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Mitch Goldich/MEDILL

Watch a demonstration of the impact SportVU technology can have on basketball and other sports.

Race for data feeds the sports analytics revolution- 2

by Mitch Goldich
Dec 12, 2013


Mitch Goldich/MEDILL

A sampling of teams that will play road games against Duke, Louisville and Marquette with the SportVU cameras rolling this season.


A horn sounds, and Shane Battier checks into the game. Boozer, Luol Deng and Mike Dunleavy Jr. are already there.

The court can only fit 10 players at a time, and for the final 12.9 seconds of the first half, four of them are former Duke Blue Devils.

Battier was selected sixth in the 2001 draft. Dunleavy was taken third the following year, when Boozer slipped into the second round. Deng went seventh in 2004.

The NBA draft can be a crapshoot. Michael Jordan was once picked third. Boozer, a two-time All Star, was taken five picks after Steve Logan, who never played an NBA game.

Boozer, Dunleavy and the other 55 players from the 2002 draft were scouted meticulously. Forty-four were drafted from the NCAA level. Scouts roamed the country analyzing college players, but couldn’t dream of having access to the type of data SportVU now collects in every NBA arena.

This, too, is changing.

On Nov. 12, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State descended upon Chicago for a double-header loaded with NBA talent. ESPN’s draft analyst Chad Ford tweeted that 16 potential first-round picks saw action.

And as the teams played in the United Center, the SportVU cameras clicked away.

To run the cameras during college games, STATS coordinated with the NBA and the Bulls. Kopp said they don’t need permission from schools or conferences.

But three college teams have signed up with STATS to join the data mining expedition: Duke and Louisville, which had their home arenas fitted with cameras, and Marquette, which shares an arena with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.

Throw in teams that play some (like Villanova) or all (like Memphis) of their home games in NBA arenas, plus 2014 conference tournaments and NCAA tournament games in NBA arenas from San Antonio to Orlando to New York City. Suddenly the vast NCAA landscape seems more scalable. Even if not all those games are recorded— STATS says it isn’t a certainty they will be— Kopp expressed a desire to expand within college basketball. So the future feels imminent.

Most teams remain extremely guarded about discussing the SportVU technology and data— the Bulls declined an interview for this story—but with so much riding on draft day decisions, savvy general managers ought to be salivating over access to this information about college players.