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 the full 246-team chart (updated hourly), and this is a recording.
As of 1/22/2008, 1 p.m. ETLegend: Rank. Team (Conference), Rating, Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]1. Drake (Missouri Valley), 101.42, 16-1 (7-0) 
The Knapp Center hasn't really been a house of horrors for opponents in recent years -- Drake's had three losing season records in home games over the past decade. But they're a perfect 10-0 there, prompting opponents to ask, "is this hell?" Nope, Iowa. Drake takes to the road before a nice two-game Valley homestand. Should the Bulldogs' 15-game win streak (third longest in the nation) survive tonight against No. 5 Creighton, they will have matched their victory total from last year, and it's not even February yet.
2. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 97.435, 13-4 (6-1) 
The Rams are asserting control over the CAA, and are a step away from taking the No. 1 spot in our index should Drake slip up. It's truly remarkable that a team that spent so much energy on offense last year has emerged as such a defensive perimiter juggernaut... get this. Last year, VCU allowed 35.8 percent of 3's to fall, which was 10th in the league, 230th in the country, and the squad's undisputed Achilles. This season? Only 25.4 percent of opponent bombs land in the net, and that's best in all the land as of yet.
3. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 97.163, 14-4 (6-1) 
Don't forget about the Redbirds, just because they had the misfortune of being clipped in the second half against Drake last Saturday. And it's not like they've lost Osiris Eldridge or anything -- he leads the team with 15.9 ppg, including two consecutive 21-point games. He shot 8-of-12 against the Bulldogs in the losing cause. They didn't lose 'cause of him.
4. Butler (Horizon League) 96.871, 17-2 (6-2) 
Butler took its second L of the Horizon League season last Thursday at Cleveland State, but rebounded nicely by outglassing Youngstown State (+5) and winning by nine to close its Ohio road trip. Now they get the two Chicago-area schools at home this week, with the chance to make some Hinkle hay.
5. Creighton (Missouri Valley) 94.630, 14-3 (5-2) 
A bunch of Creighton fans have sent in kind letters over the past few days, pleasantly reminding us of the Bluejays' five-game win streak, their developing depth and the fact that they're not dead yet in all this Drake-Illinois State feverishness. Dana Altman plays 11 men at double-figure minutes, and only four of those are upperclassmen. That's bad news for the rest of the MVC, all it needs is a seasoned, deep CU team knocking them around for the next two or three years. The computer gets the hint too, putting the Jays up two spots in advance of tonight's home date with No. 1 Drake.
6. Xavier (Atlantic 10) 93.430, 15-4 (3-1) 
Having been to the Cintas Center twice, we know that it's between that building and Creighton's Qwest in terms of ridiculously awesomely high-budget buildings belonging to low-budget programs. The Musketeers are having a spot of trouble outside the clean and cozy confines, though (2-3). They've lost at Miami (Oh.), Arizona State and now Temple on the road, and we're looking forward to the superclash on Sunday at UMass. Three of their next five, however, are at home, where they're absolutely untouchable. Watch out, Dayton (Thurs.)!
7. Saint Mary's (West Coast), 91.804, 16-2 (3-0) 
No gonzo Gonzaga matchup until Feb. 4 (the start of Rivalry Week!), but the Gaels are having their fun ripping through the WCC's soft underbelly. We mentioned last night's LMU blowout, and their five-point win over Pepperdine, who couldn't overcome SMC in the traditional "emotional burst after the coach gets 'fired'" game. Now comes a short weekend on the road at [name redacted] and San Diego before the buildup to the G's.
8. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 91.643, 12-6 (7-1) 
Ball control, 3-point shooting, and a lot of forced turnovers. And a new slower look! After topping the 70-possession mark eight times in nonconference, the skilled Saints are playing in the moderate 60's for the most part since conference play started (except for that one time Niagara tried to run them off the floor, and failed). Don't think we didn't notice.
9. Sam Houston State (Southland), 91.146, 14-3 (2-2) 
Sam State is now 2-2 in the league after dropping an OT decision to Lamar, and dipped out of the Top 10 briefly until the teams that replaced them played some relative patsies and didn't clean them out badly enough. For the time being, we think the Bearkat defense is still the best in the conference, and we're looking forward to our date with them next Thursday against Texas-San Antonio.
10. Niagara (Metro Atlantic), 91.035, 11-6 (5-3) 
Down six spots and clinging to their Top 10 lives, the Purple Eagles have lost three of four after a six-game win streak. The great shooting that marked that run has completely deserted them, and Niagara hasn't hit the 40 percent mark in any of those three drops... including a 27 percent embarrassment against Marist last night. Any further mention would just be rubbing it in.
The next 10:
11. South Alabama (Sun Belt) 90.948 ; 12. Davidson (Southern) 90.945 [--]; 13. Nevada (Western Athletic) 89.020 ; 14. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10) 88.706 ; 15. Kent State (Mid-American) 87.071 [--]; 16. Boise State (Western Athletic) 86.416 [--]; 17. Central Michigan (Mid-American) 86.263 ; 18. Cal State Northridge (Big West) 86.185 [--]; 19. Texas-Arlington (Southland) 86.064 ; 20. James Madison (Colonial) 86.033 .
Out of the Top 20:
Ohio, Massachusetts, Miami (Oh.), Valparaiso.