While college football flails around and morphs into college basketball -- with its silly committee compromising every value and statement that college football has conned us all with over the decades and claimed to hold dear -- the unwashed masses can always look to The Bilas Index for clarity, consistency and exactitude. After all, in college basketball, "every game counts." While that phrase has been trademarked by the college football headbangers, it is total nonsense in that sadistic ground acquisition game. None of UCF's 12 wins against zero losses actually counted. As far as the race for the national championship is concerned, UCF played 12 exhibition games. Conference championships mean absolutely nothing. In college basketball, a conference title means you are in the tournament for the national title. Period. In football, the committee already has proved it will select teams that haven't won a conference title.
Therefore, in college football, it is laughable to suggest that every game counts. They do not. In fact, most of the games played don't count at all. In college basketball, every game does count, and every team is in it to the end. While both multibillion-dollar sports are flawed in the administration of the game, The Bilas Index is flawless and perfect.
The Bilas Index is the apotheosis of basketball judgment and achievement in the known universe. It takes into account every relevant factor in the game, from observation, film study and analysis, and applies every reliable metric, fact and judgment to the product on the floor, sorted out by the most powerful tool of basketball analysis known to man, The Bilastrator's high-functioning gray matter. So, as football fans continue to turn red arguing over the nonsensical standards of that game, you will be treated to absolute certitude from The Bilas Index. You're welcome.
1. Duke Blue Devils
The most talented team in the game, and it isn't close. Mike Krzyzewski has more NBA lottery picks than he can count, and they can all really play. Duke may need nap time on game days due to being Coach K's youngest team ever, but once this team wakes up from its nap, these youngsters are poised and unafraid. Marvin Bagley III is the real deal and has been unstoppable. With a healthy and refreshed Grayson Allen hitting big shots, Duke has all of the pieces to stay in the top spot. The scary part is, Duke will keep getting better.
2. Villanova Wildcats
The Wildcats are solid at every position and play hard on every possession. This is not Jay Wright's best or most talented team, but the pieces all fit together and the culture Wright has built is the glue. Mikal Bridges is a future pro, and Jalen Brunson is one of the elite point guards in the country and can control a game.
3. Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans are really good and will continue to get better. The separating factor is Tom Izzo's bench. There is no real drop-off when Michigan State puts its subs in. The Spartans can defend at a high level and get out on the break with speed and power. The only wart is turnovers. Michigan State still has some lapses. Eliminate those, and there is a banner out there with Michigan State's name on it.
4. Kansas Jayhawks
Bill Self is playing short-handed, but the Magnificent Seven can play. Devonte' Graham has already had back-to-back 35-point games this season and is looking like Frank Mason III, last year's Wooden Award winner.
5. Florida Gators
Mike White has established himself as one of the nation's elite coaches. His offense is powerful and downright fun. The Gators move the ball, cut hard and really use the 3-point line as a weapon. If Florida becomes a better defensive team, look out.
6. Wichita State Shockers
The Shockers are not yet healthy because Markis McDuffie is out with an injury. When McDuffie returns, this is a top-five team that can beat anyone in the country. Wichita State has some adjustments to make on both offense and defense, but is capable of reaching the Final Four.
7. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies have size and athleticism up front, and capable shooting leads to the conclusion that Texas A&M is a legit SEC challenger. The danger area is turnovers. The Aggies commit too many and don't force enough.
8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Irish are older and sound. Mike Brey has two absolute studs in Bonzie Colson, the first player under 6-foot-7 to lead the ACC in rebounding since 1958, and Matt Farrell, the first player to ever start at point guard one year and be the leprechaun the next. Notre Dame got hit with a bag of wrenches at Michigan State, but this team is very good, and better on the defensive end.
9. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Mark Few lost so much offense, defense and experience, yet he has reshuffled his deck and has another team that can score and is fun to watch. Johnathan Williams was awesome against Florida with 39 points, and Josh Perkins went for 17-7-7 in the double-OT loss.
10. Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilermakers have dropped two games early in the season. While the focus is often on the interior, sharpshooting wing Dakota Mathias is Purdue's best player and best defender.
11. Virginia Cavaliers
Though the pace of the Virginia games can also serve as a powerful sedative, the way the Cavaliers play defense is fascinating to watch. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome are quality guards and good scorers. Virginia can hold down almost any offense. The question is whether the Cavaliers can score enough points to climb much higher than this.
12. North Carolina Tar Heels
This is not Roy Williams' most talented team. But this team is still very capable. Luke Maye is having a fabulous season. If the young big men mature quickly, North Carolina will be a top-tier team by the end of the year.
13. Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats do not have the top-of-the-NBA-lottery super-talent of years past, but Kentucky has tons of long, lanky, athletic players. To win, Kentucky will have to be an excellent defensive and rebounding team. Anything less will result in a first-weekend exit from the NCAA tournament.
