While I knew going in to voting this week I was going to need to decide a new number one team, I thought that would be the only major challenge… I was wrong. Not only did I have to have a long debate about number one, but I had to reconsider parts of the middle of the ballot and pretty much blow up the lower third. Why? Too many questions and not enough answers – the theme for the entire season.
As I finished the ballot and took a look it to make sure I was comfortable, I couldn’t help but consider the fact there are a lot of teams in the upper half that are bound to take a loss that warrants the thought they are too high on my ballot. I also couldn’t help but think there are teams outside of my ballot that have just as strong an argument to be a Top 25 team as those on the ballot. There just isn’t enough room for starters, but there also aren’t enough answers to feel comfortable with the ballot.
I will warn you now, there are some interesting and maybe surprising moves on this ballot. I got tired of the uneasy feeling I had with some teams, I took a gamble with some other teams, and I moved a number of teams down despite not losing games this week (all for different reasons).
Now a quick reminder to those who may read this blog: I am just one voter who is willing to make his ballot public strictly for conversational reasons. I am more than willing to listen to other opinions (I do so every week behind the scenes) and give you my reasons for my decisions. All I ask is that you respect the single point of view of twenty-five that make up the overall D3hoops.com Top 25 and have a civic conversation regarding the ballot.
Before revealing this week’s ballot, here is a reminder of last week’s:
1 – Washington U.
2 – St. Thomas
3 – Augustana
4 – UW-Whitewater
5 – WPI
6 – Babson
7 – Randolph-Macon
8 – Emory
9 – Dickinson
10 – Wooster
11 – Albertus Magnus
12 – Virginia Wesleyan
13 – Ohio Wesleyan
14 – Marietta
15 – Richard Stockton
16 – Chicago
17 – Eastern Connecticut
18 – Husson
19 – Amherst
20 – Scranton
21 – North Central
22 – Illinois Wesleyan
23 – Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
24 – St. Olaf
25 – Franklin & Marshall
And now to this week’s ballot and some explanations:
1 – St. Thomas (Up 1)
I debated long and hard about making the Tommies my number one team. This was my fifth new number one team after all and just because St. Thomas was slotted number two last week didn’t necessitate moving up automatically. I debated long and hard between the Tommies and four other teams including Wash U., but eventually decided the Tommies were my best pick. I am clearly higher on St. Thomas than others, but besides their lone loss to Gustavus Adolphus the Tommies have been handling the teams they should and even beating good teams on their schedule (i.e. UW-Stevens Point). The next challenge for St. Thomas will be Bethel, who is reeling a little bit right now, later this week.
2 – Augustana (Up 1)
3 – UW-Whitewater (Up 1)
4 – Washington U. (Down 3)
I thought about leaving the Bears number one, moving them down a single spot, or moving them down further. If they had barely lost to Chicago on the road, I think leaving them number one in a year with plenty of questions and no one really stepping up to be the top dog would have made sense (same debate I had with UW-Whitewater in the first regular season poll). However, Wash U. go trounced by Chicago in the Bears first game in three weeks. That is a long lay-off, but a lousy way to show a team is ready for its rival to start the important conference schedule. However, because it was their first game back since December 20, I didn’t move the Bears further down the poll. I didn’t expect Wash U. to go undefeated this season; I just didn’t expect them to get blown out.
5 – Babson (Up 1)
6 – Emory (Up 2)
I moved the Eagles up two spots and ahead of Randolph-Macon for one reason: they got the job done at a place they can’t seem to win at – Rochester. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the Yellow Jackets are, Emory never wins in Rochester. They did so this week and in dominating fashion.
7 – Randolph-Macon (Unchanged)
8 – WPI (Down 3)
The Engineers lost to the other Engineers in the NEWMAC who was chosen along with WPI as the top pick by the coaches in the preseason (MIT), so no it wasn’t surprising to see the result and thus why WPI only falls one spot. The battle for the top of the NEWMAC is going to be very good this year with WPI and MIT already the early favorites and Babson already showing they are going to be there as well. Plus you have to deal with Springfield, Emerson, and others. The challenge for WPI is the fact they will play Babson later this week as a result they fall behind the Beavers because at this point I think Babson is the better team. (They also fall behind Randolph-Macon in reflection of the fact the Yellow Jackets beat the Engineers at the Hoopsville Classic earlier this season).
