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 1/8/2008, 1 p.m. ETLegend: Rank. Team Rating (Conference), Rating, Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]1. Sam Houston State (Southland), 100.44, 12-1 (0-0) 
I have not actually seen this team with my own eyes (something we'll fix on Jan. 24), but we're starting to get reports from people who have. Two coaches who have played the Bearkats tell me that it was the toughest game of the year, and the team's only loss remains that one-point OT drop to San Diego State. Last week, they beat former mid-major and current money-conference participant UCF at home in OT. Now the Southland season begins (Wednesday against Southeastern Louisiana), and we'll see what happens. Either way, probably a drop in this index, since SHSU won't play another team in the State's overall top 100 until that JAn. 24 game with Stephen F. Austin.
2. Drake (Missouri Valley), 99.240, 12-1 (3-0) 
I'll tell you why Drake is on this 11-game streak going into Wednesday's first-place matchup with Indiana State. Radio analyst and Bulldog legend Dolph Pulliam has been wearing a blue leather suit to every game, and head coach Keno Davis won't let him come to the arena without it, even though they can't get a cleaner in Des Moines to wash it on-site. The reason why Drake's 71-68 win over Evansville was so close was because the radio booth is up in the rafters. It's hard for blue leather mojo to work from that great a distance, but it's a good thing that suit has WiFi.
3. Niagara (Metro Atlantic), 98.599, 10-3 (3-0) 
You can dump on the MAAC (State: 16, Conference RPI: 17) all you want, but the truth is that the two top teams are built for NCAA glory. The Purple Eagles have won six in a row, and while they're not the best shooters in the world, they excel with an intriguing combination of speed, rebounding and ball control. Two road wins this past week (the index does love it some road wins) in the Tri-State Area over Iona and Manhattan. We're all looking forward to Friday night's big matchup with...
4. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 97.726, 8-5 (3-0) 
I wish you could have been there to see it. There I was in the far corner of a Buffalo Wild Wings in Evansville, Ind. on Sunday night with a crappy, blurry 13-inch TV watching Siena and St. Peter's, while morons in American football jerseys whooped it up over the NFL on the eight gigantic projection screens. That's how much I love mid-major basketball, folks. Oh, the game? A 79-53 floor-wiping. This team is good.
5. Butler (Horizon League), 97.296, 14-1 (3-1) 
One of the things that separates The State from the RPI is that Butler is going to start falling like a rock over there pretty soon, just because it plays in the Horizon. Over here, teams have the opportunity to keep their ratings up if they beat the tar out of its low-rated league rivals, because our computer looks inside the games and pull out the stats instead of the simple RPI flowchart that says "win -> good; loss -> bad; play against low-rated team: worse." But the do lose a point and a half in the ratings, because they could have done better against 5-10 (1-4) Loyola last night.
6. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 96.862, 11-3 (3-0) 
Already talked up the Redbirds today, so here's a bonus nugget. In the recently concluded Porter Moser era, Illinois State was averaging 15.3 turnovers a ballgame, in the bottom third nationally. This year, with pretty much the same cast, the team under Tim Jankovich is only averaging 13.6, which is in the top 100. Last year bad, this year good. Ball control is important, people.
7. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 96.236, 9-4 (2-1) 
In the very same week I blabbed around in a recorded phone call with their biggest fans, the Rams jump up into the top 10. Did so despite a close loss at James Madison that helped the Dukes leap into the top 20 (see below), but the computer liked how they regained their mojo with a clinical victory at tough Trask against UNCW.
8. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10), 95.687, 7-4 (0-0) 
Lord, the mail. How in my right mind could I think the Hawks are the best team in the A-14 right now? Personally, I disagree, but the computer likes what it likes. The schedule has been tough, all four losses are close, there are five double-digit scorers, and they just forced the tempo on Siena two weeks ago. Don't come crying to me when the Joes start spilling some of these high-flyers in the coming weeks. Tough test at UMass on Wednesday, though.
9. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 94.186, 12-3 (0-0) 
The X is not higher in this index for one reason only: the computer doesn't like the fact that the Musketeers don't turn teams over, and it's still holding the horrible Arizona State loss against it (which, due to degradation, will fade in time). Small disagreement between it and myself, because I think this team is the class of the conference. It has honorary membership in three power leagues as well now, having poleaxed teams from the Big XII (Kansas State), ACC (Virginia) and SEC (Auburn) in the past 10 days.
10. Nevada (Western Athletic), 94.054, 8-5 (0-0) 
So nice of you to join us, Wolf Pack. After hovering around in the low teens for a few weeks, Nevada pops into the top 10. Not for anything they've done recently, mind you, but because Creighton's recent Valley losses put the Bluejays out. Since last weekend's highly anticipated Utah State-Nevada showdown was cancelled due to weather, they haven't played a D-I game since the Dec. 27 loss at North Carolina that ended their five-game W streak.
The next 10:
11. Creighton (Missouri Valley) 93.319 ; 12. Texas-Arlington (Southland) 91.883 ; 13. South Alabama (Sun Belt) 91.826 ; 14. Holy Cross (Patriot League) 91.209 ; 15. Saint Mary's (West Coast) 90.808 ; 16. Central Michigan (Mid-American) 90.667 ; 17. Valparaiso (Horizon League) 90.632 ; 18. Massachusetts (Atlantic 10) 90.622 [--]; 19. Boise State (Western Athletic) 90.471 ; 20. James Madison (Colonial) 90.249 [--]
Out of the Top 20:
California-Santa Barbara, Miami (Oh.).
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