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How Tracking Technology is Winning Over NCAA Coaches

Last year a handful of Big 12 programs began using ShotTracker, which is described on its website as “a sensor-based system that automatically captures statistical and performance analytics for an entire team in real-time.” The NCAA also allowed the use of ShotTracker in the 2018 Hall of Fame Classic game between Nebraska and Missouri State. Then Nebraska coach Tim Miles, a fervent advocate of analytics, used data collected by ShotTracker to show his team how they scored more after making three or more passes.

Nebraska won that game, turning a 2-point halftime lead into a 23-point victory. “I think it [data] should be available for those that want to make it available,” explained Miles, whose Nebraska staff last year included a trio of analytics experts. “It improves the game, and it improves it equally between the two teams. To me, that’s fair game.”

And it seems the NCAA is close to formally approving the official use of ShotTracker in-game. The Kansas City Business Journal reports ShotTracker secured the first conference waiver (for the Mountain West) from the NCAA. This waiver will allow Mountain West coaches to use electronically transmitted data on the bench during games. The NCAA is notorious for its draconian rules on banning gadgets on benches, so for it to change its stance is a positive outlook for technology in college basketball.

But why are more and more college coaches going all in on tracking technology? Why do coaches like Miles, who was let go by Nebraska early this year and replaced by Fred Hoiberg, swear by it? And why is the NCAA seemingly open to its expanded use? One reason is how data tracking is changing every aspect of sport. A feature article by Coral on how technology is impacting sports details how tracking devices can collect “exhaustive amounts of data” for teams. Coaches, in turn, can use this data in any number of ways, from preparing game-by-game strategies to designing player improvement regimens. From football to soccer, every type of sport is implementing data tracking, and basketball needs to keep up. It is also affordable for all levels of sport. Right now, college teams, with less funding than professional bodies, can fully embrace the benefits of data tracking. This makes it, as Miles said, “fair game.”

Count Michigan State’s Tom Izzo as another believer of tracking tech. “Statistics give you the real numbers,” said Izzo in an ESPN article on tracking technology in college basketball. “ShotTracker is honest. That would be the big word I’d use.” And as if on cue, Michigan State’s basketball teams followed Nebraska, LSU and several Big 12 programs in using ShotTracker.

“I think that people are becoming students of the game,” notes ShotTracker founder Davyeon Ross. “I think what we’re doing is we’re making [data] readily available. People have been doing this [analytics] for some time, it’s just been a tedious process. Where we are as a society, it’s been really helpful to bring people full circle to embrace it and make them understand the game more.”

Therein lies the appeal of tracking technologies like ShotTracker, and lately, Noah Basketball. The Noah System is designed to help players improve their shooting by tracking the details — arc, shooting location, and consistency — of every shot they take. It is being used by Michigan and Virginia, along with several Pac-12 teams (as the conference is an official Noah Basketball partner).

These technologies are putting numbers and figures into basketball and the data is giving coaches a deeper understanding of the game. In turn, this deeper understanding is helping coaches better shape their respective programs to be winners. This is why the tech is winning over more and more coaches in all sports. So don’t be surprised if more college basketball coaches utilize some form of tracking technology in the near future.


credit to Pexels for the image