For those college basketball fans who wish to be "surprised" by the results of the 2013-14 college basketball season, like expecting parents who don't wish to know the gender of their baby ahead of time, the Bilastrator encourages you to look away now. Because what follows -- a perfectly precise and unassailable ranking of the 68 best teams in the country -- is the college hoops equivalent of an ultrasound. The Bilastrator knows the answers ahead of time, while others are left to play around with paint colors and baby names. (The Bilastrator is often told, "It must be nice to have all of the answers." Well, The Bilastrator can tell you, it is. It is wonderful indeed.)
Welcome to the season's first edition of the Bilas Index. For those of you new to this ranking, it is more than the reasoned and substantive judgment of the largest and most powerful analytical tool known to man -- the gray matter of the Bilastrator himself -- but it also makes use of recognized analytics such as KenPom.com, Sagarin, the UPS Team Performance Index, ESPN's Basketball Power Index and Synergy Sports Technology. While the NCAA tournament selection committee makes use of "blunt instruments" to determine its field of 68, the Bilas Index is instead the precision tool for measuring basketball success and achievement.
Here is the season's first ranking of the top 68 teams in the country. As always, you're welcome.
The Spartans have had some minor lapses against lesser teams, and Tom Izzo blamed it on the team's inability to handle success. But when playing in big games, Michigan State brings it. Even though it's early, Michigan State has demonstrated excellent balance, with both an offense and defense rated in the top 10 of KenPom.com's efficiency numbers. The team's only trouble spots are its lack of free throw attempts and just "good" rebounding when "great" has become the norm for the Spartans. The improvement of Keith Appling and Adreian Payne has been impressive, and both are among the best players in the country at their positions. This team can hang another national championship banner in Breslin, but needs to get tougher collectively.
The Wildcats have almost everything, including size, athleticism and good guard play. T.J. McConnell is the difference between this being another very good Arizona team and a Final Four team. He is a legit point guard who opens things up for Nick Johnson, who is averaging 17 points and leads the Wildcats in scoring and free throw attempts.
The Orange have given up some easier buckets this season than what we're used to seeing from them, but this team has the chance to be really good defensively. There is length and athleticism along the baseline, and while Syracuse is smaller at the top of the zone it still gets steals. If you can keep from turning the ball over against the Orange, you have a chance to win, but if you allow live-ball turnovers, Syracuse will capitalize and beat you. C.J. Fair was excellent in Maui, as was Tyler Ennis, who did not play like a first-year player. Ennis is a terrific college point guard, and will continue to improve throughout the season. If the Orange can get consistent play out of interior players Rakeem Christmas, DaJuan Coleman and Baye Moussa Keita, they will be able to challenge for the whole thing by March.