The State of College Basketball is a gracefully-aging 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), 107.399, 20-2 (8-0)
I've received a few notes in the past few days stating that I don't talk about the A-14 enough. A-ha!
I've got you right where I want you, America! Once again, the national media has slagged off on treating the league like a power conference and now you need ol' Whelliston to blab about it. But in the site's defense, we do have plenty of talk about Hoops Nation's only league that's truly in the mid
dle between the haves and have-nots in our rankings segment (as opposed to College Chalktalk
, which is all over it like salt on fries).
Here's what you need to know: Xavier is kicking everyone's ass MMA-style. The Musketeers have won 11 in a row, are defeating A-14 opponents by an average of 16 points, and their powers are growing ever stronger with each passing day. Just tonight, they knocked around Temple
at home on ESPN2. They still really need some leadership from the point (which is manifesting itself in boo-coo turnovers) and could stand to hit a few more free throws, but otherwise are the total package. Defense, rebounding, shooting, it's all there. And after passing Butler on this list, we have a great big trophy to send them. We know better than to include a return address
(Horizon League), 107.253, 19-2 (10-1)
For the first time in over a month, the Bulldogs slip from the top spot in our index. A lot of that has to do with the team's sudden and shocking humanity, with them losing their first conference contest at Green Bay
earlier this week and all. But they rebounded to beat lowly Detroit
on Thursday, a win led by Gordon Hayward
, who after just 21 collegiate games is a Butler cult hero for the ages. The 6-8 freshman, who is a little skinnier than Pete Campbell but just as deadly from outside, has been a wonderful replacement for the graduated dagger-thrower. He's hit 51 of 109 3-point attempts, including all four against Detroit.
3. Utah State
(Western Athletic), 99.633, 21-1 (9-0)
Moving up a spot is the team from a magical land where cows outnumber people, ice cream is blue, and knowing where to hit the flywheel will earn a Scotsman a hefty check. The Aggies moved into the national popularity contest this week, mostly because even a moron can't ignore a 22-1 team forever, and celebrated by destroying New Mexico State at home Thursday
. With 16 straight wins, an RPI of 38 and a steadily climbing strength of schedule rating that's edging into the lower 100's, Utah State is getting some love from the outside world. Two more wins, which will likely come quickly at the expense of La-Tech and Idaho, will match last year's total. And it's still February!
4. Saint Mary's
(West Coast), 97.996, 17-3 (5-2)
Down one slot is star-crossed Saint Mary's, which lost its best player, Patty Mills
, for up to a month to a hand injury, which was sustained during last week's Gonzaga-thon
. Then the stunned Gaels dropped a game at surging Portland
, which was enough to make the rest of the world forget about them. We're likely to be hearing the term "injury exception" bandied about next month vis a vis
the NCAA selection process, but for now SMC is just trying to get its legs back under it. A 25-point win over San Francisco
was a good first step, and the Zags-Pilots pair is coming back around again next week, this time at home. It's going to be a tough month, and that doesn't even include the upcoming Buster against USU.
(Southern), 92.033, 20-3 (13-0)
While we don't claim to have any say in BracketBusters matchups other than the occasional well-informed ear-whisper, we think it's awful neat that the top four teams in our index (among those who are participating, anyway) are all playing each other later this month on MId-Major Christmas. While some teams might take the opportunity of an easy walkover regular-season championship as a chance to take the odd night or two off, the Wildcats are using the SoCon slate to sharpen their knives for another March run. The defense keeps getting more and more devastating, and the team's at the point now that Stephen Curry can be somewhat human
(as much as a 29 point performance can be), and can still dominate with a Lovedale
double-double one-two punch. That's what happened at UNC Greensboro Thursday, a 75-54 win.
