(CBS Los Angeles)- One of the ongoing trends within sports media and fandom in recent years is the embrace of advanced statistics and analytics to help better understand the action on the playing field or court. The explosion of metrics used to quantify athletes performance can at times be overwhelming and hard to decipher which are important and which are just noise.
On Saturday, CBS Sports Network is hoping to help college basketball fans make that distinction, diving into how coaches are using these statistics to inform their decisions about their program and playing style with an “analytics driven” broadcast for the West Coast Conference clash between BYU and Loyola Marymount.
The broadcast, with Jason Horowitz on play-by-play and analysts Chris Walker and University of Pennsylvania coach Steve Donahue, will feature in-game graphics, segments and explanations of how each program is using analytics to understand their teams strengths and weaknesses and informing in-game decision making.
The production crew, led by producer Kimani Morales, sat down with members of both coaching staffs to learn how each uses these analytics and which ones they focus on to help build their program. Morales says that the idea for the broadcast was born of what he noticed to be a gap between how we discuss players and teams and how coaches evaluate them.
“The whole idea for the broadcast was, the way that we present the game on TV now is definitely different than what’s going on with the teams and how they’re breaking down and evaluating players,” said Morales. “We wanted to bridge the gap a little bit and give viewers a broadcast that would incorporate some of it without going too overboard.”
Morales stresses that the broadcast won’t feel like a lecture for fans. You won’t need to bring a notebook (unless you want to) or find yourself having flashbacks to college analysis courses. Rather, the crew is focused on explaining these advanced stats in a fun way to allow for fans to develop a deeper understanding.
“In the beginning of the game, we’re going to start pretty slow with that and try to explain points per possession, tempo, effective field goal percentage and all that, but not overdo it and have the whole broadcast be some seminar where it’s dry and boring,” said Morales. “Basketball is such a fast-moving game, there’s not tons of down time. So what we’re trying to do with our graphics is a bunch of left hand side of the screen graphics. It won’t be constantly up there but maybe for half of the game you’ll see graphics there over live play. We’re going to try to strike a balance between covering the action and having stats and graphics that our announcers can talk about and educate.”
That education will include graphic overlays, shot tracking charts, in-game segments in which the analysts dive into examples of the advance statistics and how the program incorporates them, and more. The average college basketball fan has likely heard various advanced statistical terms involved in the breakdown of teams over the last few years. At times, analytics has taken on an almost negative connotation, with former athletes and coaches deriding them as “nerds.” Morales says the hope for Saturday’s broadcast is that it will be a first step in getting people more comfortable with which metrics are important and how they’re used within programs.
“Trying to educate people a little bit in a fun way and get them use to a couple of different numbers and the way that things are broken down, can slowly chip away and get people more comfortable where you maybe look at games 5-10 years down the line and some of these stats are more mainstream,” said Morales.
Tune in to CBS Sports Network for BYU vs. Loyola Marymount on Saturday, February 20 with tip off scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern Time.