Good morning! Hope you are enjoying the holiday week. I’m writing this after writing my “thoughts” section on yesterday’s games…I’ll tell you, it’s a long one today. But that’s because yesterday’s slate had so many great contests worth mentioning, and it was the last full slate we’ll get until Saturday. There are a couple of teams in action today, so here’s a quick look at what you should be watching on the last day of college hoops before Thanksgiving…
Game of the Day: Colby @ #3 NYU, 7 pm EST
I’ll be honest, there are only 3 games between D-III programs today…but don’t overlook this one. Colby is off to a 3-0 start, but hasn’t faced anyone to the caliber of NYU. NYU hasn’t been challenged all that much either, with an 11-point win over Haverford being its closest result. This will be a good chance to see what NYU is putting together, especially with a lot of reliable defenders off the bench, who have added to the depth in these first four games of the season. I’m not sure how close it will end up being, but it’ll be worth a few minutes of your time to tune in and see what the nation’s #3 team can do in a contest of two unbeatens.
Thoughts from yesterday…
The highly-anticipated Top 25 showdown between #5 Trinity and #18 Hardin-Simmons in Abilene lived up to the expectations, with Trinity pulling out a 76-69 win on HSU’s home court. It was 51-50 heading into the fourth quarter, with the Tigers pulling away late, in large part due to their exceptional defense. HSU tends to beat teams by its remarkable accuracy from beyond the three-point arc, but on this night, the Cowgirls struggled to get open looks, and it seemed to be the biggest difference-maker in the result. Parris Parmer, HSU’s remarkable three-point sharpshooter, was 0-for-6 from long-range, and as a team HSU shot just 17.9%. Again, that seemed to be more a credit to Trinity’s defense, than a lapse of HSU’s offense, though I’d probably say that had something to do with it as well.
Another point on this game above…It rarely happens, even in conference play, but as I mentioned yesterday, these two teams will play again on Saturday, this time in San Antonio. Playing the same team twice within a span of five days in an interesting move by both coaching staffs, as each seeks to correct the mistakes made in the first meeting. We could see a very different game play out on Saturday afternoon.
Hamilton College moved to 2-1 in an impressive 70-64 win over #17 St. John Fisher. I can say with some degree of certainty that SJF won’t be #17 next week when the Top 25 is released, but for Hamilton to go on the road and pick up a win over a nationally-ranked team that returns three starters is huge. Perhaps the NESCAC will be even deeper than I anticipated it being this season. The most notable part of Hamilton’s win came in the 23-point fourth quarter, as they actually trailed by three entering the final 10 minutes.
Since the four-point loss to Amherst, #16 Springfield has looked pretty good. I saw them race out to a 20-9 lead in the first quarter against a quality Williams team yesterday. Williams stayed in it, despite the early deficit, but Springfield continued to make shots on the offensive end. The Pride ended up shooting 40%. Sam Hourihan is going to be a really big piece of that offense, as she looked to be in her element yesterday, with 23 points and nine rebounds.
In a battle of unbeatens, Mary Washington pulled out a convincing 70-58 win over Washington & Lee. On first glance, it doesn’t appear to be all that competitive of game, but the fact is, this one went into overtime! But Mary Washington’s defense stepped up in a huge way, holding W&L to just two points in the extra period. More than the 14 points in overtime, it was the fact that the Eagles held a good offense that had scored 56 in regulation to such as low percentage with the game on the line. The Coast-to-Coast programs are hard to evaluate at times (though Mary Washington has more scheduling options than say, UCSC), but they’ll get another good test on Dec. 10, when playing Catholic on the road. Marymount, who they’ll play on Dec. 3, is also off to a good start, at 6-1.
NJCU opened its D-III schedule in a 66-48 win over Montclair State, and after watching them play, I’m even more certain that they’ll be the best in the NJAC. They shoot the ball with such efficiency, and interestingly enough, Damaris Rodriguez wasn’t their leading scorer; Laney Fox was, with 21. Rodriguez had 12, but it is good to see other players starting to step up around her.
Wartburg and Dubuque kicked off ARC play in a very exciting duel, with the game going into overtime before Wartburg pulled out a 78-71 win. Wartburg will be one I’m keeping an eye on. I didn’t like the performances against UW-Eau Claire or UW-Oshkosh, though I would rate both losses lower considering how much I value those two WIAC programs. Even UWO, with its young talent, is going to be a force in the WIAC, in my opinion. Wartburg will get Scranton and Trine back-to-back just before Christmas, which will be two good measuring sticks for where the Knights stand.
Happened to see the Emory halftime score and honestly thought it was a glitch in the system, because it showed Emory leading Agnes Scott 42-1 at halftime. But a look at the box score proved I was incorrect…Emory’s defense was just that good yesterday. I don’t care who you’re playing…if you hold any team to just a single point in 20 minutes, that deserves a bit of recognition.
To wrap up what is becoming a long list of thoughts on yesterday’s action. Luther pulled out a 2-point win over Coe, 50-48. The ARC is going to be really fun to watch, between Wartburg, Coe, Luther, and maybe even Simpson, if the Storm finds its footing. This is probably Luther’s most notable win up to this point, though there’s also the win over UW-Platteville, and it didn’t come easy. Coe nearly won the game on a late three that just missed, and also had a chance at a layup, but couldn’t get it to go. Luther plays Wartburg next on Nov. 30…that will be a matchup to watch.
Oh, and the WBCA released its first in-season Top 25 yesterday…the top 5 is Hope, CNU, Amherst, NYU, Trinity. More on this Friday, but to look at the poll for yourself, here’s the link: https://wbca.org/recognize/polls/nov-22-2022-1
No post tomorrow…enjoy your Thanksgiving! I’ll be back with more on Friday!
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.
Anyway, look for a blog next week with how Dave voted on each ballot so far this season. Plus, so thoughts of the voting so far. The weekly blogs will then resume after each poll starting in early January when voting resumes. I know #d3hoops will be eagerly awaiting. ?
So how have I voted so far this season? Here are each of my ballots from Preseason to this week’s poll.
New Jersey City
New Jersey City
New Jersey City
Emory & Henry
New Jersey City
New Jersey City
St. Olaf (19th)
Emory & Henry (23rd)
John Carroll (20th)
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.
The start of practices has arrived in Division III basketball. With it, the expectations for a lot of programs either increases or takes its first steps backwards. We won’t know. All of it happening behind the scenes until we see games start being played for real on Nov. 8.
Last week, the D3hoops.com Preseason Men’s Top 25 was revealed and I blogged, twice, part of my ballot. We got through the first 20 spots which leaves five left to be unveiled.
The last five traditionally are the most difficult to slot. There could be an argument for maybe 20 teams. That’s why there are so many teams receiving votes in the preseason tabulation. Voters have a lot of different opinions. Some may seem crazy to me seem logical to that voter. Some of my choices may seem crazy to others. Heck, after I submitted my ballot I was second guessing and wondering if I should have made some changes.
It is just part of the process.
Let’s get to my selections. This blog, we should also take the opportunity to show the entire ballot for the first time.
Nebraska Wesleyan tops Dave’s ballot as the defending champions return most of their squad for the 2018-19 season.
1 – Nebraska Wesleyan
2 – Whitman
3 – Whitworth
4 – Augustana
5 – UW-Oshkosh
6 – Wittenberg
7 – MIT
8 – Williams
9 – Springfield
10 – Hamilton
11 – UW-Stevens Point
12 – New Jersey City
13 – Maryville
14 – St. John’s
15 – UW-Platteville
16 – Illinois Wesleyan
17 – Johns Hopkins
18 – Plattsburgh State
19 – St. Olaf
20 – Swarthmore
Here is the rest of the ballot:
Jason Beckman averaged 22.2 points a game last season for the Flying Dutchmen. (Courtesy: Hope Athletics)
21 – Hope
The MIAA certainly had an off year last season. Hope and Olivet tied atop the standings with four in-conference losses and Adrian and Trine finished third with six losses. Calvin was fifth with eight! You can’t expect the conference to stay down for long. Despite a 19-10 campaign last year, I think Hope is ready to return to the national spotlight. Four starters and over 75% of the points are back as is 80% of the rebounding. Jason Beckman has found his footing after transferring from Alma. The Flying Dutchmen also have a more experienced Preston Granger who could really start to take over inside. The MIAA will be a battle once again be interesting, but I don’t see any reason why Hope isn’t on top most of the season.
22 – John Carroll
I debated about not including JCU in my Top 25 Preseason ballot. As great as last season was under first-year head coach Pete Moran, the Blue Streaks did lose two key players in Matthew Csuhran (16.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, .401 3PT%, .814 FT), Antonio Vyuanich (13.4 ppg, .377 3PT%), and John Cirillo (12.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, .459 FG%). When I first saw that I erased JCU from consideration. However, when I dug deeper and realized with players like Sean Flannery, Jackson Sartain, Jimmy Berger and others back … John Carroll could be just fine. This is a squad that already plays 13-15 players most games, scores nearly 100 points per game, and limits opponents to nearly 20 points less. I was critical that I didn’t think they were consistent last season, but we will have to wait and see this season if that is still an issue.
23 – Middlebury
I’m going to be blunt … I am not sure the NESCAC is as good as it has been touted over the years. Yes, the top usually produces some national contenders, but I sometimes think the rest is smoke and mirrors. That said, this is my third pick from the conference (tying the WIAC on my ballot) and I included the Panthers because Coach Jeff Brown has produced a program that tends not to disappear from the national stage. Jack Daly and his 15.8 ppg and 8.4 rpg will be missed, but four of the top five in scoring have returned lead by Matt Folger who enters his junior season. There are nine players who played in a vast majority of games returning, six of them played in more than half of games on average. I don’t see why the Panthers won’t be lurking once again this season.
Roanoke’s Josh Freund averaged a double-double (184 ppg, 104 rpg) last season. (Courtesy: Roanoke Athletics)
24 – Roanoke
The Old Dominion Athletic Conference hasn’t been what we all have grown accustomed to in the last few years. One would argue it may not be one of the top five conferences currently due to the lack of national powers. However, the ODAC is still one of the deepest conferences in the country arguably leaving it as a top five conference. Last season, Randolph-Macon and certainly Emory & Henry got most of the attention. However, it was Roanoke that quietly finished 20-8 including 11 in a row at the end of the season before losing to E&H in the conference finals. The Maroons also featured the conference player of the year in Josh Freund (18.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg, .601 FG including 15 double-doubles). Of the top seven scorers for Roanoke last season … six of them return including Freund. Of those who played in 10 or minutes per game on average, nine of them return. I may actually have Roanoke too low on my ballot.
Nazareth looking to make waves this season including repeating as Empire 8 champions.
25 – Nazareth
The reigning Empire 8 champions … will not be going away anytime soon. The Golden Flyers returned to the 20-win plateau last season for the first time since 2007-2008 winning the Empire 8 conference along the way. Returning are all five starters and nearly 100% of the scoring. The team is senior loaded with four of the five starters heading into their final campaigns. Tyler Stenglein will lead the way and could be the program’s leading the scorer along the way (needs 546 points; scored 497 last season). Nazareth is one of those programs that is hard to read in the East Region, so I will be watching carefully, but hard to ignore all of that experience coming back to a program that did so well last season.
There is my Top 25.
Now, before any of you start losing your minds because your team isn’t listed … let’s take a step back. I considered a number of other teams and already admitted that I thought about making a number of changes to this ballot – especially the bottom five – after I submitted it. I may actually agree with you, but this is how I chose to vote.
