January 22, 2009 2:19 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
The State of College Basketball is a sorta newish 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), 110.214, 16-1 (7-0)
Strikingly little movement once again this week, with the mid-major power picture gelling so much that casual fans don't need an "expert" to explain it for them. The Bulldogs are undefeated at home (8-0), have an RPI of 8, and are headed for a virtually assured BracketBuster showdown at Saint Mary's -- selection for that is about the only thing the RPI is good for anymore, but there's this telegenic team with a superstar player that might host them instead... if the powers that be go in that direction. As mentioned earlier in the G!O!T!N! post, Butler has a pair of Dairy State contenders all up in its grill this week. There could be melted cheese, or hopes of an undefeated season buried beneath frozen tundra.
2. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 107.507, 16-2 (5-0)
Now that the A-14 is back into its rhythms, it's easy to get a bead on the Musketeers. Considering league play only, this team leads the league in all shooting stats on either end and is third from the bottom in turnovers. That puts a lot of pressure on the bigs to rebound, and a great deal of X success of late stems from seven straight positive glass margins. Is this a house of cards, or will the ball control come around? Have I mentioned that this team misses Drew Lavender? The X takes a break from league play this weekend for a moderately challenging contest at Louisiana State on Saturday, before settling in for a nice long homestand with Charlotte, UMass and Temple.
3. Saint Mary's (West Coast), 100.077, 16-1 (4-0)
If you're one of those megajox fans who loves the T.O./steroids/personality-conflict/poll drama, if you read Deadspin like housewives watch soap operas, then... Jesus, WTF are you doing here? But really, this is the most intriguing off-court drama in Hoops Nation for 2008-09. Saint Mary's deserves a shot at Butler, anybody who loves basketball for basketball wants that game to happen. If this is about star power, and giving Davidson one last shot at a "ranked opponent," that's the matchup. Obviously, I'm not going to be a part of that process again this year, so I don't have a say in this. But my position is clear.
4. Utah State (Western Athletic), 98.473, 17-1 (5-0)
If past patterns hold to form, the Aggies will get shafted on the BracketBuster selection, drawing a team that's not as good. One thing we know is this: they'll likely have to fly a long way for it. They deserve to go to San Diego, a WCC team that doesn't appear in this list because it's still working off past stumbles (a home win tonight against No. 3 Saint Mary's would boost the Toreros' profile, though, eh?). As for USU, it's ready to begin the second of two big road swings, the San Jose-Hawaii double. After that, there are only three more games outside the Mountain time zone.
5. Davidson (Southern), 91.437, 15-3 (8-0)
The WIldcats are clearly in the middle of the "butt kicking" segment of the SoCon schedule. They've spent the last week beating on Elon, Georgia Southern and Furman, a stretch in which no opponent shot better than 43 percent. The only game in the near future with any upset chances would be the Chattanooga tilt next Wednesday, but the defense is definitely solidifying since this slipknotted meltdown a month ago. CurryCurryBlahBlah, but the most significant development in Davidsonland is William Archambault's ascent into double-figure scoring (10.0 ppg). He's been a favorite play in the TMM futures market for a while, and he's coming around.
6. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 91.231, 14-5 (8-0)
The biggest showdown of the MAAC season is coming up Saturday, when these Saints play the Niagara team that's fit the profile of a slayer of top dogs. But everything Siena has done since New Year's has indicated dominance, putting the hammer down in a key statistic every game to pull out victory after impressive victory. Sure, you can talk about a perfect season, but in a league that's getting a single bid anyway, it would be merely a pride issue. We're impressed by the structural integrity of this squad, and they can absorb a loss or two and still be ready for another March run.
7. Dayton (Atlantic 10), 88.654, 16-2 (2-1)
We still haven't figured out the meaning of the Flyers' season-opening loss against UMass, and those we've talked to who were present for it can't figure out whether the game was settled on the court or not (UD's 27 fouls were nine over its season average). Since then, they've survived Fordham and Duquesne, teams that shouldn't have to be survived, by cutting down on fouling and racking up massive rebound margins. On the other hand, the free throw shooting has really suffered lately. An easy stretch against GW, Bonaventure and Saint Louis should give the team a chance to figure things out, as well as allow us to get a better understanding of what's going on.
8. Creighton (Missouri Valley), 88.594, 15-5 (5-3)
The Bluejays' secret weakness has been its lack of size, which was cruelly exploited in three recent losses: Illinois State (-15 rebounding margin), Northern Iowa (-8) and last Saturday's Wichita State (-21!). Like the western heroes of old, they'll have to shoot their way out of any problem, and when they win -- take Tuesday's whomping of Evansville in which the Jays shot 57 percent -- they do just that. Special heads-up for all Bizarro Valley peeps: I'll be in Omaha for the Drake and Indiana State games.
9. Temple (Atlantic 10), 88.492, 9-7 (1-1)
As with Dayton, the Minutemen have recently spoiled the Owls' party. Chalk that up to the worst defensive performance in six weeks and a fired-up UMass crowd. By staying above water against one of the country's toughest skeds (22nd hardest, to be exact), Temple is still very much a threat, and it's still won four of five. Saint Louis (CBS-CS) and Charlotte (ESPNU) are two upcoming home games available at your satellite-equipped house, or sports bars. Tip well, and they'll change the channel for you.
10. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 88.010, 16-3 (5-3)
It really is this simple: in games in which Champ Oguchi and Osiris Eldridge both score double figures, the Redbirds are 12-0. When one or the other has a sing;e-digit off-night, they're a very pedestrian 4-3. Everything else about Illinois State is soild: they're playing good defense, protecting the ball, keeping other teams off the line and rebounding. There's a home test against Southern Illinois this weekend, and a showdown-throwdown with surprise league leaders Northern Iowa next Wednesday. We'll see you in this format after that one's complete. Who knows, ISU might still be here!
The Next 12:
11. Wisconsin-Green Bay (Horizon League), 87.052; 12. George Mason (Colonial), 86.306; 13. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 85.710; 14. Cleveland State (Horizon League), 84.373; 15. North Dakota State (Summit League), 84.078; 16. Portland State (Big Sky), 83.605; 17. Long Beach State (Big West), 82.242; 18. Rhode Island (Atlantic 10), 81.023; 19. Buffalo (Mid-American), 80.980; 20. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10), 79.839; 21. Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), 79.368; 22. Ohio (Mid-American), 77.678.
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