We are now in the midst of the dog days of the college basketball season, the point at which there is a large portion of the season in the rearview mirror and the finish line in sight. This is the time of the season when teams tend to get tight, and everything means more, even though we are just halfway through the conference schedule.
We have seen some movement at the top of The Bilas Index for this week, as Arizona lost a starter for the season, and its fortunes have changed. For Arizona, and every other team, it is "next man up," and the Wildcats have got to move on.
Meanwhile, in Upstate New York, the Syracuse Orange seem to play just as well as they need to and are at their best when the game is on the line. That is a special trait. Syracuse will be No. 1 in the polls and The Bilas Index, but we must remain aware of Wichita State, which will be No. 1 in the polls before the end of the season and likely keep that title until the NCAA tournament.
These are just a few of the teams covered in this week's Bilas Index, which is both a ranking of the top 68 teams in the nation and the best and most accurate measure of basketball accomplishment known to man. It is based upon the most powerful force in the modern game: the gray matter of The Bilastrator. Those super-cranial abilities are supplemented by the most reliable and trusted metrics in the game, including, but not limited to, kenpom.com, Sagarin, the UPS Team Performance Index, ESPN's Basketball Power Index (BPI) and Synergy Sports Technology.
And, as always, you're welcome.
Moving in: Providence, Nebraska, Mercer, UNLV
Moving out: New Mexico State, UCSB, Notre Dame, Saint Mary's
1. Syracuse Orange (Previous ranking: 2)
If one were to be told that Duke would hit 15 3-point field goals in the Carrier Dome, the prevailing wisdom would be that Syracuse would lose. But, as Duke bombed 3 after 3, Syracuse put together its best offensive performance of the season, shooting 57 percent and getting career nights from C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant. Duke hit shots but could not get to the rim or the free throw line. Syracuse allows 20.3 points per game in the paint, second fewest among major conference teams (The American, ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-12, SEC) behind SMU (19.4). Duke scored 32 but gave up 42, in addition to a ton of free throws. Duke turned it over only eight times, while the Orange force a turnover on 15.3 percent of opponents possessions, 24th in the nation. It would be silly to suggest Syracuse can play offense the way it did against Duke on a regular basis, but what is amazing is that Syracuse rises to the level necessary to win in every situation. That is special.