Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 11

Hampden-Sydney is a team Dave thinks is very under rated and his biggest ballot move was placing the Tigers at #2.

I mentioned last week it seemed voting in the Top 25 seemed to be getting harder, more challenging as the season progressed on. Usually it gets a bit easier as the top teams cement themselves a bit and you are only making some adjustments. This past week proved that this season is wide open and as Pat Coleman said on Hoopsville Sunday night this could lead to a very fun national tournament this year.

Of the 25 teams on my previous ballot, seven teams lost nine games with four of those teams and five of those losses happening in my top six. As a result, there is some major adjustments at the top of my ballot and not the bottom, for a change.

This was rivalry week with almost everyone playing an arch-rival, so I did consider that major fact while looking at some losses and wins this past week.

1 – St. ThomasUp 1 spot
In the matter of three weeks, the Tommies have moved out of the top spot on my ballot and then back. They have moved past their lone loss and looking like one of the toughest teams in the country.

2 – Hampden-SydneyUp 6 spots
I have stated numerous times that I think the Tigers are the most underrated team in the country. They play in one of the toughest conferences in the country and seem to be putting their foot down emphatically. They trounced their arch-rival, Randolph-Macon, on the road to sweep the season series for the first time in years. And when you look at the SOS numbers, they are impressive. Ahead they have a major clash with Virginia Wesleyan coming up Wednesday in which the Tigers could clinch the ODAC regular season crown.

3 – MiddleburyUp 2 spots
Middlebury may be a bit overrated at #3, but with so many teams losing in this part of the ballot, they simply migrated up the poll. I didn’t feel comfortable placing the Panthers #2 because of the number of close games and their one-point win over Williams now looks less interesting with Amherst looming on Tuesday night.

4 – Illinois WesleyanUp 4 spots
Last week I said the Titans would probably have to win the CCIW to crack my top five, but thanks to numerous losses ahead of them and another dominating week in the CCIW, they have moved up accordingly. The only test left for an undefeated conference season is North Central on the road… if they don’t overlook Millikin first.

5 – WPIDown 3 spots
Almost everyone was waiting for the Engineers to lose their first game and it never seemed to be coming until Springfield got the job done Sunday afternoon. Springfield is having a good season and has a win against Amherst on their resume as well, so losing to the Pride on the road isn’t a shock. Now whether it was the delay thanks to an historic blizzard or just playing in a tough place, WPI has to right the ship quickly since they have MIT and Clark on the road to finish.

6 – RochesterDown 2 spots
We know the UAA is a tough conference mainly because of the travel required, so we shouldn’t have been surprised that Rochester couldn’t stay undefeated in the conference. But Rochester is now 2-2 in the last two weekends and is holding on to a one game lead in the conference with three to play. And the team behind them, Wash U, dominated Rochester in St. Louis which you hope doesn’t mean Rochester peaked too soon.

7 – AmherstUp 3 spots
The Lord Jeffs had already thumped their arch-rival Williams in a game a couple of weeks ago, but when they did the same thing, holding the Ephs to 48 points at home, it made me notice. It was Amherst’s only game of the week, but they are now on top of the conference with an important battle with Middlebury coming up.

8 – CatholicDown 2 spots
The Cardinals losing on the road to Scranton shouldn’t be too surprising, except at times it isn’t clear what Scranton team will show up on the floor. Catholic did have to come from 20 points down to within 2, but couldn’t pull off the victory. The match-up is a bit of a rivalry, so I wasn’t going to bring them down the poll too far.

9 – WhitworthDown 8 spots
Two losses probably would have resulted in a further slide down the poll if not for the number of losses by others and the fact that some of the teams below the Pirates didn’t seem like top ten teams. However, the loss to George Fox at home does give me great pause since this conference didn’t seem to be that big a challenge.

10 – St. Mary’s (Md.)Up 3 spots
I am not sure the Seahawks are a top ten team, but they have migrated up thanks to a few factors: the number of losses my others and the fact they still have only loss two games this season (both to teams on my ballot). St. Mary’s has clearly played better than many expected especially since they don’t have any significant inside presence.

11 – North Central (Ill.)Up 4 spots
The Cardinals appear to be playing better basketball than a few weeks ago when they were dealing with injuries to their top three players. I probably would have moved North Central into my top ten, except that while they beat Augustana handily on the road they couldn’t do the same to Millikin on the road. They have a major game against Illinois Wesleyan this week that could change the landscape of the CCIW.

12 – RamapoDown 3 spots
Another loss in the NJAC is not what the Roadrunners need right now before the conference tournament. The loss was to the third place teams in the conference on the road, but Ramapo needs to avoid these losses if they want to be ready for post-season play.

13 – WoosterUp 4 spots
The Scots got through rivalry week with a win in overtime against Ohio Wesleyan and an easier win over Wittenberg. Wooster is a good team that just has to focus on all games and not forget what the goal is when playing teams like Wabash.

