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In Jay Bilas' ranking of the nation's best, Louisville takes over the No. 1 spot
By Jay Bilas | ESPN Insider
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.)
Coming in: Brigham Young Cougars, Saint Mary's Gaels, La Salle Explorers, Dayton Flyers, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, LSU Tigers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Moving out: Charlotte 49ers, Tennessee Volunteers, Florida State Seminoles, Oregon State Beavers, Alabama Crimson Tide, Northwestern Wildcats, Virginia Tech Hokies, West Virginia Mountaineers
Largest move up: Butler Bulldogs (No. 42 to No. 21) and Wyoming Cowboys (No. 61 to No. 40)
Largest fall down: Saint Joseph's Hawks (No. 37 to No. 56) and Ohio Bobcats (No. 40 to No. 59)
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)
This is the best offensive team I have seen this season, as they average 1.26 points per possession, the best in the nation. Michigan does not have the same post presence as Duke, Louisville or Indiana, but the Wolverines score with ease. Last season, the Wolverines had a lot of shooters, but not quite as many playmakers. This season, Michigan has pros who can fill it up. Can Michigan be beaten? Of course. There are no truly great teams this season. However, The Bilastrator sees the best team in the Big Ten wearing maize and blue. And John Beilein was the only one on Michigan's sideline who didn't dunk on Iowa.
4. Indiana Hoosiers (Previous ranking: No. 1)
Indiana lost to Butler; however, notwithstanding the gritty performance from Brad Stevens' Bulldogs, the Hoosiers should have won. Indiana did not go to Cody Zeller enough in the second half and overtime, especially after Andrew Smith fouled out. Even though Victor Oladipo has been outstanding at both ends of the floor -- and is incredibly valuable -- Zeller is and will remain Indiana's most efficient, most productive and best player. Since his arrival in Bloomington, the Hoosiers are 41-10. That is no coincidence. Indiana is the only team in the nation that ranks in the top five in points per possession and opponents' points per possession.
5. Kansas Jayhawks (Previous ranking: No. 9)
The Jayhawks' offense is really coming on. Over its past six contests entering its game against Temple, Kansas had shot more than 50 percent from the floor. Redshirt freshman Ben McLemore is on pace to be KU's highest-scoring freshman ever, eclipsing Danny Manning, and has put up four 20-point games.
6. Florida Gators (Previous ranking: No. 5)
The Gators' top six scorers are all upperclassmen. With Erik Murphy out with a rib injury, Florida does not have him to run the ball-screen offense; however, if he comes back relatively soon, Florida will be fine. In fact, sometimes an injury can help another player step forward and develop into a more reliable option. Be sure to watch Will Yeguete, one of the best defenders in the country.
7. Syracuse Orange (Previous ranking: No. 6)
Syracuse gave up 33 points to Khalif Wyatt in a loss to Temple, but this is still a quality team that will continue to get better. Brandon Triche leads the Orange in scoring, and the middle of the zone and the glass have been by committee. The Orange get extra possessions by getting offensive rebounds (five players have 25 or more total offensive rebounds) and steals, but they give up too many second shots and turn the ball over too much. Still, Syracuse allows only .80 points per possession on the defensive end, second in the nation.
8. Arizona Wildcats (Previous ranking: No. 10)
Arizona has the toughest schedule of any team ranked in the BPI Top 25. The Wildcats should have two losses (to Florida and Colorado), but hung in there, kept playing and found ways to win when most other teams would have been closed out. That provides confidence and adds to the team's resolve. This may be a young team, but it has experienced players in Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Mark Lyons. However, Arizona is not as good as Louisville, Duke or Michigan right now.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (Previous ranking: No. 20)
The Gophers are big and have dynamic guards. Additionally, they are the best offensive rebounding team in the nation, sporting a 49.7 percent offensive rebound mark. Andre Hollins can really deck it and bounce into a shot. Minnesota protects the basket, ranking among the top seven teams in the country in both steal percentage and block percentage.
10. Gonzaga Bulldogs (Previous ranking: No. 11)
Gonzaga has beaten West Virginia, Clemson, Oklahoma, Davidson, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State, all of which have been in The Bilas Index this season. Kevin Pangos has been up and down, but when he's on, he's money. Pangos had 31 points against Baylor and 23 against Oklahoma State on only 25 shot attempts. But the guy who can take Gonzaga to Atlanta is big man Kelly Olynyk. The Canadian was averaging 18 points per game over the past five games heading into Santa Clara, and doing it in only 22 minutes per contest. He also ranks third in the nation in field goal percentage at 67.5 percent. At Santa Clara, Olynyk scored 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds.
