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 2/5/2008, 1 p.m. ETLegend: Rank. Team (Conference), Rating, Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]1. Drake (Missouri Valley), 105.78, 20-1 (11-0) 
Let's put this year's Bulldogs season in Valley perspective and stark relief. Now that they've won against each of the other nine teams (and have already recorded sweeps against Creighton and Indiana State), they have broken a lot of losing streaks against a lot of teams. Coming into this year, Drake had lost to Missouri State 10 times in a row, Creighton six times, and Bradley three. And, of course, there was that 17-game drought against Southern Illinois. Get this: over the last decade, Drake has only enjoyed winning records against two MVC teams, their former cellar-mates Evansville (12-9) and Indiana State (13-8). This really is a special year.
2. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 95.543, 16-5 (9-2) 
Poor Towson. The Tigers had to absorb all the frustration the Rams stored up for four days after losing to George Mason last Tuesday on ESPN2. In the 65-42 beatdown, they held Towson to 25 percent shooting and out-rebounded them by nine, which gave them enough index juice to stay just ahead of...
3. Davidson (Southern), 94.513 15-6 (13-0) 
Because this index goes inside the boxscores and pulls out all the important stats, it allows us to see that Davidson is just approaching the peak of its powers. An 11-game win streak includes an eight-game string of scoring at least one point per possession, which is harder to do than you might think. And if you have the DirecTV with the Sports Pack, you have five chances to see the super-efficient Wildcats play before their BracketBuster at Winthrop on Fri., Feb. 22. The home game with Elon is on MASN, the official(ly awesome) network of mid-major basketball.
4. Butler (Horizon League), 94.368, 19-2 (8-2) 
All we can say is: rollin'. Worth pointing out, once again, that 6-8 freshman big Matt Howard has led the team in scoring for the past seven games, and if he doesn't win the league newcomer of the year award, then there's some kind of political stuff going on. The improved inside game has led to an increase in 2-point field goal percentage from 49.5 percent last year (when they went to the Sweet 16) to 50.7, the difference between third in the Horizon and first.
5. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 93.883, 16-6 (8-3) 
We talked earlier a bit about the holes in the defense that the Redbirds have sprung in recent weeks, but another issue that's starting to bite hard is free throws. This team hasn't been good at them all year, but it's one of those things that can be made up for if everything else is strong. A close 65-62 win against Indiana State on Jan. 27 would have been a lot less scary if the Redbirds hadn't shot just 47 percent from the line, and in 11 MVC games, they've only shot better than 70 percent on three occasions.
6. Saint Mary's (West Coast), 93.340, 19-3 (6-1) 
All hail the Gonzaga-beaters, who wrapped up a strong weekend after beating up Portland on Saturday, 86-49. They stay steady here on a week-over-week basis, but in the overall 341-team index, the win hiked the Gaels four spots from 24 to 20 since yesterday.
7. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10), 93.178, 15-5 (6-1) 
For the first time this season, the Hawks appear here ahead of Xavier. It's a momentum thing, really -- the ginormous win over Villanova yesterday gave them those few extra index points. Even with the A-14's gerrymandered schedule, Saint Joe's still has two shots at the X: Sunday in Cincinnati, then on Mar. 6 on Hawk Hill.
8. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 92.247, 18-4 (6-1) 
Quick word about the index in general: I programmed a computer back in October, turned it on, and it processes boxscores as they come in. That's why I laugh, laugh, laugh when I hear or read critiques like Whelliston doesn't know what the freak he's talking about! and stuff. The X loses an index point, and three spots, because they allowed the index's No. 200 team (La Salle) to hang around in a 75-62 lollygag. At home. The poll voters may not know the Explorers had it down to four with six minutes to go, but the computer sees all.
9. South Alabama (Sun Belt), 89.913, 18-4 (10-1) 
Playing flat all night at North Texas and choking in a 30-second, two-down, with-ball situation (which resulted in an off-balance 25-foot miss) is never good. But after a friendly 30-minute chat with head coach Ronnie Arrow (we heard it outside the locker room), the Jaguars came out and whipped Louisiana-Monroe for the benefit of a national audience. Team USA scores on 53 percent of its possessions (27th best in the nation), which is a big thing with our computer.
10. Sam Houston State (Southland), 89.613, 16-4 (4-3) 
Head coach Bob Marlin told us last week that the Bearkats are "just hanging on," and I'm sure he wasn't talking about our top 10. But despite an overtime loss at Texas State, Sam State is just a sliver of an index point out of the 11th spot. And like Illinois State, free throws are killing SHSU: 60.6 percent against Texas State, the fifth sub-62 percent performance since league play began seven games ago. So why didn't they get punished more here? Mostly because three of the four losses are overtime drops away from home. Just like the NHL, OTL's count for something.
The next 12:
11. Ohio (Mid-American), 89.472 ; 12. Creighton (Missouri Valley), 88.646 ; 13. Boise State (Western Athletic), 88.048 ; 14. Siena (Metro Atlantic), 86.637 ; 15. Nevada (Western Athletic), 85.673 ; 16. Niagara (Metro Atlantic), 85.404 ; 17. Miami (Oh.) (Mid-American), 84.719 [--]; 18. Texas-Arlington (Southland), 83.044 ; 19. California-Santa Barbara (Big West), 82.955 [--]; 20. Massachusetts (Atlantic 10), 82.495 [--]; 21. Kent State (Mid-American), 82.488 ; 22. Rhode Island (Atlantic 10), 81.999 .
Out of the index:
Marist (26), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (24), Cal State Northridge (27).
32. George Mason (Colonial); 33. Stephen F. Austin (Southland); 40. Western Kentucky (Sun Belt); 47. Oral Roberts (Summit League); 61. Utah State (Western Athletic); 75. Dayton (Atlantic 10); 87. Akron (Mid-American); 246. New Jersey Tech (Independents).
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