All four No. 1 NCAA seeds hold down spots in top 10 of UPS while one small-school index standout can't secure bid to field of 68
While two of the top three teams in the UPS Team Performance Index were rewarded with No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, the other failed in its only chance to even make the field of 68.
All four No. 1 seeds are in the top 10 of the index, led by top-ranked Gonzaga and third-ranked Indiana. However, Stephen F. Austin, second in the index this week while ranking in the top 10 in five of the six major categories, was upset in the Southland Conference tournament championship game. The school, which topped the initial index, will settle for an NIT appearance.
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 latest index featured the same teams among a top 10 that saw little movement from a week ago.
Gonzaga earned the school's first No. 1 seed as the top team in the West region. Winners of 14 in a row, the 31-2 Bulldogs have the highest winning percentage in Division I at .939 and did enough to edge out Miami of the ACC for the final top seed despite not playing in one of the six power conferences.
"You've got to savor this being a No. 1 seed, being No. 1 in the nation,'' Gonzaga forward Mike Hart said. "But at the same time, you have to have that forward mentality looking forward to that next game and understand that you're only in this position because of how you've played.''
Gonzaga opens tournament play in Salt Lake City on Thursday against 16th-seeded Southern University. The Bulldogs average 77.6 points and rank sixth in offensive percentage, and they'll face a 23-9 Jaguars team that's allowing 57.1 per game and are the top defensive team according to the index.
A No. 1 seed has never lost to a 16th seed in the NCAA tournament.
At 27-4, Stephen F. Austin ranks third in the index in winning percentage, third in defense, seventh in ball-handling percentage average, eighth in miscues and 10th in rebounding. Despite that, it was upset 68-66 by Northwestern State in the conference title game.
"That's the frustration of being one of those 12 or 13 conferences that only give out one bid,'' Lumberjacks coach Danny Kaspar said. "You can have a heck of a year. If someone on your team or a couple of players on your team aren't playing at their highest level, it goes away. We wanted that attention for this program for this university.''
Stephen F. Austin was not the only small school within the top 10 of the index to fail in its opportunity to secure an invitation to the NCAAs.
Sixth in the index this week, 26-6 Weber State is relegated to the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament after losing 67-64 to Montana in the Big Sky tournament final. The Wildcats are one of the nation's most balanced teams in terms of the index, as their 13.9 percent gap between effective offensive and defensive field-goal percentage is the largest in Division I.
Middle Tennessee did make the NCAA field as an at-large team despite losing in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament after winning the regular-season title. The Blue Raiders are eighth in the index, won 17 in a row prior to the semifinal loss and beat Mississippi, which earned the SEC's automatic bid by knocking off Florida in the league championship game.
"They had no rough patches along the way, and their win over Ole Miss looks better at this point in time,'' selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski said.
Indiana earned the No. 1 seed in the East and Kansas, which moved up three spots to fifth in the index, is the top seed in the South.
Having won its last 10 games by an average of 15.6 points, Big East regular season co-champion and conference tournament champ Louisville earned the No. 1 overall seed. The Cardinals, who reached the Final Four last season, hold the ninth spot in the index for a second consecutive week.
Louisville tops a Midwest region that features five other teams in the top 25 of the index - Memphis (seventh), Duke (13th), Creighton (15th), Valparaiso (20th) and Saint Louis (25th).
"We know we will be challenged right away in one of the toughest brackets that I've seen in quite some time,'' coach Rick Pitino said. "I think our guys are up for the challenge.''
North Carolina A&T's four-game run to the Mid-Eastern Conference tournament title not only secured the Aggies an NCAA bid, but helped them make the biggest jump of the week in the index - from 211 to 176.
Grambling State once again rounded out the index after finishing the season 0-28.
Cazeneuve: Senators "running on empty" heading back to Pittsburgh
Kings take 3-2 series lead with 3-0 shutout of Sharks