The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: My Week 4 Top 25 ballot 2.0

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 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.

The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: November 29, 2022: The Week 1 Top 25 has been released!

Welcome back to another edition of The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops! The much-anticipated Week 1 Top 25 poll was released yesterday, and I’ve included some notes below on that. To check out the complete Top 25 poll, click here. As a , voter, I also broke down my ballot in an article here. But before getting to that, there is a Top 15 matchup you should be sure to tune into this evening…

Game of the Day: #14 Ithaca @ #8 Scranton, 7 pm EST

This will be not only the game of the day, but certainly one of the best games of the week, as we should see Scranton truly tested for the first time this season, while Ithaca is seeking yet another big win, after beating Cortland and Catholic in the last three weeks. Bridget Monaghan leads Scranton’s offensive attack, as 12.8 points per game, though first-year head coach Ben O’Brien has four starters averaging double figures in points. Ithaca can score too, and is averaging 65.0 points per game, behind the emergence of freshman Zoraida Icabalceta (11.0 PPG, 7-of-12 on 3pt) and senior forward Emily Dorn (12.0 PPG).

Some Top 25 Thoughts…

  • To start off at #1, I’m surprised that Hope was not a unanimous top pick. The Flying Dutch picked up 21 of the 25 possible first-place votes, but NYU had three and Transylvania had one. I just don’t see. Not yet, at least. Neither Transylvania nor NYU has beaten a team even close to the Top 25 this season. Hope has wins over #12 UW-Eau Claire, and a strong Illinois Wesleyan team, who received votes in the poll.
  • I understand that Smith was #7 in the preseason, and they are certainly a talented squad. But moving them up to #6, after barely beating Maine Maritime and Trinity (CT) in overtime is not something I would have expected. Time will tell with Smith.
  • Calvin had an incredible 48 or so hours. The Knights did not land on anybody’s preseason ballot, but after coming up with a two-point win over #9 UW-Whitewater (at the time ranked #4) on Saturday, Calvin found itself at #15 when yesterday’s ranking was released. The MIAA will be an intriguing conference to watch this season.
  • Rochester joins the club of being a team with zero preseason votes who ended up in the Top 20, coming in at #18. Consecutive wins over Messiah and St. John Fisher, teams ranked in the preseason who have now dropped out of the poll, certainly helped Rochester’s case. In a stacked UAA, they will have a great schedule to build their SOS, and also contend for the league title.
  • UC Santa Cruz made it debut in the poll, coming in at No. 22 with a 7-0 record. That is a big accomplishment for a team that seemed to be on the fringe of the Top 25 for most of last year.

Notes from around the division…

  • The biggest game yesterday was between DeSales and #25 Messiah, in which DeSales left no doubt in a 61-35 victory that saw its starting five account for all but seven of its points. I did not have DeSales in my ballot, in large part because I wanted to see how the Bulldogs fared against Messiah. You don’t anticipate seeing wins, even in November, by that margin between ranked teams. DeSales entered the Top 25 at #23, but ballots were submitted a few hours prior to tip-off. I anticipate the Bulldogs sliding up at least a few spots as long as there are no hiccups in the first two games of MAC Freedom play.
  • Alma took a three-point lead into the final quarter, and gave Capital all it could handle. But Capital put 23 points on the board in the fourth, winning on Bri O’Connor’s buzzer-beating jumper, as the Comets won 65-64. It was a great effort from an Alma team now 1-5 overall, while Capital is 4-1. Very exciting game down the stretch.
  • We had two postponements yesterday, one in which a reason was stated, and one in which it was not. Oglethorpe was scheduled to play Emory tonight, but “due to injuries and illness” the game was postponed, and will be rescheduled, according to a tweet from Ogelthorpe women’s basketball. Wentworth was also scheduled to play Dean, with both teams posting “gameday” announcements yesterday morning, before Wentworth released a tweet just after noon, saying simply: “Tonight’s women’s basketball game against Dean has been postponed. A make-up date, if available, will be announced.” Two postponements on the same day is not something we see all that often, though in D-III, where programs sometimes carry roster of only 10 or 11, a few players being out could risk injuring or overplaying the remaining healthy players available.
  • I received a message about McMurry in the American Southwest Conference yesterday from a loyal reader. Even as someone who covers the ASC, I had not noticed McMurry’s 5-0 start. Perhaps because the Warhawks aren’t exactly a team that has contended for titles in the ASC in a quite a long time. To put the 5-0 start into context, McMurry was 3-20 last season, so head coach Drew Long is doing something right. The university removed his interim tag following last season, and that will be a turnaround story to keep an eye on as the year progresses.

