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 1/2/2008, 1 p.m. ETLegend: Rank. Team Rating (Conference), Rating, Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]1. Sam Houston State (Southland), 100.43, 11-1 (0-0) 
Instead of defending our methodology and pointing out 1-1 California road trips that contain an overtime loss to a Mountain West team, instead of pointing out that you're looking at a list of well-rounded teams that are potential NCAA first-round victory candidates, instead of pointing out that teams not on this list generally have a fatal flaw (or two), we're going to go down the list this week and put the spotlight on each Top 10 team's star player.
A big reason for the Bearkats' emergence as a national mid-major threat is the breakout season by a 6-1 senior named Shamir McDaniel. The San Antonio native was an unlikely candidate for breakout anything with deep role-player status for his entire career, but he's more than doubled his output with 13.7 ppg, and is shooting 15 percentage points better than last year (47.6 percent). Nine double-figure scoring games so far this season for a guy who only had 10 in his first three years combined. Not bad.
2. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 100.38, 7-4 (2-0) 
Edwin Ubiles was the MAAC co-newcomer of the year last season, battled through academic issues over the summer, but is back on the court and making a case that he's the best all-around player in the conference. The 6-6 sophomore hits a lot of high-percentage close-in shots, but he can stroke a few bombs as well -- witness his 47.8 percent shooting from 3-land. Solid rebounder, too, and an excellent foul shooter.
3. Butler (Horizon), 98.509, 12-1 (1-1) 
A.J. Graves is the name most know, but his backcourt-mate Mike Green is getting more credit from the national folks these days, and deservedly so. The 6-1 senior from Philly averages 15.0 ppg, behind Graves, but leads the Bulldogs in both assists (4.9) and rebounds (5.4)! Very tough for other teams to plan for.
4. Drake (Missouri Valley), 98.307, 10-1 (1-0) 
The Valley didn't see Josh Young coming... the 6-1 sophomore was an inconsistent, trigger-happy shooter last season as a freshman, but has returned from the summer as a sharpshooting threat and a star of opponent coaches' tape sessions. Young is shooting 46.5 percent from 3, and has shot 50 percent or better from beyond the arc in seven of Drake's first 11 teams.
5. Niagara (Metro Atlantic), 98.173, 8-3 (1-0) 
Charron Fisher is a 6-4 senior you might remember from last year's MAAC champs. Now, he's the nation's second-leading scorer at 27 ppg, and the league's most efficient point-getter with 29.6 points per 40 minutes. Five double-doubles, five double-digit rebound games, and he even blocks a few shots -- 0.7 per game, tied for 12th in the league. No wild fluctuations in production here, either... his low for a game so far is 22 points.
6. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 97.468, 10-3 (2-0) 
"O" on the shirt, "O" for an initial, and lots of on-court "O." Osiris Eldridge is a 6-3 sophomore who ranks Valley-third in points per game with 15.5, and he's helped engineer two thrilling Redbird wins in the hostile venues at Wichita State and Creighton. Solid on defense too, with two steals a ballgame.
7. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10), 96.687, 7-4 (0-0) 
Pat Calathes has been a key Hawk for several years now, but the 6-10 St. Joe's senior is rounding into one of the best players in the deep and talented A-14. He leads the team with 17.4 ppg, grabs 7.6 boards per ballgame and blocks two shots too. He's had a monster week with two double-doubles against Siena and Drexel, averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds over the two-game stretch.
8. Creighton (Missouri Valley), 96.431, 9-2 (0-1) 
Brash and outspoken on the court, 6-2 freshman P'Allen Stinnett is playing like he's been in the Valley for years. He's shooting 48 percent from the floor, has 10.8 ppg, scored 22 in his MVC debut, and looks like a shoo-in for league newcomer of the year. He's already been the newcomer of the week once.
9. Texas-Arlington (Southland), 96.399, 9-2 (0-0) 
Jermaine Griffin is a 6-9 senior who landed on the Southland's first team last year with 13.2 ppg and 6.8 rpg averages, and he's backed it up with a senior season that's put UTA on the national mid-major map. Five double-doubles, 66 percent floor shooting, and 96 rebounds in 10 games make this Maverick the best big-man in the conference.
10. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 95.712, 10-3 (0-0) 
Last of all, a little due recognition for a guy that doesn't get nearly enough credit, even when folks talk about his team. Nothing against Drew Lavender, but Derrick Brown is a 6-7 sophomore who's been the Musketeers' most consistent performer, and was the X's best player during their two-game slide in mid-December. He leads the team in rebounds at 6.8 rpg, places second in points at 11.8, but his attributes are best illuminated with weird stats. In True Shooting Percentage (kinda like OPS in baseball), he makes 71.4 percent of his total shots (FT, FG and 3PT).
The next 10:
11. Nevada (Western Athletic) 95.304 ; 12. Miami (Oh.) (Mid-American) 94.586 ; 13. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial) 94.187 ; 14. Central Michigan (Mid-American) 93.642 ; 15. South Alabama (Sun Belt) 93.452 ; 16. Boise State (Western Athletic) 93.431 ; 17. California-Santa Barbara (Big West) 92.341 ; 18. Valparaiso (Horizon) 92.306 ; 19. Saint Mary's (West Coast) 92.041 ; 20. Holy Cross (Patriot) 91.595 
Out of the Top 20: