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: Louisiana. For more info, check out the State of '08 introduction.
LSU - There's not much to say here, because LSU is by far and away the top program in the state. The Tigers made the Final Four in 2006, though have quickly descended since then.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE - The Ragin' Cajuns were one of the best mid-majors from 2000 to 2005, which included 3 NCAA Tournament trips and 2 NITs. In 2007, the program was cited for rule violations, and the past three seasons haven't been up to the former standards. Last year's crew did show some promise though with an 11-7 Sun Belt record.
NORTHWESTERN STATE - Mike McConathy has done a great job in a decade at Northwestern State. In 2001 & 2006, the Demons made the Big Dance, and you might remember their epic 2006 win over Iowa in the First Round. Even last year when the team seemed to struggle, NSU still managed to upset SFA to make the Southland Championship game.
TULANE - The Wave haven't made a dent on the national scene since 2000, when they won 20 games and knocked off 6 Top 100 teams. To put that in perspective, in the last five seasons, Tulane has only beaten 6 Top 100 teams. Last year the Wave did knock off big-name programs like Georgia, Auburn, and LSU, something that most schools in the state couldn't accomplish.
LOUISIANA TECH - Last year's Bulldogs were extremely inexperienced and struggled to a brutal 6-24 record. This year's group should show substantial improvement, and will push for .500 in league play. Last year aside, La Tech has had decent success over the last decade, with scattered Top 150 and Top 100 finishes. The program's 7th NCAA Tourney trip will have to wait a couple more years.
6. NEW ORLEANS - Joe Pasternack did a nice job in his first season, leading UNO to upset road wins over BCS teams like NC State and Colorado, and finishing 8-10 in league play. This was the program's best season since making a surprise run to the Sun Belt finals in 2004.
7. SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA - SELU made its lone NCAA Tournament in 2005. In the past three seasons though, the Lions have merely hovered around .500 in SLC play. They did knock off in-state SLC rivals McNeese & Nicholls State all four times last year.
8. SOUTHERN - Since 2003, Southern has finished .500 or better every season in the SWAC. In 2006, Rob Spivery led the Jags to the NCAA Tournament in his first season at the helm.
9. MCNEESE STATE - In 2001 & 2002, McNeese enjoyed back to back postseason trips, reaching the NIT and then the NCAAs. Once 2004 got underway, there's been little success and not even one season above 200th in the RPI. This year should be similar to last with a middle of the road Southland record expected. The Cowboys did have a nice road upset of Lousiana-Lafayette last season.
10. LOUISIANA-MONROE - The Warhawks (nee Indians) haven't had much success on the basketball court in about 25 years. Outside of a surprising 2002 campaign (98 RPI), ULM hasn't sniffed the postseason in the past decade. Moving to the Sun Belt Conference a couple years ago has yet to reap any major rewards.
11. NICHOLLS STATE - From 2002 to 2005, Nicholls somehow managed to only average 2 D1 wins a year. The past couple years have been better, but nothing to write home about.
12. CENTENARY - In 2005 & 2006, Centenary was easily one of the worst programs in the country. They won a combined 5 D1 combines in that span. Last year was somewhat of an improvement with an RPI of 283, and this year's team might creep up into the 250 range.
13. GRAMBLING STATE - After an embarrassing 2000 campaign in which the Tigers went winless, Grambling has hovered around .500 in SWAC play for most of the decade. Then again, the SWAC is the country's worst conference, so .500 in league play isn't a big accomplishment. Grambling hasn't won a non-conference game against a D1 team since 2005.
Last: Kentucky - Next: Maryland
State of '08: The Introduction (& State list/links)