11. Virginia Commonwealth Rams (Previous ranking: No. 23)
The Rams have lost three games, but the numbers and the magic eye of The Bilastrator indicate that this team is statistically superior to the VCU team that magically made it to the Final Four in 2011. This Rams team leads the nation in turnover percentage and steal percentage, and scores more than a third of its points from the 3-point line, hitting 9.4 3s per game. Troy Daniels has proved to be one of the very best shooters in the country, and over the past three games heading into the Lehigh game, Daniels hit 27 of 49 3s (55 percent). He has hit 61 3s on the season. VCU had a close one against Lehigh (without C.J. McCollum) because Lehigh was able to take care of the ball and play 5-on-5 in the half court. If you starve VCU of points off turnovers and open 3s, you have a chance.
12. Missouri Tigers (Previous ranking: No. 12)
Defense is the only thing standing in the way of Missouri consistently ranking among the top 10 teams in the country. Missouri is athletic, but does not dictate on defense. Phil Pressey is an outstanding point guard, but he has been relied upon to do too much. Last season, Pressey had Marcus Denmon and Michael Dixon alongside him; this season, Pressey has to create more on his own and create more for others. Against Illinois and UCLA, Pressey took 41 shots and had 30 assists. He had another 13 dimes on Tuesday.
Illinois' performance against Ohio State was surprising. Not that Illinois won, but for the margin and the relative ease with which it won. The Illini beat Ohio State in transition and off the dribble, and the Buckeyes could not score. Illinois has a mid-major feel, but possesses major-conference guards. Still, defensive rebounding and a lack of free throws are long-term concerns.
14. North Carolina State Wolfpack (Previous ranking: No. 15)
For some reason, people don't seem to think NC State is legit. However, The Bilastrator is not one of them. The Wolfpack lead the nation in field goal percentage at 53.5 percent -- including 57 percent from 2-point range -- and are one of the teams we told you about that can score from every spot on the floor. Freshman T.J. Warren is a born scorer, averaging 13.5 points per game on 69 percent shooting from the floor. NC State has made more free throws than its opponents have attempted.
15. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Previous ranking: No. 24)
The Irish are fun to watch because they have a culture of passing and sharing the ball -- everybody joins in because they know the ball is coming back to them. Notre Dame attacks, but does so with pace and patience, and the ball finds the open man. The backcourt of Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins is as good as any in the country, and Mike Brey has skilled, mature players who can dribble, pass and shoot. The Irish have not been in many close games, with every game but one decided by nine points or more.
16. Michigan State Spartans (Previous ranking: No. 8)
The Spartans were in position to win at Minnesota, but were not strong with the ball down the stretch. Against Purdue, Michigan State ran away from the Boilermakers in the second half. The Spartans big men have been better, and freshman guard Gary Harris is looking more assertive. This team may wind up with only the fourth-best record in the Big Ten, but is a team capable of beating anyone and reaching the Final Four.
17. Kentucky Wildcats (Previous ranking: No. 16)
The Wildcats are ranked No. 9 by KenPom.com and No. 27 in the BPI, but The Bilastrator slates Kentucky at No. 17 and rising, with the expectation that John Calipari's young team will be in the top 10 by the end of the season. Kentucky continues to defend -- it ranks in the top five in defensive efficiency -- and is doing a great job of protecting its own paint. Nerlens Noel is the only player in the country who ranks in the top 30 in both blocks and steals. In fact, Noel is the only player in the nation taller than 6-foot-5 who ranks in the top 30 in steals.
18. Ohio State Buckeyes (Previous ranking: No. 7)
Ohio State has dropped a few spots in The Bilas Index, largely because of a lack of offensive versatility and firepower up front -- and the fact that Ohio State is 0-3 versus the BPI top 75. Aaron Craft is the team's best defender, but backcourt mate Shannon Scott has been among the nation's best defenders to start this season. Scott leads the team in steals and has done a great job assisting while still taking care of the ball. Ohio State has to find scoring beyond Deshaun Thomas and the backcourt.
19. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Previous ranking: No. 17)
The Cowboys are athletic and play really hard. Marcus Smart is one of the top freshmen and top point guards in the nation, and Markel Brown is a terrific athlete who has really improved his all-around game. Against Kansas State, Smart had 25 points and Brown had 19, but no other Cowboy managed double figures.