9 – Dickinson (Unchanged)
10 – North Central (Ill.) (Up 11)
Surprise #1. I got to a point with North Central this week that I thought I was underselling them at 21 and I didn’t see a slot I thought they fit in between teams ahead of them. I moved them around a lot (along with other teams) before deciding to get bold and make a big move up. After all, this team has lost only one game (to Dickinson ranked ahead of them) and while they narrowly defeated Wheaton this past week, they are on top of the CCIW. Now, this is one of those moves that makes me wonder if I will regret it later especially with Augustana AND Elmhurst to play this week alone, but I figured I would be making this move this week or potentially next week so why hold back now.
11 – Wooster (Down 1)
Surprise #1. This is the start of five teams that moved down a spot despite not losing mainly because I needed to find a slot for North Central. This does not mean I think less of these teams after the week of games that they had. It is more a reflection of what I think of North Central. This also can be used as an example of why a team can win games and fall in a poll – because it isn’t about them it is about another team(s). In this case, Wooster beat below .500 teams as they should have, but I think North Central is playing better basketball.
12 – Albertus Magnus (Down 1)
Yes… North Central. Also… the Falcons are on the ceiling in terms of my ballot. Unless they do something big in the NCAA tournament, they aren’t going to rise any further on my ballot – though they are certainly open to falling if they take a loss in the GNAC.
13 – Virginia Wesleyan (Down 1)
14 – Ohio Wesleyan (Down 1)
15 – Marietta (Down 1)
16 – Chicago (Unchanged)
Surprise #3. I pretty much figured when the Maroons beat Wash U. I would be moving Chicago up my poll. Then I looked at the ballot and realized I didn’t know where to move them! Chicago already has three losses on the season and I already didn’t think they were better than fifteen other teams in the first place. Sure, the blow out win over Wash U at home was huge. I just couldn’t figure out if they were all of the sudden better than Marietta, Ohio Wesleyan, Virginia Wesleyan, Albertus Magnus, or Wooster with that one result. Sure, North Central moved ahead of Chicago with a less stellar result(s) this week, but that move was based on what else North Central had done this season and the fact I was underselling them. I think Chicago is well placed at sixteen right now and we will wait to see how they do against Emory this week (with Case Western Reserve looming).
17 – Franklin & Marshall (Up 8)
Surprise #4. Here’s another move I would be crazy if I didn’t admit scares me. The Diplomats are playing well above expectations this season (including their own) and I have said they are a loss away from maybe having the season unravel. However, they got by a very difficult test in Washington College this week and with the amount of turmoil ahead of them (now behind them) in the poll, I figured this move was warranted.
18 – St. Olaf (Up 6)
There is something very quiet about St. Olaf that makes me wonder if they are far better than advertised. As with F&M, I moved the Oles up ahead of what I think is turmoil on my ballot. I also moved them from ahead of the Diplomats to behind because of their lone loss to Bethel (versus no losses for F&M). I honestly am not sure what I think of St. Olaf, but they continue to get the job done. St. Thomas, though, is on the horizon long with a rematch with Bethel in back to back games later this month.
19 – Richard Stockton (Down 4)
I don’t like how the Osprey are playing basketball right now. I think the loss of their point guard earlier this season is really causing problems. They are having issues staying composed on the floor and they don’t seem to be on the same page. You listen to those in the NJAC and they will tell you that the conference is one of the toughest to play in. I won’t disagree with that sentiment, but not because I think the top of the conference is really good and the bottom isn’t that far off. Rather I think the top of the conference is just good and the bottom is average at best. Thus when I see Stockton barely get past a New Jersey City squad I think has been overrated for a while (and is currently 3-9) and only put up 27 points against that Gothic Knights squad in the first half… my gut feeling of Stockton not playing well is only reinforced. (And Richard Stockton losses to Ramapo 65-63 as I finished writing this blog – but after all ballots were tabulated for Week 6.)
