December 27, 2022
By Riley Zayas, @ZayasRiley
Welcome back! I hope everyone had a great Christmas and holidays in general! I’ve worked on this piece off and on over the last several days. We did not have a Top 25 ballot to submit (the next D3hoops.com Top 25 will come out on Jan. 3) this week, but for my own purposes, I put one together anyway, and ranked out to #30 (which is why I titled this article as “Week 4 Top 25 2.0”). Here are my thoughts on where we stand after a relatively light week of women’s D-III hoops, with a very strong slate upcoming in the latter part of this week.
- Trinity (TX): I watched both of Trinity’s games this past week, and thoroughly thought out who to put at #1, since I had NYU in the top spot a week ago. But looking at it further, Trinity’s resume was significantly increased by its wins over Puget Sound and Mary Hardin-Baylor. Those, in addition to a pair of wins over Hardin-Simmons, put Trinity ahead of NYU, whose most notable win is against Tufts. NYU has played two fewer games and does not have the strong non-conference schedule that Trinity had, leading me to put the Tigers #1 this week.
- NYU: That said, NYU is very much in the #1 conversation for me, Once UAA play kicks off, if the Violets perform the way I anticipate they will against the likes of Rochester, Emory, Chicago, and others, I could see NYU jumping back into the top spot. The Tufts win still sticks out to me, especially seeing it live. Sure, Maggie Russell wasn’t on the floor for Tufts, but I’d be hard pressed to think of another team that put together a second half run so quickly on a Top 25 opponent this season.
- Christopher Newport: Likewise, this seems to be the week for shifting things around, and I’m moving CNU from #5 to #3. Bill Broderick has his team dominating, per usual, through the first 11 games of the year. They looked really good in Puerto Rico, taking down Colorado College and Cortland by significant margins. And those are no two easy opponents, mind you. I could see the Captains taking down D-I Maryland Eastern Shore come Jan. 4, which according to my records, would be the first D3 WBB win over a D1 this season.
- Hope: Hope slides back two spots for no reason other than CNU deserving to move up. I don’t feel like the Trine loss is all that bad if Hope responds the way they did last year and find success the rest of the way. Good teams are going to lose to good teams, every now and again. It’s the way sports are. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reward undefeated marks, but a loss to a fellow Top 10 team is not the worst thing that could happen. Hope is still building after losing Schooveld and Voskuil after last year, and once we hit late January/early February, I anticipate the Flying Dutch will be peaking at the righttime.
- Baldwin-Wallace: The Trine win gets better and better for BW’s resume, and just watching the Yellow Jackets play, it’s obvious they are a team working in sync. When that cohesiveness is visible at this point in the year, it typically seems to be a sign of a team destined for great success in the months of February and March.
- Transylvania: Transy slides back three spots as well. Doing more research, I was surprised to find out that it is likely the Pioneers will not face a single regionally ranked opponent this season, Not one. I don’t know if it’s the type of thing where opponents don’t want to schedule them, or if the cost of travel is too significant, but I’d expect someone, somewhere, with a decent record and likelihood to be regionally ranked would have been willing to get Transy to their “classic” or tournament in non-conference play. If it were Sul Ross State, I might say that geography is a likely issue. But Trnasy has plenty of good teams in the area. It’d be beneficial for them to have a better win by this point than John Carroll or UT-Dallas, who are above .500, but not in the national conversation right now. So that’s a long way of saying, with more data, having seen CNU, NYU, Trinity and Hope all play teams receiving votes this season, I have no choice but to put them ahead of a team who is undoubtedly talented, but has not played much noteworthy competition.
- Scranton: I like what Scranton has done so far under first year head coach Ben O’Brien. He is doing a fantastic job, and the Lady Royals are 10-0 at this point. They took down Wartburg handily on Monday, displaying high-quality defense as it was the first time since 2012 that Wartburg had been held to 37 points. They followed that with a win over Rhodes, a traditional power in the SAA, though this is appearing to be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Lynx. Still, two solid wins on the week keep Scranton firmly in the No. 7 spot in my ballot.
- Amherst: Amherst started the year by playing four games in November, but now hasn’t played since Dec. 10. They’ve gotten just seven games under their belt, and I’m interested to see how the Mammoths come out of the gate against Montclair State on Dec. 28. Typically teams coming off a long break either look really good (due to extra practice time/time to refresh and reset) or come out very flat. But Amherst has done enough for me to confidently keep them in the Top 10.