(Metro Atlantic), 90.491, 18-5 (12-0)
The Saints are two-thirds of the way to a perfect MAAC season and are on an eight-game win streak, but they have to survive a pair of separate southern road trips (Rider and Iona) as well as the two-game Buffalo swing. But like we've been saying since the calendar turned, it's okay if they lose. They probably won't, though, considering their hot shooting, ball control and extremely sharing nature (league-leading 14.3 apg). Related news: in our continuing effort to talk to every blog on the internet, we spoke to the Siena Saints Blog
earlier this week. We talked about things like money and sex.
(Atlantic 10), 90.065, 21-2 (7-1)
The Flyers proved our computer's hunch correct last weekend, as they took out the league-undefeated Saint Joseph's Hawks in pullaway fashion, 69-58
. After a squeaker at LaSalle
on Wednesday, the only conference-related blemish is that UMass game
on Jan. 10. There are some teams that seem unimpressive statistically, but always seem to find a way to win games -- credit a deep rotation and deft coaching, but there's still no way to know if this is magic or just stepping . We're less than a week away from the moment the A-14 schedule makers made us wait far too long for: a showdown with the Big X. Next Wednesday, they'll finally get a shot at the top, and at home no less.
8. Illinois State
(Missouri Valley), 88.150, 19-4 (8-4)
The Redbirds still are hanging around in our index's top ten, for a number of reasons. The Bizarro Valley hasn't reached its Random Fingers Of Doom into Redbird Arena, where Illinois State is a healthy 12-0 (it's the road that's the problem: 5-4 out there). And after a close 59-55 loss
at runaway league leaders Northern Iowa last week, ISU has found a way past Bradley
and Southern Illinois
in a pair of intra-Lincoln Land battles. If the woo-woo crazy stuff is coming to a close, this team could end up racking up a few wins before BracketBusters -- the next four opponents all have negative league records. Crap, they're going to go 0-4, aren't they?
9. Wisconsin-Green Bay
(Horizon League), 86.449, 18-6 (10-2)
It's time to take the Phoenix seriously, since this is the most likely team out of this conference to create a Wright/Butler title split like the one that happened in 2007. The nine-point win over Butler
on Tuesday wasn't just a shock to the Horizon League's system, it jumpstarted the possibility of a two-bid league, talk that quieted once league rÃ©sumÃ© kings Cleveland State started dropping HL games left and right. One thing that you need to know about Green Bay is that they shoot the crap out of the ball. The Phoenix have four (!) players who shoot better than 40 percent from the redrawn Land of 3, and it's the eighth best distance-shooting team in Division I (40.5 percent overall). And don't send them to the line, they hit 80 percent from there... second best in all the land.
10. North Dakota State
(Summit League), 85.486, 17-5 (11-1)
Other new entries into the top ten are the dangerous Bison of the Badlands Conference, winners of nine straight and a team that's likely to be mid-majordom's worst-kept secret in about a month. You know about Ben Woodside
, the multiple
who had the 60 point thing that one time. You know they beat Wisconsin and Marquette back a few years ago, and you probably know they've won 69 games in less than four Division I seasons, the kind of record that makes every Tom, Dick and NJIT think they can hang in the NCAA's top flight too. This team shoots 41.3 percent from 3 and gets 56.1 percent of available rebounds (No. 18 in the country), the kind of figure that makes John Gasaway's
palms sweat. Seriously, get gear delivered
before March so you can be the coolest person on your block. Bison fever!The Next 12:
(Atlantic 10), 85.219, 12-9 (4-3); 12. Rhode Island
(Atlantic 10), 83.925; 13. George Mason
(Colonial), 83.754; 14. Buffalo
(Mid-American), 83.033; 15. Northern Iowa
(Missouri Valley), 82.213; 16. Cleveland State
(Horizon League), 81.690; 17. Miami (Oh.)
(Mid-American), 81.067; 18. Virginia Commonwealth
(Colonial), 79.536; 19. Northeastern
(Colonial), 78.540; 20. Saint Joseph's
(Atlantic 10), 78.453; 21. Niagara
(Metro Atlantic), 77.397; 22. Portland State
(Big Sky), 76.830.