20. Creighton Bluejays (Previous ranking: No. 18)
For a mid-major team to advance to the tourney it must have a superstar and the ability to score and defend in the post. Creighton has all of those things. Doug McDermott is a fantastic player who can score inside and out, and Rutgers transfer Gregory Echenique (6-9, 260) is big, strong and can finish plays.
21. Butler Bulldogs (Previous ranking: No. 42)
Butler's metrics have the Bulldogs ranked 40th in KenPom.com and 41st in both Sagarin and the BPI. Yet The Bilastrator is here to tell you that those ratings are just too low. Butler is better able to stretch a defense this season, and the Bulldogs' defense is solid, especially their defensive rebounding. Butler does not turn the ball over, and does not give up stick-backs.
The Bearcats can really defend and rebound, and Mick Cronin has quality guards who can break teams down off the dribble. The key for Cincinnati going forward will be offensive toughness. It has toughness on the defensive end, and displays sustained effort and concentration. But can Cincinnati sustain effort and concentration to reverse the ball to a second and third side of the floor before attacking? The only way that Cincy's offensive rebounding prowess continues is if the Bearcats take good shots.
23. San Diego State Aztecs (Previous ranking: No. 28)
The Aztecs have two wins against Missouri Valley teams, two victories over Pac-12 teams and losses against only Syracuse (outdoors) and Arizona (at the buzzer). San Diego State guards well, keeps opponents off the free throw line and has a star in Jamaal Franklin. That's a top-25 recipe for any team.
24. Kansas State Wildcats (Previous ranking: No. 30)
Making the adjustment from a set-play offense to motion is not easy for most players. Kansas State has handled it well and has made great strides. The Wildcats are moving better, moving with a purpose and making better reads and reactions. But make no mistake, this team is winning because of defense and offensive rebounding.
25. UNLV Rebels (Previous ranking: No. 21)
The Rebels don't have a true point guard, but have quality players at every position. Oddly enough, this team can be just as good as its ranking and still lose its first few games in Mountain West play. UNLV didn't handle the stage of the Dean Dome well, losing to North Carolina. But this team still has punch. When healthy, the front line of Anthony Bennett, Mike Moser and Khem Birch can be formidable, together or rotating.
26. Wichita State Shockers (Previous ranking: No. 29)
Wichita State is 22-4 on the road over the past two-plus seasons, which is second only to Kansas in terms of winning percentage. The Shockers' toughest player is Carl Hall, who leads the team in rebounding (7.6 rpg), blocks (1.9 bpg) and field goal percentage (57.3).
27. New Mexico Lobos (Previous ranking: No. 22)
New Mexico has had two straight slugfests on the road against Cincinnati and Saint Louis, winning the first and getting beaten badly in the second. Kendall Williams has proved to be one of the best guards in the country, leading the team in scoring and assists. The Lobos do not shoot it particularly well, but drive the ball well and get to the free throw line.
28. Temple Owls (Previous ranking: No. 41)
Temple lost to Canisius (led by Billy Baron), then turned around and beat Syracuse a couple of days later. The Owls have good guards in Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall, but do not shoot it consistently from deep. Temple is rated in the bottom third of Division I in 3-point accuracy. Against Syracuse, though, Temple hit eight 3-point field goals and shot 36 free throws. Wyatt has been impressive.
29. UCLA Bruins (Previous ranking No. 36)
In the last Bilas Index, The Bilastrator said that UCLA was hard to watch. Well, the Bruins went from hard to watch to hard to beat, winning seven in a row and improving on the defensive end. The key has been the maturation of Kyle Anderson, and Shabazz Muhammad getting back in shape. Over the past five games, Muhammad is averaging 27 points and shooting more than 50 percent from the field. Anderson is not a shooter, but does everything else well, averaging 9.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
30. Colorado Buffaloes (Previous ranking: No. 39)
The Buffs were blown out at Kansas and gave one away at Arizona. We can all lament the officials' ruling on CU's last-second shot attempt, and The Bilastrator believes Colorado was robbed. However, the truth is that Colorado had that game won and simply gave it away. This is a good team that has beaten Dayton, Baylor, Murray State and Colorado State -- and should be in the NCAA tournament.
31. Baylor Bears (Previous ranking: No. 31)
The Bears picked up a good win over Texas in overtime, and have a quality guard in Pierre Jackson. However, the young Bears give up too many second shots and do not guard the 3-point line as well as they need to.