Who am I also considering? There was a time when I used to list those teams. The problem with it was (a) I couldn’t list every team I was debating about or the blog would be too long and thus (b) people were further insulted that I wasn’t even considering their team. Not much was being accomplished with me spending time talking about even more teams.
The preseason information given to us included 50 teams in alphabetical order (for those wondering). I had a handful others added on my own. So over 50 teams considered for only 25 spots. There was a lot of information out there and tough decisions made by all voters, but interestingly this may have been one of the more
There are a few teams I think received too many poll points, and a few with too little, but overall I think this is a rock-solid preseason poll – maybe the best I can remember. I like that teams seem to be generally lined up in the correct order within conferences and regions in terms of preseason expectations. And there is not a head-scratching team in the Top 25.
Who knows what we may think a few weeks into the season or at the end, but at least you now know what teams you should be keeping an eye on this season. Others will make their selves known soon enough.
And now we get ready to get the games underway. That includes getting Hoopsville ready to air. Get your calendars out, because we preview the season on Sunday, November 4. That will be the 16th Season Debut. More information to come.
Welcome back to my Top 25 Preseason blog! I decided to try and do this differently this season, so the readers didn’t have to work their way through a very long blog and reasons for the teams I chose.
On Thursday, I revealed my Top 10 for the D3hoops.com Preseason Men’s Top 25. I’m not sure how surprising it was. I know I had teams in a few different spots than others especially when you look at the overall poll. In the preseason, that is not surprising. Trying to determine who may be the best 25 teams coming into the season is not easy, especially when we haven’t seen a single game played (real or exhibition) let along when practices haven’t even started!
In case anyone is wondering what my thinking is coming into this ballot, here it is:
I feel I am trying to determine the top teams entering the season based on everything we know.
I don’t necessarily feel I’m trying to determine who will still be in the hunt when the NCAA tournament starts, but I do try and do a little soothsaying to hopefully be somewhat accurate on that token.
I am trying to indicate who I think will be the teams we will be talking about most of the season.
That all said, I can’t tell you how many times teams come out of the blocks a bit sluggish, but that’s a topic for another time. At the same time, injuries and other bounces can change the dynamics and that’s impossible to gauge.
Ok… enough of that. Let’s get on to the next run of teams. Below you will find teams 11-20 on my preseason ballot:
Pointer Senior Nate Dodge is the leading scorer returning to the team.
11 – UW-Stevens Point
Whenever you get a senior laden team who has been under the guidance of Bob Semling that long you have to watch out. I know UWSP hasn’t really been the same team we have been used to since their last championship, but the WIAC has been a meat grinder and some understandable distractions have maybe caused many to lose focus on what Stevens Point has on their squad. This team unexpectedly lead the conference last year until about the midway point of conference play. That same squad returns four starters, ten players who averaged more than ten minutes a game, and seven seniors. Most of their scoring is back including Ethan Bublitz who was supposed to shine last season but was cut down by injury before the season really began. I do feel distraction could rear its head again this season, but with that kind of leadership and experience on the players front … UWSP could have another magical season ahead of them.
12 – New Jersey City
The Gothic Knights are the squad that has made some of my hair go gray. I have bought in, only to be disappointed. I have dismissed, only to be surprised. I have shaken my head so much regarding NJCU in the last two seasons I have strained my neck muscles and made myself dizzy. All jokes aside, I do admit I might be buying in a little too early (though, looking at the poll the sell job may have worked for others). But here is the deal. Not only does NJCU already feature a player we all love watching play, Sam Toney, but if reports are to be believed the four starters alongside Toney who have returned won’t be starting. Why? The Toney and NJCU story has apparently resulted in transfers and freshmen wanting to play with Toney and for Coach Marc Brown. Now, I haven’t forgotten the disappointing end to last season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That is the team I fear. I also realize that what Brown and Toney have put together could also be special. All I ask is: can I can stop shaking my head?
Maryville head coach Randy Lambert has already announced he will retire after this season.
13 – Maryville
Here is the recipe: Take a senior laden squad that has all five seniors returning. Add in another three significant players off the bench which when mixed gives us nearly all (93%) its offensive power back. Now add in the team’s revered coach has already announced it will be his final season. What could be cooked up is a squad that is on a mission. Maryville made its presence known last season, but unfortunately got paired up with Nebraska Wesleyan in the first round of the NCAA tournament or they might be taken a little more seriously this season. The Scots have the chance to dominate what could be a fascinating USA South conference (and division) and position themselves well for the NCAA Tournament. The ingredients are there. It’s just time to throw this mixture in the oven.
14 – St. John’s
The class of the MIAC for decades(?) has been another Saint … Thomas. That has taken a backseat, for now. St. John’s is the one on top and for good reason. They have built a squad that is not only able to take it to their bitter rival, but also to the rest of what has become a very competitive and good MIAC. Granted, SJU lost a good chunk of their scoring production from last season, but they return David Stokman who I love watching play and his very good shooting ability (over a 1,000 points with still a season to play). Add in improved play, especially on defense, from Lucas Walford and Zach Hanson and you have a core with the Johnnies that will be hard to contend with. The MIAC will once again be tough (you have to expect St. Thomas will reemerge as well), but I think St. John’s now has something that is hard to take away … confidence.
15 – UW-Platteville
It is going to be another insane season in the WIAC and I expect to see the Pioneers right in the middle of it. They did lose some key players from a terrific team last year, but they also return Rob Duax, Carter Voelker, and others to a team that has been very balanced and strong defensively for a few years. The concern is how much will the conference beat up UWP (and each other), but this is another team that only had its NCAA Tournament run end because they faced Nebraska Wesleyan. However, keep something in mind … UWP held NWU to 79 points. That was over 15 points below their average. Only UW-Oshkosh did better defensively (by a point) in the tournament. And a night after facing UWP, NWU hung 130 on Whitman!
