CBS and CBS Sports Network are once again setting the table for March Madness with a jam-packed schedule of conference-tournament coverage: the Big Ten, Mountain West, and Atlantic 10 Championships will air on CBS this weekend. Fans watching CBS Sports’ coverage of the Mountain West Tournament will get a deeper analytical dive into the quarterfinals, semis, and championship games, courtesy of a ShotTracker sensor-based tracking system installed at Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
“ShotTracker allows us to break down the game in a statistical and analytical way unlike ever before. Everything you could ever fathom calculating from a basketball game is doable with these sensors,” says Jason Cohen, VP, remote technical operations, CBS Sports. “Our job is to give the producers tools to help tell the story. And ShotTracker is an enhancement and innovation that allows the front bench to examine the game in a much more detailed and analytical way.”
Center Stage at Mountain West Tournament
ShotTracker is a sensor-based system that automatically captures statistical and performance analytics for all players on the floor in real time. The system relies on tiny sensors inside the ball and on all players (at 1.60 x 1.15 x 0.57 in., they are smaller and lighter than an empty box of Tic Tacs), as well as on anchor sensors installed in the rafters of the facility to simultaneously track the location of the ball and player sensors.
Using the data captured, the system automatically generates 70+ unique stats for the entire team to create box scores, zone charts, and more in real time and stream them to a custom ShotTracker app.
After testing the technology successfully at an Ohio State–Michigan State game in East Lansing, MI, last month, CBS Sports has partnered with SMT to integrate the ShotTracker system into its broadcasts of the Mountain West Conference Tournament quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship game in Vegas (Thursday-Saturday).
“With ShotTracker in the [broadcast], we now have much more than just the basic rudimentary field goals, rebounds, assists, and such,” says Cohen. “The whole idea is to give the producers as many worthwhile tools as possible to help tell the story more effectively. So anytime you see a compelling stat or a graphic during the Mountain West Tournament that gives you information about a player or a team, that is information that you never had before. I think we will consider that a success.”
SMT’s OASIS system will combine numerous data sources, including ShotTracker player and ball positional data and SMT’s real-time HoopStat scoring system, to help the CBS production team quickly find compelling new visualizations that the SMT VIRTUALf/x system or SMT SportsCG system can render, according to Robbie Louthan, SVP, business development, SMT.
SMT has worked with CBS and ShotTracker to provide a toolkit of data-driven graphics. They include individual or team shot and zone charts (both virtually on the court or as a traditional graphic coming off SMT’s SportsCG scorebug), the ability to draw trails behind players on the court or the ball to show the way a play unfolded, the closeout distance between the defender and the shooter at the time of release, and the speed at which a ball carrier is moving down the court.
Two SMT technicians are onsite, working with the CBS production staff to insert any of the VIRTUALf/x graphics over live video for instant insight or to record a set of clips to be part of a replay package.
“Everything the SMT Oasis platform has been delivering for events like the NHL All-Star Game is now available for a basketball game as well, which is really exciting,” says Cohen.
Prior to the tournament, the Mountain West Conference approved use of ShotTracker for all games at the Thomas & Mack Center this week, making Vegas the ideal venue for CBS Sports to debut ShotTracker on its coverage.
“It’s really the perfect place at the perfect time for us to try it,” Cohen says. “It’s a good opportunity to see what it gives us during this tournament. Then we will spend some time over the summer evaluating what it did for the show and what it could do for [our coverage] in the future.”
Big Ten Championship One a Dozen Title Games for CBS Sports
Of course, CBS has plenty more hoops coverage beyond Mountain West this week. For the Big Ten semifinals and championship games at the United Center in Chicago this weekend, CBS will deploy its standard camera complement, with the addition of Fletcher-provided above-the-rim robos, robotic Pico high-speed SlamCams behind the glass, and a robo under the centerhung scoreboard. Fletcher will also implement a RailCam system, which has been used at the Big Ten Championship in recent years (shared with Big Ten Network).
“Whenever you can take a major conference like the Big Ten and elevate the biggest games that they have all season from a camera perspective,” says Cohen, “it’s obviously a great thing for us as a network, as well as for the conference and the fans — who are most important.”
Game Creek Video’s 79 mobile unit will serve CBS at the Big Ten Championship in Chicago, NEP SS-16 is handling the Mountain West Tournament, and F&F GTX-17 is on hand for the Atlantic 10 coverage at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Besides the trio of conference championship games this weekend (plus last Sunday’s Missouri Valley Championship) on CBS, CBS Sports Network will be televising eight championship games — more than ever before: the Colonial Athletic Association, Conference USA, and Patriot League title games on the men’s side plus women’s hoops championship games for Conference USA, Mid-American, Patriot League, Southland, and the Mountain West.
“I think it’s been a great season for us,” says Cohen. “Everybody is incredibly excited about where we are for the conference tournaments and the appetizer that this will provide for March Madness. I think we’re operating on all cylinders coming off the Super Bowl, going right into conference play, and then March Madness. So we’re feeling good and just want to keep everything running at the highest level possible.”