Surging Memphis continues progression in UPS Team Performance Index
Undefeated for the past two months, Memphis continues to move up the UPS Team Performance Index.
Riding the second-longest winning streak in Division I, the Tigers make their first appearance in the top 10 of the index this week.
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.
Memphis has won 16 in a row since losing 87-78 to then-No. 6 Louisville at home on Dec. 15. The Tigers, who returned to The Associated Press Top 25 last week for the first time since Nov. 19, are 22-3 and undefeated through 11 games in Conference USA.
Though the Tigers are among the top 20 in two of the index's six major categories - fourth in winning percentage and 17th in ball-handling - they've made a steady climb in those rankings. Memphis has moved up in each index and is currently seventh, a five-position improvement from last week.
"We've got a streak going and we want to keep it alive," said sophomore swingman Adonis Thomas, averaging 16.3 points and 6.8 rebounds in the last four games. "Everybody's excited. We need to keep playing with the same amount of intensity, the same amount of heart and stay out there focused. Everybody's doing a great job and contributing."
The Tigers have averaged 84.3 points on 53.2 percent shooting in the last three games. However, it was their defense that was dominant Saturday, holding Marshall to 38.2 percent from the field in a 71-59 road victory.
They forced 20 turnovers in that game, three days after scoring 30 points off Central Florida's 18 turnovers in a 93-71 win. That contest saw Memphis record 28 assists while shooting a season-high 58.5 percent.
"We're just trying to play hard and beat every team in the conference," said junior guard Joe Jackson, who averages a team-leading 13.8 points and shoots 54.0 percent. "That's the goal. Trying to prepare for them the right way and do the right things to win. That's all we try to do."
Memphis' run of consecutive victories is currently topped only by Akron, which has won 17 straight and moved up two spots to eighth in the index.
Up four positions to fifth, Weber State remains Division I's most balanced team in terms of the index. Second in the Big Sky Conference and riding a six-game winning streak, the Wildcats' gap of 15.8 points between effective field-goal percentage for (57.9 percent) and against (42.1) is the largest for the second straight week.
"We want high expectations for this program," said coach Randy Rahe, whose teams have reached four postseason tournaments in his previous five years at the school. "I have them, our players have them, the fans have them and that's what we came here to build. We're still building, we're still growing."
Kansas made the biggest move among top 10 teams while jumping six spots to ninth. The Jayhawks snapped a three-game skid by beating Kansas State and Texas by a combined 47 points.
"We're starting to enjoy ourselves more," guard Elijah Johnson said. "I think with those losses, we showed how much we cared for each other. We didn't like to see each other like that, so we've nipped it in the bud."
Ranked in the top 10 in offense (third), defense (sixth), winning percentage (sixth) and ball-handling (10th), Florida remains atop the index for a fourth consecutive week. Winners of three straight by an average of 24.3 points, the Gators lead Indiana by 0.54 of a point. The Hoosiers flipped spots with Stephen F. Austin to keep the top 3 intact.
Gonzaga, which at 25-2 owns the nation's best winning percentage, remains fourth but within 0.10 of a point of the Lumberjacks.
"Physically," San Francisco coach Rex Walters said, "(Gonzaga is) a Final Four-caliber team."
Off to the best start in the school's Division I history, America East leader Stony Brook made the biggest leap among the top 50 schools, rising from 61 to 41.
Morgan State is 9-13 but has won three in a row and made the biggest overall improvement, jumping 38 spots from 231 to 193.
After losing at Florida and Tennessee by a combined 47 points, Kentucky suffered the biggest fall for a team still in the top 50, dropping from 18 to 35. Also a loser of a two straight, San Diego State dropped from 36 to 58.
Bryant slid 43 spots from 94 to 137 - the biggest overall decline of the week - following a pair of 14-point losses.
Grambling State, Division I's only winless team at 0-23, again rounded out the index.