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.
(Horizon League), 111.340, 18-1 (9-0)
There's been a bit of week creep to this list; I had it on Wednesday but that's a big national game night so everything would be outdated quickly, then putting it up Thursdays made more sense, but then there was a 350-mile drive through blizzard remnants yesterday. So my bad. Anyways, Butler. No team in America should be labelled "until proven otherwise" moreso than the Bulldogs. Their the RPI is seven, the only loss in 19 games was of the one-possession variety
at Ohio State, and they've won 10 games in a row since, many in emphatic
fashion. Sterling halfcourt defense, offensive efficiency, and 31 boards per game. What else do you want from these guys, a diamond ring?
(Atlantic 10), 108.355, 18-2 (6-0)
Well, the A-14 has slipped the trap it fell into last year for the most part, and is slotting (most of) its NCAA-worthy teams in the upper echelons of the standings. And its premier team is settling into its ass-busting groove, dropping nine opponents in a row including a Red Line Upset of LSU
last Saturday. In league play, they're dropping teams by an average of 19 points, and will hog most of the conference's remaining ESPN dates (five in all). So we'll all be able to see if the X can finally stop turning the ball over, something they do over 21 percent of the time (13th in the league). It just doesn't make sense that a moderately-paced team like this wouldn't
be bitten by this in a one-and-done March situation.
3. Saint Mary's
(West Coast), 100.520, 17-2 (5-1)
These rankings are up to date, and include all action of Thursday night. The Gaels' nationally-televised loss to Gonzaga didn't hurt them that much in this index, because at the very least, our computers recognize the good job on the boards they did. Patty Mills' supple wrist may be hurting (update
: it's broken and he's out for 3-4 weeks), but as long as the ball can get into bigs like Simpson
, good things happen. This is the best front line in mid-majordomâ„¢, and it's outrebounded eight straight opposing sides (vs. Gonzaga: plus-7). A second-place battle between 5-1 teams comes on Saturday night at surging 3-lovers Portland
4. Utah State
(Western Athletic), 99.192, 20-1 (8-0)
A special note to the Aggie fans out there: you're not going to get any national respect. Forget it. You might as well send the team out with "He Hate Me" nameplates. Just enjoy the generally non-televised run (except for that Idaho game on Altitude coming up... everyone in Connecticut gets that, you know), and don't mind what the pollsters say. Focus on things like sophomore Tai Wesley
's awesome play of late, leading the team in scoring three times in four games. He's the 2010 WAC POY if everything goes right.
(Southern), 92.056, 17-3 (10-0)
The Wildcats pretty much scared away any SoCon gumption with its devastating 22-point win at Chattanooga
in Wednesday's G!O!T!N!, and have the rest of the regular season to hone and polish and buff its fearsome mid-major machinery. Barring an unexpected and uncharacteristic off-night, Curry
and Co. should cruise through until BracketBusters, which is seven games away. They'll only play one team in the RPI's top 200 in that stretch, the Charleston Cougars they've already beaten
on the road.
(Metro Atlantic), 91.267, 17-5 (11-0)
The Saints escaped a slip-up on Monday at home against Iona, when they let the Gaels back into a game that looked over with 10 minutes left to play. That one-point win
ended up being more motivation than anything, and Siena came out and destroyed
Canisius Thursday night. We're lobbying heavily for a Buster matchup between the Saints and current CAA leaders Northeastern, which would be both an aesthetically pleasing game (Siena's super speed against the Huskies' slow jamzzz) and it would give us a much better idea of what teams are going into late March with the needed flexibility to handle different styles.
(Atlantic 10), 87.651, 11-8 (3-2)
It's not a practical approach, sure, because most pollsters look at records. "Oh, that team's 11-8, must suck!" But trust us. We were right about Saint Joe's last year. As far as offensive and defensive efficiency goes, it's the second best team in the A-14 behind Xavier, and it grabs 54.8 percent of all available rebounds, which is superior to the X. And the Owls have guys like Semaj Inge
and Lavoy Allen
, who can step in when Dionte Christmas
has an off night (case in point: Charlotte
). The pieces are in place for a strong finish, and the faceoff next Thursday in Cincinnati should clarify matters, because when it comes to the lackluster record, the road (6-6) has been the reason.
(Atlantic 10), 87.475, 19-2 (5-1)
After watching some A-14 hoops off the TiVo as of late (thank you, CBS College Sports and your endless replays!), we're willing to bet a nickel on three bids here. Not so sold on Saint Joe's 2009, but the Flyers should find a way in with their gaudy record, strong nonconference performance and kitchen-sink approach to basketball. There's no way they should be winning games like last night's Saint Louis debacle
(33 percent shooting), but efficient defense is saving a lot of days. We've said this a few times this season, but UD can win at any speed. That's really, really
9. Illinois State
(Missouri Valley), 86.237, 17-4 (6-4)
Northern Iowa has this league on lock, but the computer still likes those Redbirds. We were at that game
on Wednesday, and if Champ Oguchi
hadn't been in foul trouble, or Osiris Eldridge
had mentally shown up at all, this would have been an Illinois State blowout. O-seriously. Look for point guard Lloyd Phillips
to step up and act as a third scoring wheel; he went 3-for-9 in the UNI game but showed some flash, and is back in double-figures at 11.8 ppg. And it would be just like the Bizarro Valley to send a team that finishes .500 in the league to the NCAA's.
(Mid-American), 85.784, 13-5 (5-1)
This team has been hanging around the lower reaches of this top ten all season, but the payoff is here: the Bulls look like they're in the process of running the rest of the tough MAC East right off the map. Very solid on the road, as evidenced by a sweep of Miami
and Western Michigan
to run their winning streak to five -- Buffalo can claim eight wins in its last nine contests. We love us some ball control, and UB only coughs it up 9.7 times a game in league play. And don't forget! Buffalo has never made the NCAA Tournament. Is it time?The Next 12:
11. George Mason
(Colonial), 85.425; 12. Wisconsin-Green Bay
(Horizon League), 84.812; 13. Creighton
(Missouri Valley), 83.574; 14. Virginia Commonwealth
(Colonial), 83.353; 15. Rhode Island
(Atlantic 10), 83.321; 16. Northeastern
(Colonial), 82.959; 17. Northern Iowa
(Missouri Valley), 81.763; 18. Miami (Oh.)
(Mid-American), 81.564; 19. Saint Joseph's
(Atlantic 10), 81.427; 20. Portland State
(Big Sky), 80.657; 21. Cleveland State
(Horizon League), 79.615; 22. Stephen F. Austin