LOS ANGELES -- People have speculated for years that California might someday drop off the map, and the slide may have already started with college basketball.
San Diego State, loser of three straight games and holding on by a fingernail at No. 24, is the only California team represented in this week's Associated Press top-25 poll.
And you thought Texas was the lone star state?
St. Mary's and San Diego State occupy two of the final three spots in the coaches' top-25 poll despite collectively losing six of their last seven games, the Gaels prevailing over lowly Santa Clara.
St. Mary's, wobbly and wounded, got gashed by Murray State but caught a break to remain atop the West Coast Conference standings when San Francisco upset Gonzaga.
San Diego State, at 20-6, still appears a solid NCAA entry. The Aztecs' three straight losses were by a total of 14 points -- to Nevada Las Vegas (currently No. 21), New Mexico (No. 18) and Air Force.
Long Beach State deserves love for playing its heart out in a two-point loss at Creighton, but the 49ers now face the prospect of having to win the Big West Conference tournament to make the NCAA tournament.
UCLA traveled across the country to lose at St. John's last weekend as part of the Bruins' "post-Pauley reconstruction" phase. But at least UCLA isn't USC, which is 1-13 in Pac-12 Conference play.
Elsewhere in the Pac-12, California (the school in Berkeley) is not quite ranked but is tied for first in the standings, which tells you everything you need to know about the conference.
Local bright spots: Cal State Fullerton (18-7, 9-3) is tied for second in the Big West and its 42.9 percent three-point field-goal percentage ranks No. 2 nationally.
And don't forget Loyola Marymount, coming off big wins over St. Mary's and Valparaiso. Coach Max Good's team is 18-10 overall, 10-4 in league, and will be a miserable draw in next week's West Coast Conference tournament.
After two years of injuries and lineup shuffling, the Lions finally seem solidified. Friday's win over Valparaiso marked only the 10th time this season Good was able to send out his first team.
"The Indianapolis Colts had one injury and it affected them pretty good," Good said after Tuesday's practice. "And they lost one guy (quarterback Peyton Manning)."
LMU has no shot at an NCAA at-large berth but could snatch the automatic bid and force the selection committee to consider four WCC entries -- St. Mary's, Gonzaga and Brigham Young being the others.
The Lions have been led recently by senior forward Drew Viney and sophomore guard Anthony Ireland, who was chosen WCC player of the week for averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and six assists in the wins over St. Mary's and Valparaiso.
Loyola is off to its best start since 1995-96.
As a state, however, California is only feeding the stereotype that we don't take basketball very seriously.
"I'm too new to the area to comment on that," joked Good, who is in his fourth year at LMU after a long career back East.
People ask Good if he's glad UCLA and USC are down. "I pull for all these teams," said Good, whose team beat the Bruins, then ranked 17th, in November. "Long Beach, Santa Barbara. The more good teams, the more attention there is."
California, as a state, leads the nation in NCAA men's basketball titles with 15 -- 11 of those by UCLA -- but don't tell that to North Carolina (11) and Kentucky (9). This year, so far, belongs to Kentucky, which has three schools ranked in the top 17 of the AP poll.
Good, who coached eight years at Eastern Kentucky, says the state is nuts about hoops.
"There are not a lot of other things to do there," he said. "Basketball is king."
Could this be the year Kentucky coach John Calipari finally wins his first national title? Instead of whining about baby-sitting one-and-done players on their way to the NBA, Calipari simply accepts the premise and annually restocks his roster with prime-time talent.
Anthony Davis, this year's freshman find, has the wingspan of the Spruce Goose.
Murray State, 26-1 and ranked No. 14 by AP, is also impressive, given that you'd probably only go to Murray, Ky., if your car ran out of gas.
Sports information director Dave Winder recently told the Louisville Courier-Journal: "Nobody comes here without a reason."
The Racers have shed their only loss, to Tennessee State, and looked like a second-weekend NCAA team last Saturday with their impressive 65-51 win over St. Mary's.
Junior guard Isaiah Canaan, who had 23 points in the win, is clearly one of the nation's top guards. How Mississippi let him slip out of the state should give Biloxi the blues.
Louisville, No. 17 in the AP poll, recently was crowned college basketball's most devoted viewing market. The city, with its 4.6 share, ranked No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings for ESPN games aired from Nov. 11, 2011, through Feb. 12, 2012.
If California is looking for a state it can handle, skip Kentucky and go straight to Rhode Island.
Three of its schools -- Rhode Island (Atlantic 10), Providence (Big East) and Bryant (Northeast) -- are last in their conference standings.