January 10, 2023
By Riley Zayas, @ZayasRiley
Back with another ballot breakdown…this time for Week 6 after a wild week in D3 women’s hoops! Here is how I’m seeing the Top 25 right now…
Trinity (TX): I went back on forth with whether to keep the Tigers #1 or put NYU back in the top spot, but at the end of the day, Trinity’s resume remains stronger at this point in my opinion, with four Massey Top 70 wins compared to just two for NYU. Not to mention, the experience and depth Trinity has continues to make them a very dangerous matchup for any opponent.
NYU: The Violets are still very close to Trinity in a lot of ways, and there’s not a clear No. 1 at this point. Still, Trinity has more quality wins based on Massey’s ratings, and just going on the eye test, I think the Tigers are the better team right now. Will they be next week? Who knows…but right now, that’s how I’m seeing it. NYU has looked good in its key games against Bowdoin and Tufts and there is a very likely chance the Violets will stay No. 1 in the poll this week.
Christopher Newport: I’m sure you’ll be able to find video of this somewhere (or even just on demand on the W&L website), but CNU’s game against W&L yesterday went into double OT with the Captains winning 104-102. But after the first OT it seemed the game was all but over, as CNU went up 93-91 in the final seconds, but a technical foul AFTER the final buzzer against the CNU bench kept W&L alive. Hanna Malik hit back-to-back free throws with no time on the clock, sending it into a second OT. It was one of the more thrilling finishes of the weekend, no doubt. That said, W&L did expose some areas, and because W&L was careful with the ball, it limited CNU’s opportunities to generate turnovers. That will be something to keep an eye on moving forwards.
Transylvania: The defense continues to reign supreme for the Pioneers, who held Defiance to just 40 points on Saturday. Transy has allowed 50 points or more in just two of its 14 games this season. That’s enough for me to slide them up two spots.
Hope: Hope looked good on the road against Olivet and Alma, though neither opponent has more than four wins this season. The Flying Dutch are 13-1, on a four-game win streak, and though Carlee Crabtree is no longer on the roster, freshman Sydney Vis has really stepped up, with 11 points against Olivet. Karsen Karlblom is another freshman who has seen some more minutes as of late.
Scranton: The Lady Royals continue to impress me under the leadership of new head coach Ben O’Brien, winning by 10 on the road at Catholic, who is 10-3, on Saturday. Though Scranton hasn’t played the toughest schedule out there, the Lady Royals have risen to the challenge every time they’ve been faced with a top-quality opponent (ex. Ithaca, Catholic, Wartburg).
Smith: Springfield might not be in its top form right now, having lost two of its last three, but still, for Smith to win against Springfield by 14 on Saturday is an impressive result to me. Watching that one live, I liked how well Smith attacked the boards with 11 offensive rebounds. This is a team that seems to have made great strides over the course of the year, starting out with some unconvincing wins but is playing at a high level right now, on a six-game win streak.
Baldwin-Wallace: BW drops down in my ballot a little bit, after narrowly surviving an overtime upset bid from Mount Union earlier in the week. The Yellowjackets are still 13-0, and have some notable victories, but have now been taken down to the wire twice in the last two weeks against Hamilton and Mount Union. This is a clear Top 10 team, and the margin between Smith and BW seems very thin.
DeSales: DeSales is another undefeated team in my top 10, at 13-0, though I haven’t seen them challenged much yet, which makes it hard to rank them. Their last two results have been 82-18 and 72-30. Talk about playing in one-sided games…
UW-Whitewater: To go to UW-Eau Claire and win with points to spare is very impressive to me, considering the Warhawks barely beat UW-Stevens Point this past Wednesday at home. Having a positive mentality on the road is so key, as Whitewater has now won at UC Santa Cruz and UW-Eau Claire in two quality victories. The defense from UWW was very good against the WIAC’s top shooting team, and puts them back in my top 10.
UW-Eau Claire: Whitewater is now the higher-ranked of the two WIAC teams in my ballot, but not by much. UWEC and UWW have very similar resumes now, though UWEC’s loss on Saturday doesn’t drop the Blugolds a whole lot in my ranking. Keep in mind they still have wins over Trine, Wartburg and UW-La Crosse.
Trine: The Thunder took care of business against St. Mary’s this past week, in a dominant 86-52 win. Their resume remains solid, highlighted by the victory at Hope last month, and I now have three three-loss teams in a row.
Rochester: I really like the 75-66 win at Emory, which came on Saturday. We saw how tough it was to play in Atlanta after Tufts fell to the Eagles by 15 a month ago, and Rochester is now 11-1 after winning there. Katie Titus is on pace to become the nation’s leading scorer, with another 20-plus point performance (26).
Babson: Babson gets bumped up three spots in my ballot after finding a way to down Tufts in a wild finish on the road Sunday. It was quite a game, and came down to the final shot, as the Beavers are now 11-1, having responded well to the Loras loss a couple weeks ago. The 60-51 win on Dec. 30 over Middlebury looks pretty good now after Middlebury beat Amherst on Saturday.
