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 in a simulation of 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 12/27/2007, 1 p.m. ETLegend: Rank. Team Rating (Conference), Rating, Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]1. Sam Houston State (Southland), 105.42, 10-0 (0-0) 
I spent a good deal of time in my ESPN chat yesterday sifting through questions in regards to whether this index was broken or not. The formula may rely a bit too much on the RPI (13 percent), but I 'm a fan of its performance so far. It's identified stories I wouldn't have picked up on if I were relying only on the standings for guidance, and teams that rate high here have gone on to have some pretty big upset wins. The teams that are hanging around are generally balanced, solid squads that could have very real chances to win NCAA Tournament games in March.
Like, say, Sam State. No. 29 in the RPI for its schedule strength, and higher here because our computers like the defense and rebounding the NCAA computers can't see. They've beaten Texas Tech at home, have three road wins (bonus points!), and are in the top five in the nation in rebounding, 3-point field-goal defense and defensive efficiency. And if the Bearkats can't keep it up during their California road trip this weekend, they'll be docked accordingly.
2. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 102.17, 6-3 (2-0) 
Speaking of potential NCAA upset teams, put Siena on your radar right now. Classic profile of a March mid-major sleeper: they don't have the size to hang with the big dogs, but they have so much athleticism and smarts on the floor that they do everything else well. Three-point shooting, ball control, low fouls, forced turnovers, great free-throw shooting... this team could have all the ingredients to knock off a No. 4 or No. 5 seed, because they'll wear just about anyone down. Holy Cross certainly found that out on Saturday, as the Saints had enough go-go-go to pull away in overtime.
Another key point in Siena's favor that our computers take close notice of: the Saints have three ridiculously efficient scorers in Hasbrouck, Ubiles and Franklin. All average over 15 ppg, and the worst shooter of the bunch is Hasbrouck, who's shooting "just" 48 percent from the floor. Makes it hard for opposing coaches to formulate a game plan.
3. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 100.61, 8-3 (0-0) 
Tough couple of weeks in the win column for the X, with two straight losses to Arizona State and at home on ESPN against Tennessee. Poll voters didn't care about how close the UT game was and kicked them out of the Top 25, and our computers kicked them out of the overall Top 10 (from No. 8 to No. 16) after the Musketeers basically handed the game over with 21 turnovers. Even though they shed three ratings points from last week's 103.95, they stay at No. 3 here because nobody else had the points to overtake them.
4. Drake (Missouri Valley), 99.693, 9-1 (0-0) 
Idle since last we spoke.
5. Creighton (Missouri Valley), 98.793, 9-1 (0-0) 
No question that the Bluejays head into the Valley season as the revised favorites -- we noted a while back that their defense was forcing more turnovers than SIU, and now their offense is clicking too. CU destroyed Arkansas-Little Rock over the weekend, a Sun Belt team that had ripped through the Conference USA portion of its schedule with enormous rebounding margins. The Bluejays took care of them on the glass by four, and went (-12) and (-10) in turnovers and fouls, respectively.
But the most exciting thing for Creighton fans is the performance of the team's freshman class. Led by P'Allen Stinnett, Dana Altman's newbies are scoring 31.7 ppg. The team had its fourth different MVC newcomer of the week recently... we didn't see any of this coming back in October, and that's why we sold them short.
6. Butler (Horizon), 98.511, 11-1 (1-1) 
Butler manhandled Bradley at home and took care of Florida Gulf Coast on the road, and the Bulldogs even got sharpshooting 6-7 Pete Campbell back from injury. He's still working himself back into the flow (2-for-9 in 24 minutes over the two games), but Butler fans are glad to have him back. Less pressure on him, too, since the guards are back to their superb-shooting selves... in the FGCU game, Mike Green and A.J. Graves combined for 33 points.
7. Miami (Oh.) (Mid-American), 98.290, 6-5 (0-0) 
The Redhawks have gone 2-1 in the last nine days, with a 24-point loss to Kansas in which the Jayhawks refused to play at Miami's slow pace. But the overtime win at Illinois was another clear signal that the Redhawks can expose weaknesses and grind down teams that don't put five top players on the floor at all times. This team is the walking definition of intangibles, and should do very well for itself once MAC play begins next week.
8. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10), 96.776, 5-4 (0-0) 
Having 5-4 Saint Joe's here is another reason why this poll is "broken," but look at the losses. Syracuse, Gonzaga, Holy Cross and Creighton -- three of which are NCAA-caliber teams -- and no loss has exceeded six points. Friday's game at Siena will be another harsh proving ground, and Phil Martelli's squad will be anything if not battle-tested when conference play begins.
9. Holy Cross (Patriot), 96.631, 7-2 (0-0) 
The Crusaders jump into the Top 10 thanks to their valiant yet ultimately failed overtime effort at Siena last week. HC held the Saints even on turnovers, and got a big 26 points from 7-0 senior Tim Clifford. Also worth noting was the 15 points and 7 assists by 5-11 junior Pat Doherty, who will be a huge key this season on a very frontcourt-heavy squad.
10. Texas-Arlington (Southland) 96.399, 8-2 (0-0) 
The Mavericks are on a two-game losing streak, dropping close decisions at TCU and Oklahoma State. But these are, in terms of our index, "good losses." Did you know that Texas-Arlington has outrebounded three Division I opponents by double-digits this season? The third was the Cowboys, who they creamed by 16. The Mavs are in the top 20 nationally in field-goal percentage and rebounds, and only two teams in the entire country allow a lower 3-point field-goal percentage (UTA: 26.4 percent). Pretty nice combination.
The next 10:
11. Illinois State (Missouri Valley) 96.393 ; 12. Nevada (Western Athletic) 96.313 ; 13. South Alabama (Sun Belt) 94.971 ; 14. Niagara (Metro Atlantic) 94.637 [--]; 15. Saint Mary's (West Coast) 94.276 ; 16. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial) 94.187 ; 17. Central Michigan (Mid-American) 93.642 ; 18. Valparaiso (Horizon) 93.186 ; 19. Boise State (Western Athletic) 93.107 [--]; 20. California-Santa Barbara (Big West) 92.452 [--].
Out of the Top 20:
North Texas, Montana, Northeastern.