That’s all for today…but the plan is to have more notes and news in tomorrow’s post. Until then, enjoy your day and feel free to leave a comment with any questions or thoughts you might have.

The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: November 28, 2022: My Top 25 ballot…with context

Well, here we are. The first Top 25 ballot of the season comes out in just a few hours. Being a Top 25 voter (and I’m very appreciative to the D3hoops crew for giving me this opportunity), I did my best over the last several days to break down my ballot. It’s not perfect, and there are so many teams I considered, but came up with these 25. The best part of the season is still to come, and teams have only been playing games for about three weeks now. I did my best to give an accurate picture of how I’m seeing the best teams in D-III, and where they stand at this point. So here you go…my Top 25 ballot…explained.

#1 Hope

Hope entered the season at #1 and the Flying Dutch will stay there. At least for the time being. Because Hope showed no signs of a letdown in any of its first six contents, including battles against quality opponents in UW-Eau Claire and Illinois Wesleyan. If Brian Morehouse’s team is not a unanimous #1 this evening, I’ll be surprised.

#2 Transylvania

Watching Transylvania play, I was impressed by the ball movement and ability to create three-point shots through good passing. Transylvania could easily go undefeated this year, having already faced what is probably its toughest non-conference opponent in UT-Dallas in the season opener, a 57-43 win. Transylvania is an easy #2 for me.

#3 NYU

Thinking along those same lines, nothing has told me from watching NYU on film that the Violets should stay at #3. They’ve looked sharp in all five contests on both ends of the floor, particularly offensively, and though they haven’t played the strongest competition yet, NYU has won by margins worthy of keeping them in the #3 spot.

#4:Trinity (TX)

We have some movement now. Trinity beat #18 Hardin-Simmons, who I consider to be a very good team, twice this past week, completing the rare double of winning at HSU, then winning at home, in games separated by only five days. They won by at least six in each of those, as Trinity seems to look better and better each game. The Tigers will only get better once Maggie Shipley returns to the floor, whenever that might be.

#5 Christopher Newport

CNU has faced quality competition, though not a lot of it. The one notable non-conference win you could point to would be the 63-53 result over ETBU. But that game was played on the road early in the season, and the Captains certainly get some added points for that one. They’ve looked how I expected they would, like a Top 5-caliber team who will be awfully hard for anyone to stop this season.

#6 UW-Whitewater

In truth, I was already planning to move Whitewater down a spot in order to move Trinity up, considering I graded Trinity’s wins over HSU as very strong, especially the road win in Abilene. But Whitewater falls to #6 in my ballot after losing by a single point to unranked Calvin on Saturday. However, the Warhawks also have wins over Illinois Wesleyan and Millikin and will be a WIAC contender. No need to overreact to Saturday’s loss. The defense has also been fairly solid, ranked eighth by Massey ratings.

#7 Amherst

We had a discussion about this on Hoopsville the other day, with mixed feelings on Amherst. But with #7 Smith and #8 Trine both struggling somewhat, one certainly more than the other, I felt I had seen enough of Amherst to slide the Mammoths up to #7. Scranton was a close second in that conversation, but Amherst has a Top 25 win over #16 Springfield, which helps the resume. Defensively, the Mammoths look to be their usual selves, ranked #1 in that category by Massey.

#8 Smith

Smith had two overtime games against unranked opponents in Maine Maritime and yesterday, Trinity (CT). While I believe both of those opponents mentioned, especially Trinity, will be in contention for tournament spots come late February, I didn’t see the Smith team that I was anticipating. The foul defensively quite a bit, which almost single-handedly kept Trinity in it yesterday, but are a strong shooting team that is especially good in the post. I’ll keep them at #8 for the time being until I get a more consistent string of performances from them.