IWU’s Brady Rose became just the 19th player in program to average more than 20 ppg (21.4) in a season.
16 – Illinois Wesleyan
The CCIW is the other conference that has been known for absolute dog fights. Augustana appears to be the top dog this season, but the Titans may have a lot to say about that this time around. They return all but one starter including Coach Ron Rose’s son, Bradey, who is one of a load of senior talent and experience (it’s one of several themes this season). They certainly aren’t afraid of the Vikings. Consistency is certainly going to be something I am watching from the Titans this season. It was those perceived inconsistencies last season that gave me pause. However, IWU has a very good schedule to prove themselves this season and I expect we will see another battle atop the CCIW come down to the final game of the regular season.
17 – Johns Hopkins
The Blue Jays have transitioned very well from long time coach Bill Nelson to Josh Loeffler who enters his second season. Not only did the team record it’s second 20+ win season in four years, but they hosted the NCAA tournament for the third time since 2007. That 24-5 squad returns four starters and three-quarters or more of their points, rebounds, assists, etc. They have plenty of senior leadership coupled with young guys playing into their roles. The Centennial Conference race won’t be easy, but that experience will play dividends. Also, Loeffler brought in an assistant coach in Trevor Johnson who knows what it is like to be on the big stage. The 2014 graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan has been a Prairie Wolves assistant for the last four seasons.
(Edit: Earlier version indicated Johns Hopkins had hosted the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. That was a typo. We apologize for the mistake and any confusion it may have caused.)
Plattsburgh’s Jonathan Patron clearly has fun when he’s on the court.
18 – Plattsburgh State
One of the more exciting teams to watch in the second half of last season, the Cardinals return most of their starters and a bench that was pretty deep. Jonathan Patron will lead this squad and will probably just add to his 23.7 ppg last season. Brandon Johnson will be a more relied upon outside threat along with Nick DeAngelis. The SUNYAC hasn’t been as monstrous in recent years and that may, may, continue this season, but Plattsburgh has some quality tests in its non-conference schedule including Middlebury, Wesleyan, and Case Western Reserve which can prepare them for another possible March run.
19 – St. Olaf
Along the lines of the changing of the guard in the MIAC mentioned earlier, one thing that has stood out to me about Oles has been their sudden consistency. In four of the last five seasons, St. Olaf has had 19+ win seasons, finished in the conference’s top two, and had their seasons end in tough NCAA tournament battles (Central, Marietta, St. Norbert, & UW-Platteville respectively). The Oles appear to be once again poised to be battling for a MIAC title with four of last year’s starters returning and vast majority of its offensive power. Again, this isn’t the “St. Thomas league.” Thanks to teams like St. Olaf, the MIAC has become one of the top ten conferences in the country with the top being where some of the best basketball is played year in and year out.
Swarthmore’s Cam Wiley is a dynamic player, but other offensive threats will determine the Garnet’s success this season.
20 – Swarthmore
I debated where to put the Garnet for a long time. I know they absolutely blitz Plattsburgh State in the NCAA tournament last season, but I didn’t feel that warranted Swarthmore being too high on my ballot. What Landry Kosmalski has put together in a very quick period of three seasons is remarkable. This team hadn’t won more than 11 wins in at least the nine seasons prior to 2015-16. However, the three seasons since have seen 22, 23, and 25 win campaigns. Swarthmore is good. However, the Garnet did lose a significant amount of its offense with the graduation of Zack Yonda (13.7 ppg., .474 FG, .888 FT) and others. While Swarthmore still does have the electrifying Cam Wiley on the squad, Wiley hasn’t been consistent. The Garnet need Wiley on the same page as his teammates and coaching staff, on and off the floor, if they want to have another successful season. Zac O’Dell and Nate Shafer can provide some great offensive support which could take some of the pressure off Wiley to always produce, but the Garnet will also need role players to step up into bigger roles and some of the youth on the team to learn their roles quickly.
There is my 11-20 spots on my preseason ballot. Just five spots left to go. You are going to have to wait on that.
Joey Hewitt and Whitman continue to be Dave’s top pick in his Top 25 ballot.
First of all, let me apologize my Top 25 blog out last week. It was an odd week and having Hoopsville on Monday afternoon to “compliment” the time usually spent the work on my weekly ballot… time got away from me.
It is too bad, because there was a lot to talk about. Most of it can still be covered this week. However, before we get to this week’s ballot, here is last week’s along with notation of any movement related to Week 7‘s ballot:
Actual GIF of Dave at his desk last week doing his ballot (ok, not really, but pretty good impersonation!)
Last week was nuts. I could have ranked teams in the 10 to 25 spots in any order. I wanted to put them all in the 20th slot or maybe the 17th. I found most of them somewhat equal for all kinds of different reasons and was going around and around (and around) in what order to put them. Those high felt too high; those low felt too low. Flip them and they still felt wrong.
On Sunday’s “Top 25 Double-take” on Hoopsville (below), Ryan stated this was maybe his easiest week voting in the Top 25. I didn’t find it easy. His perspective is different. I think he had twice as many teams on his radar than I did (I had 45 in Week 7 that I was considering), so if he does any kind of whittling of his list it is probably going to feel easy. However, Ryan also said he thought his order was more set than in the past. That was me several weeks ago. I thought I had my order and with so many losses happening within the group the way it was ordered, I felt good.
That feeling is gone. I don’t have any sense of order right now. Last week I couldn’t really settle on 10-25 with any satisfaction. This week that got more problematic.
