State of '08: California
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: California. For more info, check out the State of '08 introduction.
UCLA - Not much "research" required to rank the Bruins. Three Final Fours in a row for one of the game's all-time great programs.
Stanford - Quietly in the middle of an impressive run, Stanford has made the Big Dance in 13 of 14 seasons. The future is a bit unsettled though, with a new coach (Johnny Dawkins) and the Lopez twins off to the NBA.
USC - Tim Floyd's done a nice job getting USC back on track. From 2003 to 2006, the Trojans had a sub-100 RPI every year, but have since made back to back NCAA Tournaments. This year's freshman class is also considered to be one of the Top 5 in the country.
Saint Mary's - Coming off a big 25-win season, fans are expecting the Gaels to return to the NCAA Tournament for the 3rd time in five seasons. While Gonzaga owns the WCC, Saint Mary's has been 2nd in four of the last five tries.
San Diego State - Steve Fisher has done a nice job turning SDSU into a consistent MWC contender, making the postseason 5 times in the last 7 years, and winning 20 games each of the last 3. The Aztecs should once again make a push for 20 wins in 08-09.
6. California - After a surprisingly long 12-year run, Ben Braun is out.. replaced by the man who turned Stanford into a long-time winner (Mike Montgomery). Under Braun, Cal did make five NCAA Tournaments, but just one in the last five seasons.
7. Pacific - The Tigers have found a good groove in recent seasons, winning 20 games in 4 of the last 5 years, and making the Tournament three times. Despite a rough offseason, Pacific should once again be competitive in the Big West.
8. UCSB - Despite an impressive 23 win season, the Gauchos missed out on making the NCAA Tournament. The program has averaged 16 wins over Bob Williams 10-year stint.
9. San Diego - The Toreros surprised many by winning the WCC title last year, and making the Big Dance. This is all the more impressive considering the team won just 4 total games in 2004.
10. Santa Clara - The Broncos parted ways with long-time coach Dick Davey before last season, as he could never reproduce the team's great mid-nineties success. Kerry Keating led his new squad to a mediocre 186 RPI last year, which included just 13 D1 wins.
11. Fresno State - The Bulldogs are coming off a horrible season, with just 12 D1 wins and an RPI of 243. The prior season, they made the postseason for the first time since the Tarkanian era.
12.CS Fullerton - This program has come a long way since 01-02, when the Titans combined to win 7 D1 games. Bob Burton led Fullerton to the Big Dance for the first time in three decades, winning 20 games for the third time in four seasons as well.
13. Pepperdine - Up until the end of Paul Westphal's career in 2006, Pepperdine had been a consistent winner in the 90's and early 00's. Now they've brought back Tom Asbury to try and recreate that former success following three down years.
14. UC Irvine - The Anteaters are consistently solid under Pat Douglass, but have yet to reach the Tourney in his 12 year tenure. 15-16 wins seems to be the norm recently.
15. San Francisco - The Dons had decent results under Jessie Evans (peaking at 86 in the RPI in 2005), before things went sour last year. He was replaced by Eddie Sutton, who turned the program into a circus while trying to win 800 games.
16. CS Northridge - The Matadors have had limited success since joining the Big West in 2002. Last year was one of their best seasons since then, winning 19 D1 games and finishing with an RPI of 110. Some consider Northridge to be the conference favorites in 2009.
17. LBSU - Its amazing the 49ers made the NCAA Tournament in 2007, considering how awful they were last year. Former Minnesota coach Dan Monson took over a program devoid of any returning talent, so we'll give him some time to turn things around. From 2003 to 2005, LBSU was one of the worst teams in the country.
18. LMU - While the legendary Paul Westhead run seems like ancient history, at least the embarrassing winless 2000 season is also moving into the distant past. Bill Bayno has his hands full taking over a team that won 5 games last year.
19. San Jose State - Consistently one of the worst teams in high-major basketball, SJSU hasn't finished above 230 in the RPI since 2001. Last year there were actually signs of progress with wins over WAC foes Nevada and Utah State.
20. Cal Poly - Not the most well-known program, Cal Poly has consistently been competitive in the Big West under coach Kevin Bromley. In 2003 & 2007, the Mustangs were a win away from making the NCAA Tournament.
21. Sacramento State - The Jerome Jenkins era ended on a down note, as the Hornets are coming off one of the all-time bad seasons.. just 2-24 against D1 opponents. From '04 to '06, it looked like Jenkins was making progress, but things regressed quickly.
22. UC Riverside - Since joining college basketball's top flight in 2001, the Highlanders haven't reached impressive heights. But in Jim Wooldridge's first season, there was some hope as UCR won their 2nd ever Big West Tournament game (knocking off Cal Poly).
23. UC Davis - Yet to experience any real success since joining D1 in 2006, the Aggies at least one-up Bakersfield by being full-fledged members of the Big West.
24. CS Bakersfield - Making the move up from D2 without a conference, the Roadrunners 8-21 record isn't half bad. They knocked off Fresno, San Diego, Long Beach State twice, and finished ahead of Sacramento in the RPI. Still, they need another season or two before moving up on this list.