The revolving door that has been the No. 1 spot in the polls this season has been swinging wildly since Duke had the audacity to lose at NC State and begin this slow descent into Hell's version of Monty Python's "Argument Clinic" sketch. People are scratching their heads over it yet certain in their own opinions as to which team is the best in the nation (opinions that change as often as a barkeep changes Bill Raftery's cocktail napkins), and which teams are NCAA tournament-worthy.
It can all be very difficult to sort out, especially for those of you who have been watching that sadistic ground acquisition game, the one on which gigantic athletes crash into each other with tremendous speed and force: football. (No, I wasn't referring to your average college basketball game, which has devolved into a bare-knuckle, mixed martial arts bout in which illegal contact seems to be encouraged by the very people charged with stopping such brutal tactics.)
But fear not: If you are just now turning your attention to the beautiful game, The Bilas Index will get you up to speed.
What is The Bilas Index, you ask? It is not simply a ranking of the top 68 teams in college basketball; it is the best measure of basketball merit ever devised and provides you with pinpoint accuracy in determining which teams can play and which teams cannot. It blends the best and most reliable basketball metrics from KenPom.com, Sagarin, Basketball Prospectus, UPS Team Performance Index and the incredible and technically sound ESPN Basketball Power Index. (There is no use of the RPI, just as a finely tuned Ferrari does not use a buggy whip.) But what truly makes The Bilas Index great is the use of The Bilastrator's beautiful mind, as his cranium houses a wealth of basketball experience and knowledge that mortal man cannot comprehend.
As you enjoy this, let me say with all humility, you're welcome.
Coming in: Indiana State, La Salle, Ohio, Villanova, Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin
Moving out: Texas, Rutgers, Saint Joseph's, Dayton, Clemson, Purdue
Highest rise: Saint Louis
Largest drop: Wyoming
1. Indiana Hoosiers (Previous ranking: 6)
Indiana is very good and has been very good all season. But the Hoosiers are actually getting better. This is a connected team that communicates well and relates well to one another. Tom Crean calls it "locked in" and this team is. Before playing Michigan, Indiana had a game that could have been overlooked and sloppy. Instead, Indiana scored 97 points on just 67 possessions, the best performance by a team this season. The Hoosiers are second only to Michigan with 120.3 points per 100 possessions, and Indiana's defense is starting to match its offense. Indiana scores 19.8 points per game off turnovers, and has reduced its fouling dramatically over the past two years and is not putting opponents on the line. Conversely, Indiana lives at the line, shooting 27.5 free throws per game, and scoring 24 percent of its points from the line. Indiana gets 14.3 points per game on the offensive glass, and has a 40.6% offensive rebound rate.
Cody Zeller continues to lead the way in efficiency, and has a plus-18.1 plus-minus rating, good for fifth in the nation. Zeller is shooting 85.7 percent in transition, second in the nation, and shoots 0.79 free throws for every play, which is 11th in the nation. Zeller shoots 7.3 free throws per game and is an excellent offensive rebounder. Victor Oladipo, the heartbeat of this team, had 264 deflections going into the Michigan game, which is Dwyane Wade territory. Oladipo guarded four different Wolverines on Saturday, and in 45 possessions, surrendered only four points. He was like a Pro Bowl cornerback that no quarterback would challenge.
2. Michigan Wolverines (Previous ranking: 4)
The more The Bilastrator watches Michigan, the more The Bilastrator loves Michigan. Of course, watching the Wolverines in practice makes one's head spin, as John Beilein's odd terminology can make one more confused than Bill Raftery using an airport kiosk after a bender. Beilein tells his players to "Rochester" when the ball is thrown into the post, "Oklahoma" on an offensive action, and make sure the "Otis" is alert on the weakside. Yet it all comes together beautifully to make Michigan the best offensive team in the country. The Wolverines lead the nation in offensive efficiency, scoring 122.4 points per 100 possessions, and turning the ball over on only 14.8 percent of possessions, tied with Wisconsin for best in the nation.
Michigan averages 35 points in the paint, best in the Big Ten, and up from 23.6 last season. The main reason is Trey Burke, who continues to solidify his position in The Bilastrator's mind as the best point guard in the country. Where Burke is devastating is off ball screens, scoring on over 55 percent of his attempts, fifth best in the nation. Burke is also shooting 48 percent off the bounce, which is second in the nation. The Bilastrator is also impressed with the continuing maturation of the big, strong and agile freshman, Mitch McGary. He grabs 19 percent of Michigan's missed shots when he is in the game, the third-highest offensive rebounding rate in the country.
3. Florida Gators (Previous ranking: 3)