SportVU analytics taking hold in college hoops

This summer while at Northwestern’s Medill Cherubs program, I worked for weeks on what was our main assignment—to write a story on any trend that was happening anywhere in the world.

For my story, I chose to write about SportVU, a system of cameras in the rafters of every NBA arena and 3 college ones (Duke, Marquette, Louisville) that tracks player movement to spit out crazy advanced performance data. For the story, I made more phone calls than I thought would be humanly possible, once even making 41 calls in an hour. In the end, I interviewed people like J.A. Adande, Mike Trudell, Kirk Goldsberry and officials with NBA and NCAA teams.

Today, my nearly 2,000-word story was published on SB Nation’s Bucky’s 5th Quarter site. Check it out by clicking here.

Feel free to send any feedback using the “Contact Me” page on the lefthand column. You can also find me on Twitter and on Facebook. Also, be sure to check out my YouTube channel.


Bucky’s 5th Quarter: Melvin Gordon postseason analysis

For SB Nation’s Bucky’s 5th Quarter, I teamed up with fellow writer over these past few weeks Zach Wingrove on two pieces about Wisconsin’s Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon.

The first, which you can find by clicking here, examines the best NFL fits for MGIII, who declared for the draft following this season.

Another, link here, takes a look back at Gordon’s 15 best runs from the 2014-15 season. It’s pretty incredible to watch some of these runs—I’ve watched them over and over and over again. It’s borderline hypnotic.

Feel free to send any feedback using the “Contact Me” page on the lefthand column. You can also find me on Twitter and on Facebook. Also be sure to check out my YouTube channel.

Bucky’s 5th Quarter: Gary Andersen’s departure from Wisconsin

Today, Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen announced his stunning intention to leave Madison and head to Oregon State. For SB Nation’s Bucky’s 5th Quarter, I looked into some of the reasons behind Andersen’s departure with Drew Hamm, a fellow writer, both of which appeared quite suspicious. You can check out the piece by clicking here.

Also, here are my last few pieces on the Badgers’ thrilling final few games:

HP Sports Brief – March 3rd

Former Highland Park HS guard Lena Munzer, now playing at Yale, was named NCAA Division I Athlete of the Week earlier this month. Hear her take on the honor as well as her former HP teammates’ and coaches’ thoughts on this week’s HP Sports Brief. Sam Brief reports.

Feel free to send  any feedback using the “Contact Me” page on the lefthand column. You can also find me on Twitter and on Facebook. Also, be sure to check out my YouTube channel.

2012 NCAA Men’s National Championship Game Preview

146 days after the 2011-12 College Basketball season tipped off, just two teams are left standing – the Kansas Jayhawks and the Kentucky Wildcats. The story lines in this game are amazing – both teams have a Player of the Year candidate (Kansas’ Thomas Robinson and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis), both are historic powerhouses (29 combined Final Four appearances), and they faced-off earlier in the season (Kentucky 75, Kansas 65). Which team will come out on top tomorrow? Will it be the Jayhawks or the Wildcats? Which players will play big roles? What are some intriguing matchups to watch? It’s time to find out…



Smells So Sweet: Which Teams Will Win Big On Day One Of The Sweet Sixteen

It’s Sweet Sixteen time in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and we certainly haven’t seen the usual load of upsets and heart-pounding finishes. Although this is true, there have been not one, but two 15 seeds knocking off two seeds, as Norfolk State stunned Missouri and Lehigh shocked Duke. Other than those two bracket-busters, there has mostly been chalk. Will that continue in the Sweet Sixteen? It is time to find out. Here are my picks for day one the 2012 Sweet Sixteen:




It is the most controversial system in sports.

It has had plenty of criticism, anti-trust lawsuits, and allegations. It has its own show, its own analysis, and brings in $150 million every year.

What to make of it all?

This week in College Football, we saw the biggest reason why the BCS should stand for the Bizarre Chaotic

The Bizarre Chaotic Scam? The BCS has been criticized, challenged, and even sued many times throughout the years.

Scam. We saw this when Oklahoma and Wisconsin both saw their National Championship hopes go up in flames.

On Saturday night, the bullish, punishing Wisconsin Badgers took on the improving, explosive Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing. Wisconsin started out looking like Wisconsin on both sides of the ball, and jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. After a safety, a blocked punt, a blocked field goal, 2 interceptions, and 3 touchdowns, Michigan state took a 23-14 halftime lead. Wisconsin started charging back into the game with a few touchdowns by quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Montee Ball. With 29 seconds left in the game, and the clock moving, and Wisconsin on defense, badger coach Bret Bilema called a timeout. This let Michigan State march downfield and with no time left, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw up a prayer.

His prayer was answered.

