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D3hoops Top 25, Week 1: Breakdown, Analysis, and Opinions

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

Akiva Poppers is the Executive Producer of MacsLive, and one of the 25 members of the Men’s Basketball Top 25 voting panel.


On Monday, dropped their second Top 25 of the 2021-22 season (with the first being the preseason poll). For the first time in program history, Yeshiva has found itself ranked #1 in the poll. The poll is expected to be released on a near-weekly basis for the remainder of the season.

Below, you will find my thoughts on the poll. I’m also including the team’s change in placement in the rankings in square brackets, as well as where I ranked each team, which can be found in curly brackets. So for example, 3 Randolph-Macon [2] {4} means that Randolph-Macon is ranked #3 in the poll, down 2 spots from the preseason poll, and I ranked Randolph-Macon 4th.

1 Yeshiva [↑ 1] {1}: While Yeshiva has yet to play any nationally-acclaimed competition, the Maccabees are rolling early on, and sit at 8-0 with a 32.9 margin of victory. When playing at their best, Yeshiva clearly appears to me to be the #1 team in the country; however, the Macs have had some lapses, particularly in first halves, which make me question the team’s mentality. If Yeshiva consistently plays like they did against Lycoming, PSU-Schuylkill, Eastern CT, and SJC-Brooklyn, I will keep them at #1; if the Macs show me the sloppiness and poor execution on both ends of the ball which plagued them against SJC-LI, CMSV, Purchase, and Manhattanville, I will likely end up dropping them from the top spot.

2 Illinois Wesleyan [↑ 2] {3}: Illinois Wesleyan, led by All-American Matt Leritz, is fantastic. I didn’t think the Titans played so well against UW-Oshkosh in the Jack Sikma Hall of Fame Invitational Championship, yet IWU was still able to come out victorious by 2. This is a no-doubt-about-it Top 5 team which will be competing for a National Championship in March.

3 Randolph-Macon [↓ 2] {4}: Randolph-Macon has had a brutal schedule to begin the season; the Yellow Jackets have already played and defeated Emory, Marietta, and NJCU, but fell to Christopher Newport in overtime. In that road loss, RMC was missing underrated defensive stalwart Josh Talbert, although that doesn’t excuse the 18 offensive rebounds allowed to CNU. I think it’s important not to gloss over Macon’s 1st and 3rd games of the season, when they struggled to separate themselves from Carnegie Mellon and almost let Mary Washington come from behind late. This is a super-disciplined, clear top team, but they need to beat up weaker competition consistently for me to vote them #1.

UW-Platteville has really impressed me in the early season (Photo Credit: UW-Platteville Athletics)

4 UW-Platteville [↑ 1] {2}: UW-Platteville’s starting lineup is loaded with talent, especially at forward; Kyle Tuma is an absolute stud. The Pioneers don’t run much, I’m not a huge fan of what they run, and I have some concerns about their depth, but when considering all other aspects of the game, this might be the best team in the country.

5 Wheaton (IL) [↑ 1] {13}: Wheaton is the first team in these rankings which I’m significantly lower on than the voters. I think it’s important to note that, based on what I saw from them last year, I had the Thunder at 17 in my preseason poll; the D3hoops panel had Wheaton at 6. While they’ve nearly lost on multiple occasions, I’ve been slightly more impressed with them this year than last year, which is why I jumped the Thunder to 13. I’m still not sure what the panel sees in Wheaton.

6 St. Joseph (CT) [↑ 3] {5}: After YU, UWP, IWU, and RMC, I see a significant drop off as of now; I’ll be keeping an eye on which other teams can separate themselves from the pack and join this tier. I think that USJ has a good shot to do so, which is why I am comfortable placing the Blue Jays at 5. However, Delshawn Jackson Jr. hasn’t played in the last few games. This concerns me, and I think USJ is a borderline top 10 team if he’s not healthy. I am looking forward to Saint Joe’s matchup against Marietta in late December.

As a side note, all the best to former Coach Jim Calhoun in his retirement.