- Trine: Trine was behind UW-Eau Claire a week ago, but after watching the way the Thunder followed the huge Hope victory with wins over North Park and Wartburg in St. Petersburg, Florida, I’m convinced Trine belongs in the Top 10. The losses to Ohio Northern and Baldwin Wallace came over a month ago, and both of those teams are ranked as I write this. Plus, I feel it’s important to grade a win/loss in November differently than one in January/February. I’d guess not all agree with me on this, but isn’t that what we expect from teams, to have some kind of struggle early but improve over time? If a team is losing multiple games after months of practice and games, that can be cause for concern. But a couple losses when the team had only been conducting official practice for just over a month (or in the case of BW, not even that long), are something I can overlook to an extent, if, as Trine has done, the track record shows steady improvement since that point.
- UW-Eau Claire: We’ll see Trine and UWEC go head-to-head before 2022 is over. And I can’t wait. UWEC fell to a very good Loras team the last time we saw them on the court, and like Amherst, I’m interested to see how the Blugolds respond to the 19-day break they are in the midst of, before taking on Trine on Dec. 29. That game will be at Trine, and unlike Amherst, this is a big test right out of the gate. I really like what I’ve seen from UWEC and I imagine they will be ready to avenge that Loras loss on the court later this week.
- DeSales: DeSales, like Transylvania, has not be tested all that much, but the Bulldogs have done more than enough to stay high on my ballot. I continue to be impressed by the effort on the defensive end; six times this season they’ve held an opponent below 40 points.
- Smith: Smith slides back up for me, in large part because of the losses ahead of them. But wins at Bowdoin and Trinity (CT) are not easy to come by, so an 8-1 record with those two victories certainly seems to warrant a spot in the Top 15 in my opinion. I’m looking forward to the games against Springfield and Hamilton in early January. Those two contests will tell us plenty about where Smith is at entering NESCAC action.
- UW-Whitewater: It seems I continue to have Whitewater higher than the poll, and I would even say, higher than 90% of the other 24 voters (though I have no idea). Yes, I can see the three losses. And they do not help the Warhawks’ resume. But to win at UC Santa Cruz, just before Christmas, says a lot about Whitewater’s resilience, and that is not their only notable win. Victories over La Crosse, Millikin, and even Augustana are fairly strong for their resume.
- Chicago: As I wrote last week, it is a decision I’ve gone back and forth on, as to whether I should keep Whitewater ahead of Chicago, considering Chicago beat Whitewater on Dec. 14. My only challenge with Chicago is that the strength of schedule has not quite been there, as the Maroons have put together a 10-0 record. That’s ok. The UAA will given them plenty of results against regionally ranked opponents, which could likely jump them up into the Top 10 by the end of January. But for now, Whitewater remains one spot ahead.
- Puget Sound: The Loggers jump ahead in my ballot after what I considered to be a strong showing in San Antonio. They took down Mary Hardin-Baylor on a last-second shot Tuesday, then came back and nearly beat Trinity (TX), falling behind only in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. And even then, the margin was only six. They looked poised, and certainly have consistent scorers who have seemingly emerged over the course of the year. The NWC is theirs to lose in my opinion.
- Babson: Babson struggled majorly in the “Sunshine State”, falling by 19 to Loras, before edging Hanover by a single point the following day. I get it. It’s right before Christmas and you’re far from home, which can sometimes make the motivation tough to come by. I think Babson is certainly a Top 20 team and Loras had one of its best games of the year, on the wrong day for Babson. Still, because their SOS is not tremendously strong, the loss puts them from #9 to #16.
- Rochester: Rochester remains at #17 for me and I know there are mixed opinions as to where Rochester should be ranked, as the win over Ithaca does not seem to have as much significance to some voters at this point. Part of that is that Ithaca hasn’t played in a month, so the Bombers’ ranking has dropped fairly significantly. But Rochester is a force that is hard to stop with Katie Titus on the floor, and I’m excited to see how the Yellowjackets fair in a stacked UAA schedule to open 2023.
- Springfield: The NEWMAC will be an interesting conference with Babson and Springfield going head to head atop the standings. Springfield is 9-1, on a nine-game win streak, and will be tested for the first time since, in all honesty, Nov. 12 (against Rowan) on Friday, when the Pride plays Trinity (CT). Springfield needs a win there to stay in the Top 20.
