State of '08: Texas
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.
TEXAS - Easy one here. Texas has made ten straight NCAA Tournaments under Rick Barnes, and have reached the Sweet Sixteen or better fives times.
TEXAS A&M - From 1988 to 2004, A&M was a horrendous BCS program that managed justt one NIT appearance. But thanks to Billy Gillispie, A&M has won at least 20 games and made the postseason in four straight seasons. The future of the program is a bit less certain under Mark Turgeon.
TEXAS TECH - In Bob Knight's six full seasons, the Red Raiders made 4 NCAA Tournaments and reached the NIT semifinals. Last year's team was destined to miss the postseason regardless of who the coach was, and its hard to project what type of coach Pat Knight will be.
BAYLOR - Scott Drew took over a broken program at the start of the 03-04 season, but has managed to turn things around. Last year the team won 21 games and reached the Big Dance. Many pundits expect a Top 25 squad this year. Not bad considering the 21-53 record from '04 to '07.
UTEP - Since 2004, a year after Billy Gillispied took over, UTEP has made two NCAA Tournaments and the CBI. The Niners should once again make a postseason push (probably NIT or CBI) in 2009.
6. HOUSTON - Its been over 15 years since Houston last made the NCAA Tournament, but Tom Penders teams have been consistently competitive. His four teams have all won at least 9 games in Conference USA, and 3 made the postseason (2 NITS and the CBI last year).
7. NORTH TEXAS - Johnny Jones has quietly transformed UNT from a consistent loser into a consistent winner. The Mean Green made the Big Dance in 2007 after rolling through the Sun Belt Tournament, and were solid last year, going 17-11 against D1 teams. Once again in 2008, North Texas should be dangerous in league play.
8. SAM HOUSTON STATE - Last year's Bearkats fizzled out after a great start, and late-season SLC tournament success has been hard to come by recently. But overall, this has been the most consistently solid SLC team over the last decade, and one of the only league teams capable of knocking off big-name non-conference opponents.
9. RICE - The program finally parted ways with 16-year coach Willis Wilson, whose teams varied from good to horrible and anywhere in between. From '03 to '05, the Owls finished in the RPI Top 100, but have gone steadily downhill since. Last year's 3-27 finish was an unfortunate end to Wilson's tenure.
10. STEPHEN F AUSTIN - SFA's great 26 win season, which included wins over Oklahoma and Top 100 San Diego, came out of nowhere considering the Lumberjacks were a sub-200 RPI team the previous three seasons. SFA is the 2009 favorite to accomplish what they couldn't last year, winning the Southland tournament.
11. TEXAS A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI - Ronnie Arrow did a masterful job in his tenure at TAMU-CC, turning a green D1 program into a 20-win program. But after making the Dance in 2007, Arrow left, and its hard to tell whether the program can regain a decent level of success under Perry Clark.
12. TCU - In six seasons under Neil Dougherty, TCU never finished over .500 in either the CUSA or MWC, although the 2005 team did sneak into the NIT. Former Kent State coach Jim Christian was hired in the off-season to turn things around.
13. LAMAR - In the last 7 seasons, Lamar has finished .500 or better in the SLC six times, but have never really been able to put together a dangerous postseason run.
14. UT-ARLINGTON - After making the NCAAs last year, UTA is once again one of the league favorites. In the previous 9 seasons though, the Mavs won just a single SLC Tourney game.
15. SMU - The last time SMU was any good was 2003, and the last time SMU was Tournament good was 1993. Matt Doherty was brought in to turn things around, but his teams have gone 7-25 in CUSA play.
16. UTSA - Once one of the more consistently solid Southland teams, UTSA simply hasn't been good the past few seasons. A 2009 .500 finish in the league would be a step in the right direction.
17. UTPA - Considering they've been stuck as an independent for a decade now, UTPA's minimal success isn't that bad. They've been able to beat a good amount of the in-state Southland members over the years, but haven't beaten a Top 200 team since December of 2004.
18. TEXAS STATE - In '06 & '07, this was one of the worst programs in the country, with just 8 D1 wins. That makes last year's 10-16 D1 record shockingly good.
19. TEXAS SOUTHERN - After winning the SWAC in 2003, there hasn't been much to cheer about at Texas Southern. The team has hovered around 300 in the RPI.
20. PRAIRIE VIEW - Like Texas Southern above, Prairie View hasn't been good since 2003.. but unlike Texas Southern who has at least been decent in SWAC play, the Panthers have been atrocious.
*Houston Baptist will also join D1 this season
Last: Tennessee - Next: Utah
State of '08: The Introduction (& State list/links)