Monday, February 11, 2013
Albany hangs in with national powers in women's UPS Team Performance Index
It hasn't taken long for Katie Abrahamson-Henderson's up-tempo style of basketball to bring unprecedented success to Albany.
The third-year coach guided the Great Danes to their first NCAA tournament appearance a season ago and could have an even better squad this season, especially judging by how the unheralded program ranks among the heavyweights in women's college basketball in the UPS Team Performance Index.
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.
The top 14 teams from last week remain the same in the UPS. One-loss squads Connecticut, Baylor, Duke and Notre Dame are the top four.
While other perennial powerhouses like Maryland (No. 5) and Stanford (No. 7) are also ranked high, it may be surprising that reigning America East champion Albany is eighth in the index.
That's only because the Great Danes are little known despite featuring a two-time conference defensive player of the year in guard Ebone Henry as well as a rarity in women's college basketball, a 6-foot-9 center in New Zealand native Megan Craig. She's one of three players in the nation that's at least that tall, according to her coach.
"Defensively, No. 1 we have a great defensive player of the year, she's on our team, she's a guard, No. 2 we have a 6-9 player you don't know about so that really helps us," said Abrahamson-Henderson, whose team didn't receive any votes in the AP Top 25 this week. "Everybody knows about Brittney Griner but we have a 6-9 player that it's hard to score against."
Craig isn't even the team's top rebounder, with senior forward Julie Forster averaging 8.2 after leading the America East in that category each of the previous three seasons. Albany ranks fifth in effective field-goal percentage against and fourth in rebounding percentage in the UPS index.
What may be most interesting about the Great Danes, winners of 12 straight, is their poor UPS ranking in miscues at 283. Albany averages 17.2 turnovers -- an area that appears to need some work.
It's overcome it, however, by forcing a conference-best 19.9 turnovers per game and averaging 71.5 points because of the fast-paced style the energetic Abrahamson-Henderson prefers.
"We're trying to create turnovers on defense and go fast on offense," she said. "America East is typically walk the ball up the floor -- most of the teams are -- and set up your offense. We want to go."
Albany went 23-10 and lost to defending national champion Texas A&M as a No. 14 seed in the NCAA tournament last season. A higher seed is possible in 2012-13, but the Great Danes likely have to win the conference tournament to return to the NCAAs.
"I'm not new to this business but the school is, the school is new to the winning part," Abrahamson-Henderson said. "When I coached at Missouri State, we went to the NCAAs three times, won conference championships."
Although there were no changes atop the index, some shake-ups could happen next Monday. In a pair of key matchups to start this week, the Blue Devils host the Terrapins in an ACC showdown while the Fighting Irish face a test against Louisville, 12th in the UPS.
UConn, winner of 17 straight, continues to dominate the index. The Huskies rank first in offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency and ball-handling.
The Griner-led Bears continue to be ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press with the nation's longest win streak at 20. However, a 40-40 tie on the glass in a 75-48 victory over Texas on Saturday may have caused Baylor to slip one spot in the rebounding percentage category to eighth.
The biggest risers this week were Utah State and Central Florida, which both moved up 35 spots. The Aggies have won seven straight to take over first place in the Western Athletic Conference and are up to 197th in the index while the Knights moved up to 245th.
Boise State endured the biggest drop of 31 spots to 220th.
Weber State and North Carolina Central, both 0-22, are 339th and 340th.