CALL IT A transformation, or a disruption, or an upgrade, but by any definition the process of scouting one’s future competition in basketball has evolved, thanks to technology. It used to be an assistant coach’s job to “scout” the competition by attending some of their games, to which the coach brought only his (or her) experience and a notepad whose pages were printed with a basketball court template. Then, back with his own team, the coach/scout would brief his players by transferring his game notes into chalk on a blackboard. That way the players could “walk through” their specific tactical roles.
Today, as with so many things in our life, data science has taken over. Forget the paper, pencils, chalk, and blackboards—the competition’s previous games are now recorded electronically. This means coaches can track individual players’ tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses on spreadsheets employing software that provides the data the coaches and players need in order to be very intentional about their preparation and game strategy against any specific opponent.
This week starts March Madness for the NCAA. Coaches have a full season of games to view for their known and assumed competition. There are no undefeated teams this year, so reviewing how their competition got beat will be a good source of data. Also, the committee that selected the 68 teams that are in the tournament had access to data way beyond these teams’ won-loss records. They had to evaluate their strength of schedule, and who they beat, and who they lost to.
The process of converting recorded games to a practiced game strategy, with a plan for specific game situations, gets very time sensitive as these basketball teams progress through the tournament bracket. Technology helps, no doubt about it. But there will still be some real sleepless nights for all the coaches.