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 (which stopped hourly updates right before the selection show), and this is a doctored, spliced recording.
As of 3/16/2008, 6 p.m. ETLegend: Rank. Team (Conference), Rating, Record (Conf. Record) [Last week]
(Missouri Valley), 102.66, 28-4 (15-3)
There have been about five messages a day, wondering if I'd forgotten to post a final State out of shame or something. I think the index did pretty well in its first full season, mostly because it knew what it was. This never pretended to be a predictor of future events, or a measure of Tournament worthiness, it simply rewarded schools at our level that played excellent, well-rounded basketball, and would be in position to win the kinds of games. Some of these teams did just that and will in the near future, and others fell short.
Drake, the No. 1 team for over two months, didn't fall short. The Bulldogs matched their BracketBusters win over No. 2 Butler and their regular-season championship with a phenomenal performance in St. Louis to capture the MVC's double-championship. It was the first Valley double in over a decade, and the first one-bid performance for the conference in that same time. They'll taek the hopes of the entire league with them into Tampa this weekend.
(Horizon League), 94.917, 29-3 (16-2)
We've been saying all along that the improved inside game makes the B-Dawgs more dangerous in March, and now they'll have to prove it out of a No. 7 seed. It doesn't bother me that much that the committee deemed a Horizon double-championship worthy of only a seven, the idea that there are 24 teams out there that could have easily done the same thing. I'm just miffed that the conference won't get its proper respect from millions of casual basketball fans who keep score by bid numbers. There's no changing their
(Southern), 94.881, 26-6 (20-0)
If a few more of those free throws fell, if that dunk wasn't blown, if a couple more badly-chosen 3's by big men would have been passed off to Stephen Curry instead. What if, what if. Who knows what seed the Wildcats would have been given if they beat one of their Big Four (UNC, Duke, UCLA or N.C. State), it probably wouldn't have been a No. 10. At least they'll do it close to home in Raleigh, against a No. 7-seeded Gonzaga team that had to fly two time zones away to play. I don't care what the numbers indicate, I think Davidson's really the "seven" in this context.
Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial)
, 94.035, 24-7 (15-3)
I'll say it, and I'll say it a thousand times. This was a really good team with the CAA's best 3-point shooting and some of the best defense the league's seen in years. The team's only sin was a loss of offensive focus at key times (drops to Hampton, James Madison, on TV against George Mason, and the semi against W&M), and that's what makes the 2007-08 Rams tragic. There really isn't a number that measures any of that.
(Atlantic 10), 92.223, 27-6 (14-2)
This team would have dominated this index if it defended the 3 better and forced more turnovers, and didn't cough it up as much. But here's the thing that worries me the most about the X going into the NCAA's: in that semifinal loss to Saint Joe's, they fell behind early and couldn't really match the kind of urgency or emotion that Saint Joe's showed. I know they had their ticket punched, but they need those gears to work in these next couple weeks.
6. Saint Mary's
(West Coast), 92.018, 25-6 (12-2)
Of course they deserved to get in -- they were first or second in every meaningful statistical category in what turned out to be a three-bid conference. And they beat Drake, Oregon, San Diego, Gonzaga and Fullerton -- count 'em, five of their fellow Dance contestants. They'd proven themselves more worthy of the stinky power conference screwups that populated Bubbleville. And this is as good a time to say it, but Gonzaga would have finished second in this if we still counted them among our ranks.
Illinois State (Missouri Valley)
, 89.274 24-9 (13-5)
The Valley figured out where all the defensive gaps were in February, they had a bad plan in the title game, and they couldn't convert against Kent State or Indiana in November. What else can you say about the young Redbirds? We just see a team with a lot of returning players and shoulder chips to boot. They won't make the same mistakes two years in a row.
Sam Houston State (Southland)
, 85.416 23-8 (10-6)
No team generated as much mail or chat hate than Sam State. Why are they still included in this index? Why do they lose, and stay up there? Are you stupid or something? Their numbers certainly weren't stupid -- a 12-1 nonconference record, great defense and rebounding, and -- at least at the beginning of the season -- an offense that could shoot holes through C-USA, Mountain West, A-14 and Big XII teams.
As the season progressed, the numbers and the reality became more and more separate. Something that head coach Bob Marlin said on my visit there stuck with me: "We're just hanging on." And they were dangling from that cliff, until eventual surprise champion Texas-Arlington stomped on their fingers in the Southland semifinals. They were slowing down, shots weren't falling, there was no gas left at the end. This was all stuff we could see with our own eyes, but couldn't have possibly considered in our current formula.
We're going to tweak the formula over the summer, and we've always said that this index will truly come of age in about 3-4 years. We need to add some type of modifying multiplier that takes momentum into account -- that drags numbers down when fatigue takes its toll, that amplifies results slightly when . We'll be working on that in the coming month, and whatever it is, you can bet it'll be totally secret sauce, baby.
9. Kent State
(Mid-American), 85.231, 28-6 (13-3)
No team on this list is as tough as Kent. Every bit of adversity they encountered, they came out twice as strong for it. Lose to Xavier? Win the next seven. Lose at Bowling Green on the road after a breakthrough win at Saint Mary's? Crush Miami at home, only giving up 39 points. A tough, leg-dragging slog in the semis against those same Redhawks? They came back with a dominating performance the next night against crosstown rival Akron. Look out, UNLV.
(Metro Atlantic), 84.576, 22-10 (13-5)
We said something stupid back in February, something along the lines of, "Given the toughness of the MAAC, the winner of the league is good for a first-round upset." Then Siena won the league with their potent blend of running and shooting. Then they drew Vanderbilt, which is pretty much an SEC version of them. And now it seems that Bracketville has caught Siena Fever. Who said the masses weren't smart?The next 12:
11. Boise State
(Western Athletic), 82.914; 12. South Alabama
(Sun Belt), 82.620; 13.
Creighton (Missouri Valley)
, 82.133; 14. Saint Joseph's
(Atlantic 10), 81.749; 15.
Nevada (Western Athletic)
, 81.590; 16.
Niagara (Metro Atlantic)
, 79.819; 17.
(Mid-American), 79.411; 18.
California-Santa Barbara (Big West)
, 78.332; 19.
IUPUI (Summit League)
, 78.168; 20.
Stephen F. Austin (Southland)
, 77.929; 21.
, 77.898; 22. San Diego
(Western Athletic) 77.415.Tournament teams and notables below:
23. Western Kentucky
(Sun Belt); 26. George Mason
(Colonial); 28. Cornell (Ivy League); 30. Cal State Fullerton
(Big West); 33. Temple
(Atlantic 10); 34. Oral Roberts
(Summit League); 40. Portland State
(Big Sky); 45. Texas-Arlington
(Southland); 77. Austin Peay
(Ohio Valley); 80. Winthrop
(Big South); Maryland-Baltimore County
(America East); 97. Mississippi Valley State
(SWAC); 106. American
(Patriot League); 147. Coppin State
(MEAC); 169. Mount Saint Mary's
(Northeast); 341. New Jersey Tech