D3hoops Top 25, Week 2: Breakdown, Analysis, and Opinions

Akiva Poppers is the Executive Producer of MacsLive, and one of the 25 members of the D3hoops.com Men’s Basketball Top 25 voting panel.

 

On Monday, D3hoops.com dropped their 2021-22 Week 2 Top 25. There were very few changes between this and last week’s rankings, as only one team dropped out, and no team moved more than 5 spots within the rankings.


Below, you will find my thoughts on the poll. I’m also including the team’s record in parentheses, the team’s change in placement in the rankings in square brackets, and where I ranked each team, which can be found in curly brackets. So for example, 4 UW-Platteville [↔] {3} means that UW-Platteville is ranked #4 in the poll, having not moved since last week’s poll, and I ranked UW-Platteville 3rd.


1 Yeshiva (10-0) [↔] {1}: Yeshiva looked much better this past week than in their previous few games, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Their screening game is much improved from where it was a week or two ago, and their unselfish play was on display on Saturday night, as YU racked up 33 assists and shot nearly 65% from the floor en route to a 105-point outburst. Yeshiva leads the country in assists/game and FG%. Things are beginning to click for the Macs.


2 Randolph-Macon (8-1) [↑ 1] {4}: Randolph-Macon’s defense was on full display this past week, as the Yellow Jackets held Virginia Wesleyan and Roanoke to 53 and 50 points, respectively. In both of those games, RMC struggled somewhat in the first half, as VWU held a lead at the break, and Roanoke trailed by just two. However, the Yellow Jackets turned on the jets in each second half, clamped down defensively, and now head into winter break with an impressive 8-1 record.

Preseason All-American Matthew Leritz is averaging a double double and playing strong defense, leading the way for Illinois Wesleyan (Photo Credit: Illinois Wesleyan Athletics)

3 Illinois Wesleyan (7-0) [↓ 1] {2}: The Titans have started to hit their stride, particularly on the defensive side of the ball; this past week, they held Chicago and Carroll to 50 and 44 points, respectively. A brutal 6-game stretch (@ Wheaton, @ North Central, @ WashU, @ Mount St. Vincent, @ Yeshiva, vs. Elmhurst) which will test and build Illinois Wesleyan’s character lies ahead.


4 UW-Platteville (9-0) [↔] {3}: UW-Platteville began WIAC play this past week with a couple of big victories, defeating UW-La Crosse on the road by 6, and UW-River Falls at home by 15. My reasoning for dropping the Pioneers from 2 to 3 on my ballot stems solely from my belief that Illinois Wesleyan is playing slightly better ball at this point in time. This is still a clear Top 5 team.


5 St. Joseph (CT) (6-0) [↑ 1] {5}: Jaecee Martin had 18 assists, Jordan Powell shot 9/9 from the floor, and Delshawn Jackson Jr. returned to action in Saint Joe’s conference-opening thumping of Dean. The Blue Jays have started to solidify themselves as a Top 10 team.


6 UW-Oshkosh (8-1) [↑ 4] {6}: The Oshkosh offensive attack has been somewhat weak as of late, and Saturday’s win over UW-La Crosse was ugly, but the Titans have started WIAC play at 2-0. I am holding steady on this team at #6.


7 Elmhurst (7-1) [↔] {22}: Elmhurst got destroyed by Calvin and needed a halfcourt buzzer-beater to stave off Wheaton. Why are they still at #7? I wasn’t surprised by either result (although the margin of defeat in the Calvin game stuck out), which makes sense because I had Elmhurst at 20 coming into the week. This is still a team which in my eyes belongs somewhere around #20.


8 Wheaton (IL) (7-1) [↓ 3] {14}: 2 nail-biters for Wheaton this week saw the Thunder defeat Carthage by 1, and then lose their first game of the season on a half-court buzzer beater by Elmhurst’s Jake Rhode. It was only a matter of time before Wheaton suffered defeat; I’m more surprised that they were able to survive so many close contests until now. A huge home game against conference foe Illinois Wesleyan lies ahead.


9 Mary Hardin-Baylor (4-0) [↑ 2] {7}: I still haven’t seen enough of Mary Hardin-Baylor to figure out where they belong. Fortunately, the Crusaders’ DIII schedule starts to ramp up this week.


