December 31, 2008 3:06 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
The State of College Basketball is a 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.
1. Butler (Horizon League), 113.661, 11-1 (2-0)
Of course, there was no Week 4 here on this site thanks to the holidays, but the index has been churning out results on an hourly basis anyway. The Bulldogs are first in the RPI, fourth in strength of schedule, and first in the TS-22. They're 3-0 since our last transmission of this type, having beaten Florida Gulf Coast, Xavier and UAB. While ball control has been the No. 1 weapon of the past few years, this team is much more dynamic. Take, for example, the UAB win: +6 on turnovers, but a resounding +9 on the boards and a gentlemanly -11 on fouls.
2. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 111.651, 9-2 (0-0)
Only the weak of heart have fallen off the X-Wagon. Sure, there were a couple of losses to Duke and Butler, but it's not very smart to base an opinion on a team solely during egg nog time. This is still one of the toughest defenses in the country, and the offensive numbers are increasing. Basically, I wouldn't want to be Robert Morris right now. About those turnovers and free throws, though...
3. Saint Mary's (West Coast), 106.889, 11-1 (0-0)
The bad UTEP loss is a month's distance in the rearview, and it's becoming increasingly clear that the Gaels are good, as in Sweet 16 good. Nine straight wins, and everybody's contributing. Patrick Mills has the luxury of taking all the shots he needs to get his 19 ppg, especially when Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson are there to scoop up the misses. This is an incredibly aggressive defensive team, and will get its 40 boards a game no matter what. I just want to throw this out there for you to chew on: what if they sweep Gonzaga?
4. Utah State (Western Athletic), 103.857, 11-1 (0-0)
The Aggies are enjoying a week beating on inferior teams at home to boost its record, but there's no denying their WAC potential. After several years as the Jaycee Carroll show, Utah State is deep and dynamic, averaging four players in double figures and knocking down 51.4 percent of its shots as a team. And it gets a lot of extra shots: with just 9.5 turnovers per game, Stew Morrill's crew is the fourth stingiest ball control team in the nation.
5. Creighton (Missouri Valley), 98.120, 11-2 (1-0)
The Jays come at you in waves, just like last year, with 10 players averaging double-figure minutes. But the Valley received its first taste of a more mature team than last year on Sunday, when Creighton shut down Wichita State by 12, holding the Shockers to 35 percent shooting. The team is on an eight game win streak headed into Wednesday, and has a huge roadie at Illinois State on Saturday. Booker Woodfox is averaging 17.6 ppg and hitting 54 percent of his shots -- not bad for a 6-1 dude.
6. Evansville (Missouri Valley), 97.657, 9-2 (1-0)
The Purple Aces, who have been mentioned in all three TMM posts today, are off their index highs, but are showing how dangerous they are. We didn't run out of Evansville facts in the G!O!T!N! today: senior guard Jason Holsinger, one who's had trouble finding the hole at the top of the basket during his career (39.6 percent FG), has emerged as the Aces' secret key to victory. When he scores in double figures, Evansville is 8-0.
7. Davidson (Southern), 97.556, 9-2 (2-0)
So yeah, about this Curry fellow. After all the talk about change and cutting time and shifting the load onto others' shoulders, the boxscore for the Wildcats' win at Charleston this week looks like most of the other ones this year: 39 minutes, 29 points, 25 shots. Should Davidson fans be antsy? Heartened? Unclear. Mark Adams, who called the game, labels Curry a "smart guard," which basically means he's from the future. Curry is also Spiderman, Optimus Prime and Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all in one man.
8. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 96.785, 8-4 (2-0)
Niagara took a big tumble after being routed against Davidson's SoCon pals Chatanooga, but Siena is slowly turning things back around after a rough start. First there was the pre-Christmas win over Buffalo, which is more impressive than face value would indicate. Then a huge nailbiting roadie W against Saint Joe's at the Palestra, followed by a solid 12-point win at Holy Cross. The Saint are refinding their rebounding mojo, as evidenced by their combined +16 in that category during this three-game win streak.
9. Dayton (Atlantic 10), 92.324, 12-1 (0-0)
The Flyers haven't lost since that blowout at Creighton on Dec. 10 that made some question Dayton's general manhood. The red, white and blue crew has outrebounded its way out of every dark corner these past few weeks, even overcoming 31 percent shooting in a scrappy win over Marshall. On Tuesday against George Mason, an overlooked (?) team that may walk away with the CAA title, Dayton showed more good game-closing skillz in a 66-62 victory. That Hoops Nation has to wait until Feb. 11 for the first Xavier game is both cruel and unusual.
10. Cleveland State (Horizon League), 91.745, 10-5 (1-2)
Oh, Vikings, do you have to turn the Horizon League into a mini-version of last year's A-14? Cleveland State is parenthetically underwater after losing to resurgent Wright State Tuesday night, shooting just 36 percent and allowing the Raiders to shoot 54. But the wins are impressive and will take their hopes far; it probably wouldn't be a good idea to lose again for a while though. They're at Detroit (1/3), then home against the two Chicago teams next week.
The Next 12:
11. Portland State (Big Sky), 90.271; 12. Temple (Atlantic 10), 89.213; 13. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 88.294; 14. Rhode Island (Atlantic 10), 88.258; 15. Niagara (Metro Atlantic), 88.136; 16. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 86.992; 17. George Mason (Colonial), 86.117; 18. Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley), 83.593; 19. North Dakota State (Summit League), 82.838; 20. Wisconsin-Green Bay (Horizon League), 82.036; 21. Stephen F. Austin (Southland), 81.779; 22. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10), 81.742.
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