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Continuing its SEC domination, Florida takes over top spot in UPS Team Performance Index

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After getting steamrolled by 35 points against Florida over the weekend, Mississippi State coach Rick Ray thinks that the Gators are playing the best basketball of any college team in the country.

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The UPS Team Performance Index agrees.

Fresh off a pair of SEC thrashings last week, Florida moved into the index's top spot Monday, jumping over No. 2 Indiana and replacing upstart Stephen F. Austin at the head of the pack.

You would get no argument from Ray on the new order.

"I think Florida is by far the best team in the SEC and I'd venture to say they're probably playing better than anyone else in the nation at this point in time," Ray said after the Bulldogs were soundly defeated 82-47 on their home court Saturday.

"They have the best players in the SEC and the most talented players in the SEC, but their willingness to share the basketball is by far their best attribute."

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.

Winners of eight straight and with an average margin of victory of 24.6 points in that span, it's easy to see why the Gators sit at the top of the chart. Their in-your-face defense ranks third in the country allowing 51.2 points per game, and their offense has become increasingly efficient as the season has gone on.

Their 57.0 percent effective field-goal percentage - which gives proportional weight to 3-point shots - is tied for third in the country. Even more importantly, a gap of 15.8 points between that number and their effective field-goal percentage against (41.2) is the biggest in Division I - proof that the team is getting it done on both ends of the floor.

"I'm looking to improve from one game to the next and just trying to get better," Florida coach Billy Donovan said after his team made a season-high 14 3-pointers en route to winning its sixth straight to open SEC play.

That quest continues this week with home matchups against South Carolina on Wednesday night and Mississippi on Saturday night.

While the Gators' move into the top spot was the most significant of the week, the biggest mover among top 50 schools was Miami. The Hurricanes stunned AP then-No. 1 Duke 90-63 last Monday to begin a week that ended with them manhandling Florida State 71-47.

As a result of those efforts, Miami jumped 20 spots in the index to No. 28, as well as 11 spots in the AP Top 25 to No. 14. Duke fell to ninth in the index and fifth in the AP poll.

"That's our goal - to get people excited about our program," coach Jim Larranaga said. "It's the first time in the university's basketball history that we've been able to create that kind of buzz. This school is not necessarily known as a basketball school."

Stephen F. Austin also qualifies as a school not necessarily known for basketball, and the Lumberjacks saw their surprising reign atop the UPS Index come to an abrupt end this week. In a battle of college basketball's best defense against its best offense, SFA came up just short despite holding Northwestern State to its lowest point total of the season in a 61-57 loss.

Despite the defeat, the Lumberjacks dropped just two spots in the index to No. 3, falling behind Indiana, which took down Penn State and Michigan State this week.

"I'm not disappointed with our effort, but I am disappointed with the way we finished the game," said coach Danny Kaspar, whose team was up 57-50 with about four minutes to play but was outscored 11-0 to end the contest. "We will have to learn from this and move forward."

Michigan - which replaced Duke as the No. 1 team in the AP poll Monday - and Kansas rounded out the index's top five, followed by Gonzaga, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Duke and Creighton.

Across all 345 teams, Air Force was the biggest mover in the week, jumping from 159 to 96 after wins over New Orleans and Wyoming. Bryant of the Northeast Conference fell from 84 to 130 and was the biggest dropper.

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The Associated Press
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