Making the Top Twenty

by minton on December 20, 2022

Three Roanoke College students placed in the top twenty in the qualifying round of the National Collegiate Sports Analytics Championship hosted by Baylor University. The competition is only open to seniors. James Rowe (Health and Human Performance), Lilly Blair (Actuarial Science), Cyrus Pace (Health and Human Performance), and Selam Mekonnen (Data Science) of Roanoke College all qualified for the finals, to be held in Dallas, Texas, February 1-2.

In the competition, the students were given a data set with over 19,000 plays from the 2018-19 Big 12 basketball season. They then had a week to analyze the data to find something interesting, with no particular direction of inquiry given. James picked out a specific player, Brady Manek of Oklahoma, and explored his strengths and weaknesses. Manek scored a large number of baskets on fast breaks and was strong defensively on opposition drives, but was susceptible to post-ups. By contrast, Lilly focused on West Virginia games and its offensive performance against of different types of zone and man-to-man defenses. WVU shot better against man-to-man but rebounded better against zones. Each students’ work was condensed into a 5-minute presentation for a judge.

Part of the Data Set

The championship is set up to connect industry professionals with prospective employees. The judges came from a variety of sports teams and media companies with large data analysis departments. Among these were the Cleveland Guardians, Minnesota Twins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Synergy Sports Technology. These connections have the potential of being the first steps into jobs in sports analytics.

Good luck to our Roanoke College students as they compete in Dallas!