Which teams will make the Final Four at this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament? College basketball teams that use box score analytics for game preparation and evaluation will surely be among the four that make it to that last weekend in Atlanta.
Box score analytics – a method within the madness
During March Madness, season-long preparation converges with emotion for players and fans alike, resulting in one of two outcomes: win or go home. To be successful, players must be on their A game. Even more important, head coaches and their staff must be on their A++ game. At a time when every rebound and every shot means so much, box score analytics will undoubtedly be at its peak since each team’s only mission is to survive and advance.
As founder of CADE Analytics, LLC and Senior Data Analyst at the Hussman Institute of Human Genomics, I developed U-BALL, a method powered by SAS and used to uncover the secrets to evaluating team performance. This method is an essential statistical tool for all college basketball programs during regular- and post-season play. With my background and study of genomics, I’ve applied the same methodologies used to breakdown the DNA of the human body to the “DNA” of a basketball player’s tendencies.
At the University of Miami, for example, U-BALL has been implemented according to criteria set by Head Coach Jim Larranaga and the respective coaching staff. As a result, the complimentary use of U-BALL has helped propel Miami to unprecedented success in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. U-BALL’s impartial approach to quantify team chemistry is flexible and can be adjusted to meet any criteria determined by the coach.
With the U-BALL approach, teams invited to the NCAA Tournament will evaluate regular- season play and most-recent conference tournament play as a guide for preparation. In doing so, coaches of tournament teams meticulously prepare their players for any situation that may arise in upcoming games.
Backed with statistics, coaches can make better decisions and implement effective strategies for both defensive and offensive scenarios.
Picture this: your team is in the middle of a Sweet 16 game, down by five points with two minutes until the final buzzer. You want to put your best defenders in the game to keep your opponent (who has the ball) from scoring and to increase the chance of a turnover. The U-BALL method may consider the following data points:
- Which players have the greatest effect on team lineup performance (offensively and/or defensively)?
- Which lineup best defends a two-point field goal attempt?
- Which lineup is best at grabbing the rebound after a missed three-point field goal?
Say you’re in the Elite Eight, tied with 30 seconds left to play and you have the ball. The U-BALL method would consider things like:
- Which lineup fouls the least, yet scores the most efficiently?
- Which lineup has the best assist rate?
- In which particular lineup does your star three-point shooter perform the best?
U-BALL incorporates these kinds of situational moments – and many more – from a team’s full season using box score analytics. By establishing a never-ending framework that can measure the offensive and defensive prowess for a basketball team by lineup (per game, seasonally, etc.), U-BALL examines the historical performance of a team and its opponent by evaluating the lineups played (offense) and lineups played against (defense).
Simply put, the application of U-BALL provides coaches with a pulse on the effectiveness of potential lineup.
By identifying the qualities shared by players and opponents, U-BALL looks at a variety of combinations of players on the court and shows which combinations work the best – the most effective two-player, three-player and even five-player combinations for each game, and more importantly, each game situation.
Inevitably, NCAA Tournament games will be decided by smart possessions played with the best lineups (and the ones most prepared) to execute them. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll see U-BALL and 68 college teams put it all on the line for the ultimate DANCE PARTY!
Does your favorite team use box score analytics? What other ways can you see analytics changing the sports world?