Well, ninth is a hell of a lot better than 12th.
It's also a lot better than third, in a sense, given how State performed when the weight of great expectations and stupid preseason boasts (Four games? Seriously, Gavin?) helped to drive the wedge between members of the team with one another and the coaching staff.
Coach Lowe says the issues that occurred last season won't be a factor again this year, and given the fact that Ben McCauley stayed home on the team's trip to Canada in late summer, it looks like Nice Guy Sidney isn't playing around any more.
I think ninth is a good spot for State to be in right at the moment. I think they'll finish higher than that, and given that Ben's attitude seems re-adjusted for the time being and Costner's back down to fighting weight, there's reason enough to believe that State can be much improved this season over last.
I think a more accurate slot for State--assuming Degand stays healthy and Costner, McCauley and Fells play to their potentials--would be somewhere in the 4-6 range. Miami is ranked in the top tier and given that this is new territory for them, they're ripe for a disappointing finish under heavy expectations. Clemson has shown strength in spurts, but they--like their football counterparts--have a tough time excelling for a full season. I've not taken a look at how imbalanced either of those two school's schedules are, so it's tough to say if a presumed weaker schedule is what's boosting their slotting. Maybe so.
Nevertheless, I expect State to finish somewhere near the middle with a chance to surprise if guard play returns to its 2006-07 level.