February 12, 2009 10:45 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
The State of College Basketball is a kinda-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), 108.119, 21-2 (12-1)
Long breaks in the HL schedule give the conference extra time to consider the Bulldogs' 69-51 win at Wright State last Saturday, a statistical blowout for the Raiders in all categories except one: Butler's defense shut down Wright's guards and kept their shooting to 27 percent. Despite the blemish caused by Green Bay, the team remains in the national popularity contest and gets some home cooking this weekend against the two Chicago teams (UIC and Loyola). Both are 4-10 in the conference, so the Bulldogs will likely be 14-1 by the time they pack up for Milwaukee next Wednesday.
2. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 102.391, 20-4 (8-2)
The Musketeers' loss at Dayton on Wednesday didn't erase the league-best roster of accomplishments: two wins over RPI top 25 teams (and six against the top 100), and 20 wins against the nation's 19th toughest schedule. The X has a pretty easy ride for the next few weeks, with a trio of teams currently combining for four league wins: Fordham, at Charlotte and then home for George Washington.
3. Utah State (Western Athletic), 99.431, 23-1 (11-0)
As if USU's profile wasn't impressive enough with all that offensive and defensive efficiency and whatnot, now the team has a fourth double-digit scorer. Sophomore Tyler Newbold has run off a string of hot performances to climb to 10.3 ppg (including this 13 point, seven rebound game against La Tech last weekend), as if the world needed another 6-3 guard who shoots around 50 percent and grabs boards. The league-undefeated Aggies get to explore the land of Famous Potatoes this weekend with Idaho and Boise State on the road, then step out of conference to make a snack of D-I newbie Cal State Bakersfield.
4. Saint Mary's (West Coast), 93.325, 18-4 (6-3)
I'll say this: I'm not a fan of special NCAA consideration for injury, because it's a slippery slope. Next thing you know, schools with down seasons are getting into the Big Dance because their recruiting class didn't work out. Excuses are also a discredit to the Gaels' best-in-class frontcourt, who can match up against anyone. But it's obvious the guard play is really suffering without Patrick Mills, who we hope will be back in time for the conference tourney in Las Vegas. The backcourt only produced eight baskets in SMC's 18-point loss at Santa Clara, and the actual TS-22 index number has fallen seven points since last week from 100 to 93. Gonzaga awaits on Thursday.
5. Dayton (Atlantic 10), 88.434, 22-3 (8-2)
The Flyers jump ahead in the index because of a certain huge win over a hated rival, in which UD proved that teams that squeak by inferior competition don't automatically suck, and that quality depth is really good to have. Rob Lowery left the game after landing wrong on his foot and will require surgery, but 12th man Stephen Thomas stepped in and led the team to a victory 1,000 times bigger than the early statement against Marquette. Dayton gets Richmond at home this weekend before hitting the road for Saint Louis and Rhode Island.
6. Davidson (Southern), 87.514, 20-4 (13-1)
This system really doesn't like home losses, so the Wildcats drop a spot to fifth. Losing to College of Charleston (and the sudden surge of The Citadel) doesn't really put heat on Davidson as much as balmy warmth in the SoCon's South division, and the team is still comfortably ahead, three games ahead of both with six contests remaining before the tourney. It's road trip time this weekend; Curry & Co. head to Wofford Thursday and Furman on Saturday, and both games are televised on MASN.
7. Temple (Atlantic 10), 87.318, 13-9 (5-3)
Temple is a real statistical oddball: it's the most efficient offense in A-14 play (1.084 PPP), but is ninth in shooting with 44.9 percent. Limiting turnovers is important! With eight games left before Atlantic City, the Owls have plenty of chances to make their record match their computer ratings and defy their stat sheets. This is one of two tough stretches remaining, however: after Saint Joe's in the G!O!T!N!, there's a trip to Pittsburgh to face dangerous Duquesne. Temple should be able to make some hay during a homestand that features Fordham, Saint Bonaventure and La Salle.
8. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 87.130, 19-6 (13-1)
The Saints snapped back nicely from their close road loss at Rider last Saturday by dispatching Loyola by 13 two days later at home. That tilt featured one of the team's hidden strengths: they're killing 'em with kindness. Siena took just 10 fouls in the Loyola game, have not committed more fouls than any of their MAAC opponents so far, and are under 15 whistles 14 times this season. The kindest team in the Met entertains Manhattan on Thursday before heading to Iona Monday in a rematch of their close call a couple weeks ago.
9. North Dakota State (Summit League), 87.002, 18-5 (12-1)
NDSU has won 10 in a row and have blown open the league race as Oral Roberts has taken two consecutive L's. Second-best 3-point shooting team in the land at 42.2 percent, and there's that turnover thing we like so much, just 10.2 per game in Badlands Conference play. The Bison will have a great chance to put some more distance on the pack in the next five days, with home games against UMKC, Southern Utah and South Dakota State (senior night... already?). None of those teams are over .500 in league play.
10. Creighton (Missouri Valley), 86.771, 20-6 (10-4)
The Bluejays, not the Northern Iowa Panthers, have been lingering around our top 10 all season, and now they're starting to back it up. Dana Altman's charges have taken five straight Bizarro Valley contests to climb within two games of the leaders, and they're doing it with the ball control that briefly eluded them during late December and early January. Pretty much everybody's going to outrebound Creighton (like UNI... +19 last weekend), but it's all about the guards here. The Jays are a combined minus-13 during this win streak, and haven't been underturnovered since Jan. 20.
The Next 12:
11. Wisconsin-Green Bay (Horizon League), 85.864; 12. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 83.078; 13. Buffalo (Mid-American), 82.389; 14. Rhode Island (Atlantic 10), 81.974; 15. Cleveland State (Horizon League), 81.647; 16. George Mason (Colonial), 81.320; 17. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 79.652; 18. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10), 79.476; 19. Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), 79.004; 20. Miami (Oh.) (Mid-American), 78.541; 21. Niagara (Metro Atlantic), 78.310; 22. Portland State (Big Sky), 74.896.
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