So, I tried to overhaul things. Kind of like blowing up my ballot, but with the element of trying to use information I hadn’t been leaning prior (basically because I didn’t have the time). This week, I talked with some coaches some of whom reached out to me. There are a number of coaches I trust when it comes to their judgement and eye. They are the kind who will be frank and give it to me straight even if it is at the detriment of their team. They might resort to “coach’s speak” when on Hoopsville, but they don’t do that when we talk off-air. I appreciate that and this week I get a little bit of an idea of how some of them saw things. It was invaluable and helped me see things maybe in a different way.
I got more aggressive this week in an effort to find answers to questions that were stumping me. I also was trying to grasp with the WIAC-yness of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. I went deeper outside the Top 25 packet of information, and my radar, to see what I might be missing. This included double-checking some conferences races to see if I had missed a team who had heated up.
That look Dave gets when dealing with a “gap” in the ballot and UWSP leading the WIAC by two games. LOL
The one major problem I ran into: a massive gap in my Top 25. While I was confident in my top nine last week, that was quickly cut to just the top four. After that… I didn’t want to rank anyone until at the least the tenth spot. You might hear me and others say that and think it is just a talking-point used as an example. However, I actually practiced the idea this week. I put down my top four, then skipped to putting teams where I felt they seemed right. I didn’t have any teams until the tenth spot. As I worked through my list of teams, no one made me want to put them in 5-9. I was left with a list that went 1-4 and then 10-whatever (I sometimes rank teams beyond 25 especially when I am looking to move teams in and out of the poll despite decent weeks).
I spent a good amount of time trying to convince myself to move teams into the gap ahead of my teams in 10-15, for example. It wasn’t happening. Yes, I could make arguments for them to move up, but they weren’t convincing and full of holes in my opinion.
What resulted was a massive jump up into a territory I don’t know is accurate for some teams. Others stayed around where they had been despite not the best of weeks. And others didn’t move down nearly as far as I intended to move them. Even looking back at the ballot 24 hours later, I don’t like the results. It feels like a jumbled mess, but all this time later I don’t have any answers and I don’t have that, dreaded, moment where I realize a solution and made the mistake of not voting accordingly.
With that, here is my D3hoops.com Top 25 ballot for Week 8. Notes for a lot of these teams, which makes the read longer (apologies), but some people seem interested:
1 – Whitman (Unchanged)
The Blues don’t blow me away, but no one has beaten them and they have taken on some solid challenges. I think last year’s squad was better, but that doesn’t mean this year’s team can’t make the same run or even win a championship this time around. The straw that stirs this team’s drink is not Tim Howell. They have other guys who are the keys and the fact they have more than one threat makes them tough to beat.
WashU has impressed and moved up to be knocking on the door of No. 1 on Dave’s ballot (shh, he’s even considered them for the top spot!).
2 – WashU (Unchanged) I got a text message out of the blue from a coach who simply said, “this is a final four team.” WashU has incredible senior leadership this season that has been building for the last few years. They are dominating, by their standards, their opponents and it is has been impressive to watch. They are not perfect, clearly, but they seem to be improving when others don’t seem to be. They still have Emory and Rochester ahead in UAA play (twice each, same weekend, both), but I like what the Bears have produced so far.
3 – Wittenberg (Unchanged)
Several coaches and another contact basically didn’t mince words when it came to the Tigers: they are damn good. Maybe this season is happening an year earlier than some expected, but Wittenberg’s coaching staff have a team on their hands that seems nearly unbeatable. I don’t think they get through NCAC play unscathed. I think Ohio Wesleyan could trip them up the second time around and Wooster is improving as well, however Wittenberg should be a team to watch out for especially if they have home court advantage until Salem.
4 – St. John’s (Up 2)
I’ve been high on the Johnnies since the beginning of the year, though nervously. In years past, SJU eventually showed flaws and took hits by this time of the season. Not this year. Last week showed me a lot with a beatdown of Macalester (not looking past the Scots) and then a strong 15-point win over St. Thomas. St. John’s is in the right place to end the Tommies dominance of the MIAC, but the target is only getting bigger.
From this point on, consider teams five spots below where they are on my ballot. That may help you understand where I truly think teams are in the Top 25… not where I had to put them because I needed to fill the gap.
Emory skyrocketed up Dave’s ballot, thanks to good play and a huge gap that needed to be filled. (Courtesy: Emory Athletics)
5 – Emory (Up 11)
Yeah. Wow. Big jump here for the Eagles. I know I have them far higher than where they are on the ballot. Seems appropriate for how many teams this situation is flipped. Emory hasn’t lost since their bad loss to Hamden-Sydney at the beginning of December. Emory seems to be getting stronger, much like WashU, and has dispatched teams rather convincingly in a lot of cases. They have a huge test ahead: Chicago and WashU on back-to-back weekends. They at least get to start the home-and-home series in Atlanta.
6 – Middlebury (Up 11)
I have stated a number of times, especially on Hoopsville, that I think Middlebury is the best team in the NESCAC. However, they didn’t seem very good after the holiday break. Losing three of five nearly had them slide right off my ballot. It appears the Panthers have solved their woes and have turned the ship around. Last week saw them beat Williams after a huge battle with tough-to-beat Albertus Magnus. I like Middlebury. I don’t love Middlebury. They may be the best team in a conference that is overrated in terms of top-end strength.
7 – Baldwin Wallace (Up 15)
The win over John Carroll was the result I was looking for from the Yellow Jackets. I know I am higher on BWU than most voters. The loss to Ohio Northern on January 10 probably gave many pause. I get that. I also don’t think they are a Top 10 team, but here they are this week. The road doesn’t get easier, but the difference between this Baldwin Wallace team and others, they are still in the conversation – if not controlling it – in late January.
