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 2/19/2008, 1 p.m. ETLegend: Rank. Team (Conference), Rating, Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]1. Drake (Missouri Valley), 106.78, 23-2 (14-1) 
Here, then, are the 10 most likely teams from our level to go to the NCAA Tournament and win games there. If you're just joining us, our computer index rewards well-rounded play, recent momentum, road wins and all the things that matter in March. We're going to be super-pithy in this week's version, focusing on what's left to do before the conference tournaments.
Drake celebrated its first Valley regular season title in 37 years, and has three conference games to go before it takes its No. 1 seed in St. Louis at Arch Madness. All three teams the Bulldogs must face have already been vanquished: 8-7 Bradley at home tonight is perhaps the toughest test (that was a one-point win on the first go-round), then a visit to Missouri State (6-9) next Tuesday and Senior Day with sad-sack Wichita (3-12). Oh, almost forgot! There's also that ginormous BracketBuster this Saturday at...
2. Butler (Horizon League), 97.522, 24-2 (13-2) 
I'm telling you, this is the only thing standing in the way of a Utah Valley-NJIT G!O!T!N! on Saturday. Both teams are likely safe for the NCAA's, and this is for seeding and pure basketball joy. As for the Horizon, the B-Bulldogs have UIC (8-7) on the road tomorrow, then wrap up with a homestand with dangerous Wright State (11-4) and notsomuch Detroit (3-12).
3. Davidson (Southern), 95.614, 19-6 (17-0) 
The Wildcats have that G!O!T!N! tonight with UNCG, then it's a BracketBuster at suddenly resurgent Winthrop. Appalachian State (11-6) is the opposition for the final home game, then it's off to Georgia Southern (12-5) for the season finale. It's well within reason that Davidson could be the first team in history to have a 20-win season solely on the merits of its conference regular-season record.
4. Saint Mary's (West Coast), 95.470, 23-3 (10-1) 
Butler-Drake is the most exciting BB, but none have more on the line than Saturday's Kent-SMC tilt. San Diego (8-2), the givers of that lone league loss, will go to McKeon Pavilion next Monday for the home finale, and then there's the return match at Gonzaga (10-1) on Mar. 1. The regular season concludes on Mar. 3 at Portland, and perhaps we'll know by then which of the current one-loss WCC teams will be the tourney one-seed.
5. Xavier (Atlantic 10), 94.535, 22-4 (10-1) 
The A-14 has a long way to go before it all shakes out. Xavier has five games remaining: three at home with teams with RPI's with 75 or worse (Duquesne, GW and Richmond), and two on the road with teams with RPI's of 41 or better (Dayton and Saint Joe's). The Musketeers will probably go into Atlantic City with just two losses, and there's likely no way the league gets four bids unless the X falls early.
6. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), 94.311, 19-6 (12-3) 
VCU travels to Northeastern tomorrow, then sets up for a road trip to Akron on BracketBusters Saturday. That's a game that was a lot more intriguing before the injury to key Zip big Jeremiah Wood, but road wins are good wherever they are. It's UNCW (10-5) at home next Wednesday (we'll be there!), and a season-closer at William & Mary (9-6).
7. Illinois State (Missouri Valley), 88.044, 18-8 (10-5) 
If the defense holds up, the Redbirds should still nab that two-seed behind Drake, and fans will hold out hope that the Valley Curse that strikes regular-season champs in St. Louis works its evil magic once again. It's Evansville (3-12) tomorrow for a quick snack, then Wright State at home on Sunday night in that BracketBuster venue delay. Creighton (8-7) at home next Wednesday, then a final trip on Mar. 1 to opponent hell, a/k/a SIU Arena, the building that claimed Drake last week.
8. Sam Houston State (Southland) 87.434, 19-5 (7-4) 
SFA fans think this is a misprint, but Thursday's inevitable G!O!T!N! at the Lumberjacks (9-2) might pull them up into the poll (they're No. 23, a step outside). The Bearkats will take to The Stage in Arlington (5-6) on Saturday, then it's Texas State (4-7) and UT-San Antonio (4-6) in Huntsville to close the home slate. Finally, a trip to Corpus Christi to face the champion Islanders (5-5).
9. Boise State (Western Athletic) 87.214, 19-6 (10-3) 
First of all, a hearty congrats to the Broncos, who make their first Top 10 appearance of the season with seven wins in eight games. BSU won't return to WAC play until next Thursday, there's a nonconference tilt with Cal State Bakersfield tomorrow, then that long-distance BracketBuster hosting duty with Siena to attend to. The regular-season closes with the feared Hawaii trip (Mar. 1) with a side jump to San Jose State on Feb. 28, and the home finale with Utah State on Mar. 6 could define the seeding for the WAC tourney.
10. Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10) 86.892, 16-8 (7-4) 
Like Xavier, the Joes have five games left as well. Thanks to the A-14's gerry-rigged schedule, SJU will play the exact same four common opponents as the Musketeers: Duquesne, GW and Richmond at home, and Dayton on the road. The Mar. 6 meeting on Hawk Hill with the X has all the markings of a classic.
The next 12:
11. South Alabama (Sun Belt) 86.551 ; 12. Miami (Oh.) (Mid-American) 86.298 ; 13. Kent State (Mid-American) 85.296 ; 14. Creighton (Missouri Valley) 85.082 
15. Nevada (Western Athletic) 84.607 ; 16. Ohio (Mid-American) 83.231 
17. Siena (Metro Atlantic) 82.795 ; 18. Niagara (Metro Atlantic) 82.347 ; 19. North Carolina-Wilmington (Colonial) 80.970 [--]; 20. IUPUI (Summit League) 80.430 ; 21. Cal State Northridge (Big West) 80.214 [--]; 22. California-Santa Barbara (Big West) 79.855 [--].
Out of the index:
Massachusetts (24), Rhode Island (26), Central Michigan (29).
23. Stephen F. Austin (Southland); 28. Western Kentucky (Sun Belt); 33. George Mason (Colonial); 38. Oral Roberts (Summit League); 47. Cornell (Ivy League); 49. Morgan State (MEAC); 75. Dayton (Atlantic 10); 79. Winthrop (Big South) ; 80. Utah Valley State (Independents); 112. American (Patriot League); 120. Alabama State (SWAC); 127. Belmont (Atlantic Sun); 245. Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley); 246. New Jersey Tech (Independents).