Monday, March 25, 2013
Gonzaga still tops UPS Performance Index despite early exit from NCAA tournament
Though Gonzaga's season ended with a stunningly premature exit from the NCAA tournament, it still sits atop the UPS Performance Index.
The three remaining No. 1 seeds in the tournament and other perennial powers in the top 10 of the index still have their championship hopes very much intact.
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.
Gonzaga set a school record for wins, went undefeated in the West Coast Conference and earned its first-ever No. 1 ranking, but couldn't make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed. After struggling to get by Southern University in its opener, the Bulldogs shot a season-low 35.6 percent and couldn't keep Wichita State from making half of its 28 3-point attempts in a 76-70 loss Saturday.
Despite the disappointing performance, Gonzaga holds a 3.3-point lead over second-place Florida in the UPS Index.
At 32-3, Gonzaga owns the top winning percentage in the index at .914 and ranks in the top 10 in offense and rebounding percentage, two of the other five major categories.
"We'll look back and savor this year and cherish it," senior guard Mike Hart said. "But it's pretty rough right now because we definitely came up short of where we were looking for."
Top overall tournament seed Louisville shot 56.9 percent while beating North Carolina A&T and Colorado State by a combined 57 points. The 31-5 Cardinals, who moved up two spots to seventh in the index, stepped up the pressure to force 47 turnovers.
"I don't want to put the pressure on (Louisville coach) Rick (Pitino) and his guys, but they're special," Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy said. "They need a little luck like everybody does to win it all, but that's as impressive team as I've been against, certainly."
Pitino's team is second in the index's ball-handling category and tied for third in winning percentage.
"We can definitely get better and improve," Pitino said.
A staple of the top three of the index, fellow top seed Indiana fell one spot to fourth after needing to rally for a 58-52 win over Temple on Sunday. Trailing by four with 2:56 left, the 29-6 Hoosiers finished on a 10-0 run.
Kansas, the top seed in the South Region, dropped one position to sixth. After holding off Western Kentucky by seven points, the Jayhawks had to overcome a nine-point halftime deficit before rolling over North Carolina in the second half for a 70-58 win.
Second-seeded Duke jumped four spots to ninth after beating Albany and Creighton, the top offensive team in the index, by a combined 28 points.
"We've got another five days to live here," said coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team is fifth in winning percentage and ninth in ball-handling in the index.
Florida, fifth in the index in both offense and defense, faces upstart Florida Gulf Coast in a South Regional semifinal Friday.
The Eagles' program has been in existence since 1997 and the school became eligible for postseason play in 2011-12. FGCU proved its shocking upset of second-seeded Georgetown was no fluke by beating San Diego State 81-71 on Sunday in a game that was more lopsided than the final score indicates.
"We tried to scrimmage (Florida) early in the season in the preseason," coach Andy Enfield said. "Now we get our shot."
The Atlantic Sun Conference tournament champion, the 26-10 Eagles became the first No. 15 seed to reach the regional semifinals after stunning the Hoyas and Aztecs with an array of nifty passes and highlight-reel dunks.
FGCU ranks in the top 50 of the index in only winning percentage, but shot 55.9 in its last game while allowing its past two opponents to shoot a combined 40.8.
The Eagles, who moved up nine spots to 50th in the index, have captivated the nation with their flashy play and exuberant celebrations.
"We don't take ourselves too seriously," Enfield said. "We try to have fun, get serious when we have to.
"Our goal was to make history and we did it."
La Salle, a 13 seed, and Oregon, a 12, are alive in the tournament but neither did any major moving within the index.
The Explorers, who play Wichita State after winning three games last week to make their deepest tournament run since 1955, climbed six spots to 81. The Ducks moved up five to 37.
Well-balanced Weber State, whose 14.8 percent gap between effective offensive and defensive field-goal percentage is the largest in Division I, is fifth in the index and in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
Stephen F. Austin, which led the initial index, dropped one spot to third after concluding a 27-5 season with a 58-57 loss to Stanford in the first round of the NIT.