The State of College Basketball is a decrepit old 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), 96.250, 26-5 (15-3)
This is the final computation of the State ratings for this site (1:00 pm ET version), as national postseason results are not included. After the last tourney games are played, the hourly updates switch off for the season. I think the index performed a lot better in its second time around, after I tweaked it last summer to account for momentum and the value of balanced scoring. Here's last year's final version
And as it just so happens, many of the teams on the front end of this final post didn't get into the Tournament the old-fashioned way... the underlined teams are the ones that won their league titles, and the rest are in rough order of at-large likelihood. The Bulldogs, though they lost in a nip-and-tuck Horizon title game
to Cleveland State, are so safely at home inside the bubble that they've ordered a "bundle" from the cable company. Here's a last look at their NCAA Selection Committee team sheet
(Atlantic 10), 93.938, 25-7 (12-4)
The X's team sheet
is of unquestionable NCAA quality as well, though a late RPI surge by A-14 champion Temple (No. 34) has put them at 5-4 against the top 50. With the Owls eliminating them from the league tourney on Friday night
, it's definitely a "quality loss." Not even the freak drop at Charlotte
can stop the Musketeers from getting a nice seed to start another shot at the Elite 8 (or beyond). The question going into the Tournament will be the same as it's been all season: can the Musketeers take care of the ball? Xavier won the turnover battle just five times during the 16-game regular slate, and coughs cost them in the Temple game.
3. Utah State
(Western Athletic), 91.657, 30-4 (14-2)
Stew Morrill is a very smart guy, he's been around for a long time. He's won like a million WAC COY awards or something, and was one of the first mid-major head coaches to play in-season home-and-homes with other strong mids. So he knew what he was doing with his "soft" schedule (even though he played and beat Utah
-- which, like, won the Mountain West and stuff). The risks are clear: if you're Morrill, or Illinois State's Tim Jankovich, or Akron's Keith Dambrot in 2007, not risking getting your brains beat in by power-conference goliaths during November and December means that you have
to get in the hard way. No margin for error at all, and no sympathy if you don't win your league tourney. But USU won three games in three days to claim the WAC championship this weekend, so it doesn't matter.
To prove that hype and conventional wisdom is more powerful than reality, we're going to play the Team X/Team Y game. Team X had a Division I strength of schedule rated 142, and team Y had a SOS of 148. Team X was berated constantly for its "soft" schedule and was never discussed as a viable at-large candidate, while the major-media storyline for Team Y was an injury to its young point guard. Team Y was always "on the bubble," and still is. Team X is Utah State. Do you know who Team Y is?
4. Saint Mary's
(West Coast), 87.638, 25-6 (10-4)
Correct! But Saint Mary's is surfin' the meniscus after taking a title game blowout versus Gonzaga on Monday
. Here's the team sheet
. Eastern Washington didn't take its offshore exemption
last summer and could schedule another game, Saint Mary's underscheduled by one thanks to the Anaheim Classic, and they both added each other
... two weeks ago. That match allowed Patty Mills
to get some more PT after his injury, and provided another chance for the Best Frontcourt in Mid-Majordomâ„¢ to tune up (44 points and 17 rebounds from Samhan
, LLC). We here at The Mid-Majority love Saint Mary's, but hate this maneuver. Once the power-conference teams get the idea that they can hold a game back and schedule it only if they need to pick up a March win to boost their at-large chances, a lot of them will do it. Oh yes, they'll do it. Too many loopholes already.
(Metro Atlantic), 86.631, 26-7 (16-2)
The Saints, hopefully, are making everyone believe in the power of ball control. In three MAAC elimination games, Siena was a combined minus-23 on turnovers, which helped the Saints withstand a blistering physical attack from a Niagara squad that had a powerful marker
on them. But with a 77-70
winner, the green and gold are back in the Dance and very ready to do more damage out of what should be a better seed than a No. 13. We just hope the next Siena loss isn't Fran McCaffery's last game on its bench, and that he can get real paid and
work farther along towards getting the Times Union Center court named after him.
(Missouri Valley), 86.339, 26-7 (14-4)
Saint Mary's and Creighton
are the two sub-Red Liners most talked about in the "bubble-ology" talk or whatever. We'll say it again, Gaels and Bluejays fans... tune it out
. Illinois State was "in" last year, and the heartbreak in Normal on Sunday night was astounding. Keep in mind that both these teams this time are at the mercy of outside developments and will have to back in to the NCAA Tournament. By losing their last elimination games, neither Creighton or SMC is the champion of anything, in what should be a tournament of champions. Right now, both are out out out
. You're out until proven in. Let it go.
That being said, it's looking pretty good for both, wouldn't you say?
7. North Dakota State
(Summit League), 83.192, 26-6 (16-2)Bison Fever! Bison Fever!
(Atlantic 10), 82.830, 26-7 (11-5)
All year, the Flyers (team sheet)
have defied odds and statistical analysis by earning victories with the most unselfish team in recent college basketball memory. Their wins, which sometimes have led to prolonged headscratching afterwards as to how that even happened
in a world ruled by physics and logic, are impressive: Xavier, Temple and Marquette headline a 3-2 record against the top 50. But UD has not been very good down the stretch, losing four in seven, and the offense has struggled to break even and score a point per possession lately. There's still a slight chance of a shock snub, but if this team can get in and recapture its nonconference form in the NCAA Tournament, America at large will fall deeply in love with the unassuming, overachieving Flyers. Take that to the bank.
(Atlantic 10), 82.783, 22-11 (11-5)
This index believed in the Atlantic One all along, as the computer kept the Owls in the top 10 even while bad losses stained the rÃ©sumÃ© like gothic deth-demon blood. They have an experiences star in Dionte Christmas
, a solid and young supporting cast, and national-quality defense. And in Temple's three wins this weekend, they won fast (Saint Joe's
, 74 possessions), slow (Xavier
, 60 possessions), and excruciatingly grindingly slow (Duquesne
, 57 possessions). That's a good signal that this team will be ready for any type of assignment it receives.
10. Illinois State
(Missouri Valley), 79.133, 24-9 (11-7)
This far down the list, we're talking about the NIT. Which is where Illinois State is heading, because the Redbirds didn't challenge themselves at all in nonconference but didn't live up to the risks that strategy brings with it. Pile up the wins all you want, but back it up
with a tourney championship. Period. The Redbirds don't have to look farther than the mirror for that final failing: MVC tourney POY Osiris Eldridge's
second-half shooting show was among the great performances of the season, but remember that all 21 of his points in that OT loss to Northern Iowa
came in the second half. If Illinois State hadn't come out pancake-flat in the first half and scored just 19 points as a team, a miracle wouldn't have been necessary and they'd be in right now.The Next 12:
11. Cleveland State
(Horizon League), 78.921; 12. Virginia Commonwealth
(Colonial), 77.841; 13. Wisconsin-Green Bay
(Horizon League), 77.467; 14. Niagara
(Metro Atlantic), 77.317; 15. Rhode Island
(Atlantic 10), 77.246; 16. Davidson
(Southern), 75.921; 17. Northern Iowa
(Missouri Valley), 75.263; 18. Western Kentucky
(Sun Belt), 74.028; 19. Stephen F. Austin
(Southland), 73.247; 20. George Mason
(Colonial), 72.851; 21. Weber State
(Big Sky), 71.278; 22. Oakland
(Summit League), 69.359.