March 9, 2023: Breaking news this morning

Within the last hour, we’ve had three breaking news reports come out in the D3 world, all of which are related to women’s basketball in some way or another. So I thought I’d put out something on all of this news, in addition to my look at the Sweet 16, which should be out this evening (and probably hit your inbox tomorrow morning).

This first one is combined because, well, the move itself is combined. Both Trinity (TX) and Southwestern are on the move, announcing they will join the Southern Athletic Association by the fall of 2025. This move was reported over a month ago by D3VBWest, a Region 10 volleyball website, but we were unsure when that move would be announced, and how committed both universities were to moving all sports to a league based heavily in the southeast U.S. and headquartered in Atlanta.

Apparently, this move was closer than many of us expected, and with Southwestern moving its football program from ASC affiliation to SAA affiliation next year, neither school’s football program will see any changes made. The other sports will now be playing Rhodes, Berry, Centre in others, replacing short treks to north Texas and Louisiana with regular season road trips involving flights and such.

My first reaction is what the SCAC is losing. will probably cover the football aspect of this extensively in a story, and I know I’m a WBB blog. But football often drives conference realignment (especially when it comes to Texas) and with all the question marks surrounding the ASC (with the league dropping to four teams by 2026 if there are no new additions), the SCAC now has only six football schools as well. As a reminder, the min. number of teams for an AQ is 6, so both the SCAC and ASC are on thin ice right now. With Southwestern and Trinity gone, the SCAC is in danger of losing its AQ before it even restarts football if another school in the league leaves or drops its football program for whatever the reason.

How does it relate to WBB? Trinity will be the top team in their league in the SAA, just as they were in the SCAC. But the basement of the SAA in WBB isn’t as deep as the SCAC’s is. Scott Peterson, the D3 WBB numbers guru, quickly ran a few calculations. If you replace all of Trinity’s SCAC games this year with SAA games (sam number of conference games too), the Tigers’ SOS goes from .522 to .579. Southwestern would likely see a similar jump in SOS, though the competition level is also a bit higher in the SAA. There are no juggernaut programs in the SAA currently, but Rhodes, Centre, and others have frequently been competitive within Region 6.

The SCAC, meanwhile, has lost its “top dog” in terms of WBB. Colorado College probably fills that void and is a program on the rise, but the SCAC will become a more-wide open league without Trinity.

Full release from Trinity (Southwestern has not put anything out publicly in regards to this move):

The third piece of breaking news that came out a little while ago was that Justin Heinzen will be stepping down as Loras’ head coach after 15 seasons at the helm. Dave McHugh of Hoopsville was the first to report that coaching change. Loras was nationally prominent this past season and hosted a first weekend pod a few days ago that included Trine and WashU.

But according to McHugh’s tweet, Heinzen was operating without an assistant for much of the year, and has decided to take a break from coaching. Personally, he has been a huge supporter of my coverage of D3 WBB and I greatly appreciate that. I enjoyed watching Loras play numerous times this season, and wish him the best of luck in the future. Coaching at the D3 level is not easy, and doing it without an assistant makes the job that much more difficult.

Heinzen has Loras in a good spot within the ARC right now, and I expect the Duhawks will remain competitive in the years to come with the foundation he has built.

As always, if you have tips/thoughts/feedback/questions, shoot me an email at or a DM on Twitter (@ZayasRiley). Always happy to respond and talk about D3 WBB and D3 sports as a whole. Have a great day. More to come on tomorrow’s games!


The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: Luther upsets Loras, Bowdoin wins big at Springfield in thrilling day of action

On New Year’s Eve, I said that the Dec. 30 slate may have been the best we would see until March. As we go along, I’m starting to think that statement was a little presumptive! Because just last night, there were quite a few contests that went down to the wire involving nationally-ranked teams, and it won’t be the last time we have a day like that with conference action just getting started. So here’s a few of my thoughts as I went back and reflected on some of the more notable results in last night’s schedule…