#9 Baldwin Wallace

The season-opening double overtime win over Trine instantly put #12 Baldwin Wallace into the Top 10 conversation for me. The Yellow Jackets took care of business in their last four, three of which were on the road. No win came by single digits, and BW is poised for a strong year in the OAC.

#10: Scranton

Scranton didn’t play even close to the toughest competition in its first five games, but the Lady Royals won all five by convincing margins. The closest result came at Gwynedd Mercy, in a 70-56 win, as Scranton played its second game in 24 hours.

#11: Tufts

Tufts doesn’t move up or down from its spot in the preseason poll on my ballot, though the Jumbos have been very good. I’ve watched them play at least three times, including yesterday against UNE. UNE was in it for the first three quarters, separated by a couple points, until a 17-3 run in the fourth made the victory much larger for Tufts. The win over Roger Williams adds to the SOS rating, as well. We’ll see where the other voters have Tufts…

#12: UW-Eau Claire

I’ve gotten a few messages about the Blugolds, who have a tremendous amount of experience, several of whom transferred in prior to either last season or this season. UWEC is right up there with Whitewater as a WIAC contender, and played Hope (at Hope) tough, despite falling 89-77. Besides that loss, UWEC has been terrific in my opinion, with an 11-point win over Wartburg, and though I don’t put much stock into non-D3 results, fell by just two in an early season contest at D-II Concordia-St. Paul.

#13: Mary Hardin-Baylor

This is where the ballot got tough, between the numbers of 13-20. There are so many preseason ranked teams in this area who lost a few times within the first couple weeks, making it tough to figure out who should stay, and where those teams should go. UMHB, using its notable depth, came out of the gate with two wins over Emory and Lynchburg, both on the road. They started later than everybody else, and Emory gave the Crusaders a fight. I’ll need more time to get a good feel for where the Cru stand, but initially watching the guard play, and the post players Mark Morefield has brought in, UMHB is a comfortable mid-section Top 25 team for me.

#14 Trine

The loss at Baldwin Wallace was not great for Trine, but understandable, considering it was the season opener, and on the road. But the recent loss at home to unranked Ohio Northern really hurts Trine’s resume. Still, they played both of those games competitively, keeping it close, and while I certainly haven’t seen anything that tells me they’re a Top 10 team right now, nothing says they won’t be once MIAA play gets going.

#15 Springfield

Springfield’s lone loss came at Amherst, and by a mere four-point margin. The 14-point win over Williams on Nov. 22 was impressive, considering it marked Williams’ only loss of the season thus far. Springfield moves up one spot in my poll, though I’ll be keeping a close eye to see how they progress once NEWMAC play begins.

#16 Ithaca

Ithaca was #20 in the preseason poll, but now has quality victories at home against Cortland (in overtime) and on the road against Catholic (67-65). The big test is tonight against undefeated DeSales, which would have been convenient to be played before we had to submit our ballots, rather than after. But still, Ithaca is undefeated, and ranked #25 by Massey. Overall, I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far.

#17 Whitman

Had trouble figuring out who to put here, as Millikin (#14 in the preseason) has three losses and St. John Fisher (#17 in the preseason) has two. Whitman has one loss to NAIA power Lewis & Clark State. Besides that performance, Whitman has played every game on the road (some being neutral site matchups), and emerged with a 5-1 record. Led by Korin Baker and Sydney Abbott, the Blues are the clear NWC favorites.

#18 Babson

Babson has played just three games, but has come away 3-0, facing opponents who currently have a win percentage of .500 or better. They’ve been good defensively, holding opponents to a shooting percent of 28.4%, and overall have come out of the gates strong. The 61-53 home win over Roger Williams is Babson’s most notable victory up to this point.

#19 UW-Oshkosh

Oshkosh is 6-0 to start the year, having won at Bethel, Wartburg and DePauw, as well as Augustana (neutral site). Not a bad non-conference SOS in the first month. Though Brad Fischer has a younger squad than in years past, the development seems to be progressing game-to-game, and Oshkosh is certainly in the WIAC title conversation.

