State of '08: Kentucky
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: Kentucky. For more info, check out the State of '08 introduction.
KENTUCKY - Obviously one of the top programs of all-time, Kentucky has amazingly made the tournament every since 1991. I say amazingly, because one would have thought that Tubby Smith drove the program into the ground. Then again, its been 10 years since their last Final Four trip, one of the longest droughts in the programs history (at least post-Rupp).
LOUISVILLE - Last year was the first time in over a dozen years that Louisville topped Kentucky in the RPI. The Cardinals finished 13th in the computer poll, and advanced to the Elite Eight.. while UK was a questionable at-best at-large bid with an RPI of 57. In 2005, while both teams had similar regular seasons, Louisville advanced to the Final Four, while UK just missed out due to an epic double-overtime loss. A couple more seasons where Louisville surpasses their Lexington rivals, and perhaps they will sit on top of this ranking.
WESTERN KENTUCKY - In the past eight years, WKU has made the postseason six times, including four NCAA Tournament trips. This is nothing new for an underrated program that historically never goes more than 3 or 4 seasons without competing for a postseason bid. However, now that Darrin Horn has bolted for South Carolina, and Courtney Lee is off to the NBA.. perhaps one of those postseason gaps is coming up?
MURRAY STATE - While not quite as good as WKU, Murray State is also a solid mid-major program that consistently competes for the OVC title. In fact, its been well over a decade, and many coaches ago, since Murray last finished below .500 in conference play. The program has been rather mediocre since Mick Cronin departed, and the Racers have only beaten one Top 100 team in the last three seasons. But Billy Kennedy's team is our preseason OVC favorites and this could easily be the program's 14th NCAA Tournament trip.
EASTERN KENTUCKY - In 2005 & 2007, EKU made the dance thanks to the impressive work done by Travis Ford, the new head coach at Oklahoma State. Now that the program is fully in Jeff Neubauer's hands, the future is a bit uncertain. Can Neubauer continue the recent success, or will the program slide into the dark pre-Ford depths of 1999-2003 when EKU won just 20 D1 games in 4 seasons.
6. MOREHEAD STATE - The Eagles are coming off a quality campaign that included a 12-7 OVC record and a pair of wins over in-state rival EKU. This was a welcome turnaround considering the struggles experienced between 05-07. While the team could be decent once again in 08-09, a return to the tourney for the first time in 24 years will have to wait.
Last: Iowa - Next: Louisiana
State of '08: The Introduction (& State list/links)