February 12, 2008 4:39 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
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 2/12/2008, 3 p.m. ET
Legend: Rank. Team (Conference), Rating, Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]
1. Drake (Missouri Valley), 107.39 22-1 (13-0) 
Clarification is always a good thing... we've only received one hate-mail letter about the Atlantic 14 since putting up the starburst at the top of the index page (and I quote: "whut flavor crack r you smoking, a-10 isnt mid major" A: Blueberry-Banana!). Now, I think I'm able to articulate what we're doing here with The State rankings. It's not a predictive formula, it's not something to take to the sportsbook in February. Our stat-basket formula, carefully calibrated to last year's Final Four, is measuring how well-rounded teams are -- as such, we are indexing the relative ability of teams to survive in a one-and-done situation. And in March, isn't that all anybody wants to know? Which Achilles' heels might end up with spears in them?
We'll be unleashing a dynamic version next season that will rank teams' ability to defeat any other single given team, but we're not going to blow your minds like that. (Yet.) For now, we'll use our weekly State post to examine teams' weaknesses, that is, the things that our favorite 10 squads have to improve on in order to bolster their on-court immune systems. There are generally only one or two trouble spots that fit in a tight paragraph, while the rap sheets on the lower-ranked teams are a lot more Boubacar-sized.
And we'll start the nit-picking with Drake. The Bulldogs have a tough week at Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa this week, and their defense will be severely tested with these drive-happy teams at their places. Drake's weakness is its interior defense, allowing over 51 percent of two-point shots to fall.
2. Davidson (Southern), 95.751 17-6 (15-0) 
The Wildcats aren't as likely to be manhandled on the boards like they were against Maryland in last year's NCAA first round, but this version fouls too much (18.9 fpg), and could allow a team to beat them at the line. Their team 3-point shooting (Stephen Curry notwithstanding) is also suspect, sixth in the SoCon.
3. Butler (Horizon League), 95.477 21-2 (10-2) 
For all its charms, Butler's defense allows a lot of shots to fall. This doesn't have much of an effect when the Bulldogs can play at their preferred slower tempo, but if a team starts braking free and running on them, look out.
4. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 95.283 18-5 (11-2) 
We've said it many times, but last year's Ram defense was on autopilot while the offense used most of the team's energy. Definitely not the case this year. But the 2007-08 VCU'ers turn the ball over an average of two more times per game, and are not very good at the line.
5. Saint Mary's (West Coast), 94.874 21-3 (8-1) 
Another broken record, but SMC has trouble when other teams slow the tempo and turn games into icky thumps. Also a squad that has problems converting at the white stripe, making just 62.9 percent of their free throws.
6. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 94.305 20-4 (8-1) 
Its poop may not stink, but the X is tremendously vulnerable against hot shooting from beyond the arc. Since conference play began, the Musketeers have allowed 35.4 percent of opponents' 3-pointers to fall, which is 10th best in the league. Size is also an issue, as an athletic team that tops out at 6-9 averages about 30 rebounds per contest. That's also 10th best in the A-14.
7. Sam Houston State (Southland), 91.434 18-4 (6-3) 
The big one is turnovers -- it's not a very fast team, but the Bearkats cough it up an average of 17 times a ballgame. The defense, rebounding and ball-sharing is power conference-class, but its free throw shooting is definitely more juco. Only 63.7 percent from the line as a team.
8. Illinois State (Missouri Valley) 91.018 17-7 (9-4) 
What is it with good mid-major teams and free throws? It's a potential harbinger of doom, perhaps there will be multiple instances of last-second free throws falling short in the first round, followed by wholly undeserving No. 5 seeds exhaling. Anyway, the Redbirds only make 63.5 percent, and that's Valley-worst.
9. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10) 90.744 15-7 (6-3) 
The Joes are good, don't get me wrong, we've always liked them. And they do force their share of turnovers, but once opponents get across the timeline there might be some trouble. Worst 3-point defense in the Quatorze Atlantique, and you'll likely have a good chance to make 50 percent of your shots against them in total.
10. South Alabama (Sun Belt) 90.087 20-4 (12-1) 
Team USA's bugaboo is creating turnovers, but that may be a function of its promptness in getting back on defense. And the free throws could be better (70.2 percent) but aren't Illinois State/Saint Mary's horrible. Other than that, this team doesn't have a lot of holes, it just doesn't get tested at a high level in the Sun Belt that often. Feb. 21's rematch with Western Kentucky can't come soon enough.
The next 12:
11. Creighton (Missouri Valley) 89.720 ; 12. Siena (Metro Atlantic) 88.270 ; 13. Miami (Oh.) (Mid-American) 86.863 ; 14. Ohio (Mid-American) 86.779 ; 15. Boise State (Western Athletic) 86.357 ; 16. Nevada (Western Athletic) 84.627 ; 17. Kent State (Mid-American) 82.850 ; 18. Niagara (Metro Atlantic) 82.386 ; 19. Central Michigan (Mid-American) 82.089 [--]; 20. Rhode Island (Atlantic 10) 81.817 ; 21. IUPUI (Summit League) 81.683 [--]; 22. Massachusetts (Atlantic 10) 81.439 .
Out of the index:
Texas-Arlington (23), California-Santa Barbara (29).
25. Stephen F. Austin (Southland); 27. Cal State Northridge (Big West); 30. Western Kentucky (Sun Belt); 36. George Mason (Colonial); 38. Oral Roberts (Summit League); 59. Cornell (Ivy League); 74. Dayton (Atlantic 10); 77. Utah Valley State (Independents); 246. New Jersey Tech (Independents).
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