State of '08: Indiana
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: Indiana. For more info, check out the State of '08 introduction.
INDIANA - Considering all the turmoil this program has gone through, Indiana's still topped ND in the RPI for 9 of the last 10 seasons. While Indiana will surely struggle this year, and probably next as well, you still have to figure in time the Hoosiers will regain their place on top of the state's basketball pyramid.
NOTRE DAME - From 1991 to 2000, ND missed the NCAA Tournament every season. But in Mike Brey's eight seasons, the Irish have reached the holy land 5 times. This year, expectations are as high as ever, and a Top 10 ranking is not out of the question.
BUTLER - Who has been the top team in Indiana over the last two seasons? Butler, according to the computer rankings. Brad Stevens picked up where Todd Lickliter left off and led the Bulldogs to an amazing 30-4 overall record. In the last 12 years, Butler has made 7 NCAA Tournaments and 3 NITs. In fact, they've had more Tourney wins recently than ND. But I give the Irish the edge for more consistent success, being in a better conference, and because they'll probably outperform Butler in the next two seasons.
PURDUE - Despite getting tons of hype last season, Purdue probably wasn't as good as many think. They mostly beat up on weak Big Ten teams and poor non-conference opponents. But the program is obviously going in the right direction, and a more legit Top 20 finish is likely this season. Still, the Boilers haven't topped ND in the RPI since the turn of the century, and haven't surpassed Indiana since 2003.
VALPARAISO - From 1996 to 2004, Valpo made the Big Dance an amazing 7 out of 8 tries. The last four seasons have been a bit more pedestrian as the program has made the move to the bigger Horizon League. But the Crusaders still knocked off 5 Top 100 teams last year, and should once again make the postseason in 2009 (NIT or CBI).
6. IUPUI - Ron Hunter continues to do a great job in Indianapolis. Since 2003, the same year IUPUI shocked many by making the Big Dance, the Jaguars have consistently finished in the upper half of the Summit League. Without George Hill, their might be a bit of slippage in 08-09, but I still expect an RPI better than 175 or so.
7. INDIANA STATE - In 2000 & 2001, Indiana State was one of the country's darling mid-majors, making the tourney in back to back to seasons, and upsetting 4-seed Oklahoma in 01. But the program has run into some lean seasons, and there hasn't been a .500 or better finish since then. But beginning in 2003, the Sycamores' RPI has improved every year (from 260 to 128), a trend which could very well continue in 2009.
8. EVANSVILLE - The Purple Aces are in the bit of a slump, and Marty Simmons has a lot of work picking up the pieces left by Steve Merfeld. Evansville hasn't reached the .500 mark in MVC play since 2001, and almost certainly won't accomplish that feat in 2009. At least they managed to beat Ball State on the road early last year.
9. BALL STATE - In the 80's and 90's, and really up until 2004 or so, Ball State was a consistently solid program that was always competitive in the MAC. But somewhere along the way, the bottom has fallen off, and the Cardinals haven't even won 10 games in the last four campaigns. Another sub-200 RPI should be expected in 08-09.
10. IPFW - Relatively new to D1 (2004), IPFW has shown signs of improvement every year. Officially joining the Summit League was a big step last year, and finishing 9-9 in conference play was a pleasant surprise.
Last: Georgia - Next: Indiana
State of '08: The Introduction (& State list)