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), 120.033, 9-0 (0-0)
Many people challenge me to prove that Xavier isn't the next Gonzaga, or even the first Gonzaga. The G-Men are exempt from our concerns, in large part because they truly transcended the WCC and became a viable TV product. To their credit, they twisted ESPN's virtual arm and put a greater shine on the conference, which helped it become the three-bid powerhouse it is today. The next step for the X is to become its own TV show, and lift the A-14 out of its TV mess. Just like Gonzaga did... and this could very well be the squad and the year and the moment that triggers that. We've talked about their small problems (ball control, general sloppiness), and those are being quickly fixed. This is a very special team with Final Four dreams.
(Horizon League), 113.789, 8-1 (2-0)
Not even a close road loss to Ohio State
could budge the Bulldogs from No. 2 because hey, it's a close road loss to Ohio State. The only surprising thing about it was that the often-careful turned the ball over more than the Buckeyes did (19 times!), shot only 32 percent, and still almost won. This is the new era of Butler, the one where the Bulldogs can outrebound you (thanks in large part to Mr. Howard
), and all of a sudden the team's margin for error has grown substantially.
3. Utah State
(Western Athletic), 107.242, 6-1 (0-0)
We talked about the sorry state of the WAC earlier, but the Aggies are definitely exempted from that. Big Gary Wilkinson
is a near-lock for POY, and this team features high rankings in many offensive stats: field goal percentage, for example (54.1 percent), as well as two-point FG's (60.9). It's also the second-most efficient offense in the nation: 1.19 points for possession, for all you crazee stat dudez. Note to Logan readers: I'm keeping my promise from last year, and coming to town for the Desert Duel in two weeks. Let me know where I should eat.
4. Saint Mary's
(West Coast), 105.345, 6-1 (0-0)
Losing to UTEP came at a pretty bad time. It was national television and the Gaels' star Aussie had a horrible game, so mid-major bandwagon jumpers pulled their chips off the Patty Mills
square and went all in for Stephen Curry. Or something. Saint Mary's has been valiantly working off that loss with big wins at Kent State and a neutral-court RLU over San Diego State
at the John Wooden Classic last weekend. The Gaels have two great chances to make further impacts, tonight at Oregon and on Saturday against Southern Illinois in Indy.
(Missouri Valley), 105.276, 7-1 (0-0)
OK, do you believe us now? The team that improbably started the State's season two weeks ago at the top of the index (due primarily to SOS) is still hanging around the top 10, thanks to a gigantic, crushing, monsterizing win over Western Kentucky last weekend
-- those Hilltoppers, as you might remember, beat Louisville and Georgia, but couldn't manage a double-figure scorer against the mighty Aces. A strong showing Thursday at North Carolina
would unleash a lot of "next Drake" talk, mostly by me. The Bulldogs, as you might remember, showed up high in the index early last season. (The State detects magick
. Hee holly hoo!)
(Atlantic 10), 100.760, 5-3 (0-0)
If your last name is Christmas
, and you help engineer one of the biggest upsets of the year during the holiday season, what do you think the sportswriters are going to do? Resist making endless puns? Don't bet your ass on that, Dr. Booty. The Owls' 88-72 win over Tennessee
cures a lot of ills, like losses to MAC teams Buffalo and Miami. Temple is playing extremely smart with the ball again, turning it over just 12 times per game, and that was a major and underappreciated key to its surprising A-14 title last season.
(Southern), 98.989, 8-1 (1-0)
The Wildcats take a two-point dip in the index despite Stephen Curry's
star power and the 100-95 NBA-style win over Chattanooga last Saturday. Let's not beat around the bush or make excuses anymore: this team's perimeter defense is awful. I mean, bad in a smelly sense. Davidson let Chatty hit 42 percent of its 3's, and is in D-I's bottom third with 34.6 percent allowed for the season. And they're letting teams go to the line, fouling five more times per game over last year. If these trends continue, it's going to be hard to get through the SoCon season without a few losses.
8. Miami (Oh.)
(Mid-American), 97.672, 6-3 (0-0)
There's some minor panic in Oxford as point guard and No. 2 scoring option Kenny Hayes'
ailing wrist kept him out of the lineup against Milwaukee
last week, and he was ineffective on Saturday versus Valpo
. The good news for the RedHawks is that they won both games of the Horizon League double easily, and still look like the class of the MAC. And Michael Bramos
is still on fire from the outside, pouring in 26 and 28 in last week's contests.
(Missouri Valley), 95.987, 8-2 (0-0)
Issues over toughness and resilience seem to be long gone, as the Bluejays have put losses to Nebraska and UALR behind them, as well as keeping the volatile P'Allen Stinnett
firmly in check (the emergence of Booker Woodfox
as a solid star is helping). Creighton followed up a week of hard-fought wins over Dayton and Saint Joe's with a couple of easy cruises against Northern Colorado
at home. Ball control is becoming huge for the Jays, as their net turnover ratio for the week was minus-30.
10. George Mason
(Colonial), 95.408, 6-2 (1-0)
The Patriots haven't hit the floor since Dec. 6, but they've received an index boost because their rÃ©sumÃ© has taken a turn for the better while they've been in finals. Razor-thin in-state losses to Liberty and Hampton, two teams poised to win their leagues, don't look so bad anymore. And sure, they aren't taking on the Dukes and Carolinas, but wins over Vermont and Mount Saint Mary's point up the fact that when it's all said and done, few teams many have more 2009 NCAA squads on their schedule than George Mason.The Next 12:
11. Jacksonville State
(Ohio Valley), 94.404; 12. Cleveland State
(Horizon League), 92.978; 13. Wisconsin-Green Bay
(Horizon League), 92.512; 14. Dayton
(Atlantic 10), 91.670; 15. Buffalo
(Mid-American), 91.516; 16. Niagara
(Metro Atlantic), 90.550; 17. Rhode Island
(Atlantic 10), 89.818; 18. Jacksonville
(Atlantic Sun), 88.983; 19. Murray State
(Ohio Valley), 87.240; 20. Weber State
(Big Sky), 87.119; 21. Portland State
(Big Sky), 87.069; 22. Illinois-Chicago
(Horizon League), 86.811.