14. Seton Hall Pirates
Kevin Willard has an experienced and hungry team. Seton Hall has made the innocent climb to contending, and it seems to want more. Experience and talent are great things. Hungry experience and talent can be really hard to play against.
15. Arizona State Sun Devils
The Sun Devils can really score, and Tra Holder put up 40 in a game already this season. With wins over San Diego State, Xavier and Kansas State, Bobby Hurley's team is for real.
17. Miami Hurricanes
The Hurricanes have played an uninspiring nonconference slate, but the win over Minnesota in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was solid. Miami is very good defensively. Bruce Brown is a first-team All-ACC performer.
18. Cincinnati Bearcats
The Bearcats have always been a hard-playing group of defenders and rebounders, but this version of UC can score, too. The loss to Xavier was to a team that can defend. Games against Florida, UCLA and Mississippi State will test the Bearcats.
19. Arizona Wildcats
Sean Miller was brutally honest in subdued tones about his team needing to play harder -- and to play harder together. Arizona may have to juggle lineups to be more versatile defensively, but this team is still really capable, despite the three losses in the Bahamas.
20. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Richard Pitino has a very good team. The difference-maker is Jordan Murphy, who is a legitimate double-double performer. Murphy is the most productive player in the country and leads the nation in double-doubles.
21. SMU Mustangs
The Ponies have dropped a couple of games -- with losses against Northern Iowa and Western Kentucky -- but drilled USC on the road. The Mustangs are third in the nation in points allowed at 56.3 per game.
23. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Keenan Evans is an All-Big 12 player and the Red Raiders' most consistent scoring threat at 15.9 PPG. As Jarrett Culver continues to mature, Texas Tech will have a very capable backcourt.
24. West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers seemed to be in a similar position to recent years. The defense is stifling for opponents, but shooting was a sore spot. This year, West Virginia started off with a horrifying performance against Texas A&M, but has since looked far better against lesser teams. The Mountaineers are good, but until they shoot it with more consistency, there is a lower ceiling.
25. Louisville Cardinals
Terrific personnel, but so many unknowns with a new coaching staff and the controversy that came with the FBI scandal that enveloped college basketball before the season started. Deng Adel is a pro.
27. Virginia Tech Hokies
This team can shoot the ball, stretch the floor and punch the paint. Virginia Tech will be a handful for Kentucky and so many others. Chris Clarke has one of the best motors in college basketball.
28. Georgia Bulldogs
After being sick throughout the Wooden Legacy, Georgia has made its opponents sick. Yante Maten commands double-teams and Turtle Jackson, Tyree Crump and Juwan Parker are really good perimeter players. Georgia can be a good team in the SEC.
29. Saint Mary's Gaels
A year older and with a legit star in the post in Jock Landale, Saint Mary's is legit. But Gonzaga is more legit. Can Saint Mary's rack up enough nonconference wins to crash the dance? Yes.
30. Florida State Seminoles
Athletic and good offensive rebounders, the Seminoles went out and pummeled Florida on Monday night. Need evidence of their ability to grab boards off the offensive glass? Florida State grabbed 23; Florida had 11.
32. USC Trojans
The Trojans are better than they are playing. Without De'Anthony Melton, things have been choppy. Offensive efficiency has been lagging, but USC has plenty of time to improve. The Pac-12 title is there for the grabbing. Right now, nobody seems to want to grab it.
33. Creighton Bluejays
The Jays lost a battle to Gonzaga and lost to Baylor, but beat Northwestern and UCLA. Marcus Foster is a fantastic offensive player, and Khyri Thomas is one of the best players that too few people know about. He plays winning basketball.
34. Rhode Island Rams
The Rams are talented and capable, but losses to Nevada and Virginia have obscured that fact to some. Not to The Bilastrator. Fatts Russell is a tiny, Philly-tough, explosive, disruptive force on the floor. With E.C. Matthews out, Rhode Island needs it.
35. Maryland Terrapins
The Terps have lost to St. Bonaventure, Syracuse and Purdue, but played well enough to win each one of those games. The problem is simple -- turnovers. Maryland is turning the ball over on almost 24 percent of its possessions, which ranks among the worst in Division I. Clean that up, and some shot selection that should count as turnovers, and Maryland is a climber here.
36. Baylor Bears
The Bears' defense is good, but the offense is spotty and inconsistent. Losing Terry Maston to injury does not help. Losses to Wichita State and Xavier were not unexpected. Right now, they are better teams.
37. Clemson Tigers
The Tigers have a chance in the ACC. With some experienced players, Brad Brownell has a group that can challenge. Clemson has to be more efficient offensively, but Elijah Thomas is one of the best defensive rebounders in the league.