10 Marietta (4-2) [↑ 3] {9}: Marietta is beginning to look like the same team they were last year; they’re beating up on average and bad teams. Unfortunately, they haven’t shown an ability to get stops against good offenses, or to put up strong scoring efforts against elite defenses. Until that changes, I’ll keep voting Marietta somewhere around #10.


11 Roanoke (6-1) [↓ 2] {8}: Randolph-Macon was clearly the better team in Saturday’s defensive slugfest, but that was to be expected. What was surprising to me was how poorly Roanoke shot the ball; even against an elite Yellow Jackets defense. However, if you remove RMC’s 19-3 run to start the second half, in which Roanoke fell apart and took awful shots offensively and created transition scoring opportunities for Macon, the two teams were even. I feel comfortable with Roanoke as a borderline Top 10 team.


12 Johns Hopkins (7-1) [↑ 3] {12}: Johns Hopkins has looked quite good in their last several games, so it’s no surprise that they have made their way up in the poll to 12. That’s where I’ve had the Blue Jays since last week, and it’s where I think they belong. Hopkins heads into winter break at 7-1.


13 UW-La Crosse (7-2) [↓ 5] {10}: The Eagles went 0-2 against a brutal home slate which featured UW-Platteville and UW-Oshkosh; both games were extremely tight. Although neither team shot the ball well in the latter contest, UW-La Crosse’s 0-15 performance from 3 killed them. They remain to me a borderline Top 10 team, and my methodology uses results as a secondary consideration, which is why I only dropped them one spot, whereas partially why the panel dropped La Crosse down by 5.


14 Christopher Newport (6-2) [↑ 3] {11}: Christopher Newport’s sole game this past week was a 22-point win over Averett; I kept CNU at 11. Trey Barber continues to shine. A big three game stretch (rematch vs. Lynchburg, @ undefeated Hampden-Sydney, vs. Virginia Wesleyan) lies ahead.


15 Whitworth (6-1) [↑ 1] {NR}: Saturday’s game wasn’t a pretty one versus Williamette, as they let the Bearcats get within 4 points late, but Whitworth continued their winning ways. I’m still not as high on the Pirates as the panel due to their wildly inconsistent performances. I know this team is capable of being a Top 15 squad; I have them at 29 right now. I’ll continue watching as many of their games as I can.


16 Trine (5-1) [↓ 2] {NR}: My apologies to Trine for dropping the Thunder out on a bye week after placing them at #22 in my previous ballot. I want to clarify that my dropping of the Thunder is not driven by a tying of themselves to Mount Union due to the Purple Raiders victory over Trine; that’s not how I rank teams. Rather, there were several teams which played this past week which I jumped ahead of the Thunder. To reiterate on my point from last week, this is a team capable of nearing my Top 10. Fortunately, they have a huge upcoming opportunity this week to jump back onto my ballot, as they take on Heidelberg on Wednesday and UW-La Crosse on Saturday.


17 Mount Union (5-1) [↓ 5] {NR}: Right after saying that I was pretty confident that Mount Union was a Top 25 team, they went out and got killed by Heidelberg. Mount Union was absolutely dominated in the paint in that contest; the Student Princes scored 66 of their 91 points from there. I was lower than the panel (19 vs. 12) on the Purple Raiders last week and I still am; Mount Union has fallen to 27 (second out) on my ballot.


18 Washington U. (MO) (7-1) [↑ 2] {18}: WashU is beginning to look like WashU. Since an awful first two games, the Bears have played like a clear Top 25 team; this past week, they annihilated Hendrix and slid by St. Thomas (TX). As a result, as promised last week, I bumped the Bears up; they moved from 25 to 18 on my ballot.


19 Swarthmore (6-1) [↓ 1] {17}: Swarthmore took care of business against Haverford and Dickinson this past week, beating each by 30+. I can sense this team’s potential, but the consistency isn’t present yet. The Garnet will take on Susquehanna on Wednesday and then head into winter break.

Williams pulled off a comeback win against Wesleyan and are the sole addition to the rankings this week (Photo Credit: Williams College Athletics)

20 Williams (7-0) [NR] {19}: Williams has played their way into the Top 25 with a fantastic 69-60 victory over conference foe Wesleyan (CT) (the game will not count for NESCAC standings). Nate Karren was impressive, shooting 11/13 from the floor and knocking down a couple of threes. This team hasn’t played well on a consistent basis, but they have a very high ceiling. A non-conference matchup against Yeshiva on January 2nd looms large.