7 Elmhurst [↑ 3] {20}: I'm well lower than the panel on Elmhurst; I don’t believe this is a Top 10 team. They are far too dribble-centric for my liking, and when they are in trouble, they will go into hero-ball mode. It has worked for them so far, as they are 6-0, but I do believe it will burn the Bluejays on multiple occasions this season. I will be watching their games closely to see if things change over the course of the year.

8 UW-La Crosse [↑ 7] {9}: UW-La Crosse has played well so far, and do appear to me to be a borderline Top 10 team. The Eagles nearly fell in a couple of tough road games against Augsburg and Ripon, but survived in both, in overtime, by the score of 75-74. A brutal week (vs. UW-Platteville on Wednesday, vs. UW-Oshkosh on Saturday) awaits.

9 Roanoke [↑ 11] {7}: Clay Nunley has his team playing fantastic defensive basketball; this Roanoke team looks like Randolph-Macon-lite to me. Just like Macon, the Maroons will have games, such as their win over Marietta, where they dominate defensively and create too big of a gap to overcome; they will also have others, like that against Methodist (a two-point win) where they keep not as high-level competition in the game late. I do believe Macon is better, but I am looking forward to the two facing off, in Roanoke, on Saturday, in what should be a slow-paced slugfest.

10 UW-Oshkosh [↑ 7] {6}: I have Oshkosh at 6, but I think 10 is where they belong; I just am not comfortable putting any teams other than the core 4 and Saint Joseph ahead of them yet. Oshkosh is very talented, but I am not a fan of their offensive attack; they tend to take inefficient shots and are dribble- and guard-centric. I think they will struggle with size.

11 Mary Hardin-Baylor [↑ 1] {8}: I haven’t seen enough of Mary Hardin-Baylor to figure out where they belong. I’m still not sure if this is a team which will compete for a National Championship, or if this is the 20th best team in D3. The Crusaders have a fantastic offensive attack though, headlined by All-American Josiah Johnson.

12 Mount Union [↑ 9] {19}: Mount Union is a good team. I’ve been most impressed by their balanced scoring attack. Their highlight win so far was over Trine, where the Purple Raiders clearly looked like the better team. I do think that game said more about Trine than Mount Union, but I’m pretty confident that Mount Union is a Top 25 team.

13 Marietta [↓ 10] {10}: Marietta enters December with a couple of losses, to Roanoke and Randolph-Macon. In both games, they played right into their opponents’ hands; they are dribble-heavy, which both Roanoke and RMC are fantastic at defending against. I’m quite certain that I’m lower on Marietta than the average voter, yet I still have the Pios ranked higher than the panel. This is likely because my methodology takes results in big games less into account than most do, and instead focuses more on what I see from a film perspective, as well as on team mentality.

14 Trine [↓ 7] {22}: I’ve been disappointed by Trine in the early going. This is an extremely talented team and their capabilities were on display last season, but they haven’t shown much yet this year. The Thunder are struggling to beat average teams, and fell to Mount Union by 10. My ranking of them at #22 represents solely how they have performed this season; this is a team capable of nearing my Top 10.

15 Johns Hopkins [↓ 1] {12}: After losing their opener to Christopher Newport, Hopkins has played a little better in their recent games. This still isn’t a Top 10 team in my eyes, however, although it’s great to see Connor Delaney back on the hardwood.

16 Whitworth [↑ 3] {NR}: I’ve seen mixed performances from Whitworth so far. There’s one weekend where they lost to UW-Platteville by 21 and beat UW-Whitewater by 1; then there’s the weekend where they beat Claremont-Mudd-Scripps by 18 and Pomona-Pitzer. I’m at the same point where I was with this team in the preseason; I think they are borderline Top 25. I’ll be watching as many of their games as I can so I can get a better feel on them, although their west coast schedule makes this a bit difficult!

Matt Brodie's 16 points off the bench helped CNU to an upset victory over Randolph-Macon (Photo Credit: Christopher Newport Athletics)

17 Christopher Newport [NR] {11}: CNU’s win over Macon was not an accident; this is a good, talented team which I believe belongs in the 10-20 range. I’m intrigued by their rematch against Lynchburg on Dec. 12.

