UPS Performance Index shows women's SEC championship could be anyone's game

Updated: March 4, 2013, 4:56 PM ET
Associated Press

With exactly two weeks to go before 'Selection Monday' for women's basketball teams, Monday's version of the UPS Team Performance Index provides some interesting data on the relative strengths among NCAA leagues just as conference tournaments get set to open in the coming days.

Specifically, this week's SEC tourney could showcase the greatest depth of talent in the women's game.

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 top six teams remain the same from last week ahead of Monday night's showdown between Connecticut, still top-ranked in the index, and Notre Dame, ranked third. The Fighting Irish can match a school record with a 23rd straight win as they look to complete a sweep after a 73-72 win over the Huskies on Jan. 5.

Baylor, ranked second in the index, puts its 26-game win streak on the line Monday night against Kansas State.

While this Monday features some quality basketball -- another AP Top 25 matchup will pit No. 13 Louisville at No. 24 Syracuse -- every team in the country is no doubt looking forward to the Monday two weeks from now when the NCAA tournament field is announced.

And the SEC will surely be well represented.

The SEC is the only conference in the country with five teams ranked in the top 50 of the UPS index. The league's most balanced team is Kentucky at No. 16, followed by Georgia (28), Tennessee (30), Texas A&M (33) and South Carolina (35).

The Big East and Pac-12 have four in the top 50: 23rd-ranked Louisville and No. 24 Syracuse join the Huskies and Fighting Irish from the Big East., while the Pac-12 features Stanford (5), California (12), Colorado (25) and UCLA (38).

But those leagues are clearly top-heavy, with the Big East's next-best team being South Florida at No. 69. The fifth team in the Pac-12 is all the way down at No. 152: Washington, which was one of two schools to endure the biggest drop the week at 31 spots.

Depth, however, is where the SEC sets itself apart. Vanderbilt (53), Arkansas (60), LSU (84) and Florida (95) all fall inside the top 100, giving the conference nine teams with such a lofty status.

The competition has been so difficult that Razorbacks coach Tom Collen has all but conceded that, barring some inspired victories in the conference tournament this week, his 18-win team will not make the NCAA tournament because of its 6-10 league mark.

"If you win two or three games down in the SEC tournament, you've beaten some ranked teams and that's going to get some people's attention, and I think it's going to keep us in the discussion, keep us on the bubble," Collen said.

Kentucky won 78-65 over Tennessee on Sunday, with both schools going 6-1 down the stretch -- a major accomplishment in a conference full of landmines.

"We just had a murderous second half of the SEC schedule," Kentucky coach Matt Mitchell said.

The competitive balance can be displayed by the relatively low standard deviations among the conference's top clubs. Kentucky's standard deviation is 8.05, Georgia's 5.19, Tennessee's 8.87 and Texas A&M's 7.54.

A lower standard deviation demonstrates that a team has similar figures across all the categories used by the index. It is weighted by success, so a low standard deviation can indicate that if one part of a quality team's game isn't working, it has the balance to overcome it.

And that's apparently the case in the SEC, where clubs like the Commodores (7.39) and Collen's Razorbacks (5.46) need to win four games to capture the conference tournament that begins Wednesday in Duluth, Ga.

"I've said all along that I think this team can beat anybody," Collen said. "We've just had a rough schedule, we've lost all of our close games."

Monmouth enjoyed the biggest rise -- 29 spots -- to move into a tie for 174th after two victories by an average of 17.0 points.

Washington slid after a tough trip to the Bay Area, falling to Stanford and California by a combined 63 points. UC Riverside also went down 31 spots after dropping its two games by a total of 55 points to fall to 215.


Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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