Oshkosh on Thursday. That looked like a completely different WashU team and I really liked the defensive effort, which didn’t seem to be there in full force against Oshkosh. Stout shot just 25% from the field.
  • Loras didn’t need to do anything else to earn a Top 25 spot in this next poll. Their recent wins alone qualify them for a spot, possibly in the Top 20. We’ll see. But the Duhawks went above and beyond on Friday, completely dominating a UW-Stevens Point team that had wins over UW-Platteville, Millikin, Wheaton and Luther. Loras won 85-58 as Sami Martin put 17 points in the board. Loras has so many scorers, I’m not sure opponents know who to focus on. The Duhawks had five players score in double figures!
  • Concordia-Moorhead is officially on my Top 25 watch list. I would not be surprised to see them challenge Gustavus Adolphus in the MIAC this year. After beating #6 Amherst in double overtime, the Cobbers pulled out a 40-point, 82-42 win over Salve Regina at the Classic Friday afternoon. Salve Regina is not a great team, but entered the matchup 7-2. The Cobbers filled up the stat sheet, shot 43.3% on 30 three-point attempts, and scored 33 points off turnovers. The ball movement offensively was especially strong, and gave way to plenty of open three-point shots. Remember, this is a team that beat Gustavus Adolphus earlier in the year as well.

Okay, I’ve officially maxed out as much as I can write. And there were still some pretty notable games that I didn’t get a chance to mention, like Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ OT win over Illinois Wesleyan. That’s the sort of banner day it was for D3 women’s basketball yesterday. A remarkable set of games that I really can’t say enough about. Kudos to all the coaches who have approached these tough schedules head-on. As always, feel free to email me at Or drop a comment below. I’ll be sure to respond. And while you’re at it, subscribe for free on Substack if you haven’t already! Enjoy your Saturday!

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 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 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 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.