21 Amherst (7-0) [↔] {13}: Amherst’s average margin of victory fell from 40.6 to 35.7 this week, but the Mammoths went 2-0 and continue to rampage through a weak non-conference schedule. Just as before, I’ll judge them as I see them; this is a good team clearly deserving of being in the Top 25.


22 RPI (6-0) [↑ 1] {15}: RPI continues to win and slowly move up in the poll, while they remain stagnant on my ballot because they are playing as well (not better, not worse) as I expect them to. I am hoping that the Engineers will find themselves facing St. John Fisher in late December (whether or not they do depends on day 1’s results in the Cardinals’ tournament); I’m intrigued to see how those two teams match up.


23 Emory (4-2) [↓ 1] {16}: A 26-3 run helped Emory to a strong 30-point victory over LaGrange on Wednesday. Matthew Schner continued his excellent start to the season with 19 points and 17 rebounds in that contest. I moved the Eagles up one spot, to 16. Their final game before winter break will come against Covenant on Tuesday.


24 Maryville (TN) (6-1) [↔] {NR}: A solid week saw Maryville win games against Asbury and Huntingdon by 20+ points. I remain stagnant on the Scots as a team which belongs in the 30-35 range.


25 DeSales (8-0) [↔] {NR}: DeSales defeated Wilkes by 4 points and Arcadia by 9 points to improve to 8-0. To reiterate what I wrote last week, this is probably the best team in the MAC; that said, they might not even be a Top 40 team in D3.


Teams I ranked which did not make the poll:


Wesleyan (CT) (7-1) [received 46 votes; ranked 26] {21}: Wesleyan was the sole team to drop out of the poll this week, due to their loss against Williams which led essentially to the two teams swapping places. This team is still talented, and they are still good on both ends of the floor; and they are still raw; nothing has changed since last week in these regards. When considering their full body of work and ceiling, they deserve to remain in the poll.


Lynchburg (5-1) [received 38 votes; ranked 27] {23}: Lynchburg won two games this past week by roughly the margins I expected them to; by 13 @ Washington and Lee and 17 vs. Bridgewater. They continue to look good and I saw no reason to change their spot on my ballot. A visit to Salisbury followed by a huge rematch against Christopher Newport lies ahead this week.


WPI (7-1) [received 37 votes; ranked 28] {24}: WPI isn’t ranked in the poll’s Top 25, yet they are one of the teams I have ranked where I’m concerned I’m too low on them. The Engineers start three first- or second-year players (John Lowther, John Adams, and Aidan Callahan) who are all incredibly skilled and developing each game. WPI features lock-down defense, and with the exception of their blowout loss to Wesleyan (CT), they have played like a Top 15 team. I’ve got WPI at 24 based on a consideration of their full slate of performances (I had them at 26 entering this week), but don’t be surprised if, come January, they create some separation from the borderline-Top-25 pack and move upwards.


Calvin (5-2) [received 24 votes; ranked 29] {25}: One big game, one massive win for Calvin this past week, as the Knights took care of Elmhurst in dominating fashion. Their performance in that game was enough for me to move Calvin up from the mid-30s to 25. Calvin has actually been quite good on a whole this year, and I am expecting a tight MIAA battle between themselves and Trine. Huge non-conference games against Trinity (TX) and UW-Oshkosh on December 22 and 29, respectively, provide the Knights with opportunities to show that they are the real deal.


UMass-Dartmouth (7-1) [received 10 votes; ranked T-33] {20}: Last week, UMass- Dartmouth received 21 votes, of which I was responsible for 5; this week, I account for 60% of their 10 votes. The Corsairs did not play this past week, which I assume is why they received so many fewer votes in this poll. However, I’m pretty sure that this is a Top 25 team. If you’re wondering why they moved up 1 spot and Trine dropped 6 spots on my ballot, the answer is simple; all of the teams which I felt comfortable hopping over Trine, I did not feel comfortable hopping over UMass-Dartmouth.


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


19 Wesleyan (CT) (7-1): See above.


Looking forward to another great week of D3 hoops!


#MensBasketball #Top25

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