Welcome to the first edition of our college basketball power rankings. We’ll keep the format pretty simple — top five teams at each level of college ball in the state.
For this first edition, things will be pretty arbitrary this week — a handful of teams look better or worse than they are depending on strength of early schedule. On the plus side, though, that gives us a chance to sneak in some programs who started strong but might not be able to maintain it all season.
We’ll update these on Wednesdays of every week until the end of the season.
Expect these JUCO rankings to fluctuate quite a bit from this week to next week. There is quite a big discrepancy in the non-conference schedules some teams choose to play, so there are a few teams with good records early that I’m not sure about and a couple of good teams who started slow against tougher teams but I expect will be in this top five relatively quickly.
1. Mott Community College: The Bears are the No. 1-ranked team in the country, the defending national champs and 3-0 so far to start the season. Eric Woodyard of the Flint Journal recently wrote about their latest All-America candidate, Fred Mattison, who is averaging 25.3 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks per game, all of which lead the team. Repeating the success of last season, when Mott lost just once and won a national title, will be no easy task. But until another team proves otherwise, Mott’s the top team in the state.
2. Kalamazoo Valley Community College: In my season preview of the team, I thought that KVCC could be one of the most improved teams in the state. After winning just eight games all of last season, the team is already off to a 6-0 start, including a win over Oakland Community College, arguably the second best team in the state last season and a team that started this season ranked No. 10 in the country.
3. Glen Oaks Community College: Glen Oaks is off to a 3-1 start and in those three wins, the team is averaging 94.3 points per game. The defense will tighten up when the team gets into the meat of its conference schedule, but as was apparent just looking at the roster in the season preview, this team will score a lot of points this season.
4. St. Clair Community College: I fully expect Lansing to be in the next version of these rankings, but I had a hard time putting them in considering the team has only played two games. So instead, I’ll go with the Skippers, who are off to a 3-1 start, an impressive feat (albeit not against great competition yet) for a team that lost some key pieces.
5. Grand Rapids Community College: If Mott is the top team in my rankings, it’s only fair that the team that gave them a tough game and nearly beat them should make my top five. GRCC hasn’t played the toughest competition since playing Mott, notching wins over the JV squads of Aquinas and Indiana Tech and losing to Delta, but the fact that the Raiders gave Mott a game makes me think they’ll be a factor by season’s end.
The top NAIA teams probably won’t change much this season, but the order could considering Cornerstone, Davenport and Madonna all face each other twice.
1. Rochester College: Any NAIA team that comes within an eyelash of upsetting a Division I opponent is legit. Rochester has shooters, athletes, big men, guys who can run, guards who can push the ball and a great defensive team. They should be near the top of these rankings once again.
2. Davenport: It’s a shame there isn’t a Rochester-Davenport matchup on the schedule. Both teams are deeper and more athletic than your typical NAIA squad. It would be a lot of fun to watch. The Panthers are off to a 6-1 start after beating Cornerstone in a close game Tuesday.
3. Cornerstone: Four Cornerstone players are currently averaging double figures and the team’s only loss was to Davenport, 91-85, on Tuesday. The rematch Jan. 26 should be interesting.
4. Madonna: The Crusaders are 5-1, recently knocked off No. 25 Indiana Tech and have had WHAC players of the week in consecutive weeks.
5. Spring Arbor: Spring Arbor has lost twice, once to Cornerstone and once to Bethel. The team’s five wins have been by an average of 15 points per game.
The top four among Division III teams might provide some of the most competitive basketball of the season in the state as this season unfolds.
1. Adrian College: The Bulldogs are off to a 3-0 start, including a buzzer-beating win over No. 13 Wooster. The team is off to its best start since 2004-05 and recently beat rival Siena Heights for the second consecutive time, something the team hasn’t done since 2004.
The results of the two games this past weekend were nice – it’s rarely a bad thing to win by 30 – and we don’t know how the respective seasons for Grace and North Park will shake out, but winning both of these games by 30 (or 31 and 29, if you’re a stickler for details) should put Calvin right where they want to be. In order to be a good team one must beat these two soundly, and Calvin did just that.
