Mountain West Hoops to Use Real-Time Data During Games
The NCAA has granted the league’s request to use ShotTracker data
The Mountain West is once more at the forefront of innovation in college sports.
This week, the NCAA granted a waiver request to the Mountain West Conference which will allow the league’s coaches to access real-time analytics during the 2019-20 season. The move is unprecedented in college basketball, as the NCAA had previously banned all electronic transmission of data on the sidelines. But after a successful test run during the MWC Tournament last season, the sport’s governing body has decided to permit further trials this season. This decision represents a clear step by the NCAA toward the booming intersection of sports, technology, and data.
The technology used to supply the data comes from ShotTracker, a real-time analytics company co-founded by Davyeon Ross and Bruce Ianni. The Mountain West announced a five-year partnership with the company back in May and now have the green light to see that alliance realized on the court. ShotTracker’s signature product, which goes by the same name, relies on wearable technology to track player movement data. These data provide coaches not only with accurate shot charts, but also with the ability to analyze their lineups for inefficiencies and vulnerabilities on either side of the ball.
ShotTracker provides over 70 unique statistics through its companion app, which can be accessed by coaches, media members, and fans alike. Using its sensor technology, which will also be installed in each of the league’s arenas and practice facilities, the app creates data visualizations in real-time. This information is a monumental step past the days of printed box scores being distributed during TV timeouts.
But is more data always better?
It certainly can be, but having access to data is only half the battle.
Knowing how to quickly pore over the data, interpret it, and then make decisions about it during the span of a timeout is a skill set all its own. While coaches have been doing this based on personal observations and box scores for decades, the ability to analyze advanced data is not the same thing. So, there may be a bit of a learning curve for some coaches. Mountain West staffs that can adapt to these new trends could see themselves with a leg up on their conference opponents this season. Those that lag behind could be at a huge disadvantage.
But the Mountain West may be better suited to this kind of change than any other league in the country.
This partnership between the Mountain West and a cutting-edge technology company continues the trend of the league acting as a testing ground for innovation. The conference’s now-defunct sports network, the mtn., was the first of its kind when it debuted in 2006. The MWC was also an early adopter of revolutionary instant replay technology that has become the norm in college baseball. The use of ShotTracker data is likely to be another example of the league’s status as a technological trendsetter.
If the roll-out is successful, then ShotTracker will likely be implemented more widely in the years to come. Taken in concert with the rise of KenPom and other advanced analytics sites, as well as the NCAA’s own initiative to embrace analytics in its NET rating system, the dawn of a new era has seemingly arrived. And as it has so many times before, the Mountain West finds itself once more at the forefront of innovation in college sports.
Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.