February 20, 2009 7:28 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
The State of College Basketball is a somewhat 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), 99.179, 22-4 (13-3)
Sure, Butler is No. 1 on our side of the Red Line, but if you compare this with last week's list, note that nine points have disappeared from the index number (108.119) and it's still the best in class. Fact is that everybody is losing strength, which is unfortunate and doesn't bode well for March. In the Bulldogs' case, they lost two straight games (Loyola at home and Milwaukee away) characterized with messy backcourt play and a completely erased margin for error. After the BracketBusters trip to Davidson, Butler will close the regular season with Youngstown and a giant gut check with Cleveland State next Saturday.
2. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 97.773, 21-5 (9-3)
Another reeling team is the X, which has lost three of four for the first time since December 2006. The Musketeers have not had a positive turnover margin since Jan. 21 at Saint Bonaventure, and have impaled themselves on the iron unkind when it comes to one-point set-shots: 54, 53 and 75 percent in the three losses at Duquesne, Dayton and Charlotte. Or maybe it's just a road problem. Two of their remaining four are out there on the highways at Saint Joe's and Richmond, but Senior Day will be the rematch with dangerous Dayton on Mar. 5.
3. Utah State (Western Athletic), 96.552, 25-2 (12-1)
The Aggies climb a spot, but finally took a loss since last we spoke like this: a 66-56 drop at Boise State (the only other RPI top 100 team in the WAC) that inspired a mini-court storming. You can pin that primarily on USU's uncharacteristic 37 percent shooting night, which won't beat many teams unless all the other stats are superior. Now comes perhaps the most important game of the year, a Buster at Saint Mary's where a loss will hurt a whole lot more than a win will help.
4. Saint Mary's (West Coast), 89.692, 20-5 (8-4)
We've said it before, but there's a massive adjustment when your point guard goes down; it took the Gaels about two weeks to heal around the month-long loss of Patrick Mills due to a hand injury. Two straight wins, including Thursday's four-point decision over San Diego, help. The Utah State game is also Senior Night for pro-bound Diamon Simpson and heartthrob Carlin Hughes, before Saint Mary's goes south for Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine as they attempt to recapture two-seed position in the WCC. In good news for SMC, Mills appeared on the bench in a splint on Thursday, two days after the cast came off.
5. Dayton (Atlantic 10), 89.604, 23-3 (9-2)
One team in the TS-22 that actually improved its index number was UD, which suddenly finds itself all alone in first in the grand old A-14. A win over Richmond Sunday meant nine victories in the Flyers' last 10, and with an average winning margin of just 2.8 points, it's been a cardiac campaign for sure. The Flyers have already matched their 2007-08 win total, and if they win out before Atlantic City, they'll have 28 overall. They'll have to earn it, though -- three are on the road with Saint Louis, Rhode Island and the X.
6. Temple (Atlantic 10), 88.177, 16-9 (8-3)
We sorta saw this coming, and the Owls have been in this chart all year, but Temple has won four straight and five of six. Big-time rebounding has helped the team crush Duquesne and Fordham over the past week, and let's not forget that TU is firmly in the RPI's top 50 at No. 36. The top 50 losses on the NCAA team sheet will be the topic of a lot of War Room discussion, but a deep run in Sin City East next month will strengthen their case. If you're in the area on Sunday for the Saint Bonaventure game, make sure you stop by and get your Dionte Christmas bobblehead.
7. Creighton (Missouri Valley), 88.006, 22-6 (12-4)
The Bluejays are gaining power down the stretch, erasing a four-game deficit in the standings to take a share of first with Northern Iowa. But it would be the benevolence of a weak bubble that would get them in as the ultimate shock Bizarro Valley ending: an NCAA at-large. Instead of sweating stuff that's out of their control, Creighton will focus on building its current seven-game win streak against George Mason on Saturday in what's suddenly a giant BracketBuster game. They'll finish the BVC season with Mo-State (away) and Illinois State (home) before descending on St. Louis.
8. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 87.996, 21-6 (15-1)
After the two-point Rider loss two weeks ago, the Saints are back on track. They've won three straight since then, and were the first team in Hoops Nation to clinch the regular-season title after second-place Niagara lost on Wednesday and sent a guaranteed national postseason bid to Albany. They'll get to sharpen their uptempo game on fundamentally solid Northern Iowa on Saturday in a home Buster, then move to the road to finish the regular season in the Buffalo area with Niagara and Canisius.
9. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 85.614, 22-5 (11-5)
One constant in the Bizarro Valley is that Illinois State is going to beat your brains in down low, and the Redbirds have been outrebounded just four times in league play. They're also trending upwards in the standings, winning five of six to sit one game between UNI and Creighton. That game with the Bluejays in Omaha next Saturday may just be a live scrimmage for a high-stakes rematch eight days later on CBS. But look at that big empty box on the left side of the team sheet; this wasn't the schedule this team deserved.
10. Davidson (Southern), 83.045, 22-5 (15-2)
No Curry? No prob... um, er, not good. The ankle sprain heard around Hoops Nation forced the nation's leading scorer to the bench for Wednesday's tilt against The Citadel, a blowout 64-46 loss, the score of which may or may not have been printed on T-shirts worn around the greater Charleston area. Home losses kill in this index, so the Wildcats are down five whole spots. Now comes the big bodacious BracketBuster against Butler, and the answer is..... he'll play!
The Next 12:
11. Cleveland State (Horizon League), 81.756; 12. North Dakota State (Summit League), 81.606; 13. Wisconsin-Green Bay (Horizon League), 81.592; 14. George Mason (Colonial), 79.167; 15. Niagara (Metro Atlantic), 77.246; 16. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 76.895; 17. Miami (Oh.) (Mid-American), 76.455; 18. Weber State (Big Sky), 76.003; 19. Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), 72.681; 20. Buffalo (Mid-American), 72.626; 21. Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), 72.221; 22. Portland (West Coast), 71.666.
|Hickory Picket Fences||27629|
|The Hopping Cats||21526|
|Under a Blood Red Line||10379|
|Jen Folds Five||6895|