  • The first big upset came in a game that I was already going to be paying close attention to as #19 Loras traveled to Luther in ARC play. Luther was 8-3, but after beating UW-Eau Claire, Babson, Calvin, and UW-Stevens Point, Loras was certainly the favorite. Credit to Luther, the Norse came to play, and performed exceptionally well on their home floor, shooting 49 percent from the field and outrebounding the Duhawks by a whopping margin of +21 (47-28) in a 68-62 win. Luther’s big run came in the form of a 7-2 run that opened the fourth quarter and gave the Norse a 9-point lead. Three-point attempts wouldn’t fall for Loras late, and Megan Miller stepped up with some key shots in the final minutes that helped Luther hold onto the lead, even after Loras cut the deficit back down to two.
  • I’d had Gustavus Adolphus in my Top 20 for the last two weeks, and in my Top 25 for the last three. But that will be changing, because Bethel (MN) is playing awfully good basketball right now (6-1 in the MIAC!) and took down the Gusties, 70-66, Wednesday night. That came on the heels of a three-point loss to UW-Whitewater on Dec. 30 and Bethel held nothing back, despite trailing 37-30 at halftime. I was very impressed by the second-half defensive effort from the Royals, who completely locked down on that end of the floor over the final two quarters. That gave way to scoring opportunities, holding the Gusties at bay as Bethel took the lead for the final time with 51 seconds left. Sophomore guard Courtney Nuest is a name you need to remember: averaging 12.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and had 20 points last night, including some very critical free throws at the end.
  • UW-Stevens Point nearly shocked #17 UW-Whitewater at Whitewater but was a play or two short in the end, as the Warhawks won 55-52. Still, it was very impressive to see UWSP hanging in on the road, and I’m not sure if this is more indicative of where Whitewater is right now or where UWSP is. UWSP actually shot better than the Warhawks (37% FG compared to 32.7% FG), but Whitewater had eight more offensive rebounds leading to 19 second-chance points compared to just six for the Pointers. And though Whitewater got just one more free throw opportunity, the Warhawks converted on four more at the line than UWSP. It was hands-down the best game of the night in the WIAC.
  • That said, #9 UW-Eau Claire was challenged on the road by UW-Oshkosh, and trailed 28-25 at the half. But the Blugolds came out of the locker room and outscored UWO 18-12 in the third quarter, and took back the lead. UWEC shot very well once again (40.7% FG), and Jessie Ruden (19 pts, 36 min) and Tyra Boettcher (17 pts, 38 min) led that offensive charge. I continue to be really impressed by the way the Blugolds execute on the offensive end.
  • Didn’t get a chance to watch this game, but #7 Baldwin Wallace was challenged on the road by Mount Union, and barely pulled out an overtime victory, 75-73. MU actually held a three-point lead with five seconds left by Caely Ressler connected on a three as the clock wound down, tying the game and sending it into OT. Ressler came up with some big free throws in OT, shot 6-of-10 from the field, and had 23 points in 34 minutes. She is averaging 8.8 points, 6.4 rebounds pr game.
  • #25 Bowdoin looked really sharp at #18 Springfield in a midday Top 25 duel yesterday. Springfield is very close to falling out of my Top 25, and Bowdoin is going to be included in my next ballot. They kept the momentum drawn from playing NYU so closely a week ago, and essentially never trailed. A road win of this caliber is huge for Bowdoin’s resume and standing within the national conversation, and a key factor that may go unnoticed for most was that Sydney Jones and Jess Giorgio did not dominate in the way they had in previous notable matchups. Instead it was a very balanced scoring effort, led by Sela Kay’s 13 points. Springfield’s biggest problem was it’s turnovers; the Pride turned the ball over 22 times leading to 25 points for Bowdoin.
  • Rounding out my thoughts on last night’s action, #20 Ohio Northern was taken into double overtime against Otterbein, escaping with a 75-70 win. I’m thinking the OAC may be following along the lines of the WIAC in terms of incredible parity throughout the league. Otterbein did a nice job of moving the ball around the perimeter, but just could not keep ONU out of the paint.

If I had one big takeaway, it is that playing on the road in conference play is extremely difficult, no matter who you are. Baldwin Wallace, ONU, UW-Eau Claire, Gustavus Adolphus, and Loras all found that out, some coming out with wins, others taking disappointing losses. But the fact that we’re even seeing unranked teams regularly beating ranked teams is a good sign for D-III women’s hoops. There’s more good teams now than ever before, so it’s a great time to be following this division. Only one Top 25 team is in action tonight, with #24 UMHB battling Ozarks on the road. We’ll see the NESCAC tip off on Friday, which is always fun. Until tomorrow, have a great day and keep supporting D3 WBB!

