State of '08: Virginia
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.
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH - VCU is in the middle of a great run that started in 2002. Besides making the 2004 & 2007 tourneys, the Rams also made the NIT in 2005 & 2008. More impressively, 6 of the last 7 teams have finished in the RPI Top 90 as the program has had a lot of success in non-conference play.
GEORGE MASON - Everyone remembers GMU's shocking 2006 Final Four run, but that was not an isolated case of success under Jim Larranaga. In the last decade, the Patriots have made 4 NCAA Tournaments, 2 NITs, and finished at or above .500 in CAA play every season
VIRGINIA - In the last 10 years Virginia has made 2 NCAA Tournaments (winning just 1 game) and a bunch of NITs, but haven't really had a breakout season (at least by BCS standards). Similarly, they've never really been very bad.. expect for now. Last year's team finished below the RPI Top 100 (127th) for the 1st time since the 90's, and this year's team will most likely not even crack the Top 150 or so.
OLD DOMINION - Except for a bad spell in the early part of the 2000s, ODU has been consistently solid over the last 20 years. The '05 & '07 teams made the Big Dance, while the '04 & '06 squads finished in the RPI Top 100. After some slippage last year, ODU is once again considered one of the league favorites (behind VCU).
VIRGINIA TECH - The Hokies have come a long way under Seth Greenberg, making the move to the ACC and making the Big Dance in 2007 (their first in a dozen years). The last 2 teams were also the first in that long gap to finish in the RPI Top 100 or to finish above .500 in conference play. This year's team should once again be competitive in league play.
6. RICHMOND - Richmond has some good history, but the last four years have been rather blah. 2007 was the program's worst year in a decade, and this year's team might have to settle once again for the CBI at best.
7. HAMPTON - The Pirates have been the MEAC's best team over the last decade. In 2001, 2002, and 2006, they won the league tournament and made other close runs in 2003 & 2005 (& were good once again last year before being shocked by Coppin in the league quarters). No surprise that most experts project them to win the league once again in 2009.
8. LIBERTY - Beginning in 2003, Liberty has been consistently solid in the Big South, never finishing below .500. In 2004, they reached the NCAA Tournament after blowing through the conference tournament.
9. WILLIAM & MARY - The Tribe are still looking for that elusive first NCAA trip, but have been making strides the last few seasons. Last year's team made a surprising CAA title game run, after finishing over .500 in league play for the first time in over a decade. They've also dominated the recent series against JMU.
10. JAMES MADISON - A once decent program, JMU has endured a brutal slump that began around '01 or '02. Last year's team won 10 games for the first time since 2003, and also set a high in that period with a whopping 5 wins in the CAA. New coach Matt Brady was hired in the off-season to turn things around.
11. RADFORD - Outside of a mediocre 2006 campaign, the last handful of seasons have been very uneventful for Radford fans. 5 out of 6 seasons seasons below .500 in Big South play, and a pair of consecutive 300+ RPI seasons won't cut it.
12. VMI - VMI is known for high-scoring offenses, but unfortunately they're not known for wins. From 2004-2006, this was one of the country's worst teams. Although the last two years have been better (thanks in part to Reggie Williams), there's been little to write home about outside of a decent run in the 07 conference tourney.
13. NORFOLK STATE - The Spartans have been very consistent over the last decade, hovering around 10 or wins in the MEAC. In that time they never finished below .500 in conference play, but also haven't really come close to making the Big Dance. Last year's win over Richmond was probably their best non-conference win since 2002 (when they beat ODU on the road).
14. LONGWOOD - The Lancers are still trying to find their groove in D1. They've never finished above 300th in the RPI or won more than 8 D1 games. At least they knocked off in-state rivals Liberty & Norfolk State last year.
Last: Utah - Next: Washington
State of '08: The Introduction (& State list/links)