14 – Calvinunchanged
Here is where I took a rivalry game into mind. Calvin losses a close game on the road at Hope which probably shouldn’t have been that unexpected just based on the history in this rivalry. Plus the fact, you had to figure Hope wanted revenge for the embarrassment in the first game. I still think Calvin is a good team and shouldn’t fall because of the biggest rivalry in Division III.

15 – UW-Stevens PointDown 3 spots
The Pointers went 1-0 this past week, but their move downward is because they seem to be racked with injuries. I am not sure what has gotten them to this point in the season can allow them to hold on to the end.

16 – Rhode IslandUp 2 spots

17 – Rose-HulmanUp 3 spots

18 – WilliamsDown 7 spots
The Ephs got embarrassed on their own court by a team that has now embarrassed them twice this season. Yes, it was a rivalry game, but Hope showed they could show up at home against Calvin. Williams didn’t seem to show anything. The game was delayed several days because of the blizzard, but since it was at home that is less of an excuse in my book than a team that would have been on the road. It appears the Ephs were a little overrated in previous ballots.

19 – Wheaton (Ill.)

20 – Cortland StateUp 1 spot

21 – UW-WhitewaterUp 1 spot

22 – Washington Univ.unranked
The win over Rochester told me that the Bears may have figured out whatever was wrong and are back on track – at least at home. I think Wash U. is a team to watch out for, but I still have questions on where their season is headed especially because they may have to hit the road in the NCAA tournament.

23 – MITunchanged

24 – Wesleyunchanged

25 – SUNY Old Westburyunchanged

Dropped out:

Christopher Newport#16 last week
The Captains are in a tail spin. They have lost three straight including to now 11-10 LaGrange on the road. Of course the previous two games were losses at home. I am not sure exactly what is wrong, but this is the worst time of the season to be dealing with a significant losing streak.

Dave’s Top 25 ballot: Week 10

Sorry for the tardiness on this, but celebrating the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl title got me a little out of sync this week and then the computer I have my blog written on decided to quit working when I went to post this on Wednesday morning. Better late than never, I guess.

Once again, I had to do some real analyzing after not only the number one team lost, but when several other teams on my previous ballot took losses. (And as you will notice, I will already be changing my number one team next week.)

The one thing I have noticed and even discussed with other voters, there may be 15 or 20 teams everyone feels comfortable with, but those last five or ten spots are turning into a cluster(fill in the blank). For the most part, it seems like no one wants to step up and grab their position in the polls or in their conferences. As a result, I think voting this season may be getting harder in some ways than usual years when you really have a sense of who the best teams in the country are.

1 – WhitworthUp 1 spot
I really debated about this. The Pirates have certainly been on a tear winning every one of their games except the season opener against St. Thomas, but besides Whitman their conference schedule has been somewhat weak. They already had to use extra time to get past a pretty decent Whitman squad, but they have also been dominating teams for the most part. I am sure I will be changing this pick sooner than I would like (and now after the fact this is indeed true).

2 – St. ThomasUp 1 spot
I seriously considered putting the Tommies back into the number one place after they clearly rebounded from their lone loss pretty well. However, I had decided that St. Thomas’ loss to Concordia-Moorehead was worse than Whitworth’s loss to St. Thomas in game number one, so I didn’t feel comfortable changing that mentality a week later.

3 – WPIUp 1 spot
Being the Engineers are undefeated and had a nice victory of Springfield this past week, I could have easily decided to move WPI all the way to #1. However, I am still considering who they have played… or not played. WPI is clearly having a better season than anyone could have expected, but I may need to see a little more before I think #1 is the right place for WPI.

4 – RochesterDown 3 spots
I expected the Yellowjackets to get through the weekend unscathed, though maybe bruised, as my number one team. Of course if they had lost to Brandeis, I wouldn’t have been shocked. But to lose to an NYU team that I clearly had overrated earlier this year was not what I would have expected. Rochester did rally to get through the weekend 1 and 1, but they lost the wrong game. Considering it was their first loss of the season, on the road, and many teams below also lost, Rochester didn’t fall as much as I thought about moving them.

5 – MiddleburyUp 1 spot

6 – CatholicUp 1 spot

7 – Hampden-SydneyUp 2 spots

8 – Illinois WesleyanUp 6 spots
I was already starting to buy into the Titans, but when you beat Augustana (on the road) and Wheaton (at home) to sweep the season series from those two and remain three games ahead of North Central, I was ready to buy in further. Can the Titans get through the entire CCIW unscathed? Maybe, but the conference is too good in general for that to possibly happen. So I will continue to move IWU up the board, but won’t jump them into my top five until they get through the conference unscathed.

