UPS Team Performance Index creates consensus on top four schools in women's basketball
There may be some debate as to who the best team in women's college basketball is, but if the AP poll and UPS Team Performance Index were used as primary references by the NCAA tournament selection committee coming into this week, there would be no arguing who the four No. 1 seeds would be.
Connecticut, Baylor, Duke and Notre Dame topped the week's UPS index - jumbling the respective order of Baylor, Notre Dame, Connecticut and Duke in the AP Top 25 - to set the stage for a heavyweight matchup and potential April preview when UConn (16-1) hosts the Blue Devils (16-0) on Monday night.
The Huskies' lone defeat was by one point to the Fighting Irish on Jan. 5. Duke, on the other hand, is the only remaining undefeated team of the 340 women's programs in Division I basketball.
In conjunction with STATS LLC, UPS has created a proprietary algorithm that gauges six major statistics which cover the spectrum of a team's on-court performance: effective field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage against, rebounding percentage, ball-handling efficiency, miscues and winning percentage.
From there, an overall index score is created for all NCAA D-I teams. And as so often been the case during coach Geno Auriemma's tenure, Connecticut finds itself out in front of everyone else.
As evidenced by its No. 1 spot in the index, UConn is a remarkably well-balanced squad and rates well above the pack in all six of the categories that comprise the index. In fact, it is first in three of them: effective field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage against and ball-handling efficiency.
The Huskies' offensive effective field goal percentage, which gives proportional weight to 3-point shots, is an amazing 56.6 percent, resulting in a normalized microindex score of 162.1 - almost 14 full points better than second-place Baylor in that category. The average for all teams is 100.0.
Not surprisingly, the team leads the NCAA in scoring at 84.0 points per game, led by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who is fourth in the country in 3-point field goal percentage at 49.0.
"We're trying to be a better balanced team," Auriemma said following Saturday's 87-62 win over Syracuse. "But one of the things that's helped Kaleena is that she's usually not the only 3-point shooter out on the floor. Sometimes we have three or four of them out there, so the defense has a hard time catching up to all of them."
The Blue Devils, however, will likely provide one of the stiffer tests of the season for Connecticut. While the Huskies hold edges in four of the six microindexes, Duke is no slouch in any of them. The Blue Devils are less than four points behind in the index overall, and are one of the few schools that may be able to go toe-to-toe with UConn on the boards.
Duke is one of 10 teams that has a rebounding microindex higher than the Huskies.
"We all aspire to be at a certain place where it is all about Duke, it's all about what we do," coach Joanne P. McCallie said just before her team made the trip up to Storrs, Conn. "It's not so much about the opponent, but what we do. We're not there yet, but we're trying to get there."
Not to be lost in the hubbub around Monday night's game is AP No. 1 and defending national champion Baylor (16-1), whose sole loss was 71-69 against then-No. 4 Stanford in November. Since then, the Lady Bears have gone 14-0, including hallmark wins at Notre Dame and against Tennessee.
Sitting less than three points behind UConn in the UPS index, Baylor rates above the Huskies in rebounding and miscues, and has arguably the best player in the country in Brittney Griner. The senior center is averaging 21.8 points and 8.1 rebounds, and has her team pointed toward another deep tournament run.
"Griner, best player in the country, bar none," West Virginia coach Mike Carey said after his Mountaineers lost 76-58 to Baylor on Saturday night. "She's gotten better every year."
Notre Dame (16-1), which knocked off the Huskies in Storrs, rounds out the top four schools in the index. Powered by point guard Skylar Diggins, it's no surprise the Fighting Irish are second among all teams in the microindex that measures a lack of miscues.
While none of the top four teams changed their position in the index over the past week, three schools made big moves. Seattle, Central Connecticut and Stephen F. Austin - whose men's team is surprisingly top-ranked in that index - each jumped 42 spots, although none of them are in the top 100. Cincinnati, on the other hand, fell 48 spots to No. 206.
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