38. Penn State Nittany Lions
Pat Chambers has his best team at Penn State. Tony Carr is a terrific scorer and can hit you at all three levels. He is averaging better than 20 PPG, up from a little more than 13 a night a season ago.
39. Arkansas Razorbacks
The Bilastrator likes the Razorbacks' guards and experience, but double-digit losses to North Carolina and Houston are concerning. If you handle the Arkansas pressure, there are good things for you.
40. Providence Friars
With losses only to Minnesota and Rhode Island, the Friars are solid. Like other teams in this tier, turnovers are a problem. Providence can be a climber.
42. Michigan Wolverines
All new pieces around Mo Wagner for John Beilein to figure out. Charles Matthews can be a pro, and should lead the team in scoring. Some shaky wins that could've been losses, then a loss to LSU that should have been a win. Michigan will improve, but this is a bit of a rebuilding year.
43. Temple Owls
Fran Dunphy is one of the best coaches in the country, and one of the best people. Having Quinton Rose as a more experienced star and Obi Enechionyia as a senior will make Temple a contender in the American.
44. Syracuse Orange
The Orange have good players in Tyus Battle and Frank Howard, but there are so many young guys that there will be some bumps along the way. Still, Syracuse will be a tough out on most nights.
45. UCLA Bruins
With the personnel losses from last season, the positive is that everyone can see just how good Aaron Holiday is. He can play. Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands are beyond their years. With some time, they will figure it out.
46. Alabama Crimson Tide
This team will always be remembered as national 3-on-3 champions. But this is a young team that has talent. Turnovers and consistency on the defensive end will improve as time passes, but Collin Sexton is the real deal.
48. Marquette Golden Eagles
It remains to be seen whether the loss of Haanif Cheatham will hurt Marquette, but this team can really shoot the ball. Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard are elite shooters. Sam Hauser is an indispensable player who does it all for coach Steve Wojciechowski. When Harry Froling becomes eligible, the inside game will improve.
49. Wisconsin Badgers
The Badgers have played a tough slate and are better than the record indicates. Losses to Xavier, Baylor, UCLA, Virginia and Ohio State look bad, especially since two of those were at home. Wisconsin has not been "Wisconsin-like" efficient on the offensive end.
50. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Ben Howland has been able to establish a new culture in Starkville, and the Bulldogs got off to a 6-0 start playing nobody in the top 100. Turnovers and perimeter shooting are sore spots, but Mississippi State is much improved.
54. UCF Knights
The Knights play great defense again this year, but suffered a really tough loss to St. John's and Missouri before bouncing back for a great road win at Alabama. UCF is struggling with poor shooting and turnovers, but defense is keeping the Knights in games.
56. San Diego State Aztecs
As has been the trend with the Aztecs, they play great defense and struggle at times to score. San Diego State does not shoot the ball well, and has lost to Washington State and Arizona State. The trouble spot is the Aztecs giving up 90 or more in its two losses.
57. Oregon Ducks
Dana Altman has a ton of new pieces and it will take time to teach the Oregon culture to the new guys, including Elijah Brown and Troy Brown. Usually, the holiday break is the time when Altman-coached teams make a jump.
59. Butler Bulldogs
The win over Ohio State was dramatic and somewhat unexpected. For the Bulldogs, getting comfortable with the offense is the next step, and moving the ball and playing without thinking their way through it. Butler has yet to shoot the ball well, but has good shooters.
60. Ohio State Buckeyes
It is only Year 1 for coach Chris Holtmann, and he will get Ohio State going again. He is the real deal.
61. Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones really struggled to score in the first two games, but Iowa State has been consistently getting better. This is a rebuilding year.
62. Kansas State Wildcats
The Wildcats are good on the offensive end, and the only loss entering this week was to Arizona State in a shootout. The next step for Kansas State is to get a defensive mindset instead of outscoring people.
64. South Carolina Gamecocks
A lot of new faces handling the ball, and turnovers have been an issue early. Playing hard is not an issue for Frank Martin.
65. NC State Wolfpack
A win over Arizona showed the high-end potential of this team. But following that win up with losses to Northern Iowa and Tennessee was a reality check. NC State needs to rebound the ball to win.
66. St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Playing games without star performer Jaylen Adams (sprained ankle) wasn't easy, but the Bonnies more than held their own, winning against Maryland, but dropping one to TCU. Adams and Matt Mobley form a formidable tandem.
67. Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys have had some good moments playing in front of almost nobody at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Tougher games are ahead. A winning record now does not mean a winning record later.
68. Vermont Catamounts
Anthony Lamb and Trae Bell-Haynes can play with anyone, which makes this team dangerous. Don't be surprised when Vermont is in the NCAA tournament and, as long as it rebounds, gives somebody a hard time in the first round.