Updated: Monday, 24 Sep 2012, 9:39 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 24 Sep 2012, 10:15 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - College basketball gets under way in just about a month, and Butler men’s basketball Coach Brad Stevens is already crunching numbers.
"I think it's a unique way of looking at the game that may be able to help best communicate to your players something that puts them over the top in a game," Stevens said.
It's well known Coach Stevens is into statistical research of every aspect of basketball. So it's no wonder he read the book “Moneyball.” It's the story of Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane and his use of sabermetrics, statistics, to find the best baseball players at the lowest price. He took the A's to the playoffs four consecutive years, using numbers.
ONLINE EXTRA | Press play in the video player for special web-only video from the interview.
Today the idea of using stats to gain an advantage is gaining traction in other sports, including college basketball. That's why Stevens just hired a sports statistician researcher of his own: 22-year-old Drew Cannon.
Cannon told 24-Hour News 8 it was a love of sports which led to a love of the way that stats can shape how the game is played. It's something he and Coach Stevens agree on.
"He sees the kind of things that I do and thinks that they have some merit, and there are other coaches who see the kinds of things I do and say, ‘Oh that's nice, but ...’" Cannon said.
Cannon is a Duke graduate with a degree in statistics. He worked for ESPN through high school and college. Coach Stevens is using stats for help in everything from scheduling with Butler's switch to the A-10 conference to RPI's or rating percentage index.
"We've spent a lot of time in the last six months analyzing what our RPI needs to be going into the A-10 versus what our RPI needed to be going into the Horizon League," Stevens said.
Numbers played a role in December 2010 -- the Dawgs were giving up 46 percent from the field. Stevens knew that tweaking that percentage could mean making it to the Big Dance.
"The talking point to our team was: this is where we are. This isn't acceptable to get to where we want to go. But what does that really mean? It's not just get better defensively, it is, if we give up 3 less baskets a game, then we will be at 40 percent field goal percentage defense which will be top 20 in the country, which gives us a chance to be in the NCAA tournament contender. And the team got it,” Stevens said.
That's why when the team takes to the court this year, Coach Stevens along with the help of his secret weapon, Drew Cannon, will use numbers to their best advantage.
"So anything you can do to figure out a way to make sure that 150 possession game that you're better off more times than not, and able to analyze that then I think that's really helpful,” Stevens said. “You're not looking for every answer; you're just trying to find little tidbits that can help your team be a little bit better. ‘Cause a little bit better might be the difference between losing in the first round and making it to the last night of the season."