UConn finally gets tested, but stays atop women's UPS Team Performance Index
A tougher than expected victory did nothing to move Connecticut off its top spot in the UPS Team Performance Index.
In fact, it may have actually made the Huskies even more confident.
Coming into the weekend, UConn had gone recently unchallenged, winning seven straight by an average of 28.4 points - including a 30-point thrashing of No. 5 Duke two weeks ago. Things got a bit more competitive at St. John's, however, where the Huskies held on for a 71-65 win Saturday.
Coach Geno Auriemma welcomed the hard-fought contest and hoped it hardened his squad for the pressures of another deep NCAA tournament run.
"The more times you're in that situation, the more confident you become," Auriemma said. "It's hard to orchestrate those in real games - not that I'm trying hard to do that either. Today was a great opportunity for us and we came out really good."
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 340 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.
It's easy to see what powers Connecticut's overall No. 1 ranking in the index: it is downright dominant offensively, is tops in ball-handling efficiency and comes in second defensively.
To point, the Huskies' effective field-goal percentage - which gives proportional weight to 3-pointers - of 56.1 is a full 2.5 percent higher than second-ranked Baylor's. Only 15 of the 340 teams in Division I own a percentage over 50.
If there's a relative weakness for the Huskies, it's their No. 37 ranking in miscues, which came to light against the Red Storm: UConn had more turnovers (13-12) and fewer steals (5-8). In addition, Saturday's victory came without starting center Stefanie Dolson, resulting in a slim 34-32 rebounding edge for a Huskies team that ranks fourth in that area.
"She's become a huge part of what we do offensively and defensively, a lot of our offense runs through her," teammate Kelly Faris said of Dolson. "Some way or another, the offense kind of stems on what she does."
Connecticut is one of four 20-1 teams that continue to hold the top four UPS spots. Baylor remained second while Duke and Notre Dame flipped positions to third and fourth, respectively.
The Bears own the nation's longest win streak at 18 straight, the Fighting Irish have won 15 in a row and the Blue Devils four straight since their humbling 79-49 loss in Storrs on Jan. 21.
Baylor remains No. 1 in the AP Top 25. The Bears have won their Big 12 games by an average of 24.3 points and are in the top 10 in every category in the index - ranking second in effective field goal percentage and ball-handling efficiency.
However, the team's rankings of ninth in rebounding and sixth in miscues are areas that could use improvement after it struggled in those departments Saturday during a 81-62 win over Oklahoma State.
"You're not going to win many games having 20 turnovers," coach Kim Mulkey said. "You're not going to win many basketball games when you have them getting 22 offensive boards."
Duke and Notre Dame are separated by less than half a point in the index, with the Irish finding a new formula for success this season.
They are 21st in offensive efficiency and just 48th in defensive efficiency after losing stalwarts Devereaux Peters and Natalie Novosel from last season's group which fell to the Bears in the NCAA title game. This time around, they are compensating by ranking seventh in rebounding and fifth in miscues.
"People have been saying that without Peters and Novosel that this was going to be a different team," said Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott, whose Bearcats lost 64-42 to Notre Dame last Saturday. "Although they may be a different team, they are accomplishing the same things."
Duke is ranked sixth in effective field goal percentage and fifth in ball-handling. The Blue Devils' next showdown is next Monday against Maryland, ranked No. 5 by UPS.
This week's biggest riser is Bradley, which jumped up 51 spots from 242 to 191. The Braves won twice last week by an average of 34.0 points, shooting 52.5 percent from the field and forcing 45 turnovers.
Cornell, meanwhile, endured the biggest drop - 45 spots - to 146 in the index. The Big Red entered last weekend on a four-game roll, but lost home games to Princeton and Pennsylvania by an average of 20.0 points in which they were outrebounded by 29.