January 15, 2009 3:57 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
The State of College Basketball is a new-esque 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), 109.328, 14-1 (5-0)
This is not likely to shock the pants right off you, but there really isn't much movement in this week's index. We know which teams are the ones good enough to pull off NCAA magic, and we have them placed on a relative scale, which is probably the list you'd come up with if you had a napkin, a pen, and your good judgement. The top five remain the same, headed up with the Bulldogs, spending their fourth week on the TS-22 throne. Butler is still nationally undersold on its accomplishments, but that's fine. You can point to the 42 percent shooting and slim margin last weekend against Detroit, but it was a slow game with few possessions. They shot 35 against Xavier and won that.
2. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 106.430, 13-2 (2-0)
Speaking of the X, which is playing in the G!O!T!N! tonight against Rhode Island, they'll get a good road test but will spend the following week with LaSalle and Saint Bonaventure. The URI game is on CBS College Sports, which has the same on-screen graphics as the Musketeers will play on top of in the NCAA Tournament, but the nation at large will have to wait until they step out of A-14 play for a minute on Jan. 24, a roadie at LSU that looks like the team's seventh Red Line Upset of the season.
3. Saint Mary's (West Coast), 102.817, 14-1 (2-0)
The Gaels, for whatever reason, remain the most dangerous unknown in mid-majordom. SMC opened its WCC season with a home nailbiter over Santa Clara and a cruise at San Francisco, two games that were marked with poor shooting. Much like as with Butler, it doesn't matter. During the team's 12-game win streak, it's been the better rebounding team 10 times (five times in double digits), and it's been eight games since the Gaels committed more fouls than their opponents. Patty Mills is up to 20.2 ppg, but 6-7 Diamon Simpson (nine double-doubles) is the TMM Baller of the Year candidate on this team.
4. Utah State (Western Athletic), 100.664, 15-1 (3-0)
The Aggies are always given two WAC gauntlets: the eastern road trip and the western one. They'll make the San Jose State-Hawaii swing next week, and recently passed the Louisiana Tech-New Mexico State test, winning both games by double digits. We don't want to start talking too much about an undefeated league season, which hasn't happened in the WAC since Utah went 14-0 a decade ago, but the warning's out there. Utah State has three players shooting at least 64 percent from the floor.
5. Davidson (Southern), 91.677, 13-3 (6-0)
A third of the way through the SoCon season, the Wildcats are undefeated again. And what's more, they won't face a team with a record better than .500 until Feb. 2 (Western Carolina), which is the season's two-thirds pole. So as Davidson racks up wins, it's a good chance to watch the team's backbone develop as it heads towards March. Andrew Lovedale is the rebound man and isn't being relied upon to score than much, and we believe that sparky William Archambault will eventually find consistency and crack the starting lineup for good. Stephen Curry is Green Arrow, Atom and Hawkman in one man.
6. Temple (Atlantic 10), 91.599, 9-6 (1-0)
The Owls move up three spots from last week, to reflect their improving offense and continuing rebound from a tough December three-game road losing streak at Kansas, Long Beach and Villanova. You know about Mr. Christmas, but 6-9 sophomore Lavoy Allen is rounding into form as a dangerous foil. He hasn't shot worse than 50 percent for over a month, and is the conference's fifth-best rebounder at 7.1 rpg. With a four game win streak, Temple is making its case as the second-best team in the A-14.
7. Cleveland State (Horizon League), 90.169, 13-5 (4-2)
After starting the Horizon season 1-2, the Vikings are showing what they're made of with a strong home sweep over the two Chicago teams. It's the defense that's doing it, as Cleveland State leads the conference in all meaningful D-categories, highlighted by 17 forced turnovers per game. The offense is rounding into form as well, and Chris Moore looks like he's going to be the man to step up and become option two behind J'Nathan Bullock. He was a perfect 8-for-8 (season-high 18 points) in the win over UIC.
8. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 89.651, 15-2 (4-2)
There were losses at Bradley and Indiana State, but the Redbirds are 3-0 in Valley G!O!T!N!'s after Wednesday's home cookin' win over Drake. So Tim Jankovich is defensive about the team's weak nonconference schedule, and says none of us have ever put together a schedule. A total of 279 of his colleagues were able to put together tougher ones, and last time I checked, there were preseason tourneys looking for fourth or sixth wheels. I'm focusing on the fact that there were only three road games. Still the best team in the Valley, though.
9. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 89.569, 12-5 (6-0)
Siena's status as lone league unbeaten now includes a pair of solid MAAC wins at home against Rider and away at Manhattan. Ball control magic is back, as the Saints underturnovered both opponents. Edwin Ubiles was the star of the week, averaging 20 points and hitting a long series of key shots. The three-game road trip, the longest of the MAAC season, continues at Marist and Fairfield, and those are two teams that will give the Saints a sense of who they really are. A complete sweep would go a long way.
10. Creighton (Missouri Valley), 89.278, 14-4 (4-2)
The Bluejays have had their struggles as of late, a stretch that coincides with a deep Booker Woodfox shooting slump. They would have dropped out of the top 10 if not for a 73-72 Qwest Center defense against Southern Illinois last night, an overtime comeback. It was a departure from the pattern, as they gave the ball to P'Allen Stinnett and let him make magic (29 points). Now Creighton hits the road for games at winless Wichita and eager Evansville, the latter of which will be on ESPNU next Tuesday.
The Next 12:
11. Rhode Island (Atlantic 10), 86.726; 12. Dayton (Atlantic 10), 86.323; 13. Miami (Oh.) (Mid-American), 84.907; 14. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 84.355; 15. Wisconsin-Green Bay (Horizon League), 83.386; 16. Portland State (Big Sky), 82.909; 17. Long Beach State (Big West), 81.895; 18. Niagara (Metro Atlantic), 81.557; 19. Drake (Missouri Valley), 80.397; 20. North Dakota State (Summit League), 80.234; 21. Boise State (Western Athletic), 80.120; 22. Evansville (Missouri Valley), 80.021.
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