USA TODAY Sports
Florida is leading the charge into a new era of efficiency in college basketball. And five Gators have better stats than Michael Jordan did because of it.
One of the best things written about Michael Jordan last week in the the completely ridiculous run-up to his 50th birthday was Luke Winn's John Ezekowitz-assisted Sports Illustrated piece compiling and calculating Jordan's advanced college statistics from his time at North Carolina. And it reveals a few things, namely that Florida has five players that are outdoing Jordan in Offensive Rating this year.
Offensive Rating is, loosely, a compilation of all the good and bad things done on offense by a player while he or she is on the floor. Jordan's rose from 109.9 to 113.0 to 116.5 over the course of his three years, despite his usage rate (the percentage of possessions that end on a player's shot that doesn't result in an offensive rebound or turnover) climbing as time went on.
116.5 is a tremendous Offensive Rating, as 100 is considered very good. Five Florida players — Erik Murphy, Michael Frazier, Casey Prather, Mike Rosario, and Scottie Wilbekin — have Offensive Ratings above 116.5.
This sounds like a fantastic sign for the Gators, especially after you learn that Jordan was shooting from a three-point line that was 17 feet and nine inches from the basket and operating with a 30-second shot clock. But Jordan's usage rate separates him from the pack: None of those Florida players are using even 23 percent of the Gators' possessions (Rosario, at 22.3 percent, is closest), and just six players in Division I have a higher Offensive Rating and usage rate than Jordan in 2012-13. All six — Michigan's Trey Burke, Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, South Dakota State's Nate Wolters, Creighton's Doug McDermott, Virginia Tech's Erick Green, and Bucknell's Mike Muscala — are great players, and, will all probably become NBA players.
And while Florida has five players exceeding Jordan's Offensive Rating, Florida's not actually leading the nation in that category: Indiana has six. Creighton, like Florida, has five; Gonzaga, Michigan, and Pittsburgh all have four.
What makes the Florida feat so impressive, in my mind, is that while none of the five players with great O-Ratings use more than 22.3 percent of possessions, four of the five use at least 19.6 percent of possessions. (Super sub Frazier is the exception, which you probably guessed.) Having that many players who shoulder nearly equal loads of the Florida offense and execute at a phenomenal level is a great, great thing. (Having one non-post player, Prather, who has his gaudy O-Rating without the aid of threes? That's even better.)
It's not unusual for the Gators, either, which is evidence of how good Billy Donovan's team construction and coaching have been. The things that the Gators do are mostly very sound: Florida takes plenty of threes, which helps substantially in Offensive Rating, but it mostly takes good threes, and it makes them often; Florida doesn't take difficult midrange shots very often, working it inside for easy twos or back outside for higher-reward threes; Florida doesn't turn the ball over very often.
The only thing on offense that Florida is truly bad at is drawing fouls, and it makes up for it with its prowess everything else. Florida is 314th in Free Throw Rate, and Indiana is second, and yet the Gators score just .01 fewer points per possession than the Hoosiers.
Jordan was a great player in college, an supremely efficient high-usage scorer. But college basketball is moving away from those players, and toward balanced and efficient teams that have a handful of players who play better with more limited roles and create better offense because of that interdependence.
None of the Florida players with better stats than Michael Jordan is actually better than Michael Jordan. Florida's better for it, regardless.