The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: Loras pulls off the upset, Top 25 showdowns go down to the wire

December 21, 2022

Welcome back! Pretty exciting day in D3 women’s hoops yesterday, with games from mid-morning until late in the evening. And there were several that you couldn’t help but be on the edge of your seat as you watched the final quarter unfold. Here are a few of my thoughts from watching yesterday’s action, along with a big-time game to be looking ahead to today…

  • All these holiday tournaments make for some very early tip-off times, such as TCNJ’s battle in Puerto Rico with Susquehanna yesterday morning that began at 9 a.m. here in the central time zone. It was a nice win for TCNJ, who I think could be a viable contender in the NJAC, especially with NJ City struggling quite a bit at this point.
  • A game that I thought might have had the chance to turn out close between Loras and #9 Babson turned out to be nothing of the sort. Instead, Loras ran away with it, taking down a previously undefeated Babson team, 73-52. Loras has been on my watch list for a couple weeks now, and if you remember, this is not the first time the DuHawks have come up with a big win. They also took down UW-Eau Claire two weeks ago, which remains UWEC’s only loss of the season. Loras seems to have the right mix of guards and forwards who each contribute on both ends of the floor. Both Sami Martin and Silvana Scarsella had 20+ points in yesterday’s win. With that win, I’d think Loras has to enter the Top 25 conversation.
  • The first matchup involving two Top 25 teams came in #20 Puget Sound’s 59-58 win over #16 Mary Hardin-Baylor. Played on a neutral court, this had the feel of an NCAA Tournament game, and was back-and-forth in nature the whole way. UMHB led 59-58 with under 20 seconds to go, but PS inbounded the ball, dribbled around, and eventually found Grace Pytynia-Hillier, who drove to the free-throw line, and put up the game-winning shot with a tenth of a second left on the clock. Her shot won the game for PS, while UMHB lost its second straight. Regardless of the outcome in today’s game for PS against Trinity, this was a big-time resume-building win for the NWC title favorite.
  • The second matchup came on the west coast, as #18 UC Santa Cruz hosted #21 UW-Whitewater. There was a lot on the line for both teams, as I mentioned in yesterday’s write-up, and both teams played like it, with Whitewater pulling out a 61-60 victory. I thought a few too many fouls were called on plays that were borderline questionable, but hey, what do I know? Whitewater erased a two-point deficit and took a two-point lead in the span of less than 30 seconds, as Yssa Sto. Domingo came up with all four points. UCSC did a good job on the offensive end to get back into it after falling behind early, and shot 6-of-11 from 3-point range in the game. But down the stretch, with All-American Kaylee Murphy having fouled out for UCSC, Whitewater found a way to score at the right times.
  • Wartburg bounced back from a really rough showing against Scranton Monday and battled #10 Trine extremely well in Florida. But Trine emerged with a 60-56 win, keeping its win streak, now at six games, alive. Defining stat in this one was the rebounding totals: Trine outrebounded Wartburg 44-29, which is a huge margin for a four-point game. A few more offensive boards, and Wartburg could’ve been in a different position. What I will say though is that Wartburg gave up 13 offensive rebounds, but Trine scored just six points on those. Not a bad defensive showing. Still trying to figure out where Trine stacks up with the Top 15 or so in the nation.
  • Cortland beat Dickinson in what could actually be a win over a regionally-ranked opponent for Cortland, depending on how things shake out once regional rankings are released in February. Dickinson is a solid team, 4-1 right now in the Centennial Conference, but Cortland is also playing very well, at 9-2. The 63-54 win saw Cortland shoot 47% from 3-point range, and they held off an 18-9 run from Dickinson to close the game. Cortland is certainly in the national conversation, with its only losses coming to Ithaca and CNU, along with notable wins over Hamilton and SUNY Geneseo.
  • Key game today: #20 Puget Sound at #3 Trinity, 4 pm EST: This is a big one, and undoubtedly a result we will still be talking about come Selection Monday in March. PS has momentum after beating UMHB less than 24 hours ago on that game-winner, while Trinity has had a day to prepare and rest, not to mention playing on its home court. Both teams run a full-court press, so this will either be a game in which multiple players go for 20+ points, or a game where we see both sides turn the ball over about 20 times. It’s really a 50-50, and I think whoever executes better defensively comes out with the win. Massey matchup tool has Trinity winning 72-70…you don’t want to miss this one! Brian Yancelson has the call (and does a great job) on Trinity’s Tiger Network:

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.