The State of College Basketball is a brand-new ratings system that uses a lot of good basketball sense, per-game team performance ratings and degradation of older results to rank the teams from No. 1 to 344 (here's the long-winded version). In its overall form, it retroactively picked three of the Final Four in a simulation of 2006-07, did okay as a predictor last season, and enters 2008-09 ready for more. For our purposes here, it gives the world's only hype-free, non-voting, computer poll of teams in the lower 22 and a half (we include the A-14) conferences. This is the full chart, and this is a recording.
(Atlantic 10), 116.216, 7-0 (0-0)
As we mentioned in the ESPN chat last week, the Musketeers have a lot of ceiling left. They're riding their defense and rebounding to wins, and that's helped overcome some sloppy offensive play from a team guaranteed to get a better handle on the ball (15 turnovers a game so far). Junior Jason Love
is the only X-Man who plays more than 20 minutes per game that's shooting better than 50 percent.
(Missouri Valley), 115.071, 5-1 (0-0)
When you have the No. 1 strength of schedule and a 5-1 record, that's going to buy you a significant amount index love. For a while, that is, until you start losing to the teams in that upper neighborhood. It's a little much to expect the Purple Aces to hang with Western Kentucky or North Carolina next week, especially with that
ugh-worthy perimeter defense, but Evansville's three-senior core knocked around Ball State over the weekend
, eclipsing in performance the close road win the team pulled off last year. There's a 99.5 percent chance they're better than last season, and a point-five percent chance they're this year's Drake.
(Horizon League), 113.078, 7-0 (2-0)
How do you "rebuild" something that was big to begin with? Holdover starter Matt Howard
has been a sophomore stud for the 7-0 Bulldogs, scoring 13.4 ppg and averaging six boards. Behind him, a lot of talented freshmen who missed the lecture about struggling early. Butler started its Horizon League defense with wins over favorite Cleveland State and annual ashtray Youngstown State.
4. Utah State
(Western Athletic), 104.013, 5-1 (0-0)
Rocketing into the upper reaches of the chart this week is the WAC's U-Aggies, which are led by a senior (6-9 Gary Wilkinson
, 17.3 ppg and 8.3 rpg) but rounded out by young players who can put the basketball through the orange hoop-type thing. Although perennial MMBOW Jaycee Carroll is graduated, this is the best-shooting team in the nation at 53.8 percent, and one of its most diligent in keeping opponents off the line (13.3 fouls, 5th-least in Division I). Against
a very good BYU team on Saturday, USU did just about everything but win, outrebounding the Cougars by 11.
(Southern), 101.211, 7-1 (0-0)
Oh, there they are. Held down for a minute in the index due to wins over weak teams, the Wildcats polished their profile with a pair of Red Line Upsets against N.C. State and West Virginia. Here's a fact for you: Davidson's ball control has improved slightly, going from a 16.5 percent turnover rate down to 15.1 percent this year. And here's another: Stephen Curry
is Aquaman, Spiderman and Ambush Bug all in one man.
6. Miami (Oh.)
(Mid-American), 100.944, 4-3 (0-0)
With Kent State's struggles (five losses in a row), Ohio's difficulties with opposing bigs and a weak West, it may be time to split the MAC evenly between Miami and everybody else. Reigning MMBOW Michael Bramos
is putting up big stats, senior point guard Kenny Hayes
is emerging as the league's best one, and the Redhawks are hanging tough against a brutal schedule that's included Pitt, Xavier and UCLA. They'll be ready for the games that really count in January.
(Atlantic 10), 100.118, 8-0 (0-0)
The Flyers have had one of the most efficient, balanced offenses that you're going to find at any level of college hoops this year. And hoo boy, that increased defensive toughness. But while you're blinded by the SportsCenter-ready heroics of Chris Wright
, don't overlook junior guard Marcus Johnson
. He came into his own as a dependable scoring option last season, and is becoming better at taking the ball to the hole. Did we mention that UD is in the G!O!T!N!
(Atlantic 10), 99.820, 4-3 (0-0)
The record isn't so good, but the defending A-14 champs have improved in key areas, like scoring balance -- last year's two-man scoring punch has been replaced with four double-figure scorers, led by holdover star Dionte Christmas
. It's not a huge RLU, but the Owls did take down Penn State over the weekend. A little more defense, and Temple will be a factor once league play starts.
(Mid-American), 99.510, 5-3 (0-0)
They're young, they're small, they're not as good as they were when the LeBron Generation was taking the Zips to the NCAA's door, but this looks like the MAC's second-best team right now. They gave Dayton all it could handle
over the weekend, and is forcing turnovers at a national-best 28 percent clip. And don't forget about 6-8 senior Nate Linhart
(11.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), who was there during the postseason years and can teach the kids (four freshmen) a little something about being good at basketball.
(Metro Atlantic), 99.416, 5-3 (2-0)
When the mid-major "it" team (the one not named Davidson) goes down to Orlando and goes 0-3 in the Old Spice Classic, it's easy to use that kind of performance as a write-off reason. Do so at your peril. The MAAC is a one-bid league, and while Siena has lost its at-large candidacy, the Saints are still well on their way to grab a stealth seed and win another NCAA game or two for the Met. Siena's week consisted of three wins, two in the league (at Loyola and at home against Marist) and the other a big city-game win over Albany
.The Next 12:
(Mid-American), 97.926; 12. Western Kentucky
(Sun Belt), 97.774; 13. Saint Mary's
(West Coast), 97.275; 14. Long Beach State
(Big West), 96.464; 15. Niagara
(Metro Atlantic), 95.511; 16. Jacksonville State
(Ohio Valley), 94.643; 17. Middle Tennessee
(Sun Belt), 93.688; 18. Arkansas State
(Sun Belt), 93.618; 19. Missouri State
(Missouri Valley), 93.427; 20. Wisconsin-Green Bay
(Horizon League), 93.118; 21. Creighton
(Missouri Valley), 92.571; 22. Jacksonville
(Atlantic Sun), 92.450.