8 – York (Pa.) (Down 1)
The Spartans have pieces that almost any team in the country would love to have, including two centers/forwards who can play the four position and even step out and shoot the three for percentage. However, they aren’t as deep as I thought they would be. Their starting five all scores in double-figures which is outstanding, but the drop-off after that is significant. In other words, they can’t get into foul trouble. An improving Mary Washington team handed YCP their first loss of the season on the road. Not surprising York lost – they were bound to lose – but, I think it puts far more pressure on them to beat Christopher Newport, also on the road, than it did prior. Let’s see how the Spartans deal with pressure.
9 – MIT (Unchanged)
The loss to Springfield surprised me. Springfield has been all over the map, literally, this season. They have one of the best guards in New England, but they haven’t been able to raise their game against top competition. I figured, the Engineers would get a battle against the Pride, but not to be down big and have to rally back … and lose by three. MIT has a lot of what makes York dangerous and hearkens back to the couple-year run MIT had that saw them get to Salem. That makes them dangerous, but they also prove that anyone can beat anyone this year.
Emory & Henry is a squad that may be playing better than people realize. Picked to finish 4th in ODAC, they have a one-game currently. (Courtesy: Emory & Henry Athletics)
10 – Emory & Henry (Up 14)
Another big move up the poll for a team and one many probably aren’t talking about. However, this past week the Wasps took full control of the ODAC and I believe firmly entered the national conversation. Okay, maybe didn’t firmly take control of the ODAC, but certainly made the conference take notice. Wins over Lynchburg and Randolph-Macon have given E&H not only a one-game lead in the conference, but also a six game winning streak since their only loss of the season (Wooster). Also, wins over Maryville, Transylvania, and others are starting to look better and better as those teams continue to do well.
11 – Hamilton (Unchanged)
I hinted at it earlier. The national strength of the NESCAC might be overrated and the Continentals may have given everyone a sneak peak at that this week. No, they didn’t change spots, but I had intended to move them down (technically, they slipped five spots on my ballot originally). Hamilton was handed their first loss of the season by Amherst and it wasn’t close. Coach Adam Stockwell, though, made an interesting point on Hoopsville Sunday night, and I am paraphrasing: our team can beat anyone in the Top 100 on any given night. Now, don’t focus on “Top 100” and think of the bottom. Think of the top. This year especially, they very well could have a team that could beat Whitman – they also have a team that Amherst is able to beat. There are a lot of teams who could beat anyone in the Top 100. I’d argue anyone in the Top 100 could beat anyone (i.e. 100 could beat 1). So, Hamilton could be a damn good team, or more likely is just as good as everyone else, but not great. That leads to whether the NESCAC might be overrated… you have to wait for more on that.
12 – UW-Whitewater (Down 8)
Getting my first chance to tackle the WIAC here. As with the NESCAC, I’ll break it down in several sections, but with none of my Top 25 candidates even leading the conference, I had to change my evaluation of the conference. I have said many times I think the WIAC is the best race in the country and thus the best conference this year. Top to bottom it is insane. Anyone can apparently beat anyone on any given night. I thought UW-Stout was damn good when I saw them in Las Vegas, but I couldn’t come to terms with the idea they may not be in the top four. Whitewater and the rest have not had a great start to the conference schedule, but that might be because the conference is very, very good… but not great. Like the NESCAC. Maybe the top isn’t as great as I had considered previously, but have a ton of good teams and the result will just be the conference beating each other to a pulp. Despite not leading the conference, I think Whitewater is the best team in the WIAC and of those I’m voting for the better team.
13 – Wesleyan (Unchanged)
This coming out less than 24-hours after Wesleyan lost on a buzzer beater to SUNY Purchase is what is called horrible timing. I’m losing confidence in the Cardinals, as I have with the NESCAC. Honestly, Wesleyan should have rolled over Purchase if they truly are a Top 25 team. No, I am not trying to diminish Purchase who was 9-6 entering that game. I realize this may be further proof of just how deep the parity is in Division III this season. However, these are the games Wesleyan has to win if they are as good as others say. The problem is, Wesleyan has now lost four of their last eight with a crazy win over Middlebury being the lone highlight. I voted prior to the Purchase game which left Wesleyan on my ballot. Next week they most likely won’t be here.
Illinois Wesleyan has gone from unranked to well up Dave’s ballot in quick order, but not with plenty of pulled hair. (Courtesy: Dean Reid, D3photography.com)
14 – Illinois Wesleyan (Up 11)
Here I enter a hornet’s nest. I am not sure what to do with the Titans. In the last few weeks, I have torn my hair out. Part of me screams that IWU is damn good and going to be in play for the CCIW championship. The other part points to inconsistencies I’ve seen this season and reasons I’ve hesitated to vote for them in the past. Last week, I slotted them on my ballot 25th – their first appearance. I didn’t like, but I had so much trouble finding a spot I liked for them. I took the time to chat with some people who have seen then to try and get a better sense of what I was missing. I even read the CCIW-boards, not always helpful but usually decent insight. It honestly made me more confused. I like Illinois Wesleyan. I think they are a good team. 14th good? Eh. The difference for me right now is that their losses to WashU and Emory are becoming less damaging and their current run through the conference more impressive. That loss to Carthage, though… still tough to deal with… and I have to wait until February 17 to see the return match.
15 – Augustana (Down 5)
I had Augustana well ahead (in poll terms) than IWU last week. Those on the CCIW boards didn’t like that. So be it. No one saw the dozen or so versions prior to my last ballot that had these two teams swapping places multiple times. Hard to prove that kind of thing. I think Augustana is still the best team in the CCIW, but they probably aren’t showing that right now. That very well could be they haven’t found a solution for the loss of Wofford. I have spoken before about my concern on this. At first, I wasn’t concerned, then I remember that last year’s go-to guy after Wofford departed was Jacob Johnson and … he isn’t around any more. I finally decided to lean more on the loss to Wheaton (who has been sporadic this season) and the near loss to Carroll despite them being the previous week. Wheaton lays ahead and so does IWU before the end of the month. I will feel a little more confident in the CCIW race in about a week’s time.
