The State of College Basketball is a brand-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 341 (here's the long-winded version). In its overall form, it retroactively picked three of the Final Four last season. For our purposes here, it gives the world's only hype-free, non-voting, computer poll of teams in the lower 22 conferences. This is a recording.
As of 12/4/2007, 2 p.m. ETLegend: Rank. Team Rating (Conference), Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]1. Butler (Horizon), 109.85 7-0 (0-0) 
Yup, the Bulldogs are the best we have, and the numbers match the hype -- even though the overall index has been rightly short-selling Ohio State, Butler's expensive dinner on Saturday night. That kept the team's per-game performance ratings down a bit for this one, and the computer didn't like the fact they only shot 41 percent and scored a thoroughly average 1.03 points per possession. Room for improvement? Really!
But with only one more power-conference opponent on the menu (underwhelming Florida State from the ACC, The State's No. 212 team), we're left to dream about possibilities. Brilliant and intrepid reader Sally W. chimes in about our hypothetical Georgetown matchup, an idea idly posited in this space yesterday.
Not sure how it would turn out, except my best guess is the home team wins. (Although the 'Dogs travel well--last 9 of 10 against the Big 6 were wins and only OSU was at home.) If you take a look at common opponents this year it looks pretty evenly matched:Thanks, Sally!
Butler v. Michigan @ Alaska 79-65 Butler
Georgetown v. MI @ home 74-52 Georgetown
Butler v Ball State @ BSU 61-45 Butler
Georgetown v. BSU @ BSU 57-48 Georgetown
2. Sam Houston State (Southland), 109.75 6-0 (0-0) 
Three of Sam's six wins are non-D1 victories (which don't count in this index), but the other three were Texas Tech, Fresno State and a far-from-homer over Wisconsin-Milwaukee. And you can't sneeze at 43.7 rebounds a game (2nd in D-I) and 23.0 percent 3-point field goal defense (3rd). We have them pegged for the Southland championship anyway, but this might be an intriguing March futures pick. There's Ryan Bright (12.3 ppg, 12.2 rpg), a heady and fairly dynamic 6-6 senior who was just named SLC player of the week, a hot guard in Shamir McDaniel (12.5 ppg on 47.9 percent FG%), and a trio of solid role players who shoot the lights out. Keep an eye out for the Bearkats.
3. South Alabama (Sun Belt), 108.63 5-3 (0-0) 
The index can give reward to a team losing a close one, sometimes almost as much of a reward for a win. Team USA came up short at Vanderbilt by three (in double OT!), and it performed so well in key statistical categories that it rose in the index. Add that to recent wins against Chattanooga and San Diego in Anaheim, and the Jaguars are a very good mid-major nobody's discovered yet. Three losses, but they've come by a combined 11 points.
4. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 108.60, 6-1 (0-0) 
It's not enough to blow teams out, the index multiplies your results by the RPI and SOS of your opponent. And even though the Muskies beat up Belmont 90-49, they fall three spots because the computer doesn't like Belmont's inconsistency and wafer-thin defense so far (despite BU's wins at Cincinnati and Alabama). The Bruins are 262nd in the overall chart, so the X was slightly penalized just for showing up.
5. North Texas (Sun Belt), 107.14, 5-1 (0-0) 
The Mean Green jump in the index because of their strong showing at New Mexico State on Saturday, in which they translated rebound, turnover and fewer-foul advantages into a 75-72 road win. Freshman guard Josh White keeps playing big despite his 5-10 stature, with 16.2 ppg and 52.7 percent floor shooting. He hit nine of his 10 freebies at NMSU on the way to 15 points.
6. Drake (Missouri Valley), 106.86, 5-1 (0-0) 
Told you they wouldn't be number one again. Despite thrashing North Carolina Central and edging Duquesne, the Bulldogs tumble six places. This isn't like the RPI, where your opponents' SOS'es follow you around all year, you're judged against your competition on that day and the results fade in importance as the season continues. NCC was 262nd in the overall index, and Duquesne was 80th.
7. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10), 105.07, 4-2 (0-0) 
Here come the Hawks. A close, hard loss to Gonzaga helped more than hurt them here (the Big G is currently second in the overall poll), and a convincing win over Penn State gave St. Joe's the extra juice they needed to break into our Top 10. A little weak on the boards, but they shoot the three well and they don't turn the ball over. Hey, sounds kinda like Butler! They should play!
8. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Horizon), 104.64, 3-4 (0-0) 
We still have some corrections to make, obviously. One of my goals in this index was to create something that would make slightly less logical sense in December than in March -- something the RPI is still having trouble with (Hello, Sammy!). The Panthers are still living off early wins, and the computer doesn't know their top scorer was dismissed from the team. We'll get them out of here soon, I promise.
9. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 104.50, 3-3 (0-0) 
If you subscribe to Hype Illustrated, you sold out the Saints a long time ago, back when they lost at Cornell. In a one-bid league, will that even matter in March? No. What will is the Saints' athleticism, and its amazing combination of speed (76 possessions per 40 minutes) and ball control (14.9 percent turnover rate), things that make our computer say "unnnnnh... na na-na-na." And all you Capital Area fans who chastised me for not mentioning the Albany Cup win over, umm, Albany... here you go: SIENA 75, ALBANY 71 OMGLOLROTFL
10. Illinois State (MVC), 102.80, 5-2 (0-0) 
I asked the computer why it still likes Illinois State, despite a lost weekend at the Chicago Challenge two weeks ago in which the Redbirds lost to Indiana and Kent State. It told me, "Kyle, look at that defense. Only allows 40 percent shooting. They shoot 42.5 percent from 3. They absolutely monsterized UIC last weekend. I also have a compu-crush on Osiris Eldridge." So do we, buddy... so do we.
The next 10:
11. Virginia Commonwealth (CAA), 102.19 [--]; 12. Texas-Arlington (Southland), 101.34 ; 13. Saint Mary's (WCC), 100.98 ; 14. Montana (Big Sky), 99.887  15. South Dakota State (Summit), 99.401 ; 16. North Carolina-Wilmington (CAA), 98.609 [--]; 17. Miami (Oh.) (MAC), 97.675 ; 18. Boise State (WAC), 96.285 [--]; 19. Northern Iowa (MVC), 95.576 ; 20. Creighton (MVC), 95.522 [--].
Out of the Top 20:
Northeastern, Central Michigan, Nevada, Niagara.
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