Welcome to The Bilas Index, Vol. II, the most comprehensive and thorough compilation of basketball accomplishment, measured through analytics, on-court performance and the best predictive tools known to the universe. The Bilas Index is powered by the gray matter of The Bilastrator, unquestionably the finest hoops mind one can imagine. And humility is The Bilastrator's best quality, among so many in contention. The Bilastrator's basketball mind is undefeated, a Quad 1 brain if there ever was one.
One thing is clear from the 2022 season: No teams have separated from the crowd as Gonzaga and Baylor did last season. Instead, the game has an upper tier of title contenders, a group of eight. That is not to say that teams outside of the highest shelf of the game can't break through to the Final Four, but the eventual champion will come from those eight. Each can lose early in the NCAA tournament, because every team in this year's field can lose early. But the list of teams that can win six in a row in the tournament is not long.
The teams in the upper tier? Gonzaga, Auburn, Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, Arizona, Purdue and a healthy Baylor. Can those teams be beaten before reaching the Elite Eight? Yes, but those are the best teams this season.
Could Illinois and Kansas join that group? Perhaps, with a nod to Illinois as the likeliest team to crash the party. The race for the tournament bubble will be fascinating, as teams often surge late that are better than their records indicate. Will the late pushes of Virginia Tech, Virginia, Michigan, Rutgers, Memphis and Oregon be enough to get in? Will the West Coast Conference strength knock out some of the power conference teams?
The race for national player of the year is as tight as ever, with no clear favorite. Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe feels like the leader, but names like Kofi Cockburn, Ochai Agbaji, Paolo Banchero, Johnny Davis, Keegan Murray, Jabari Smith, Jaden Ivey and Drew Timme will have a say. Yet that is not as interesting as the race for Big Ten Player of the Year, which has incredible depth of talent and accomplishment, almost all of the contenders frontcourt players. Amazing.
There is a lot to celebrate about the game this season, but ...