16 – New Jersey City (Down 1)
Here I am blogging about a team that may not be on my ballot next week – thus the disadvantage of not getting these blogs done earlier (may need to find a way to change the timing). I’ve like the Gothic Knights and especial Sam Toney, but once again an NJAC team is showing inconsistencies. Most in the region will say the NJAC is a tough conference and they beat each other up. I get that. Not disagreeing, but if an NJAC team wants to prove they are one of the best in the country… they have to step above that fray and put conference opponents behind them. NJCU has now lost three of their last seven – all to conference opponents. They have lost control of the top of the conference and sit two games behind TCNJ and Ramapo – who they have split with so far. Prior to the Monday night loss to TCNJ, I would have said I liked NJCU, but they need to start controlling their destiny. Now, I will tell you they have to buckle down and prove they are as good as they claim to be. TCNJ, Montclair, and Ramapo all still to play.
Dave is buying in that UW-Platteville is a Top 25 team, but there are seven squads in the WIAC who could probably make at least a claim to the idea. (Courtesy: UW-Platteville Athletics)
17 – UW-Platteville (Up 1)
I like what the Pioneers are doing more than others in the WIAC. Of course, they have been a victim of Stevens Point just like nearly all the rest. THey have beaten Oshksoh along with Stout, Eau Claire, and La Crosse (not something everyone can say they have done). I find themselves tied for second with Whitewater in the WIAC race … for now. They still have two with Whitewater to play and maybe there is more to prove, but for not I like how the Pioneers are playing more than others. Maybe it is just the timing of the conference schedule more than anything.
18 – Swarthmore (Up 2)
I am confused by the Garnet. I saw them in person, granted against struggling McDaniel, and really liked what I saw. Deep team, plenty of talent. Good inside-outside capabilities. Too many threats to be able to stop all of them, no matter how much McDaniel tried to shut down Wiley. However, their loss to F&M still bugs me (considering the Diplomats had a loss to Muhlenberg prior and followed the Swat win with a loss to Dickinson). Swarthmore followed the loss to F&M with an OT battle with Haverford (6-11) and a tight game with Dickinson (908 including a loss to resurgent Washington). With nearly the entire second half of the conference slate ahead… the Garnet aren’t showing me they are that strong. Thus why I originally had them 23rd.
19 – Whitworth (Up 2)
I am not going to take anything way from the Pirates and what they have for talent. They are young and the Northwest race for the next few years is going to be on another level, but I don’t think they are outstandingly good this year. The Whitman game was … okay. And they struggled this past weekend with Linfield and Willamette. I figured Linfield would give them a game (they did the same to Whitman), but to only beat Willamette by two and turn around and not put away Linfield only made me feel more confident Whitworth is a 20-25 team this season. Granted, they are the team I have picked to beat Whitman when they face the Blues in Spokane, but that doesn’t make them a Top 10 team this year. Doesn’t mean I’m right… just may take on it at this point.
Maryville’s Colt Nokes is one of four players (nearly five) in double-figures for the Scots who have been playing very well in the USA South.
20 – Maryville (Tenn.) (Unranked)
Here we get to teams I did a deep dive on and … feel like I was missing something prior. The Scots may seem like a surprise pick, but when I realized how they’ve been playing of late, I kind of liked them here. They shutdown the once-DII Pfeiffer squad that has been blitzing through the schedule so far (though, waiting to hear something major for Pfeiffer that would change my mind about this game). Their only other loss in 2018 was to Brevard – who like Pfeiffer still has some DII in them. Maryville also has losses to Emory and Emory and Henry (psst, stay away from “Emory” teams!) which on my ballot looks okay. Yes, the loss to Centre (10-7) to start isn’t pretty, but that is becoming less of a factor for me. They are in control of their side of the USA South – and probably the entire conference thanks to their win over Methodist as well. By the way, Maryville’s DIII opponents’ winning percentage: 148-117 (.559). Pretty good. The Scots may be better than people are giving them credit.
21 – Gwynedd Mercy (Unranked)
I’ve had my eye on the Griffins for a large part of the season. They are playing better than I expected and when I saw them in person realized they have a multi-faceted offense. I didn’t jump too soon. I wasn’t going to be able extrapalate much with their game against Goucher, but then they up-ended Cabrini and I put them on my list for consideration. They have made up for their one-point loss to Immactulata (8-8) and have a strong win over Neumann. They force bad match-ups and go up-tempo or slow down. They can go big or small on the court. Just seems John Baron has a squad that is only getting stronger.
22 – Cabrini (Unranked)
Yeah, I decided to double-dip in the CSAC. Cabrini has been playing weel for some time, though their loss to Neumann the night the poll is released is going to make this pick look … strange. It very well could be another team I remove from my ballot next week thanks to a Monday night loss (hey, teams… stop playing games on Monday nights when the poll is released! Thanks! LOL). Prior to the Neumann result, I liked how Cabirni was playing. The win over Eastern Connecticut (see below) was noteworthy and I wasn’t getting the Cavs in if I didn’t like Gwynedd Mercy as well (Cavs lost in OT to the Griffins). I am not reevaluating this one.
23 – Williams (Down 11)
This is part of the “NESCAC may be overrated” part. I want to repeat, I think the NESCAC is a very tough conference from top to bottom, I am just starting to think maybe the top isn’t as good as I thought it was. Doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the best conferences in the country, but Williams is the barometer for me. They still seem to now know how to replace Scadlock who they lost weeks ago to a season-ending injury. They played Middlebury tough and that’s why they are still on my ballot, but they have lost two of their last five including to Tufts (13-5) who hasn’t seemed like the Tufts of old this season. Easier opponents like Mass College, Yeshiva, Vassar, Westfield St, Fitchburg St., etc. can sometimes make things confusing. Gaudy record, but against who? The loss to Hamline (9-8) still bugs me. Time will tell if my thinking on the Ephs and the NESCAC bears out… or I am on a island on my own.
