SMT Adds Plus-Minus to Robust Stat, Data-Tracking System for NCAA Tournament Broadcasters

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Lee Brinson says with a big smile. “This is Christmas for me!”

Not exactly the words you expect to hear from a man who is about to put in a 17-hour workday, but, for the special events operations manager at SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT), nothing beats the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

For the 15th straight year, SMT will provide instant stats, graphics, and data services to CBS and Turner Sports for the entirety of March Madness.

With two crew members on-site and a team at the company’s Data Operations Center in Durham, NC, SMT’s technology synchronizes clock and score via its SportsCG Clock and Score System and statistics via its HoopStat in-game stats-and-scoring system. The data is then fed in real time to the broadcast production’s graphics package.

SMT on-site operators track all basic stats — baskets, steals, rebounds, fouls — but the highly intuitive technology allows game broadcasters to present new data for an increasingly stat-friendly sports world.

New this year is Plus-Minus. Familiar to hockey fans, the Plus-Minus stat tracks how much a team scores and how much a team is scored against when a specific player is on the court.

When CBS and Turner approached SMT in the fall to discuss collecting Plus-Minus data, the broadcasters originally requested tracking of key players only in a given game. SMT quickly discovered in software development that this wasn’t a stat that could be tracked manually and it would be significantly easier to build in a tool to track the Plus-Minus for every player on the court, not just for a select few.

The new software features allow SMT to track a player’s plus-minus when he’s on the court, as well as the team’s plus-minus when that player is not on the court.

“It’s starting to be used in basketball more, but we had to do some development to incorporate that into our stat systems,” says Brinson. “The key for our on-site team is, they need to make sure [that the] ‘on-the-court’ is correct. If they do that, then it’s easy for us to track the plus-minus for every single player that plays.”

The SMT team puts in plenty of training throughout the year to prepare for the heat of the NCAA Tournament. This year’s prep dates all the way back to November, when SMT joined Turner Sports for coverage of the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The team set up a temporary system meant to replicate the layout that will be used in North Texas at the Final Four and the National Championship Game next month.

SMT also provided its services to four conference championship tournaments — Big Ten, Atlantic 10, Mountain West, and Conference USA — while testing its data pipe to New York to ensure that it is running properly for NCAA Tournament time.