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 1/29/2008, 1 p.m. ETLegend: Rank. Team (Conference), Rating, Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]1. Drake (Missouri Valley), 104.27, 18-1 (9-0) 
As promised last week, we've tweaked the name a bit because you don't want to be calling those people you know, that thing, and they've got half-a-point so we're just going to back the heck off, kthxbye. So we're supersized this week to fit the theme, and we'll be showing 22 instead of 20 from here on out.
Oh yeah, Drake. We're running out of nice things to say about the Bulldogs since we talk about them every day, but consider this nugget. Drake has been downright gentlemanly on the court, averaging just 15.5 whistles against per game. Not fouling isn't a be-all and end-all stat, but it certainly makes good teams better. The shortlist of 20 with lower averages includes UCLA, Florida, Texas and Washington State.
2. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 97.722, 15-4 (8-1) 
Let's stick with the obscure stat theme, seeing as we just emptied out the barrel on VCU earlier, in advance of their big game tonight at George Mason. You've heard about the Rams' improved defense, but what of their point-making abilities left over from one of only 21 offenses that averaged 1.1 points per possession last season? None of their offensive numbers really pops out at you this year, but that doesn't necessarily mean they've sacrificed O for D. VCU scored at least one point on 53.7 percent of its possessions last season (they call it "floor percentage"), and they've dipped only slightly to 51.7 percent this year. That's good for second in the CAA, behind tonight's opponents at GMU.
3. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 94.486 15-5 (7-2) 
Anthony Slack is just below the double-figure scoring line at 9.9 ppg but shoots at a Valley-leading 70 percent. After he sustained a shoulder injury midway through the Bradley game last Wednesday, the Redbirds fell by one, and without him Illinois State struggled to overcome Indiana State. He's listed as day-to-day, and the Redbirds might really need him during an upcoming UNI-Mo. State road trip to secure a good BracketBusters game.
4. Butler (Horizon League), 94.368, 19-2 (8-2) 
We've talked about the Green-Graves backcourt combo, and the emergence of freshman Matt Howard (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) as a man-handful in the paint. You know who we haven't mentioned for a while? Pete Campbell, the 6-7 sharpshooter whose presence was so sorely missed during a December injury, the now-19-2 Bulldogs went ahead and lost a game. Campbell's maintaining his stellar 49 percent shooting average, but when only played 18 minutes and shot 1-for-6 against UIC last Saturday, Butler still won big. Depth, one of last season's sole bugaboos, is much less of an issue this year.
5. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 93.852, 17-4 (5-1) 
We'll say this about Xavier: the Musketeers provide some of the best customer service in the industry. When you ask a question like, "We're worried about your 2-3 road record. Can you fix that?" they answer with a convincing 12-point win at UMass. If a storm's knocked out your power, you can plug into the strength of +16 rebounding performances like the one last week versus Dayton. If you call up and ask, "We're doing a story on mid-majors. Could you answer some questions?" they'll say no and hang up. Honesty, quality, convenience... it's the Xavier way.
6. Saint Mary's (West Coast), 91.911, 17-3 (4-1) 
Last night's loss at San Diego was a sloppy affair, as both teams turned the ball over about a quarter of the time. That's way out of line for the Gaels, who actually lead the WCC (that includes Gonzaga) with a 19.3 percent turnover rate. But here's a question for the SMC fans in attendance, and past mailbags indeicate there's quite a few out there. Those faux-hawks that a bunch of the players have been rocking... was that something attached to the five-game win streak, or do those get cut off now? We here at TMM can't get enough of the faux-hawk.
7. Davidson (Southern), 91.603, 13-6 (11-0) 
Oh, there they are. After having their index numbers held down because of their early losses to ACC and Pac-10 teams, the Wildcats' campaign of conquest through the SoCon has finally put them up here in the top reaches of our performance-based index. Our computer loves road victories, and Davidson is just wrapping up a three-game road swing at Western Carolina, The Citadel and Charleston, in which they scored an average 80 points, winning by an average of 15 points. They won't get another top-100 RPI team until BracketBuster weekend.
8. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10), 91.127, 12-5 (4-1) 
They get knocked down, but they, um, you know. After losing at Charlotte two weeks ago, the Hawks have run off three straight. On Saturday, they returned to the Big 5, where they continued their run of dominance against Temple with a 68-67 win. Sure, they needed a late shot by Pat Calathes to do it, but TU's only beaten SJU once since 2003 (including Goongate), that horrible Valentine's Day massacre (on the eyes) back in 2006. We've been convinced for two months that this is the second-most well-rounded team in the conference, and now they have the second-place standing to show for it. GW's next, on Wednesday.
9. Sam Houston State (Southland), 91.009, 15-3 (3-2) 
Mostly on the strength of nonconference performance, the Bearkats keep hanging in there. A gritty win over West division foe Stephen F. Austin (sealed by a Shamir McDaniel 3) sure helps, as does the weekend off. Despite two league blemishes, this is still the best defense in the conference (.84 points allowed per possession, fourth-best in the country), and only seven teams can top Sam State's 38.4 team rpg mark. Scoring's been the problem.
10. Creighton (Missouri Valley), 89.917, 14-5 (5-4) 
Youth is occasionally served, but more often than not it gets served, like in that movie with all the dancing. The young Bluejays are coming off a week full of ouch, losing to Drake at home then getting GameDay'd at SIU over the weekend. Good signs abound, however: Booker Woodfox, a member of Creighton's bench, is earning a lot more playing time by shooting 50 percent or better six times, and he's led the team in scoring twice. You'll hear that name a lot in 2008-09, and good thing, too. We need more ballplayers with Dickensian names.
The next 12:
11. Niagara (Metro Atlantic) 89.351 ; 12. Siena (Metro Atlantic) 89.298 ; 13. Nevada (Western Athletic) 89.190 ; 14. South Alabama (Sun Belt) 88.402 ; 15. Boise State (Western Athletic) 87.697 ; 16. Ohio (Mid-American) 87.536 [--]; 17. Texas-Arlington (Southland) 86.567 ; 18. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Horizon) 84.684 [--]; 19. Kent State (Mid-American) 84.641 ; 20. Marist (Metro Atlantic) 84.400 [--]; 21. Cal State Northridge (Big West) 83.747 ; 22. Rhode Island (Atlantic 10) 83.685 [--].
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