There is no better way to ring in 2013 than the triumphant return of The Bilas Index. While the knuckle-draggers were wasting time and brain cells on that sadistic, ground-acquisition game, The Bilastrator was studying "the beautiful game" to a degree of depth few could possibly understand. The super-cranial superiority of The Bilastrator has produced yet another definitive view of true basketball merit and accomplishment. Forget the polls, which are a superficial view of the game -- and the equivalent of a construction crew whistling at every pretty face that walks by. The Bilas Index, a ranking of the top 68 teams in college basketball, provides a degree of accuracy that borders on absolute certainty.
Why is The Bilas Index the most reliable measure to capture the various dimensions of basketball worth? One could point to the scholarly recipe of the best metrics in the game, from KenPom.com to Sagarin to Basketball Prospectus to ESPN's magnificent Basketball Power Index (which is, immodestly, the best of all metrics), but that would be facile interpretation.
The Bilas Index is so reliable because the data is brought together and interpreted by The Bilastrator himself. With The Bilas Index, you have all of the answers relating to college basketball, and all of the answers are absolutely right. You're welcome.
(Note: Connecticut is not included in this ranking because they aren't eligible for the postseason.)
1. Louisville Cardinals (Previous ranking: No. 2)
Louisville's defense has the Cardinals ranked atop The Bilas Index. When healthy, this team is Atlanta-worthy and "A-Town Down." With Gorgui Dieng back and Chane Behanan playing to his talent (although he's out for a few days with a sprained ankle), Louisville shapes up as the best team in the nation. Russ Smith, a Big East Player of the Year candidate, is taking 35.7 percent of Louisville's shots, the seventh-highest mark in the nation. The Cardinals rank second in the nation in steals and steal percentage (VCU is No. 1), turning over opponents at an insane rate. Louisville wouldn't be No. 1 in a poll right now, but The Bilas Index isn't a poll. Again, you're welcome.
2. Duke Blue Devils (Previous ranking: No. 3)
Looking at the schedule, Duke appears to have already wrapped up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, having beaten four teams in the BPI top 15. Duke is one of only a handful of teams that can legitimately score from five different spots on the floor. There are three keys to this team: (1) Mason Plumlee has been a consistent producer on the glass and in the post; (2) Ryan Kelly is a true stretch 4 (not just a guy who can hit 3-pointers); and (3) Quinn Cook is a legit point guard who has brought everything together. The next areas which Duke needs to improve upon are defensive rebounding and getting consistent, productive minutes from two bench players. Right now, five Duke starters are averaging 30 or more minutes per game.
3. Michigan Wolverines (Previous ranking: No. 4)