32. Miami Hurricanes (Previous ranking: No. 32)
With Reggie Johnson out, fifth-year senior Kenny Kadji is stepping forward -- and needs to. Kadji had 11 points and a career-high 14 rebounds against Georgia Tech on the road. The next test for Miami is at North Carolina, followed by home games versus Maryland and Duke.
33. Maryland Terrapins (Previous ranking: No. 33)
The Terps have won 13 straight games with better depth and talent, and keep getting better. However, Maryland has the worst strength of schedule of any team in the BPI Top 25. The Bilastrator likes Maryland far better than the metrics do. Mark Turgeon's team averages almost 19 assists per game, which ranks fifth nationally. But Maryland hasn't really beaten anybody good yet. We believe Maryland soon will. Jake Layman was terrific against Virginia Tech. He's going to be very good.
34. North Carolina Tar Heels (Previous ranking: No. 27)
Reggie Bullock is back after a concussion and missed all of the fun; the Heels beat UNLV in their first quality win of the season, the first game in which they fought for a full game. It was not perfect, but the Heels showed they have it in them. Bullock has been North Carolina's best player to this point in the season, and has been its most efficient player and its best leader, too. This will be a good team before season's end, but bumps in the road remain. Even with the (relative) struggles, North Carolina still leads the nation in assists, with 19.9 per game.
35. Marquette Golden Eagles (Previous ranking: No. 19)
Marquette beat Georgetown and UConn at home, and is off to a good start in Big East play. The Golden Eagles play hard and do most things well, but they don't do anything great and can be erratic at times on both ends of the floor.
The metrics love Pittsburgh, and a big road win over Georgetown helps the case. Jamie Dixon's team had looked inept in the second half against Cincinnati, getting outscored 38-18 over the final 12 minutes and allowing the Bearcats to shoot over 50 percent after halftime. At Rutgers, Pitt got beaten on the glass, but that should be expected when you allow your opponent to shoot 51 percent and shoot only 37 percent yourself. Pittsburgh will be OK, but had not played well to start Big East play until the beatdown of the Hoyas.
37. Memphis Tigers (Previous ranking: No. 43)
Memphis is good and has a great chance to get better. The Tigers are athletic enough and talented enough to be better on the defensive glass and guarding the 3-point line. The Tigers also need to not pitch the ball away so much. Instead of talking about winning only, Memphis has to eliminate the ways it can lose.
38. Georgetown Hoyas (Previous ranking: No. 26)
I initially would have had the Hoyas just ahead of Pitt, but the Panthers, perhaps seeking my approval, drilled the Hoyas on the road. The Hoyas had won seven straight, but lost to Marquette after a long break, and now the Pitt debacle. Georgetown is long-armed and athletic and can really guard people. The Hoyas play some zone, largely because they have the length and athleticism to do it, and it takes away having to guard so many different actions, and makes opponents prepare for the Hoyas, not vice versa. The hiccups the Hoyas suffer are because of offense, not defense.
39. Colorado State Rams (Previous ranking: No. 53)
The Rams are good, and play really hard. Their best player is Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson, but their toughest player is Pierce Hornung, who averages almost 10 points and 10 rebounds per game at 6-5. Iverson and Hornung make up the nation's top rebounding tandem.
40. Wyoming Cowboys (Previous ranking: No. 61)
The Cowboys have won every game thus far, but the best wins have come against Colorado at home and Illinois State on the road. Wyoming is solid in most every area, but great in none. Leonard Washington has to be the oldest player in the league, and he has become a really good player.
41. Oregon Ducks (Previous ranking: No. 44)
The Ducks have not been praised for defense in a while, but Oregon has held five opponents under 50 points, and is among the nation's leaders in steals per game, led by Arsalan Kazemi and Dominic Artis. And it's not like the Ducks are holding the ball, averaging 79 points per game. Oregon finishes its defensive possessions, too, and is in the top 10 in the country in rebound margin at +10.8.
42. Texas Longhorns (Previous ranking: No. 52)
The Longhorns have some youth and scoring issues, but this team is getting better. Texas' defense has been very good, but more consistent scoring would take a lot of pressure off of the young Horns to get stop after stop. Steadily, the offense is improving, as are the young players.
43. Iowa State Cyclones (Previous ranking: No. 45)
The Cyclones have lost to Iowa, Cincinnati and UNLV, giving up an average of over 80 points in those losses. Iowa State hits over nine 3s per game, out-rebounds opponents by 10.8 per game and limits second shots, but the Cyclones do not get to the free throw line. Iowa State has the schedule to get off to a good start in Big 12 play.
