Arizona barely hangs on to No. 1 in UPS Index as Florida and Wichita State refuse to lose Print
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Monday, 10 March 2014 09:00
 A road loss to a tough Oregon team wasn't quite enough to knock Arizona out of No. 1 in the latest UPS Team Performance Index, but one more slip-up likely would as hard-charging Florida and Wichita State continue to close the gap on the top spot with each successive victory.
In conjunction with STATS LLC, UPS has created a proprietary algorithm that gauges data covering the spectrum of a team's on-court performance. Highlighted statistics include effective field-goal percentage, effective field-goal percentage against, rebounding percentage, ball-handling efficiency and miscues.
After being combined with winning percentage and quality-of-opponent metrics, the numbers are 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 excellence and overall balance.
Arizona's relatively modest five-game winning streak ended with a 64-57 loss at Eugene on Saturday. Though the defeat dropped the Wildcats (28-3) one spot to fourth in the AP poll, they continue to hold on with a 1.9-point lead over second-place Florida (29-2) in the Index.
Despite the setback, the team doesn't appear any less confident heading into this week's Pac-12 tournament.
"I think we're as motivated as we can be," guard Nick Johnson said. "Everybody in that locker room wants to win every single game. We've had a great season. We've only lost three games."
Though the Gators shaved off more than half of last week's deficit, Arizona remained on top thanks to fourth-place rankings in quality of opponent, defense and rebounding categories.
Florida, on the other hand, is 40th in the Index defensively even though it allows 58.5 points per game to rank fifth in the nation, one spot ahead of Arizona (58.7). The reason for the disparity lies in a comparison of defensive effective field goal percentage, which takes into account the value of 3-pointers. The Wildcats are holding the opposition to 42.8 percent while the Gators are at 45.6.
Florida is ninth in opponent quality after rolling to an 84-65 victory over then-No. 25 Kentucky for its fourth straight win against a ranked opponent. Winners of 23 in a row and atop the AP poll again, the Gators became the first team in SEC history to go 18-0 in league play.
"This is the way to go out," said senior Patric center Young, who finished with a team-high 18 points and had seven rebounds versus Kentucky. "You couldn't have scripted this one any better. ... What else could you want?"
Second only to Florida in the AP poll - and 0.64 points behind the Gators in the Index - third-place Wichita State (34-0) believes it has done enough to earn serious consideration for the NCAA tournament's top overall seed. And it's tough to argue.
The Shockers won their first Missouri Valley Conference tournament title in 27 years with an 83-69 victory over Indiana State on Sunday to match the NCAA record for victories to start a season set by UNLV in 1990-91.
"You can debate what you want to debate," Wichita State guard and MVC player of year Fred VanVleet said after he had 22 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals in the league title game. "Facts are facts, truth is truth. We're not into debating how good or great we are or how bad somebody else is.
"That's for barber shop talk and coffee table arguments. We're not into that stuff. If they feel that way, it's on them. And nobody that's arguing about it is on the selection committee."
According to poll voters and the Index ratings, however, the Shockers remain hindered by the fact they haven't faced a ranked team all season and rank just 76th in quality of opponent. Still, they continue to simply pound whoever is put in front of them, winning their last nine games by an average of 19.4 points.
"We're not flawless," coach Gregg Marshall said. "Our record is flawless. We've got great players. They've taken us on an unbelievable ride to this point."
Virginia's impressive run of 13 consecutive ACC victories finally ended Sunday with a 75-69 overtime loss at Maryland in the Terrapins' final regular season game before heading to the Big 10 next season. The defeat dropped the Cavaliers (25-6) one spot to sixth in the poll and two positions to the same place in the Index.
Louisville moved up one spot to fourth and Villanova improved two positions to fifth in the Index. Big 12 regular-season champion Kansas slipped one place to seventh as result of its 92-86 loss at West Virginia on Saturday.
Wisconsin, Duke and Creighton remained in places 8-10, respectively.
Stephen F. Austin (29-2), which finished second in last season's Index and continues to receive votes in the AP poll, has now won 26 in a row, but is 41st for the second consecutive week. The Lumberjacks have some unfinished business from last season, when they won 27 games but missed the NCAA tournament after losing 68-66 to Northwestern State in the Southland Conference tournament title game.
A winner of six straight, Texas Southern made the Index's biggest jump, 36 spots to 216. Yale, which lost its second in a row and fourth in five games to rival Harvard on Saturday, fell 30 places to 166.


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