The Mountain West will be the first league in college basketball to have access to real-time analytics during games after the NCAA granted the conference a waiver to employ that technology for the 2019-20 season.
The waiver applies only to conference games.
Electronic transmission of information during games is currently prohibited by NCAA rules, so this could be a pivotal moment for the future of the sport.
ShotTracker, the real-time analytics company that provided stats for Mountain West coaches during their postseason tournament in a trial run last season, will use tablets to send coaches information such as lineup efficiencies, shot trends and individual data via sensors placed on players and game balls.
"People are not accustomed to seeing electronics on the bench because of the NCAA rule that doesn't allow electronic transmission of data," said Davyeon Ross, the founder of ShotTracker. "What they are accustomed to seeing is somebody running a sheet of stats to the bench and then coaches looking at it and then trying to understand what's going on in a very short period of time. From this perspective, the coaches are going to have data as it's happening. You can look and see a breakdown of your team and the opposing team and every individual on the court and how they're performing from a shot chart perspective. It will automatically tell you which lineups are performing the best. You're going to see coaches potentially making adjustments on the fly that can change the dynamics of a game."
The league had announced a partnership with ShotTracker in May but had not been given a waiver. The Mountain West waiver for the upcoming season could lead to a permanent change in the next NCAA rules cycle in 2021. It also opens the door for other leagues to apply for waivers to use the same technology this season.
Both Magic Johnson and former NBA commissioner David Stern are investors in ShotTracker, which was used during last year's Hall of Fame Classic.
"The NCAA's approval of ShotTracker technology on the bench at the Hall of Fame Classic is a huge stride forward for the sport of basketball," Stern said then in a statement released by the NCAA. "For the first time, Division I coaches will have unprecedented access to real-time data and powerful intel via ShotTracker's app throughout the duration of each game. The Hall of Fame Classic is the perfect stage to display the possibilities of this technology at the next level."
In the NFL and NBA, real-time analytics have become a pivotal component of in-game strategy. Per Art Hyland, the NCAA men's basketball rules committee secretary-rules editor, only conferences will have the capacity to apply for waivers due to concerns about fairness and whether both teams have access to the same technology.
This season, video is not allowed. But the rules committee could consider an exception for video after this season if the test run goes well, Hyland said.
"I think the stakeholders of college basketball are now committed to really investigating the use of technology on our benches for men's basketball," Hyland said. "I think there is an avid interest in technology going forward."