44. Wisconsin Badgers (Previous ranking: No. 48)
Wisconsin's metrics are really good, and suggest a top-25 team. But The Bilastrator's lyin' eyes don't see it that way. The Badgers are well-coached and have some very good players, but there has not been offensive punch. Wisconsin is No. 1 in the nation in ball security and the Badgers' defense is good, but this isn't as good of a Wisconsin team as we're used to. With Josh Gasser in the lineup, The Bilastrator would feel quite differently.
45. Ole Miss Rebels (Previous ranking: No. 54)
The Rebels started 11-2 and are led by Murphy Holloway and Marshall Henderson. Four Rebels average double-figure points, and nine players average double-figure minutes. Holloway has been a workhorse, averaging 15.8 points and 11 rebounds per game. The scoring numbers would be better, but Holloway shoots only 48 percent from the free throw line.
46. California Golden Bears (Previous ranking: No. 35)
When Cal makes shots beyond Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, this is a good team. When Cal moves the ball and moves the defense, this team becomes more difficult to guard. But as of yet, Cal does not have anything to hang its hat on. This is not a great defensive team, and a team that does not consistently get the best shot.
47. Belmont Bruins (Previous ranking: No. 55)
The Bruins are the best team in the Ohio Valley Conference. Belmont started 11-4, with losses to VCU, Kansas, Northeastern and Central Florida, all away from home. Belmont is undersized, but Kerron Johnson, Ian Clark, and J.J. Mann are all experienced players who can score. Where Belmont can be had is on the glass.
48. Stanford Cardinal (Previous ranking: No. 38)
The Cardinal have played a tough schedule and have had a shot to win games against Missouri, Minnesota and Belmont, but have fallen short. Why? They're missing open shots. Stanford's defense is good, and its rebounding is good. But good offensive players have not been consistently making shots, and the Cardinal rank 281st in effective field goal percentage and 291st in 3-point percentage.
49. Virginia Cavaliers (Previous ranking: No. 46)
This is a well-coached team that has simply had injuries. Virginia plays at one of the slowest tempos in Division I, rated No. 343, with only Denver, Pittsburgh, American and Western Illinois playing slower. But the Cavaliers have fought and continue to be competitive. They've beaten Wisconsin and Tennessee, and now North Carolina as well, but don't have another impressive win. Virginia plays good defense, packing it in and limiting mistakes.
50. Saint Louis Billikens (Previous ranking: No. 57)
The Billikens frustrate. Saint Louis plays to a slow tempo, works the ball and packs it in on the defensive end. They have also now won eight in a row, With Kwamain Mitchell back, Saint Louis should get better going forward.
51. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (Previous ranking: No 62)
This team has depth, with 10 guys averaging double-figure minutes. Coach Kermit Davis does not talk to his team about starting, but of playing starter minutes. With players coming at you in waves, the Blue Raiders are able to put fresh legs at you throughout the game. The players who are playing the best will play more in a particular game, but everybody plays hard when they play.
52. Iowa Hawkeyes (Previous ranking: No. 64)
The Hawkeyes are much improved, and have wins over Iowa State and Northern Iowa and played Indiana tough at home. Iowa is good on the defensive end, but struggles to shoot the ball consistently from deep. Three first-year players in the starting lineup are part of the issue in the Big Ten.
53. Akron Zips (Previous ranking: No. 65)
Akron has beaten Middle Tennessee, Penn State and Princeton. Bucknell lost to both Princeton and Penn State. So how does one square that? With The Bilas Index, that's how. Both Akron and Bucknell have quality big men with Zeke Marshall and Mike Muscala. The Bilastrator gives Akron the edge with Alex Abreu at point.
54. Bucknell Bison (Previous ranking: No. 66)
Bucknell has a good team with a great player in Mike Muscala, and it played Missouri to the wire in Columbia. But this team also lost to Penn State and Princeton. Muscala is one of the most efficient players in the country, and at 6-11 he can post, step away and rebound at a high rate. With a big man like Muscala who can score and defend in the post, Bucknell can compete.
55. Murray State Racers (Previous ranking: No. 50)
Last season, Murray State didn't play anybody, didn't lose to anybody, and gained a ton of attention. This year, Murray State has played a better schedule early, and has lost a few. Still, this is a good team with quality players in Isaiah Canaan, Ed Daniel and Stacy Wilson. The Racers need to do a better job on the glass, however. Without forcing turnovers, Murray State cannot afford to give up freebies.