24 – Eastern Connecticut (Unranked)
I have voted for the Warriors off and on this season. Something about what they are putting together has caught my eye. Their losses are to WPI (10-7) and Cabrini. I felt I had to put the Cavs on my ballot to return EConn as well. Not sure how Cabrini’s loss this week will affect my thinking here. However, the Warriors also have wins over WPI (yeah, played twice; lost the second game), Montclair State, Amherst, and Keene State. Those are note-worthy in my book. At least I am not the only one.
Lycoming makes their first appearance on Dave’s ballot… maybe by mistake? Dave is still nervous, but the Warriors also keep winning no matter what. (Courtesy: Lycoming Athletics)
25 – Lycoming (Unranked)
Hello Warriors. I am finally voting for you, but in a moment you readers are going to realize it might be by mistake. I have not been high on Lyco. Their opponents’ winning percentage continues to be pretty low (132-156 .458) and I peaked at Matt Snyder’s (@FFTMAG/KnightSlappy) NCAA SOS numbers out of curiousity and saw it was .506. That’s okay, but their non-conference SOS is .422. Not great. However, it came down to an adage many a coach has said to me on many an occasion: no matter the schedule, if a team keeps winning you should take note. Lycoming continues to win. They are now 6-1 versus teams with above .500 records – a significant change in a few weeks – and despite a loss to a pretty good Lebanon Valley team have at least won the games they should. Who else can you say that about? Not many.
UW-Oshkosh (Previously 5)
This was part of my effort to recalibrate the WIAC in my head. Yes, I understand UW-Stevens Point leads the conference by two (though, will play Oshkosh for the first time this week). However, I am not prepared to vote for UWSP as of yet on my ballot (I’ve talked about it on Hoopsville of late). As a result, maybe my thinking on the WIAC is … out of wack. Maybe it is a darn competitive and good conference, but the teams aren’t as good as I had been giving them credit. I readjusted this week and after going 0-2 with losses to Platteville and Eau Claire to go along with four losses in their last seven, I decided to drop Oshkosh from my ballot. Time will tell if I am overreacting or not.
UW-River Falls (Previously 8)
Another WIAC team I felt I needed to aggressively adjust. They, too, have lost to Stevens Point (just this past week) and now have lost three of six including to the previously named Oshkosh. If I was going to drop UWO, I had to drop UWRF. Not sure either team is playing their best right now, anyway.
Oops. Dave didn’t intend not to vote for John Carroll. Maybe something subconscious? (Courtesy: John Carroll Athletics)
John Carroll (Previously 14)
I am going to admit something maybe I shouldn’t: I screwed up. I had intended to leave John Carroll on my ballot, but they got lost in my efforts to look outside my radar for teams I may have been missing. I actually check-mark teams from my old ballot and on my info-sheet when I have slotted them on my ballot. Even taking the steps to go back and erase check-marks when I start to make changes. JCU’s initial check-mark was erased. Then as I got caught up in my research and efforts to fill slots, I never confirmed what I had done with the Blue Streaks. That all said, they were in this position on my ballot of being left off because I am not as confident as others with JCU. They can score, seemingly, at will and I have had several coaches tell me why they like them – especially their former DII point guard. However, I have stated (as you saw in the Top 25 Double-take) that their defense concerns me. I know they play 94-feet and in a team’s face, but they also still give up points when they need to get stops. The loss to Baldwin Wallace honestly told me more about BWU than it did about JCU, but it didn’t help JCU’s cause – who have they really beaten? Marietta? Ohio Northern? Their resume is harder to defend.
It appears Ohio Wesleyan’s hot shooting and playing has cooled off significantly since the D3hoops.com Classic. Maybe it stayed in Vegas? (Courtesy: Larry Radloff, D3photography.com)
Ohio Wesleyan (Previously 19)
I can’t believe that just a few weeks after seeing the Battling Bishops in Las Vegas, I would be removing them from my Top 25 ballot. However, OWU has not been playing at the same caliber I saw at the D3hoops.com Classic. Not sure if the “fame” of dismantling Ramapo and nearly knocking of No. 1 Whitman got to their heads or not, but they seemed to have gotten stuck in gear. Three losses in four game and four in six (before beating DePauw) are eye-opening. Yes, One of those four-out-of-six losses is to Whitman, but of the three out of four, one is to Hiram and another to Wooster. I can forgive the Wittenberg loss, except it was by 21! If OWU was as good as I saw in Vegas, they maybe only loss to Wittenberg since I saw them. The Bishops are simply not playing well together and are in jeopardy of quickly realizing they have to win the conference AQ or they won’t even see the NCAA tournament. Say what?!
Nichols (Previously 23)
No. The Bison did not lose this past week. They have not lost since Jan. 6 to Western New England in overtime. However, they too are not playing the same they were earlier in the season. What once was a dominating squad (including a 19 point win over Wesleyan) has turned into a squad who is barely getting past Eastern Nazarene and Roger Williams. If Nichols is as good as I thought, those games aren’t close. They got their point guard, DeAnte Burton, back from injury, but that hasn’t seemed to make them better. They have now, since I voted, lost to Univ. of New England making my decision better understood.
In the future, I do hope to talk to more coaches I know have a good sense of what they are seeing not only on the court in front of them, but even on web streams around the country. I realize I shook up my ballot quite a bit this week and even took some turns not many others are taking. Maybe it will open eyes to other great pretty good teams in the country or maybe I will be proven to have lost my mind this week. However, just realize that these decisions aren’t made on a whim. I make them after following what my research says and what those I trust say. I may like a team and want to vote for them, even after seeing them in person or having them on Hoopsville, but that doesn’t always mean when I do my research it adds up.