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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 – Christopher Newport (unchanged)

2 – St. Joseph’s (Conn.) (up 1)

3 – Mount Union (down 1)

4 – Cast Western Reserve (unchanged)

5 – UW-La Crosse (up 1)

6 – Keene State (up 3)

7 – Johns Hopkins (down 2)

8 – Randolph-Macon (unchanged)

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

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

10 – Rochester (up 3)

11 – Emory (up 1)

12 – Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (up 2)

13 – Middlebury (down 2)

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

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

15 – Mary Washington (up 2)

16 – Calvin (unchanged)

17 – Nazareth (up 1)

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

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

19 – Swarthmore (up 3)

20 – Guilford (up 1)

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

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

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

23 – UW-Oshkosh (unchanged)

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

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

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

Fell off Week 2 ballot:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan (NC)

2 – Whitman (NC)

3 – UW-Oshkosh (NC)

4 – Augustana (NC)

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

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

6 – Swarthmore (Up 3)

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

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

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

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

10 – Hamilton (Down 2)

11 – St. John’s (Up 1)

12 – Wooster (Down 2)

13 – Capital (Up 1)

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

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

15 – Nichols (Up 3)

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

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

18 – Christopher Newport (Up 6)

19 – Centre (Up 6)

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

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

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

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

Williams has Dave like …

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

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

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

Dropped Out:

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

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

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

Yep … this sums it up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 – Nebraska Wesleyan (NC)

2 – Augustana (NC)

3 – Whitman (NC)

4 – Whitworth (NC)

5 – UW-Oshkosh (NC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 – Randolph-Macon (Up 2)

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

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

13 – Capital (NC)

14 – Marietta (NC)

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

16 – Loras (NC)

17 – Swarthmore (Down 2)

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

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

19 – Rochester (Up 2)

20 – Nichols (Up 3)

21 – North Central (Ill.) (Up 3)

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

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

24 – Wesleyan (Up 1)

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

Dropped Out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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