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 3/5/2008, 4 p.m. ETLegend: Rank. Team (Conference), Rating, Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]
(Missouri Valley), 101.07, 25-4 (15-3) 
Well, this will be the second-to-last State sheet we'll be digitally printing for the season. By this time next week, some of these teams will be eliminated and gone forever! But we feel pretty confident in the top 10 we have here in terms of Tournament toughness; remember that this index is a measure of well-roundedness, multi-dimensionality, and general overall solidity. That's why you see a lot of teams with one great statistical attribute, or one great scorer, down in the lower reaches. One-trick ponies don't survive March, we all know that.
Let's use this opportunity to check to see what each of our top teams need to do between now and Selection Sunday. Drake has done everything they need to do to get into the NCAA's, the Bulldogs just have to figure out a way to survive Arch Madness and become double-champions. They'll get the winner of the Indiana State-Wichita State battle on Pillowfight Thursday, and they'll likely pass that. Either Bradley or No. 14 Creighton, however, will be a tougher challenge. Last weekend's 111-110 double-OT battle
had the feel of two prize fighters itching for a title shot.
2. Virginia Commonwealth
(Colonial), 96.031, 23-6 (15-3) 
Most pundits look at schedules and SOS and SDSJFNQX 3000 when judging teams, we don't give a crap about all that. We've witnessed the Rams, we've seen what they can do. We know that their defense can hang with anybody in the country and that Eric Maynor can take over any game, anywhere. It's up to them now to get at least as far as the CAA final to get through the gate, but if they're given a chance, they'll do the CAA proud again.
(Horizon League), 95.942, 27-3 (16-2) 
The Bulldogs will get the winner of the third edition of the Windy City showdown/throwdown between UIC and Loyola, and history indicates that they'll win that one pretty easily. No. 2 seed Cleveland State, should it get to the finals, split with Butler and nearly won the meeting at Hinkle Fieldhouse, losing 51-46 because they didn't make enough shots. But whatever happens, this team is NCAA-bound, and have the size and depth necessary to match up well against a wider array of opponents.
(Atlantic 10), 95.308, 25-4 (13-1) 
Xavier is Elite Eight-grade on both paper and in practice, and the Musketeers will get a great seed unless they somehow draw Temple somewhere in the A-14 tourney and get Tyndale-Christmased
again. One last chance to slip up in the regular season at Saint Joe's on Thursday, which has had 38-minute game troubles and has been blowing a lot of games late. If the Hawks can find a way to win, the league will get a while lot more interesting.
(Southern), 95.110, 23-6 (20-0) 
They popped into the national popularity contest this week, which was awful nice of the voters, but that was for the season-long accomplishment of a perfect 20-0 season. They drop three spots here for playing low-rated competition lately (all due respect to App State and Georgia Southern, the index just hasn't looked favorably on them). But the Wildcats are still the 12 seed every No. 5 has nightmares about, especially in this Bubblicious year.
6. Saint Mary's
(West Coast), 92.788, 25-5 (12-2) 
Fast - great, slow - not so good... we've known that for a while. If the Gaels makes the WCC final, it would be nearly impossible to deny them. And then it's down to the matchup. If they get a hyper-athletic SEC team in the first round, they'll likely run with them and win. If it's a big dumb collection of lane-cloggers... well, this team has a young core with a lot of miles left to run.
7. Illinois State
(Missouri Valley), 89.831, 22-8 (13-5) 
The team that the nation forgot. Sure, they lost to Indiana State at home, get over it. The Redbirds is playing awesome defense again, and have strung together four straight wins -- including an eight-point win in the toughest venue in the Valley, SIU Arena. Probably in the same boat as VCU, needing to get to the championship game (three or four overtimes preferred if they lose) and some karmic help to get the appropriate committee love.
8. Kent State
(Mid-American), 86.623, 24-6 (12-3) 
As we move down the list, the at-large possibilities get a little dicier. A loss at Akron on Sunday would likely put the pressure on the Flashes for the MAC tourney, and even with a win they'd be well-served to make the final. There's always that 0-2 record in the Toledo area, as well as the loss to Detroit, the worst team in the Horizon
... if the committee is NIT-picking, there are their excuses.
9. South Alabama
(Sun Belt), 86.487, 25-5 (16-2) 
This team's likely a lock if it makes the Sun Belt final, an intriguing water-cooler debate topic should it fall in the semis. Any tourney loss would be its first at home, but there are drops at Middle Tennessee State and North Texas. In a league like the Belt, with no second bid since 1994, there really isn't very much margin for error.
10. Sam Houston State
(Southland), 86.250, 21-6 (9-5) 
Remember these two facts about the two division leaders going into the SLC tourney: Stephen F. Austin (23-4) doesn't rebound, and Lamar (18-9) doesn't play defense. We realize that we're taking a big chance on staking our Southland fortunes on the well-rounded Bearkats, but the computer still likes 'em and so do we. Should Sam State win out and takes the autobid (forget any at-large chances, of course), consider this: six overall losses headed into the NCAA's would equal the total of last year's champions from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, be one less than Northwestern State 2006, and two fewer than 2005 titlists Southeastern Louisiana.The next 12:
11. Boise State
(Western Athletic), 85.685 
; 12. Siena
(Metro Atlantic), 85.616 
; 13. Saint Joseph's
(Atlantic 10), 83.753 
; 14. Creighton
(Missouri Valley), 83.675 
; 15. Nevada
(Western Athletic), 82.933 
; 16. Niagara
(Metro Atlantic), 80.508 
; 17. Miami (Oh.)
(Mid-American), 80.270 
; 18. IUPUI
(Summit League), 79.796 
; 19. California-Santa Barbara
(Big West), 79.057 
; 20. Massachusetts
(Atlantic 10), 78.554 
; 21. Stephen F. Austin
(Southland), 78.397 
; 22. Ohio
(Mid-American) 77.750 
.Out of the index:
26. Western Kentucky
(Sun Belt); 30. Cornell
(Ivy League); 32. George Mason
(Colonial); 34. Western Michigan
(Mid-American); 46. Rhode Island (Atlantic 10); 41. Morgan State
(MEAC); 38. Oral Roberts
(Summit League); 45. Portland State
(Big Sky); 50. Wright State
(Horizon League); 78. Dayton
(Atlantic 10); 84. Winthrop
(Big South); 89. Maryland-Baltimore County
(America East); 105. Belmont
(Atlantic Sun); 107. Alabama State
(SWAC); 112. American
(Patriot League); 124. North Carolina-Asheville
(Big South); 246. New Jersey Tech