UConn's second-half showing against Duke cements top spot in UPS Team Performance Index
There may be no better time to weigh in on the UPS Team Performance Index now that there are no remaining unbeaten teams in Division I women's basketball.
Connecticut made certain that would be the case with an impressive 79-49 rout of Duke last Monday, ensuring another week atop the index for the Huskies - putting four schools at 18-1, three of which have lost to one of the others.
Anticipation was high for the Blue Devils' visit to Storrs, and the opening 20 minutes of the AP No. 3 vs. No. 4 matchup certainly didn't disappoint. Duke trailed just 32-30 at the half.
Then UConn showed why it came into the game rated higher than any other school, according to UPS' metrics.
In conjunction with STATS LLC, UPS has created a proprietary algorithm that gauges six major statistics covering 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, the data is normalized and an overall index is created for all 345 NCAA Division I teams. The scores are not meant to reflect a traditional power poll, per se, but measure a broad range of inside-the-lines excellence and overall balance.
The Huskies (18-1) came out of the locker room at halftime and immediately responded to the competition. They finished the second half shooting 50.0 percent from the field, outrebounded the Blue Devils 24-12 and enjoyed a 12-3 advantage in turnovers forced - an exact reversal of the figures in that category from the first half.
Duke (18-1) shot 35.7 percent overall and was outrebounded 44-25.
"We didn't have any rebounding on the floor," coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "Forty-four to 25 will get you beat real quick."
But rebounding is actually one of Connecticut's relatively weaker areas - with the emphasis on "relatively." The team ranks sixth in the country in that UPS microindex, but it is first in effective field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage against and ball-handling efficiency.
UConn followed up the big victory with an even bigger rout - 67-31 at Cincinnati - on Saturday. The Huskies, the nation's highest scoring team at 82.8 points per game, have won six straight since their lone defeat to Notre Dame (18-1) on Jan. 5.
"We just have to keep getting better," coach Geno Auriemma insisted. "We have to get better passing the ball and make better decisions."
Baylor (18-1) remained top-ranked in the AP Top 25 and No. 2 in the UPS index behind Connecticut. The Lady Bears trail only UConn among Division I schools in effective field goal percentage, but really made their mark on the other end of the floor last weekend. Brittney Griner had eight blocks in Saturday's 82-65 victory over Oklahoma to set the NCAA career mark with 665.
"Definitely happy I got that. Now I'm going to try to set it higher," Griner said. "Blocked shots keep the other team from scoring, that's just how I look at it."
Griner and her teammates now own the nation's longest win streak at 16. They will get a chance to take aim at the Huskies in a Feb. 18 showdown.
Duke swapped places in the index this week with the Fighting Irish, who moved up from fourth to third to match their AP rank. Notre Dame, which grades out extremely well in miscues (second) and rebounding (third), will be tested Monday night when it puts its 13-game win streak on the line with a visit to fellow powerhouse Tennessee - ranked 15th overall in the index.
"They're unveiling some type of banner for Pat Summitt," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "We're happy that we can be there for that. It's going to be an ESPN Big Monday game, I'm sure it's going to be a sellout with just a lot of excitement."
The top three teams in the index also comprise the top three in the AP poll. But the index detects some flaws that may not otherwise be noted for the AP's No. 4 team, Stanford.
The Cardinal (18-2), the only team to defeat the Lady Bears, are eighth in the index with low rankings in ball-handling (87th) and miscues (146th).
Rider enjoyed the biggest UPS jump of 45 spots to 214 by flexing its muscles with wins over St. Peter's and Fairfield by a combined 35 points. Coach Lynn Milligan had nine players log at least 10 minutes in the first victory and eight in the second.
"Our depth is an advantage for us," Milligan said.
Conversely, Cincinnati endured another tough week. Its blowout loss to the Huskies was a big factor in the worst drop of the week, a 44-spot plunge to 250. Just one week earlier, the Lady Bearcats fell 48 notches to No. 206 after consecutive losses by 72 points.
They are now 0-6 in the Big East with the likelihood of falling further with upcoming road games at Georgetown and Notre Dame this week.
"Last season we turned it around and beat some teams that we shouldn't have beat and I think that's what we're trying to do now," Bearcats guard Alyesha Lovett said.
NHL playoff preview: New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
NHL playoff preview: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks