Numbers are the essence of sports. Only now we've got these new statistics that make your grandfather shake his head, wondering what was wrong with 56 or 755.
Give someone enough time and a good calculator, and they can figure out how valuable a player is based on his WAR -- Wins Above Replacement. Not sure how you do that, but the cyber-smarties tell me it matters.
Right now those dudes tell me Bucknell center Mike Muscala is the second most efficient player in Division I basketball. Using ESPN's Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which takes into account things like Assist Ratio, Turnover Ratio, Offensive and Defensive rebound rate and something called Usage Rate -- the number of possessions a player uses per 40 minutes -- Muscala's PER is 35.08, second only to Pittsburgh's Talib Zanna's 35.65. And for Patriot League aficionados, Lehigh's C.J. McCollum is seventh at 33.60.
Again, I'm not the smartest guy in the world -- a stunner to regular readers, I'm sure -- but the average PER is 15.00 and Muscala is 20 points better than that, so he's pretty darn efficient. I get that.
But here's a simpler number to wrap your head around: There are 347 schools playing Division I basketball this season. If those 347 teams have a dozen players each, that means there are roughly 4,164 Division I basketball players right now.
And according to PER, Muscala is more efficient than 4,163 of them.
Simple enough, right?
By any measurable, Muscala is having a great season and a tremendous career at Bucknell. I don't need fancy-shmancy numbering to tell me that. I can look at the old-fashioned stuff and see it.
The senior from Roseville, Minn., is averaging 18.8 points and 11.4 rebounds game through nine games this year, one of only two players in the country averaging that -- and the other is Duke's Mason Plumlee. The 11.4 rebounds puts Muscala in the top 10 nationally in rebounding.