If you see a Nebraska basketball coach or player on the sideline looking at an iPad Monday night, he's not playing Fortnite. Probably.
It will be a little bit of a historic moment when the Huskers take on Missouri State Monday at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Missouri. For the first time in NCAA history, teams will have access to real-time advanced analytics during games.
Tip between NU and the Bears is set for 6 p.m. at the Sprint Center.
The NCAA granted a waiver to allow the teams participating in the Hall of Fame Classic — Nebraska, Missouri State, Texas Tech and USC — to use ShotTracker technology during the games.
Essentially, ShotTracker is a system that features players wearing sensors on their shoes and playing with a ball also embedded with a sensor.
The sensors feed data into a program that spits out just about every statistic a coach or player could want — where on the court a team is taking its shots, the shooting percentages from different spots on the court, how much energy a player is expending, how much distance a player is covering, etc.
"I think it'll be good in-game, and to use it in-game will be fascinating too," NU coach Tim Miles said. "It'll probably really get things going if we play well and 'oh gee, we can use this, this and this.'"
Miles said he wasn't yet sure how the Huskers would use the information, but it's something the Huskers have worked with for a while now. A ball rack in Nebraska's practice facility includes a row of Wilson basketballs embedded with the sensors, and NU players wear the sensors on their shoes during workouts.
"I noticed different turnovers I didn’t think I committed that much during practice, then when you get back to that same situation in practice you realize what happened last time, so you’ll be able to think about it and make a different decision," senior forward Tanner Borchardt said about what he's gleaned from using the system. "So turnovers, and where to shoot; you know where your strong spots are. Obviously mine’s under the rim, maybe slowly branches out. So if I know I’m stronger there, I’m more likely to shoot there."
For a coach who has been fond of analytics since the early days of the statistical revolution, Miles is a fan of what the system can provide.
But there can be some paralysis by analysis, Miles said. Too much information can get a player thinking instead of reacting, so striking the right balance between using the data and allowing his players to play can be a challenging task.
"I was trying to teach the kids analytics a couple years ago, and I think it just got to be a point where they're like, stop with the effective efficient whatever quotient," Miles joked. "I think we try to keep it as simple as possible, but also there's relevance in there, too, so I think that's important."
What's also important for Nebraska is to continue the momentum from Wednesday's win over Seton Hall. A victory over Missouri State, which comes in 3-0 under new head coach Dana Ford, but was picked eighth in the preseason Missouri Valley Conference poll, would mean a championship-game matchup with either Texas Tech or USC and provide an opportunity not only to win a trophy but also for a win over a Power Five conference opponent on a neutral court.