#20: Rochester

Watching Rochester play, I’m surprised they didn’t end up with a Top 25 spot in the preseason. With consecutive wins over ranked opponents in Messiah and St. John Fisher, Rochester jumped onto the radar of plenty of voters. They’ll have their fair share of tests in a stacked UAA this season, but the quality of the wins over those two previously mentioned teams, along with a victory over UT-Dallas gives me confidence in their place amongst the country’s best at this point in the year.

#21 Hardin-Simmons

HSU drops a bit after losing to Trinity twice in one week, especially at home, but the Cowgirls will soon regain their rhythm. After all, I have Trinity at #4. HSU did not have the greatest non-conference start to the season, with wins over Texas Lutheran, Schreiner and Austin College (all teams below .500), but I’ve seen enough to know that HSU has playmakers and will be a force once again in the ASC. ETBU should be a quality test to give us a better idea of where they are heading into next week’s poll.

#22 Illinois Wesleyan

I’ve gone back and forth on this one, but IWU looked very good in the win over DePauw on Saturday, a quality non-conference victory for sure. They’re playing one of the tougher schedules in the country, and the 5-2 record is a bit misleading, considering both losses are to Top 10 teams in Hope and Whitewater. And both came on the road. IWU also beat Capital by 11, and WashU yesterday by 15. The Titans will be a force in the CCIW, and from my perspective, are the favorites.

#23 UC Santa Cruz

I said at the beginning of the year that UCSC was poised for a big run this season. With leading scorers Ashley Kowack and Kaylee Murphy back, along with a number of other key returners from last year’s team that went 16-4, UCSC has delivered, with a 7-0 run. Whitworth gave them all they could handle yesterday, as the Banana Slugs held on for a 58-57 win. Head coach Todd Kent is limited on his scheduling options, which may hurt UCSC’s ranking nationally early on. But watching them play multiple times, I continue to see them as a Top 25 team who will be impressive throughout this year.

#24 Calvin

Calvin was not a team I had at the forefront of my radar as we entered this year, but nonetheless, the Knights showed just how dangerous they can be, beating UW-Whitewater on the road on Saturday, 66-64. It was a narrow victory, but Calvin was the first to hand the Warhawks a loss in 2022-23, and will look to keep it going against Hope this week. Led by Gabby Timmer, the Knights are 5-0, also with wins over Colorado College and at Wisconsin Lutheran.

#25 Millikin

I debated for quite some time on whether to keep Millikin in or insert a team like Marietta, St. John Fisher or Messiah into my ballot. After all, a 3-3 start isn’t exactly eye-popping. But I want to give it more time, because Millikin has plenty of talent on the roster, Olivia Lett is an experienced head coach, and I believe they’ll turn things around here soon. Losses to UW-Stevens Point, UW-Whitewater and WashU all came on the road or at a neutral site, but still, I’m interested to see where Millikin goes from here. They certainly haven’t looked like what most thought they would be, but there are more tests still to come, with several big matchups early in CCIW play for Millikin.

Just outside

26.Puget Sound

27. Marietta

28. UW-La Crosse

29. St. John Fisher

30. Messiah

Got questions? Comments? Thoughts in general? Feel free to leave a note below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave’s Top 25 Ballot: Week 2

St. John Fisher had a rough week at the Wendy's Classic and plummeted down my ballot.

St. John Fisher had a rough week at the Wendy’s Classic and plummeted down my ballot.

Another week… another head-scratching, paper-worn-through-by-eraser, want-to-throw-darts-instead voting job. It isn’t a surprise, but I do need to consider either stronger paper to deal with all of the erasing… or another note taking, scribbling plan.

This is kind of fun. It is nice to know there are plenty of teams who actually deserve to be considered, though that is evenly weighed by the fact there are is a sizable part of the poll no teams seem to fit.

The thing is… the beginning of this season is so wide open it is hard to really gauge who is who, what is what, and why is why. There are some teams I can not figure out what is going on with. There are others I fear are just smoke and mirrors. Then there are those who clearly are not living up to even their own expectations. The challenge is to weed out the smoke and mirrors and look at what is really going on with teams both excelling and struggling.

There are plenty of teams who are undefeated, but that doesn’t mean they are the best 25 teams in the country. There are also plenty of teams who have one, two, three, even four losses, but that doesn’t mean a team taking losses isn’t good. Schedules are not equal. Most people realize that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get emails or tweets (even just mentions) suggesting a team who is 7-0 is probably worthy despite the fact they have played just one team above .500 and most of their opponents would be considered in the bottom quarter of the entire division. I applaud the great start to the season, but the Top 25 has rooms for just 5.9% of the programs who play Division III men’s basketball. If you really think about that… that really is a small number. If you see 17 different teams in a season per year, you on average see just one Top 25 team (if you see that much variety in teams).

What I am trying to say is with parity clearly a major factor, there are plenty of teams people think are Top 25 worthy based on simple things like a great record or a significant win. There are also plenty of teams who in a normal year might not normally deserve to be in a Top 25 right now, but considering the playing field has been far rockier they are still part of the conversation.

OK… let’s get to my ballot. Like last week, I feel pretty comfortable for the top six spots… after that, it’s a free-for-all. There are absolutely teams higher than I feel comfortable with, but there is a large gap between 7 and probably 15 where, as I have said repeatedly in the past, you have to slot teams. My number ten team may not really feel the tenth best in the country, but neither does anyone else… but someone has to be number ten – those are the rules.

So with that… here we go. Some teams won’t need or get any comments for varying reasons (I can’t write a synopsis on every single team each week), but those who made significant moves will certainly get a comment.

1 – Augustana^ (Unchanged)
Not that I need to make a comment here, but did you see what Augustana did against UW-Whitewater (2014’s national champs) and UW-Stevens Point (2015’s national champs)?! While it was a UWW lead at halftime, it was over once the second half started. And UWSP just couldn’t keep pace in what is believed to be the first championship game, regular season rematch since 2001 (William Paterson and Catholic). Augustana is good.

2 – Whitworth (Unchanged)

3 – Hope (Unchanged)
The Wheaton (Ill.) game was worrisome, sure. But Hope also showed it is capable of fighting back and earning a victory even if they aren’t on their game.

Mike DeWitt's Ohio Wesleyan squad is off to a terrific start after beating Wooster last week.

Mike DeWitt’s Ohio Wesleyan squad is off to a terrific start after beating Wooster last week.

4 – Ohio Wesleyan (Up 2)
A pretty dominating win over Wooster certainly allowed me to feel more comfortable with how high I had them in the first place, but it also allowed me to move the Battling Bishops up thanks to a loss by another team. Add to what I said last week, there aren’t any coaches or anyone else I’ve talked to about Ohio Wesleyan who doesn’t praise how good they are.

5 – St. Thomas* (Down 1)
I certainly didn’t expect the Tommies to go undefeated this season nor in what is a far deeper MIAC than it was three, maybe five, years ago. However, I did expect them to hold court in the conference at least to the bottom two-thirds to three-quarters. I know Carleton is a much improved team, but St. Thomas was exposed a bit especially after a bit of a break following the Hoopsville Classic (they played Concordia-Moorehead three days prior, but had been off for 11 days prior).

6 – Amherst^ (Down 1)
The only reason I knocked the Lord Jeffs down was simply because they don’t exactly have the world’s most stellar out-of-conference schedule to-date. So yes, Amherst is undefeated, but they should be – and the games haven’t been close. However, I still think St. Thomas is a better team than Amherst because the Lord Jeffs haven’t exactly shown otherwise.

7 – Elmhurst (Unchanged)

8 – Marietta (Unchanged)

9 – Brooklyn (Up 5)
Yeah… big jump for a team who wasn’t even in my preseason Top 25. They have gone from off my Top 25 into my Top 10 – big jump. Not sure Brooklyn is a Top 10 squad, but as I indicated earlier… teams have to fill these slots. I also might be buying in a little bit too much, but I got a chance to watch them online this past weekend I was pretty impressed. Also similar to Ohio Wesleyan, when I talk to coaches and others in the Atlantic Region, they talk pretty well about the Bulldogs.

10 – Babson^ (Down 2)
Another loss has me a little concerned. This might be a bit of team chemistry as Joey Flannery gets used to having different responsibilities and looking to new teammates to relieve the pressure. He also has teammates getting used to new roles and a transfer who everyone is adjusting to. The loss this past week was to a pretty decent Tufts squad and in overtime, so I am not panicking.

