It's not easy to rank the 68 best teams in the country with razor-sharp precision. It's only easy for The Bilastrator.
That's where the Bilas Index comes in. It is an unassailable inventory of the 68 teams with the most basketball accomplishments in an easy-to-understand catalog of information found nowhere else but the recesses of The Bilastrator's frontal lobe.
It is a guide to bracket cash, and if taken to Las Vegas, it is a document that could literally bring down the house. Some say that The Bilastrator has made the job of the NCAA tournament selection committee obsolete with his register of college basketball teams, but let's be honest, the selection committee became obsolete all by itself.
The Bilas Index is a complete directory of unquestionable, irrefutable and indisputable basketball knowledge, all wrapped up in a list form, which rolls from team to team in order of roundball merit. Along the way, with syrupy sweet prose, The Bilastrator makes the complex simple and the incomprehensible completely understandable. The Bilastrator takes the best and most reliable measures in the game, from the Sagarin Ratings, KenPom.com, the UPS Team Performance Index, Basketball Prospectus, ESPN's Basketball Power Index (or BPI) and Synergy Sports Technology to calculate, assess and determine the very best basketball teams in the game.
No single person could be expected to compute all of that information, digest it and spit it out in a form that is useful and indisputable, but The Bilastrator's prodigious mind and copious yet truly remarkable gray matter can bring it all together.
There are few things in life that are certain, but there are three certainties we can count on:
1.) Bill Raftery will say "one more" before reaching the bottom of every glass.
2.) Digger Phelps will work his victories over UCLA into any conversation.
3.) The Bilas Index is never wrong.
So here you have it -- the Feb. 25 version of my ranking of the nation's top 68 teams. As always, you're welcome.
Moving out: BYU, Detroit
Moving in: Indiana State, Valparaiso
Highest rise: Saint Louis
Largest drop (tie): Baylor, Alabama
1. Indiana Hoosiers (Previous ranking: 1)
The Hoosiers were excellent against Michigan State, winning in East Lansing for the first time since Woodrow Wilson was president -- also known as the last time the NCAA had a shred of credibility. Indiana fought and showed tremendous toughness and togetherness down the stretch to win, and that may be as revealing as any metric out there (except, of course, The Bilas Index.)
Indiana is 7-1 against the Sagarin top 25, and is 8-2 against the BPI top 50. The metrics back the Hoosiers as the best offensive team in the nation, but what once was a top-five defense has slipped over the past two weeks to the 15th-ranked D in the country, according to KenPom.com. That's still much better than IU defenses of recent seasons, however. Last season's Indiana team was ranked as the 64th-best defensive team, and the prior season Indiana was ranked as the 109th-best defensive team by KenPom.com.
2. Florida Gators (Previous ranking: 3)
Florida is, right now, the only team in the country in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom.com, and has a higher net efficiency than any of the past five national championship teams. That is both significant and important. The Gators have been beaten a few times -- as has every team that has played anyone -- but the losses have been close ones for the most part. Florida allows only 0.84 points per possession, the second-best defensive efficiency in the nation behind Stephen F. Austin. Over the past dozen seasons, no team in a "big six" conference has finished the season with a better defensive efficiency.
To me, the issue isn't whether Florida can win it, it's whether they will win it. The Gators have gone to the past two Elite Eights, but have to feel they gave away those Elite Eight games. Overcoming that hurdle may be Florida's biggest challenge. Freshman Michael Frazier II has shot the ball very well, hitting an SEC-best 59.1 percent of his shots from 3-point territory in SEC play.
3. Gonzaga Bulldogs (Previous ranking: 4)