56. Saint Joseph's Hawks (Previous ranking: No. 37)
The Hawks are 8-4, and better than their record. Carl Jones and Langston Galloway are very good guards, and Ronald Roberts Jr. and C.J. Aiken are solid frontcourt players, but the Hawks need to be better on the glass and the defensive end.
57. Oklahoma Sooners (Previous ranking: NR)
The Sooners return to The Bilas Index after a short absence. Wins over Ohio and West Virginia made the difference, and helped erase the memory of the loss to Stephen F. Austin. Oklahoma wins with its defense, as this is not a great shooting team.
58. Boise State Broncos (Previous ranking: No. 67)
The Broncos are led by a sophomore guard from Chicago, Derrick Marks. He is 6-3 and strong, and leads the Broncos in scoring and assists, yet in his past three games he has not hit double figures. Leon Rice needs Marks to produce and to continue to work to get better. Marks has made great strides since last season.
59. Ohio Bobcats (Previous ranking: No. 40)
The Bobcats lost to Oklahoma, which returns this week to The Bilas Index, but bounced back against Marshall with an emphatic 94-57 home win. Ohio has significant issues on the backboards, but is solid otherwise. D.J. Cooper is among the nation's leaders in assists, and is an underappreciated player.
60. Davidson Wildcats (Previous ranking: No. 49)
Bob McKillop has an NCAA tournament team, even though the Wildcats have lost six games heading into Southern Conference play. Remember, Davidson had lost exactly that many in 2008.
61. Dayton Flyers (Previous ranking: NR)
The Flyers are 10-4 with recent wins over USC and UAB. Senior guard Kevin Dillard has led Dayton all season, and leads the team in scoring, assists, steals, 3-point field goals and free throws. In three of Dayton's four losses, the Flyers have had a shot at the buzzer to win the game.
62. Illinois State Redbirds (Previous ranking: No. 59)
The Bilastrator believes that Illinois State can play, and is worthy of inclusion into The Bilas Index. However, the Redbirds have lost three straight in Missouri Valley Conference play, against Indiana State, Creighton and Northern Iowa. Illinois State has the schedule to go on a run over the next three weeks, and will have to do so in order to maintain its spot in The Bilas Index.
63. Brigham Young Cougars (Previous ranking: NR)
The Cougars are a little bit like Stanford in that they have played some really tough teams, but have not beaten any of them. The difference is Stanford has had real chances to win those games, but BYU has not. The Cougars lost to Florida State, Notre Dame, Iowa State and Baylor, all of them by double digits. Still, there are quality players on this roster, with Tyler Haws, Matt Carlino and Brandon Davies. The Bilastrator believes BYU will move up in The Bilas Index.
64. Saint Mary's Gaels (Previous ranking: NR)
The Gaels pulled one out against Harvard after trailing the entire game. Matthew Dellavedova continues to be one of the best players in the country, leading Saint Mary's in scoring and assists.
65. LSU Tigers (Previous ranking: NR)
The Tigers have made steady improvement, but their offense has struggled. Memphis transfer Charles Carmouche has been very good, but The Bilastrator has doubts that LSU will remain in The Bilas Index for too much longer. Still, LSU does have the tallest tuba player in the nation on its roster. Andrew Del Piero, who is 7-3, left the LSU marching band and joined the basketball team. He is shooting over 60 percent from the field, and while he can't carry a team, he can carry a tune.
66. La Salle Explorers (Previous ranking: NR)
The Explorers put on full-court pressure and turned Penn over 21 times. La Salle has good guards in Ramon Galloway, who is one of the best shooters in the country and has hit 42 3s, and Tyreek Duren, who is second in scoring and leads La Salle in free throw attempts.
67. Seton Hall Pirates (Previous ranking: NR)
The Pirates play a lot of zone defense, and make use of the 3-point line. Seton Hall is reliant upon the deep ball, which is not a bad thing. The bad thing is the careless manner in which the Pirates value the ball -- their turnovers will ultimately do them in. The Bilastrator likes the job Kevin Willard has done, but Seton Hall is not long for The Bilas Index unless it starts taking care of the ball.
The Scarlet Knights have good guards and can score. The key will be taking better care of the ball, and improving defense and working on the glass to seal defensive possessions. Right now, Rutgers has too many possession battles, giving up too many turnovers and second shots.
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