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.
For more info, check out the State of '08 introduction.
PITTSBURGH - The Panthers have made 7-straight NCAA Tournaments, thanks to the foundation built by Ben Howland. In that 7-year stretch are 4 Sweet Sixteens, including 2 each by Howland and Jamie Dixon. This year's team projects to be Top 20 once again.
VILLANOVA - Jay Wright's squad is looking to make its 5th Tournament in a row. Even though the team did sneak into the field last year, the previous three teams were legit Top 25 squads, including the 2006 team that earned a #1 seed.
SAINT JOSEPH'S - In the past eight years, St. Joe's has reached the postseason seven times (4 NCAAs and 3 NITs), a stretch in which Phil Martelli has been named the A10's top coach three times. This year the team should be solid once again, but Philly rivals Villanova and Temple are expected to be better.
TEMPLE - The Owls returned to the Big Dance for the first time since 2001, as the program is still trying to gain an identity following John Chaney's epic career. With the exception of 2007, Temple has been in the Top 102 RPI every year since the 80's.
PENN - The Quakers have obviously been one of the best teams (along with Princeton) in the Ivy League since the early 70's. While Princeton has collapsed, Penn is still hanging in there following the departure of Fran Dunphy. Last year's young team did struggle following 3-straight Tourney trips, but a 19-20 win season should be expected in 2009.
6. BUCKNELL - Long-time coach Pat Flannery stepped down after last season's disappointing 12-19 finish. But Flannery took the program to heights that no one could have expected. In '05 & '06, the Bison not only made the Big Dance, but knocked off Kansas & Arkansas. '07 wasn't bad either with a Top 80 RPI finish.
7. DREXEL - Drexel is coming off one if its worst seasons in years, and the worst in Bruiser Flint's 12-year career. Before last year's 12-20 debacle, the Dragons had made 4 NIT's in the previous 5 years.
8. PENN STATE - Last year's 7-11 Big Ten record was the best in Ed DeChellis' 5-year tenure. I guess that's progress of some sort, but the Penn State has accomplished virtually nothing since 2001's freak Sweet Sixteen run.
9. LEHIGH - When Billy Taylor took over in 2002, Lehigh had been in a prolonged slump. But he did a nice job getting the Mountain Hawks to the Tourney in '04 and to the Pat League title game in '06. 2nd year coach Brett Reed is trying to continue that success after an up and down first year.
10. ROBERT MORRIS - Last year was the culmination of steady growth achieved during Mark Schmidt's tenure. But it was 1st year coach Mike Rice who got to reap Schmidt's rewards, leading the team to an all-time high 27 wins and making the NIT after winning the NEC regular-season title.
11. DUQUESNE - Not one of Duquesne's last six coaches finished with a +.500 record. Last year's 17-13 record was the Dukes best since 93-94 when they reached the NIT. 17-13 is quite an accomplishment for Ron Everhart considering he took over a team that was 3-24 in '06.
12. LA SALLE - La Salle's utter lack of success is surprising because the school does have decent name recognition. The program has showed potential since John Giannini took over in 2004, but the postseason will still have to wait. La Salle has finished over .500 just once in the last 15 seasons (2006).
13. LAFAYETTE - In '99 & '00, the Leopards won back to back Patriot League titles. There hasn't been much to cheer about in the last 8 seasons though. 2004 was the last time Lafayette even finished above .500 in league play.
14. SAINT FRANCIS - The past three seasons have been simply brutal. The Red Flash have won 15 total games against D1 teams and finished below 300th in the RPI each year. Most preseason publications project another last-place NEC finish in 08-09.
Last: Oregon - Next: South Carolina
State of '08: The Introduction (& State list/links)