State of '08: Tennessee
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.
MEMPHIS - Whatever blueprint John Calipari follows seems to work. In his eighth year at Memphis, the Tigers advanced to the National Title game after making back to back Elite Eights. At UMASS, it also took eight years for him to reach the Final Four.
TENNESSEE - The Vols are in the midst of a good run under Bruce Pearl, three NCAA Tournaments in a row including back to back Sweet Sixteen trips. Before Pearl arrived, Tennessee hadn't made the Tourney in five years.
VANDERBILT - Vandy has been a consistent winner the last five seasons under Kevin Stallings. There's been four 20-win seasons, 5 postseason trips, and a pair of Sweet Sixteen runs. After winning 26 games last year (the 2nd best in school history), the team's first round loss to Siena was a bit of a downer.
BELMONT - Long-time coach Rick Byrd is suddenly the leader of a mid-major power. Belmont has made three NCAA Tournaments in a row, and is once agan favored to win the Atlantic Sun in 08-09.
AUSTIN PEAY - Dave Loos is nearing 20 years at APSU, a time in which the Govs have consistently been one of the top teams in the OVC. In the last decade, there hasn't even been a sub-.500 finish in conference play. In the last six years, they've made 2 NCAA trips and one NIT.
6. MIDDLE TENNESSEE - Before Kermit Davis took over in 2002, MTSU was coming off a brutal season that included just 4 D1 wins. While Davis hasn't led the Blue Raiders to the Big Dance, the program has made amazing strides under his leadership. Last year, the team advanced to the Sun Belt finals, and many feel they are that league's team to beat in '09.
7. CHATTANOOGA - Just as Davidson is the current Southern Conference darling, Chattanooga was once the league's team to beat. The last decade has been a bit more pedestrian however, with just a lone tourney trip in 2005, though the team came close in '03 & '04 as well. The last few teams have been mediocre, with win totals boosted by playing an oddly high amount of D2 teams.
8. EAST TENNESSEE STATE - With the exception of a horrible 2005 campaign, ETSU has been one of the A-Sun's most consistent winners. In 2004, the Bucs won the league title, in 2007 they dominated the regular season before falling to Belmont in the finals, and they were solid once again in 2008.
9. TENNESSEE TECH - The Golden Eagles haven't won their conference tournament in over 40 years, but they've come close in the last decade. From 2000-2003, Tech was one of the best teams in the OVC but they couldn't get over the postseason hump. The last five years have been up and down however, and this year could be one of the downers.
10. LIPSCOMB - From 2002 to 2004, this was one of the country's worst program. But after those initial growing pains, this young program has made nice progress in the A-Sun. 2006 was the program's best season with 21 wins, a 143 RPI, and a close loss to Belmont in the conference title game. This year, expectations are a bit muted.
11. TENNESSEE STATE - In the early part of the decade, Tennessee State was one of the country's worst programs. But a lot of progress has been made, and last year was the first time in a decade that the Tigers won an OVC Tournament game. Not only did TSU win one game, but they made it to the conference championship.
12. TENNESSEE-MARTIN - Over the last 20 years, UTM has hovered between bad and worse, with only 2 winning seasons in that period. But last year was surprisingly mediocre with a 15-16 D1 record and 11-9 OVC finish. Now, there's suddenly high expectations for the first time, and some publications are projecting a league title.
* Note: An unfinished version of this article, with the wrong ranking (Lipscomb in 12th) was originally posted, but it has since been corrected.
Last: South Carolina - Next: Texas
State of '08: The Introduction (& State list/links)