20 – St. Norbert (Unranked)
It is ironic that last season I was a bit proponent for the Green Knights, yet I seemed to have them ranked higher than many others throughout the year. This year, I am the one late to jumping on board with St. Norbert’s season. They lost five seniors and four starters from last year’s squad that was pretty impressive. I didn’t think there was any way they would be in the Top 25 conversation this year. However, SNC has one loss this season to John Carroll and has been handling their opponents especially in conference. I just can’t keep pushing them to the side as they continue to prove they are a pretty talented team.
21 – Chapman (Unranked)
I knew when I left Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in my ballot last week with Chapman to play… I was going to making a move this week. That games was the test I was waiting for to determine if Panthers were as good as their undefeated mark indicated (especially considering non-Division III teams they have played so far this season). Chapman got the job done and so they are now on my ballot.
22 – UW-Stevens Point (Unranked)
I have basically tried to keep from buying in with the Pointers this season. I know how much they last from last year, I know they weren’t going to be as good, and I know they were going to “rebuild” (by UWSP terms) this year. However, Stevens Point has been playing pretty well. They have beaten some good squads and trounced UW-Platteville this week. And their three losses have been to very good teams by a total of ten points! Maybe I am breaking my own rule here, but at the same time maybe I should stop ignoring UWSP.
23 – Husson (Down 5)
It would have been easy to take the Eagles out of my Top 25 after they lost promptly after getting national attention. However, I think Husson is far better than people give them credit and they lost to a pretty talented Colby squad in a very high-scoring affair. Also, with Scranton still on my ballot (as you will see), I would have had to remove the Royals as well from the Top 25 if I removed Husson. I am willing to still consider the Eagles a Top 25 team if they roll through the NAC the rest of the season.
24 – Scranton (Down 4)
Despite winning three games this week, I have the same uneasy feeling with the Royals I had with Richard Stockton (and others) – the difference is they are still winning. Scranton is walking a high-wire and they are dangerously close to falling off. Since they lost to Husson, Scranton had to use overtime to beat King’s, barely beat Wilkes, struggled against Drew (not shocking), had a Susquehanna squad nearly trip them up, and barely survived against Goucher (3-11). In those five games, Scranton has won by a total of twelve points. Scranton should be dominating most of these games if they really are that good. I actually debated taking Scranton out of my Top 25 despite still winning, but the fact they are still winning is why they stay in … for now.
25 – Illinois Wesleyan (Down 3)
Some feel the Titans are overrated. I get that. I have thought that myself. However, they are also still winning. They beat Wheaton and Carthage this week to bounce back from the loss to North Central and while I still moved them down the poll, which kept them from falling out (like Scranton). I just didn’t like where I had Illinois Wesleyan previously and teams I decided to move in to my ballot felt like stronger teams, so they had to move downward.
Eastern Connecticut (Previously #17)
I understand they only lost to Amherst by a few points at home, but Amherst is the reason the Warriors are off my ballot. As you will see, so is Amherst and if I am taking Amherst off my ballot I can’t keep Eastern Connecticut on it if they lost to the Lord Jeffs in the same week. Also while I was unable to watch the game live, reports from those who did and from what I read on the game doesn’t paint a pretty picture for how either team played. I also felt there were teams off my ballot who were playing better basketball and thus Eastern Connecticut falls off the poll.
Amherst (Previously #19)
Yes, I removed the Lord Jeffs from my ballot. I just haven’t had a good feeling about Amherst since mid-December and was probably giving them the benefit of the doubt. Certainly the win over Eastern Connecticut is a feather in the cap as it where, but as I described above with the Warriors it doesn’t sound like it was that well played a game. Amherst isn’t playing terrific basketball right now and while I understand it was a rivalry game the loss to Williams (who had lost to Trinity earlier in the week) was the deciding factor.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Previously #23)
I like CMS as a team and I have since the preseason, but I would be foolish if I didn’t tell you it was a debate between CMS, Chapman, and others on who made my preseason Top 25 ballot. Now CMS has lost UW-Stevens Point and Chapman in the last four games – both squads are new to my ballot this week – so it isn’t like CMS isn’t playing good competition… I just don’t have room for them right now. They have some good games ahead of them, so they could make a reappearance if they keep winning.
Previous ballot blogs:
Season Recap – Week 5