The Other Top 25 Poll, or any poll, for that matter, isn’t an easy thing to compile.
Even though the season only started eight days ago, so much has happened In that timespan to alter our preseason rankings. Saying our preseason rankings have been shaken up would be an understatement: The A10 has taken a nosedive, Belmont vaulted into the top 10, Lipscomb and UC Irvine debuted and Buffalo seems to be a lock for our top three.
Unfortunately, our rankings won’t please everyone. And even then, the point of The Other Top 25 Poll isn’t to make people happy; it’s to promote an accurate barometer of the best teams we cover.
Enter the MMM Customer Service Hotline. This will be the venue where I field some calls from disgruntled fans and try to either alleviate their concerns — sometimes our voters mess up! — or be the bearer of bad news by telling them that their team actually doesn’t deserve a spot in our poll.
So sit back, pull up our most recent rankings and listen to some muzak until the callers phone in:
Mid-Major Madness customer service, this is Kyle. How may I direct your call?
Y’all saw Belmont v Middle TN, right?— Timothy M Powell (@TMPComposer) November 14, 2018
Personally, I did not watch Belmont versus Middle Tennessee — I was still on the clock at my other, non-MMM help desk job — but I did catch the score afterwards and woahboy.
Granted, Middle Tennessee was going to regress significantly this season, but Belmont’s demolition of the Blue Raiders showed that last week’s high-octane performance against Illinois State wasn’t a fluke. Although Belmont’s hyper-accurate offense is stealing most of the early headlines, the fact that its defense forced 21 turnovers and held MTSU under 30% from three is certainly not a good sign for the OVC. There’s a good chance Belmont will rise even more in next week’s rankings; hopefully our voters can get that sorted out if the Bruins beat Lipscomb tomorrow night.
Saint Mary’s still deserves to be among the best Mid Major programs until proven otherwise. Although they lost almost all their production from last season, this is a retool not a rebuild for an experienced Randy Bennett. Plenty of talent and youth in Moraga this season.— Thomas La Centra (@thomas_lacentra) November 13, 2018
Even though the Gaels were ranked No. 18 in our collective poll, I didn’t include them. This one’s on me. But I’m happy to give my explanation.
First, the opening night win over McNeese State didn’t move the needle for me. To make matters worse, the Gaels were already without sophomore guard Kristers Zoriks, who tore his ACL in a scrimmage against Stanford. Finding replacements for Jock Landale, Calvin Hermanson and Emmett Naar wasn’t going to be an easy task; doing this without Zoriks and 7’3 Seattle transfer Aaron Menzies makes the situation murkier.
But shellacking a solid Utah Valley team on Sunday night is a respectable win, which should’ve given me more pause in hindsight. Even then, gauging the value of that Utah Valley win might not be possible until WAC play; the Cougars’s season hinges on how their transfers mesh together, and we didn’t learn too much about them from their win over a non-D1 and two blowouts.
With all of that said: Saint Mary’s can definitely crack my rankings (and, more importantly, rise in The Other Top 25) with a win over New Mexico State. The Aggies have had a hard time defending the three through two games, which is a very good sign for one-man wrecking machine Jordan Ford (29 PPG, 64.5 FG%, 50 3FG%). If the Gaels beat the Aggies, I will rank them.
Speaking of the Aggies...
25 mid majors better than NMSU. Hmm— Keith Autry #flipper (@kristiff212003) November 12, 2018
Between ranking the dreaded New Mexico Lobos and leaving out New Mexico State, Aggie fans weren’t too thrilled about The Other Top 25. The only thing that would’ve made New Mexico State fans more unhappy would’ve been ranking a certain private school from the Phoenix area.
New Mexico State’s two wins were over a middling North Dakota State team (No. 193 on KenPom) and No. 279 UTEP. Not ideal! The Aggies can definitely make some noise by holding off the aforementioned Gaels and, to the delight of everyone in Las Cruces, stealing a win over New Mexico on Saturday night. The Lobos have needed late second half surges against Cal State Northridge and Iona — two teams more than eager to push the pace and eschew defense — and it’ll be interesting to see them handle NMSU’s slower, grind-and-rebound approach. Eli Chuha is going to have a field day.
No love for SFA?— Melvin Bryan (@mbryan75949) November 12, 2018
The Lumberjacks are 2-1 on the season (not bad!), but both their wins are against non-Division 1 opponents (not great!). But giving weight to a 12-point win over Texas Wesleyan is, to put it in the most polite terms, incredibly questionable. Rewarding a team that needed last-second free throws to beat NAIA Southwestern Assemblies of God is even more questionable. Even then, SFA will have to break into the polls without reigning Southland Player of the Year T.J. Holyfield, who is out for the season with an undisclosed injury. I don’t want to speak for my fellow voters, but that’s too many question marks.
Stephen F. Austin’s lone game against a Division 1 opponent was nearly as humiliating as needing last-second free throws to beat NAIA Southwestern Assemblies of God: They lost 96-58 to an unranked Miami team. This loss might be understandable, but SFA probably won’t be tested like this until December, when they travel to Baylor and host Alabama.
I am merely the messenger, SFA fans.
Columbia is a sleeper team and will probably win the ivy— Politics joe (@oooooooooooiuu) November 13, 2018
Columbia lost to a Marist team that won six games last season. I’m sorry, but we cannot complete your request at this time.
Valpo is undefeated.— 7-5 BIG TEN WEST TITLE HAVER (@kicknyrgios) November 13, 2018
We might consider ranking Valparaiso if, and only if, they knock off a ranked team and the student section storms the court. I’m sorry sir, I do not make the rules.