Florida stays atop UPS Team Performance Index, mid-majors rise
While some of the nation's perennial powers continue to lead the way in the UPS Team Performance Index, more schools from mid-major conferences have crept near or into the top 10.
Florida sits atop the index for a third straight week, but lesser-known programs like Stephen F. Austin, Weber State, Akron and Middle Tennessee continue to make strides.
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.
While the Associated Press poll endured some shakeups with each of the top three and six of the top 10 teams losing last week, Florida and Indiana - which both lost - join Stephen F. Austin to once again make up the top three of the index. The Hoosiers, who remained No. 1 in the AP poll, dropped one spot in the index and swapped positions with the Lumberjacks, who trail the Gators by 0.03 of a point.
Gonzaga, Michigan, Pittsburgh and Duke also remained in the top 10. Syracuse, Weber State and Akron moved into the top 10 while Kansas, Creighton and Arizona fell out.
Up six spots to 10th, the Zips rank in the top 20 in only one of the index's six categories - winning percentage - but own the longest active winning streak in the nation at 15.
They overcame a nine-point halftime deficit by shooting 56.5 percent in the final 20 minutes to improve to 10-0 in the Mid-American Conference with a 54-50 win at Miami of Ohio on Saturday.
"We just have to be prepared to play 40 minutes every night," Akron junior forward Demetrius Treadwell said. "We can't pick and choose when we play. We have to stop doing that. We are going to get ourselves in trouble one of these games."
Weber State, which went from 14th to ninth, leads the Big Sky with in scoring (77.1 points per game) and scoring defense (61.8 ppg). That balance is evident in the Wildcats' gap of 15.7 points between effective field-goal percentage for (57.2 percent) and against (41.5), the largest in Division I.
The Wildcats won their third straight Saturday, 75-58 over Southern Utah to begin a stretch of four games in eight days.
"We just keep it one game at a time and not worry about who we are playing next," said junior swingman Davion Berry, who averages team highs of 14.6 points and 3.4 assists.
Middle Tennessee made a big move into the top 20, climbing from 22nd to 11th after running its winning streak to 11 games with a 93-41 rout of Troy on Saturday.
The class of the Sun Belt Conference, MTSU shot a season-high 64.4 percent, including 10 of 19 from 3-point range, while holding the Trojans to 30.6 percent from the field. The Blue Raiders also held a 37-16 rebounding advantage in their most lopsided victory since beating Bryan College 115-59 on Nov. 17, 2001.
"We just play hard, no matter who we play," senior guard James Gallman said. "We just play hard and play smart. We try to play good defense and play smart."
First in the Southland Conference, Stephen F. Austin led the initial index and has remained near the top by ranking in the top 10 in defense, ball-handling, miscues and winning percentage. The Lumberjacks, who last made the NCAA tournament in 2009, are the only Division I team allowing fewer than 50.0 points per contest at 49.7.
Undefeated in the ACC and riding an 11-game winning streak, Miami leapt from 26th to 14th on the heels of an 87-61 victory over North Carolina on Saturday. The Hurricanes, who moved up to No. 3 in the AP poll, have set a school record with 10 league victories.
"It's crazy - I see how great of a team we can be,'' said guard Durand Scott, who has averaged 15.3 points and shot 51.5 percent in the last three games. "We're just rolling.''
Despite having its 10-game winning streak snapped with an 80-69 loss to Arkansas on Tuesday, Florida remained atop the index by bouncing back to beat Mississippi State 83-58 on Saturday. The Gators, who rank in the top 10 of the index in offense, defense and winning percentage, shot 53.4 percent and recorded 21 assists while forcing 16 turnovers against the Bulldogs.
"When we play like that, it's going to be hard to beat us," guard Kenny Boynton said.
Eastern Kentucky was the biggest mover overall, jumping 47 spots from 132nd to 85th. Brown tumbled the same amount in the opposite direction.
Grambling State, the only winless team in Division I at 0-21, again rounded out the rankings.
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