Mount Union has gone up and down on my ballot mainly thanks to just not being able to figure out 7-25.

11 – Mount Union (Up 7)
The Purple Raiders have been on my personal yo-yo so far this season. Preseason #7; Week 1 #18. This is more the result of what is going on around Mount Union then themselves. They are 5-2 (at voting time), but seem to be getting over their early struggles. Again, they probably aren’t the eleventh best team in the country… but who really is.

12 – Christopher Newport (Unranked)
Well hello Captains! Yeah… another big jump especially for a team unranked prior. However, I realized about 24 hours after I posted my Top 25 that I probably should have found a way to include Christopher Newport on my ballot last week. It isn’t like they aren’t good, haven’t been good, and aren’t beating normally good teams. Yes, those they have beaten seem to be off to tough starts… but many have especially those who are going out there and challenging themselves early in their seasons. However, they beat a very good Salisbury team and looked good doing it. Again, probably not truly the twelfth best team, but… I’m repeating myself.

13 – Benedictine (Up 3)

14 – Chicago^ (Up 5)
A major move up for the Maroons, I know. It is more about those moving around them and filling in spots, plenty more about the fact I am not sure those behind them are better or playing better than Chicago, sprinkled in with the fact many still feel the Maroons will win the UAA.

15 – John Carroll (Up 7)
I am leery about how high I put the Blue Streaks. I am just not ready to buy in to what hasn’t been there for awhile. However, they are still winning (7-0 at voting time) while those around them are not necessarily winning. So upward they… streak?

16 – Salisbury* (Up 1)
Ha… these are those moments that have happened a few times early this season where a team loses and moves up (hint, there is at least one more coming on this ballot). The Sea Gulls moved up for three reasons: they lost to a team I realized should have been on my ballot in the first place, the team they lost to (Christopher Newport) is now ranked ahead of them, and I’m not exactly sure any program behind them should be ahead of them.

17 – UW-Stevens Point^ (Down 4)
I realize the Pointers lost to the number one team in the country and I just moved Salisbury up after losing a game, but UW-Stevens Point were just too high on my ballot. Augustana controlled the game (something they didn’t have a prayer of doing in Salem for the title) and Stevens Point was just unable to make Augustana not play their game (from what I could see while watching online sitting courtside at the 50th Wendy’s College Classic). UWSP probably is still a valid Top 25 team, but not sure they are a Top 15 program right now – remember, they are young this season.

18 – Stockton^ (Down 7)
I don’t know. I’ve got nothing. The NJAC is off to a crazy start. I almost just want to remove all NJAC teams, let them get through the first half of the double-round-robin, and then go back and take a look. If only the Ospreys could win the games you expect them to. There is a better chance Coach Gerry Matthews will stand up during a game than apparently Stockton wins a game they should win (just kidding, Stockton fans and Coach Matthews… I just get a kick out of watching him on the sidelines). Nothing like starting conference play already behind the eight-ball.

19 – Virginia Wesleyan^ (Up 2)

20 – Washington Univ.^ (Down 7)
I actually debated about removing the Bears from ballot altogether. They looked horrible against Illinois Wesleyan. It was an ugly game. There just isn’t any way to sugar coat it. I don’t like throwing my vote around to teams and I worry I got a little to enthusiastic last week with Wash U. I said just as much last week. But they had been winning and looking good doing it… but man did they not look good or win against IWU. And I can’t tell you how many people, especially those who know the program well, who say they aren’t a Top 25 team. I get it… but I am keeping them here for now. It isn’t like it they can avoid playing in the UAA, right?

Texas Lutheran is backing up their first NCAA appearance with a terrific start to the season.

Texas Lutheran is backing up their first NCAA appearance with a terrific start to the season.

21 – Texas Lutheran (Unranked)
I thought about this for a really long time. The Bulldogs were not going to be on my ballot until pretty much the last minute. They are off to a terrific start after winning the SCAC and earning their first NCAA tournament appearance in program history. They are also being guided by second-year coach Jimmy Smith who is also only in his fourth year coaching period. So yes… they have plenty of youth and inexperience. However, they have beaten Hardin-Simmons, East Texas Baptist, and Mary Hardin-Baylor (Smith’s alma mater) in their last four games. That isn’t bad considering two of them were on my Top 25 ballot so far this season and the other isn’t that far removed from a national championship game appearance. Now, their only blemish is to Pacific Lutheran who isn’t ranked (outside of TLU, PLU hasn’t really played anyone besides TLU and Chicago and are 1-1 in those games). Could I be throwing my vote around here? Maybe, but there are a LOT of teams to consider at this point of the ballot.