- Gustavus Adolphus: St. Benedict has shot up in the Massey ratings to #26, making the Gusties’ 64-47 win on the road in November seem all the more impressive. Watching Gustavus Adolphus play, I’m really impressed by the overall ability to rebound, both by the guards and forwards. It really limits the opposition’s second-chance opportunities, which has come up key in a handful of very notable defensive efforts from the Gusties. I’m interested to see how they respond to the 20-day break, facing Luther on Dec. 30.
- Hardin-Simmons: HSU has taken care of business since the two losses just before Thanksgiving to Trinity. The Cowgirls are 6-0 in the ASC, with some very one-sided results. They play Bates and SUNY-Geneseo in Puerto Rico this coming week.
- Tufts: As I’ve said before, Tufts has a decent resume, and is 9-2, with losses to strong UAA teams (NYU & Emory), but I just haven’t seen the Jumbos put a super convincing performance on the floor yet. Much like Chicago, they’ll have plenty of opportunities in the coming months, entering into NESCAC play.
- UC Santa Cruz: UCSC nearly took down UW-Whitewater, but regardless of the loss it was the Banana Slugs’ first against a D-III opponent this season. In order to jump into the Pool C conversation, though, (in the case they would need a Pool C), a win at Mary Hardin-Baylor is key this coming Friday. By my estimate, they have five more opportunities to pick up regionally-ranked wins, and it starts against UMHB. Those RROs will be huge for a team like UCSC, who doesn’t have consistent conference games to boost its strength of schedule and RRO opportunities.
- Mary Hardin-Baylor: The Crusaders really struggled in San Antonio, dropping games to both Trinity and Puget Sound. They went down by 20 in the first quarter of Monday’s game against Trinity, and it somewhat set the tone for the next 48 hours, though they stayed in the fight in both games, nearly taking the lead against Trinity in fact, in that one. This is a very young team, with a number of players who have never played together. Once UMHB finds a collective rhythm, the Cru could certainly make a run. The Pool C situation (by which UMHB qualified for the tournament last year) is unclear. They need a win over UCSC just as badly as UCSC needs a win over them.
- Ohio Northern: ONU is a team that I considered voting for in the last ballot, but ended up opting for Gustavus Adolphus and Calvin. ONU has proven itself and was a team I voted for early on in the year, a couple weeks after the Polar Bears upset Trine. That Trine win, since it was on the road, remains incredibly impressive, but beyond that, wins over Washington & Jefferson and Marietta are great for their resume. Head Coach Michelle Durand has her team in prime position in the OAC.
- Loras: Beating Babson on a neutral court pushes Loras into my Top 25, because the Duhawks also beat UW-Eau Claire (if I remember right, UWEC was #9 at the time as well!) on Dec. 10. Those are two outstanding wins. Now comes a showdown with Calvin on Thursday evening that should be very competitive. I like Loras’ chances to win the ARC. This is a team we’ll be seeing in March.
- Calvin: With a matchup against Loras looming, Calvin needs a win in Iowa to jump back into my Top 25. I really like the team that head coach Mark Christner has. Remember, this is a squad that beat Whitewater not long ago, when the Warhawks were a Top 10 team. That said, it seems fairly certain that Calvin will need a Pool C bid to get into the NCAA Tournament, as will one other team from the MIAA. So regionally-ranked wins will be super important, and beating Loras would be a good addition to a resume that already has one or two RROs at this point.
- UW-Stout: Stout has 10 straight wins after losing the season opener to Gust. Adolphus. We’ll see the Blue Devils tested in a big way come January, when the WIAC schedule opens with River Falls. Platteville, La Crosse and Whitewater. Wow.
- Ithaca: Ithaca hasn’t played in quite some time, so I have no idea what kind of team we’ll get when they step onto the floor against Hamilton on Jan. 2.
- Bowdoin: I’m looking forward to watching Bowdoin battle NYU on Friday in what should be a good matchup. Their best win right now is probably either Bates or Framingham State.
- Hamilton: Wins over St. John Fisher and Rochester highlight the resume, and Hamilton could be a real dark horse contender in the NESCAC this season. They play Ithaca on Jan. 2 in a high-quality non-conference contest; their last before conference action tips off.
More than likely, my next post will come on Thursday, but we will see. Stay tuned for that, and enjoy this final week of 2022. What a year it has been! As always, leave your questions, thoughts, feedback, and comments below. Keep supporting D3 women’s basketball, and if you’re a fan reading this, get out to a game if you can this week or next. We’re less than three months away from the Final Four (but not the national championship, which will be on April 2), which is hard to believe. This is the time of year when college hoops really ramps up.