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Making RC Better One ‘Stat’ at a Time

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At basketball games this season, you may have noticed small groups of students with laptops feverishly clicking as shots were made or passes blocked. These students make up a small group of people known as the Roanoke College Stats Crew. This group, headed by Dr. Ronald Minton in the Mathematics department, records data during the game, then interprets it to look for patterns or problem areas that could help the coaches continue to improve the team.

This past fall semester, the stats crew was just getting off the ground. Since the group was still small, they decided to focus on soccer. The stats crew worked closely with coaches to determine what information the coaches wanted that could easily be collected. Much of the work focused on passing. This included things such as: between whom most of the passes were occurring and who was turning over the ball.

This information doesn’t stay in a spreadsheet but is put into graphics that can be more easily understood. The graphics could be generalized to the positions or looked at regarding individual players. One of the coaches even put up a graphic about passing in the locker room so that the players could see who they’re passing to the most.

After the basketball season started, Dr. Adam Childers offered his assistance and designed an app for the stats crew to make data collection even more accurate. The simple program diagrams the court. A student can select a player, click on an area where a shot was taken, and enter whether or not it was made, all very quickly. Having this app instantly made it easier to analyze the data because it’s automatically put in a spreadsheet that can be interpreted to look at different stats.

One of the major points the crew analyzed for basketball is where the highest percentage of shots comes from. For the men, this reiterated what the team already knew; they were good with three-pointers and layups. Looking at individual players though, it can tell them where their shooting strengths are on the court and the areas they might need to work on.

This data also can show how the team does with different line-ups on. With starters Cameron Smith and Carter Wright in their last season, it is valuable for the coaches to know going into next year what other combinations of players on the field work well together.

Some of the coaches have also used the data in recruiting, showing incoming athletes that Roanoke has ways to analyze their stats. This is something very few schools our size offer.

As the basketball season comes to a close, the Stats Crew now turns their eyes towards lacrosse. Dr. Childers has already written an app for the crew to use that models the lacrosse field much like it did with the basketball court.

Looking ahead to next year, the Stats Crew hopes to continue to grow. With 13 members now, in a variety of ages and majors, the crew is looking solid. As the team grows, they are also looking for funding. Currently operating on zero budget, the team hopes they can do more with a little bit money.

Dr. Minton already has plans for the students to present some of their work at conferences in the coming year. With the opening of Cregger, and the new board in the basketball court, they hope to display some of the stats at halftime to show spectators how the team is doing.