22 – East Texas Baptist (Up 1)
Ha… here we are again! Lose a game and move up. Well, ETBU lost to TLU who is now ranked ahead of them… and I needed to create a little bit more room below.

23 – St. John Fisher* (Down 13)
Ouch. The Cardinals will probably be happy never to see the Wendy’s Classic again. I really liked what I saw at the Hoopsville Classic. Not sure I can say the same from now from afar. I know they are playing without one of their key returnees due to injury, but even a banged-up St. John Fisher squad should have been able to figure out how to beat RIT and probably Brockport (who does look better than expected). However, it was the fact they lost by 17 to Brockport that was disturbing. Hopefully the Cardinals can get back to more consistent winning ways or they could be making post-season plans far more difficult.

24 – Oswego State (Unranked)
Surprise! Lose a game and ENTER the Top 25. Not the most shocking thing ever, but at this point in the poll I’m looking at another 15 teams and none of them felt as “comfortable” as the rest. Sure, the loss to Buffalo State wasn’t ideal, but you don’t talk to people in the East Region without the Lakers being brought up in conversation when chatting about the best teams. The SUNYAC will once again be a challenge, but Oswego has been pointing to this season for awhile.

25 – Wooster (Down 1)

Dropped Out:

William Paterson (Previously 15)
Not much I am going to say here. I said quite a bit last week. Here is a team that could do some special things this season, but they seem to be letting other things distract them. Yes, their coach has been fired and appeal is underway, but that is something to rally behind… not let the wheels come off the truck. Four losses already (one being a forfeit the NCAA has officially ruled as a 2-0 loss) have put the Pioneers so far in the hole, they probably have ruined what could have been a terrific season. I hope it was worth it, seniors.

Catholic’s Bryson Fonville has 18.0 ppg (2nd), but the team is giving up 76.1 ppg, the most allowed this century by a Cardinals squad.

Catholic^ (Previously 20)
No idea what to say. The Cardinals obviously have a big target on them this season, thus they are taking everyone’s best shots, but they aren’t doing anything about it. If you read the D3boards you will see people comment that defense has been apparently optional by the starting five. There was even a question about shaking up the starting lineup and getting deeper into the bench. I have no clue what is really going on, but defense certainly looks to be lacking. And instead of starting conference play by stamping their authority on things, they have started with a whimper.

Northwestern (Previously 25)
The Eagles didn’t exactly do anything horrible to come off my ballot except lose to Bethel (who is undefeated). However, there are a lot of questions to ask and try and find answers the further down you get on a ballot and I just didn’t feel as strongly about Northwestern this week as I did last week.

Previous Ballots:
Week 1

* – teams I have seen in person this season.
^ – teams I have seen in person in the last 12 months.

So, there you have it. I will say, and as I have said, I don’t feel comfortable with my Top 25. I could change it over and over and over and… again. At some point, you just have to stop and hit “submit” and move on. I was talking to JC DeLass (who will tell you he is a Top 25 voter as well) for Hoopsville Sunday when I was in Rochester for the Wendy’s Classic and he mentioned how many voters don’t feel comfortable with who are the top twenty-five schools in the country for a few more weeks. I shuttered when he said it because I usually feel like I want to have an accurate ballot each week. Despite losses and surprises, I do want to feel like I am reading the tea leaves correctly and not vote for a ballot that has teams on it that simply don’t deserve to be there. However, JC’s point is accurate and one I have become comfortable with… this is not even close to an exact science. Should I take it seriously enough to make sure my ballot is not just wild guesses? No. Should I accept the fact that this time of a season especially with so much parity you might read a team wrong? Yes… it is going to happen.

So… I/we will keep trying to read the tea leaves and weed throw the smoke and mirrors… and not miss something we should notice while falling for something we should be ignoring. Let’s see how things feel next Monday. 🙂