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Monday, March 11, 2013
Griner single-handedly carrying Baylor's offensive efficiency in UPS Index

Associated Press

Thanks to its unrelenting proficiency behind the arc, UConn has used the top effective field-goal percentage in the country to power it just ahead of Baylor and to the front of the UPS Team Performance Index for most of the season.

A closer look at those calculations, however, only serves to further prove why Brittney Griner is the best player in women's college basketball.

There's little change among the top 25 schools in this week's UPS index, and even less in the perception of Griner after her astounding performance to close the regular season.

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 341 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 index's value generally lies in showcasing the efficiency of teams rather than individuals, but it can also serve to highlight Griner's specific value to the Bears when taking a closer look at the team rankings in effective field-goal percentage.

Connecticut has been the runaway leader in that category throughout the season, and it's no surprise: The Huskies rank sixth in the nation by hitting at a 37.7 percent clip from 3-point range, and have done that by attempting 727 shots. There are only 10 teams in the country that have tried more, and none come close to that accuracy rate.

In addition, UConn has two players -- Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stefanie Dolson -- among the national individual leaders in the category.

Griner ranks fourth in the country, but no player in the top 50 has taken more shots than the 6-foot-8 senior. Due largely to her individual efforts, she has carried Baylor to the second-highest effective field goal percentage in the land almost by herself -- a fact made all the more remarkable given she doesn't use the 3-point shot as a weapon.

For her career, she is just 2 of 5, and only 0 for 1 this season.

Griner put her skills on display in a virtuoso effort during her final home game March 4, scoring a Big 12-record 50 points, including a dunk off a baseline spin move in a 90-68 victory over Kansas State.

"Postseason, it's here. It's time," Griner said. "It's time to bring it."

UConn has a lead of 11 points over Baylor in the index's offensive efficiency category, with the Bears nine points ahead of the next-best team, Green Bay. Baylor has no other player among the individual leaders in that department. Other top offensive teams like Duke -- seventh in that category -- have two such players, while Maryland (fourth) has none.

Of course, those teams are also better offensively balanced. Griner has more than doubled the field goal attempts of her nearest teammate. She showcased what she means to the offense by nearly posting her second triple-double with 19 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high nine assists in Saturday's 80-47 rout of the Wildcats in the Big 12 tournament.

"I'm telling you, I'm a point guard by heart," said Griner, whose previous triple double came on points, rebounds and blocks. "My freshman year, I had a lot of turnovers, so my assists weren't really too good. But now my teammates do a great job of cutting and letting me find them."

Coach Kim Mulkey is well aware of the fact that her squad's offense is better than its defense, which ranks eighth in the index. Stanford is first in that department.

"Yeah, you won by 22 and Griner got 50 and she dunked. It was a sold-out arena," Mulkey said. "But truly, if you want to be really good, you've got to be better defensively."

The top eight teams in the index remained the same this week, with the Huskies and Bears followed again by Big East regular-season champion Notre Dame and ACC champ Duke. UConn remained the top team in the ballhandling category while the Fighting Irish continue to rank first in lack of miscues.

Liberty leads all teams in rebounding percentage. The Lady Flames are headed back to the NCAA tournament, capturing their fifth straight Big South title with Sunday's 54-45 victory over Longwood that featured a whopping 54-25 edge on the glass.

Tournament MVP Devon Brown keyed that dominance with 13 rebounds after she pulled down 14 the day before in a 70-56 semifinal win over Campbell.

"It's a beautiful feeling," Brown said.

New Mexico State enjoyed the biggest rise in the index, moving up 25 spots to 177 after closing out Western Athletic Conference regular-season play with two road wins. One of the teams the Aggies moved past was Bethune-Cookman, which endured the biggest drop -- 40 spots -- to 211 after losses by 46 points and 13.