9 – RamapoUp 1 spot

10 – AmherstUp 3 spots
The Lord Jeffs had a very good week beating Rhode Island and two conference opponents, albeit at home. As a result, their win over Williams now becomes a bigger factor, especially since it was a blow out, so I moved them ahead of the Ephs. However, Amherst didn’t have the strongest out-of-conference schedule and lost two games as well, so I think this could be my ceiling unless they beat Williams on the road in the same manner.

11 – WilliamsDown 3 spots
I did move the Ephs down, but it had more to do with teams I moved ahead of them than the week they had. Granted they won two games on the road in the conference, but they were both close games against Bowdoin (12-9) and Colby (6-15). I know it isn’t the easiest thing to travel in the NESCAC especially from northwestern Massachusetts to anywhere in Maine (there is no such thing as a straight drive from Point A to Point B in that scenario), but if the Ephs are that good they should handle that scenario a bit better.

12 – UW-Stevens PointDown 7 spots
It wasn’t like the Pointers had it easy this week: they played on the road against Platteville and La Crosse who are both having solid seasons. What surprised me was the fact the Pointers were held to just 46 points against Platteville and then couldn’t recover a few days later against La Crosse and only scored 62. That is just the kind of week that can derail a team and makes a voter nervous. I am not sold on just how good the WIAC is this season maybe because the top of the conference isn’t as good as usual while the middle of the conference is just as tough as always.

13 – St. Mary’s (Md.)Up 2 spots

14 – CalvinUp 2 spots

15 – North Central (Ill.)Up 2 spots

16 – Christopher NewportDown 5 spots
I was confident the Captains were pretty good this year, but when you lose to a .500 team like Greensboro at home, I take pause. I still think CNU is a solid team, but I may have had them too high in my poll. (And since I voted they lost to Virginia Wesleyan at home and it wasn’t close.)

17 – WoosterDown 5 spots
The win over Denison at home was destruction; the loss on the road against Wabash was… well… embarrassing. I am not sure if the Scots were looking too far ahead to their game against Ohio Wesleyan or not, but this is the time of year where a team needs to put its foot down and not stub its toe.

18 – Rhode Islandunchanged

19 – Wheaton (Ill.)unchanged

20 – Rose-HulmanUp 3 spots
The Engineers put their foot down on the HCAC. With a very important game against underachieving Transylvania who beat them at home earlier in the year… they won on the road. Rose-Hulman now has a two game lead on the conference forcing everyone to go through Terre Haute, Indiana if they want to automatically pack their bags for the NCAA tournament.

21 – Cortland StateUp 3 spots

22 – UW-Whitewaterunranked
As I mentioned earlier, I am not sold on the top of the WIAC. I have also not been sold on the Warhawks a lot this season; they simply lost too much from last year’s national champions. But they keep winning and are now just a game back of UW-Stevens Point and may be finding their stride… for now.

23 – MITunranked
For the engineers, I mean beavers, no I mean Engineers (plenty of them in my Top 25), they still don’t have Jamie Karraker or Noel Hollingsworth back and may never get them back, but they are still winning. There are three seniors in double-figures including Mitchell Kates and Will Tashman who are scoring 15+ points a game and some of the underclassmen are stepping up. Only one of their four losses is a bad one (Salem State) and they have won five straight. Maybe MIT has found a way to win this season despite the challenges they have faced.

24 – WesleyDown 4 spots
I knew that trying to sweep St. Mary’s, especially with the second game being on the road, would be a tall task. So, I really wasn’t going to eliminate them from my ballot and they only moved this far down because I was moving other teams in that I think might still be better despite the fact the Wolverines have still won 12 of the last 13 (as of my voting).

25 – SUNY-Old Westburyunranked
In a constant search for who are the best 25 teams, I am taking another stab at a team that maybe isn’t getting enough attention. I don’t have the space to explain the season the Panthers have had simply from Superstorm Sandy and the aftermath. But consider that Old Westbury played their first 13 games of the season on the road, had to travel by van to every practice for the first several months at a gym off campus, and they didn’t even have their own locker rooms during that time. Still, the Panthers are undefeated in their conference and while games have been close recently it is probably because the Panthers aren’t used to playing in their own gym!

Dropped out this week:

DeSales21st last week
I will be the first to admit, I made a mistake here. Shortly after I placed DeSales in my ballot and stated they were one team flying lowest on the radar, they lost two games in conference including a pivotal game with Delaware Valley before falling asleep against Misericordia.

Transylvania22nd last week
The Pioneers did it to me again. I bought in and put them back in my Top 25 only to see them lose to Rose-Hulman, at home no less. I just can’t figure out the Pioneers who didn’t lose any of their starting offense from last year’s squad, but clearly lost something from the seniors who left even if it wasn’t on the court.

Alvernia25th last week
You can almost copy my comments about DeSales into this section: they lost a pivotal game against conference and Reading, PA rival Albright. They didn’t lose two games, but when you are on the very bottom of the ballot, any slip can cost you.