Chicago: WashU, despite battling some injuries, shocked Chicago in St. Louis on Saturday with perhaps the upset of the day. It is the Maroons’ first loss of the year, and I’m only dropping them three spots, despite falling to an unranked opponent (I’m confident there will be voters dropping them five or six spots). Had they played a tougher non-conference slate, the slide may not have been as great as it likely will be, but they also have a big-time win over Whitewater, that remains their only Massey Top 50 victory.
Trinity (CT): I should’ve ranked Trinity last week…there’s no other way to say it. The Bantams were #26 for me last week, but have now jumped into the middle of my ballot. At 13-1, Trinity is one of just two NESCAC teams who are 2-0 in conference play, having edged Bowdoin in a Top 25 matchup on Saturday, 49-43, in an incredible defensive effort.
Puget Sound: PS drops one spot, after struggling majorly in the first half against Willamette, but it was more due to Trinity’s big win over Bowdoin than anything the Loggers did. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from PS throughout the last four weeks or so, and have been impressed by the offensive depth on the roster, with several players who can easily go for 15 or 20 points on any given night.
Ohio Northern: ONU is 12-1, and hasn’t lost since Nov. 22. But it’s not all about just the results. Those are a factor, but not the only factor. Watching ONU live, I really like the grit on the defensive end seen from the Polar Bears. An overtime win over Otterbein was closer than I’d anticipated earlier this week. Once again, it is really hard to win on the road.
UW-Oshkosh: The Titans are another team that goes from unranked to in my Top 20. That’s what happens when you have the amount of parity we have in the division this season, and that’s a good problem for voters to have! Oshkosh has six Top 70 Massey wins right now, a statement only two other programs (UW-Eau Claire and Loras) can make. With a young roster, the Titans started out with a few tough defeats, but have weathered the storm and emerged on the other side, as much in the WIAC title race as anyone.
Hardin-Simmons: The Cowgirls took down McMurry this weekend in a crosstown showdown between the only two schools in the ASC located in the same city. HSU’s offense has been solid throughout its non-conference schedule and into ASC play, at 75.6 PPG and 44.6% shooting from the field (both No. 1 in the ASC). They still have the two losses to Trinity, but have won all the rest. They embark on a five-game road trip over the next three weeks, which will certainly test them.
Loras: After jumping into the Top 20 after being unranked for the entire year last week, the Duhawks dropped their next game to Luther, in a surprising upset. Again, it’s tough to win on the road, no matter who you are. Loras has a super impressive resume, and that game was one of the only times I’ve seen the Duhawks play poorly. They fell back just two spots, and it was more because of Oshkosh moving into my ballot than anything else.
Mary Hardin-Baylor: Another road test…another close result. That’s becoming the theme as I write this ballot breakdown. The Cru trailed by three at UT-Dallas on Saturday with three minutes left, but went on a 7-0 run to close it out, winning 53-49. The defensive effort was top-notch and though they did not score much, UMHB is improving as a collective unit coming off those two losses in San Antonio just before Christmas. We may look back and see that as the turning point of the year come March.
Millikin: Millkin was a team I voted for Week 1 and like Oshkosh, quickly fell out of my ballot. But the Big Blue is back in. Bailey Coffman has recovered from her jaw injury and is contributing off the bench at this point, scoring in double figures despite limited minutes as she works back into the rotation. Coffman, along with Elyse Knudsen, form a 1-2 punch that could end up winning Millikin the CCIW title. Millikin is 11-3, 3-0 in CCIW play at this point. The rough start is far in the rearview mirror for Olivia Lett’s squad.
Gustavus Adolphus: Losing to Bethel, 70-66, hurts the Gusties a fair amount in my ballot, especially as other teams continue to add quality wins. But Gusty is my favorite to win the MIAC title, and somewhat of a dark horse in my opinion. They don’t have any “earth-shattering” victories, but no bad losses either.
UW-La Crosse: This final spot came down to two WIAC programs with very similar resumes: UWL or UW-Stout. At the end of the day, I’m taking UWL, a program that has won its last five. Watching them play, the Eagles can win a bunch of different ways, which is very valuable in a team; they played fast at Chapman and won 74-48, this past Saturday, a defensive battle played out at Stevens Point, and they won 47-45. The defense is very good too, as the only WIAC team with over 100 blocked shots this season and the only team in the league allowing under 50 points per game (49.6).
Going beyond the ballot…here’s who my next five would be
UC Santa Cruz
-Trinity (TX) stays No. 1 for the third straight week (second with an official D3hoops.com ballot)
-Newcomers are: Millikin, UW-Oshkosh, Trinity (CT), UW-La Crosse
-Dropped out: Springfield, UC Santa Cruz, Amherst, Tufts
-Trinity (CT) makes the biggest jump, going from unranked to #16
-Oshkosh also goes from unranked to #19
-Whitewater has reentered the Top 10