18 Swarthmore [↓ 10] {18}: Guard-heavy, deep, and inexperienced, Swarthmore is an intriguing situation. No one averages 30 or more minutes/game. I’m not a huge fan of their move away from consistently playing out of the post, but Coach Kosmalski has almost been forced to, for personnel reasons. They’ve had some good games, and some bad games, which is to be expected. I think Johns Hopkins is the Centennial Conference favorite, but the Garnet are right there with them.

19 Wesleyan (CT) [NR] {16}: This team is talented, and good on both ends of the floor. They are really raw though, partially because of the lack of a season last year. I would not be surprised if they make the Top 10 in a few weeks, although I have them at 16 for now, as I need to see more from them (not to see how talented they are, but to see how well they mold over the course of the year).

20 Washington U. (MO) [↓ 2] {25}: WashU gave me some struggles deciding where to rank them. You can thank an awful first two games for that, as the Bears almost fell to Millikin, and then lost to Webster. WashU has been much better as of late, and got their revenge on Webster (by 32, in a rematch). If the Bears continue to play (and improve) like they have in the last week, I will jump them up a few spots.

21 Amherst [NR] {14}: Amherst has been killing teams in the early going, although they have not played anyone of note yet. In my opinion, one of the marks of a great team is an ability to consistently not play down to inferior competition, and that’s part of why I’ve got Amherst at 14, whereas the panel has the Mammoths at 21.

22 Emory [↓ 9] {17}: Matt Schner is a fantastic player, but Emory is not the team I thought they would be in the preseason. They are struggling to defend basic dribble drive early on this year. Lawrence Rowley’s graduation is hurting the Eagles. I still think Emory is UAA favorites, but only barely.

23 RPI [NR] {15}: I was higher than the panel on RPI going into the year, placing the Engineers at 14 in my preseason poll. They’ve played about as well as I expected them to. RPI has featured a balanced scoring attack and good defensive play so far.

24 Maryville (TN) [↓ 1] {NR}: This is a good team, but I’ve seen pretty much what I expected from them in the preseason, when I had them in the 30-35 range. It looks like the rest of the voters have seen what they expected, too, given the fact that they dropped just one spot, despite falling to Emory; they have a couple of good wins in Birmingham-Southern and Oglethorpe.

25 DeSales [NR] {NR}: I know DeSales is 6-0, but I don’t think they are a Top 25 team, and especially given my methodology, it should not come as a surprise that all teams ranked 21-25 on my ballot have losses, yet I did not rank DeSales. From what I’ve seen so far, though, this is probably the best team in the MAC.

Teams I ranked which did not make the poll:

Lynchburg [received 29 votes; ranked 28] {23}: Lynchburg has looked good so far, and looked really impressive in their 17-point victory against Christopher Newport.

UMass-Dartmouth [received 21 votes; ranked 30] {21}: They fell to Brandeis, but taking their play throughout the season into account, the Corsairs appear to me to be a Top 25 team. Although UMass-D’s offense is just classic dribble drive, they do play great team basketball, led by Marcus Azor, who looks like an All-American in the early going.

Trinity (TX) [received 19 votes, ranked 32] {24}: I know they lost to Carleton, but watching Trinity’s other games, this team is pretty good. They’re very efficient offensively and spread the scoring around well.

Teams Which Fell Out of the Poll (former rankings listed):

11 Tufts: Awful 1-5 start to the season for Tufts, and Preseason 1st Team All-American Luke Rogers is injured.

16 Dubuque: This one doesn’t surprise me at all, although none of Dubuque’s 3 losses are to bad teams.

22 Wittenberg: I still am not sure why Wittenberg was ranked in the preseason poll.

24 NJCU: I think NJCU was ranked in the preseason poll because of their 7-1 record last season. This isn’t a bad team, but they aren’t a Top 25 squad.

25 Brandeis: Brandeis has looked decent so far, and I have them just outside of the Top 25 (although, typing this on Wednesday, after watching Tuesday’s match against WPI, I won’t have them just outside of the Top 25 next week; this team belongs somewhere around 40th right now).

Looking forward to another great week of D3 hoops!

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