|Final Four teams bring different set of UPS Team Performance Index strengths to Atlanta|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 01 April 2013 11:09|
According to the UPS Team Performance Index, however, it's Louisville that has the most well-balanced overall attack, one that will be on display again Saturday as the college basketball world turns its attention to the Georgia Dome for the Final Four.
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.
Following a week that saw them dispatch of Oregon and easily roll over Duke, the Cardinals - the only No. 1 seed to advance to Atlanta - seem primed to continue their March run into April. In fact, going back even further, Louisville's lone loss since Jan. 26 was a five-overtime 104-101 setback at Notre Dame on Feb. 9.
Since then, it's gone 14-0 and taken home a Big East championship.
"I thought we had a chance there, and then, boom," Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "That's what they do to teams. They can boom you."
And if skill alone wasn't enough to push Louisville - ranked sixth in the UPS Index - to a title, it's now playing with even more of a sense of purpose after the Cardinals watched teammate Kevin Ware go down with a broken leg in the regional final.
"When Kevin went down, it was devastating for all of us," Peyton Siva said. "We just came together and Kevin Ware really was the reason why we pulled this game out. Everybody on the team just wanted to step up for him. For us to show that focus and that determination, we just tried to do it for him."
Coincidentally enough, Ware hails from Atlanta, and although the trip back will not be how he would've envisioned it, his teammates are intent on turning it into a happy homecoming by Monday night.
"We want to do this for him," Siva added. "We know how much it means to him."
Personal motivation aside, Louisville will have its work cut out if it's to be cutting down any more nets. Wichita State, a No. 9 seed, knocked off basketball behemoths Pittsburgh, Gonzaga and Ohio State en route to just its second Final Four appearance. While the Cardinals - the tournament's overall No. 1 seed - will likely present them with their biggest challenge, the Shockers have proven to be plenty adept at knocking off the big dogs.
"I don't think we're Cinderella at all," coach Gregg Marshall said. "Cinderellas usually are done by this stage. If you get to this point, you can win the whole thing. You beat a No. 1 seed and a No. 2 seed - I don't think Cinderella just found one glass slipper. I think she found four."
One of the keys to success for Wichita State has been its work on the glass. The team ranked seventh among all Division I schools in rebounding differential, outboarding its opponents by 8.0 per game and lifting the Shockers up the index. Whether or not they have the ability to keep that trend going as the mid-major Missouri Valley Conference school again steps up in class will be critical.
While the Shockers likely shocked many casual fans by advancing this far, their UPS ranking of No. 23 didn't necessarily sync up with the relatively low No. 9 seed given to them by the tournament committee.
On the other side of the bracket, it will be a contrast of styles when a pair of No. 4 seeds, Michigan and Syracuse, meet. The Orange's vaunted zone continues to stymie the opposition while the Wolverines' effective field-goal percentage is one of the best in the country.
"They beat us from start to finish. We collectively tried everything we knew to try," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said after his team lost 55-39 to Syracuse last weekend. "It is the zone, and it is the players in the zone."
The Orange, who ranked No. 19 in the index overall, rank fifth in the country with a defensive microindex of 124.23. They have not allowed a tournament opponent to shoot over 40 percent from the field and have held two of them to under 25 percent - including Marquette's 22.6 percent performance last Saturday.
"We got the right personnel for each key position," C.J. Fair said. "We got big long guards, we got big long forwards that can cover ground and our centers do a good job holding down the inside."
This Saturday, however, the zone will be put to the test against a significantly more accomplished offense than the Golden Eagles'. Michigan, which actually held the No. 1 spot in the AP poll at one point this season, comes into Atlanta fresh off its most impressive win of the season, a 79-59 drubbing of Florida.
"I said it in the summer and the coaches kind of got on me saying we can be national championship contenders. But that was coming from my heart," said Trey Burke, who single-handedly willed the Wolverines to a regional semifinal win over Kansas one game earlier.
"I knew once we put the talent with the toughness and execution, then I knew this team could be special. We're coming together at the right time."
Michigan, which sits 12th in the UPS rankings, has an offensive microindex of 124.81, almost exactly counterbalancing Syracuse's defensive number. The Wolverines were one of just 10 Division I schools to have an effective field-goal percentage - which takes into account the value of 3-point shots - of at least 55.0 percent.
With all four teams on such successful runs in such different ways, fans are in store for a final three games where almost anything can happen, and Marshall, for one, can't wait.
"The Mecca awaits in Atlanta."