State of '08: Florida
Duke or Carolina? BC or UMASS? Gonzaga or Washington.. or Washington State? What is the best program in each state? While there's not much competition in Hawaii.. there are great debates to be had in loaded regions like California, North Carolina, and Texas. The State of '08 is a ranking of every program in every state.. based mostly on recent success (the last five years) mixed in with subjective factors such as conference prestige, historical success, and overall program direction.
Up today: Florida For more info, check out the State of '08 introduction.
FLORIDA - Obvious choice at the top of the Sunshine state. Before last year, Billy Donovan's Gators had made 9 NCAA Tournaments in a row.. including back to back national titles. Hart to top that.
MIAMI - Since Frank Haith took over four years ago, Miami has made two NIT trips and one NCAA Tournament. But in the five years before last, Miami hadn't reached the Top 60 in RPI, and they've still never finished above .500 in the ACC. Fans are certainly expecting a big ACC finish this time around.
FLORIDA STATE - The 'Noles perpetually seem to be on the verge of something big, but they can't seem to get over the hump. This is basically the story of Leonard Hamilton's career. In the last six years, FSU has hovered between 41 and 81 in the RPI five times.. but have yet to reach the Big Dance.
CENTRAL FLORIDA - Despite lacking the profile of a Miami or FSU, UCF is a consistently solid team that deserves more attention. Long time coach Kirk Speraw has led the Knights to four NCAA Tournaments, and helped them make the transition to the more competitive Conference USA. Since joining the CUSA before 2006, the Knights have finished .500 or better in league play each season.
SOUTH FLORIDA - The Bulls haven't had much success since joining the Big East, but the program does seem to be gaining momentum. Last year, USF beat three Top 60 teams including FSU, UAB, and Syracuse.
6. FLORIDA A&M - The Rattlers are always one of the better teams in the MEAC. In fact, 2001 was the last time FAMU finished below .500 in league play. Although the MEAC is the 2nd worst league in the country, the Rattlers have taken advantage of the weak competition by making the Tournament in 2004 & 2007.
7. FLORIDA ATLANTIC - After a shocking Tourney run in 2002, the Owls haven't sniffed postseason play. In fact, FAU has only won two SB tournament games in the past six seasons, though they've been competitive in the last three seasons. It will be interesting to see if new head coach Mike Jarvis can regain some his former glory, after his tenure at St. John's came to an embarrassing end.
8. JACKSONVILLE - The Dolphins are coming off one of their best campaigns in recent memory, finishing 2nd in the A-Sun, making it to the conference title game, and finishin with an RPI of 164. That's pretty heady stuff for a program that was 1-26 in 2006 (only managing to knock of UNF). This is the 2nd season in a row that JU led its Florida rivals (Stetson, FGCU, and UNF) in the A-Sun.
9. STETSON - The Mad Hatters have hovered around 250 in the RPI for the past couple years, but are coming off a decent campaign that included an 11-5 Atlantic Sun record. This is the second time Stetson has won 11 league games in the past three seasons.
10. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL - FIU is consistently overmatched by its Sun Belt competition. The Panthers haven't finished above .500 in league play since 2000.. and really haven't come close since. At least things have improved since 03 & 04 when FIU was one of the worst teams in the country, winning just 10 D1 games those years.
11. BETHUNE-COOKMAN - The Wildcats continue to struggle, finishing 3rd to last in the lowly MEAC in back to back seasons. 2000 was probably the last time there was any legitimate hope of making a run in the conference tournament.
12. FLORIDA GULF COAST - In their first full D1 season, FGCU had decent success, winning 10 games, including 6 in the Atlantic Sun. At the very least, this already puts them ahead of North Florida.
13. NORTH FLORIDA - Despite a decent nickname (the Ospreys), UNF hasn't had even the slightest success since joining D1 in 05-06. UNF has won an amazingly small 7 D1 games in the past three seasons, and only beat winless NJIT in the RPI last year.
Last: D.C. - Next: Georgia