The Flying Dutchmen opened their season in grand style defeating first-time opponent College of Faith, Ark 118-20 on Friday in Naperville, Ill. Hope’s margin of victory of 98 points establishes an all-time school record that stood for 108 years. The previous mark was 93 points in a 101-8 victory over the Grand Rapids YMCA.
Pre-season All-American Nate Snuggerud set the tone for another outstanding season shooting a school-record 13-for-13 from the floor, including 2-for-2 from three-point range, en route to a 29 point performance in just 18 minutes of playing time. He is the first Hope player to have a perfect night when making more than 10 baskets in the game.
Hope didn’t have as much success in its second game, losing to North Central (Ill.). The team was Michigan’s highest ranked Division III team in the preseason, so expect Hope to climb up higher as the team gets more games under its belt.
5. Olivet College: The team’s 1-4 record certainly isn’t impressive, but the picking are pretty slim for this spot. Alma and Finlandia are both winless and Kalamazoo is yet to play a game. Olivet is coming off its first win and also had a pretty game effort in a 76-62 loss to Central Michigan.
Several teams are off to quick starts, including a couple of programs that didn’t have great seasons a year ago. I’m not convinced all five of these teams will stay in our rankings all season, but a couple of last season’s top programs started slow, so this first edition gives a chance to look at two programs that might be on the rise in the four and five spots.
1. Hillsdale: Two games, two loposided wins for the Chargers, who should be a favorite to repeat as GLIAC South champs this season. Hillsdale has been extremely effective rebounding the ball, out-rebounding opponents by a combined 96-62 margin through two games.
3. Grand Valley State: GVSU is off to a strong start largely because the team’s depth has allowed different players to stand out at different moments so far this season. From the Grad Valley Lanthorn:
It’s only three games into the season for the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team, but if one thing is for certain, it’s that GVSU boasts a lot of depth.
Monday night against Kuyper College (3-5), it was junior Rob Woodson’s turn. Woodson scored a career-high 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists while GVSU (2-1) defeated Kuyper, 87-53.
4. Saginaw Valley State: The Cardinals are off to a nice 2-1 start under new coach Randy Baruth. The team’s trio of talented players — Brett Beland, Chris Webb and Rob Clark — could make SVSU one of the state’s most improved teams this season.
5. Lake Superior State: Another team that struggled last season, LSSU is off to a 2-1 start, including a win over a school the Lakers had never previously beaten. The team also played pretty well in a loss to Division I Central Michigan.
There is obviously a disparity between the two Big Ten schools in the state and the Mid-Majors, so the top two won’t change this season (although the order of those two might).
1. Michigan: The Wolverines have been a trendy pick to make a nice tourney run this season and have been hyped quite a bit — some have even wondered if they’ve been over-hyped. But so far, so good. Michigan is undefeated and has yet to even play a close game. The Wolverines also have a much more balanced team that isn’t solely reliant on perimeter players, which should make them more of a factor in the tournament.
2. Michigan State: The Spartans have a quality win that Michigan doesn’t yet boast, beating Kansas, but the team lost a winnable game against UConn in the opener and struggled to beat a game Boise State at home Tuesday.
3. Western Michigan: I don’t think the Broncos are better than Detroit and don’t expect they’ll hold onto this spot in the rankings all season, but they’ve had a fantastic start to the season, including a win over Big East opponent South Florida, a NCAA Tournament team last season.
4. Detroit: The Titans boast one of the country’s top guards in Ray McCallum and nearly pulled off an upset of St. John’s. If Doug Anderson‘s fantastic start to the season isn’t a mirage, Detroit will be a legitimate threat to win the Horizon League again.
5. Oakland: The Grizzlies’ record (2-3) doesn’t look good, but they are once again playing a brutal non-conference schedule and, if their occasional issue of not closing big games well didn’t creep up again, they’d have a victory over Pitt right now after dominating the Panthers for much of that game.