After the ball was tipped by many Wisconsin and Michigan State players, it ended up in the waiting arms of receiver Keith Nichol. After about 5 seconds of endless clamoring and shoving between Nichol and Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor, the referees called Nichol down at the 1 yard line. It was time for video review. After the referees reviewed the play, it was determined that the ball crossed the goal line by 2-3 inches.

Here is all of that chaos:

Michigan State had won the game. They had one by just a few inches. Wisconsin was now unofficially eliminated from an opportunity to go to the BCS National Championship game.

They missed it by that much.

Soon after that, in Norman, Oklahoma, the powerful and BCS-favored Oklahoma Sooners were playing the unnoticed and disregarded Texas Tech Red Raiders. Oklahoma was favored by 25.5 points, the game was simply disregarded as another Oklahoma blowout.

Think again.

Texas Tech jumped out to an early 21-7 lead, and left the fans in Oklahoma shocked, yet they still knew that the Sooners would pull it out in the end. Then, things really got out of hand; Texas Tech extended their lead on the Sooners, and it seemed as if the Oklahoma defense just couldn’t keep up with the high-octane offense of Texas Tech. Thanks to some offensive firepower from quarterback Landy Jones and some defensive stops,

Texas Tech got off to an astounding early lead at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

the Red Raider lead was cut to just 7. Quarterback Seth Doege and the rest of the Texas Tech football team just would not give up, though. They extended the lead to 41-24, and in the process, emptied half of the seats in the stadium. Just when all hope was gone for Oklahoma, it came back with a 55 yard completion from Landry Jones to Jazz Reynolds. After a defensive stop, the score was 41-31 Texas Tech, but Oklahoma had the ball.

After a drive of 24 yards, Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt set up for a 28 yard field goal with 2:52 left. If he made this it would have been a one-possesion game.

The kick was off, and it drifted, it drifted, and bam! The ball had barely hit the right goalpost and bounced off. Hunnicutt had missed the field goal by inches.

He missed it by inches.

After a defensive stop, the Oklahoma offense had to march 61 yards down the field to make it a 3 point game. A few 20 yard passes later, Oklahoma had its touchdown on a pass from Jones to James Hanna. The score was now 41-38 Texas Tech. Oklahoma failed to recover the onside kick, and the Red Raiders went on to shock the Sooners, 41-38. No one saw this coming. People could maybe see Oklahoma losing to Oklahoma State, but Texas Tech? And at home? This was unheard of. If Hunnicutt’s field goal went in, the score would have been 41-41, leaving Oklahoma with a chance to put Texas Tech away in overtime.

They missed it by inches. And so did Wisconsin.

Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor (53) was just inches away from keeping Nichol out of the end zone.

Mike Taylor was inches away from keeping Keith Nichol out of the end zone to win the game for Michigan State. Wisconsin was inches away from preserving their perfect season.

Michael Hunnicutt was inches away from making a field goal that could have given Oklahoma a victory. Oklahoma was inches away from keeping Texas Tech away from a win and preserving their perfect season.

Both of these teams were just inches away from keeping their perfect seasons alive and having a chance at making the BCS National Championship Game.

This is exactly why the BCS is an unjust and ridiculous system in sports. There is no other sport where you have to go undefeated or at least lose no more than a game to make the championship game. There is no other sport where you have to win all of your games impressively to make the title game. There is no other sport that one lost game on an otherwise perfect season can ruin a season.

Most of all, there is no other sport where inches can define seasons.

Wisconsin and Oklahoma will not make it to the ultimate stage this year, and no one but the BCS is to blame. In any other sport, a team with one loss would surely have an unprecedented shot at the title game.

It’s just a shame that the BCS is still alive.

Instead, there should be a playoff, where each of the top 32 teams has a shot at winning it all. Here is that proposal: The BCS system and standings are completely disregarded. Then, the top 32 teams in the AP poll make it into the playoff. There are 4 different brackets, similar to the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Each

Could it work? Of course it could. The NCAA needs to review the prospect of having a College Football Playoff.

bracket has 8 teams: Four 1 seeds, four 2 seeds, four 3 seeds, and so on until the 8th seeds. Each team plays once every 4 days, so the tournament lasts a total of one month (31 days, to be exact). There is a first round and a second round which would reduce the field to 8 teams, 2 in each bracket. The 2 teams left in each bracket would play each other in the regional championships. Then, similar to the Basketball tournament, there would be a Final Four, and a National Championship game.

Notice how each of the 32 teams in the playoff have an equal chance at making the title game. This means that teams like Boise State would have the same chance at going to the championship as Alabama or LSU would have. Wisconsin and Oklahoma would still have a good chance at going to the title game. Even teams like Washington or Illinois could turn Cinderella on everyone and make it.

This proposal would be more inciting, manageable, sensible, and fair than the BCS, and just makes more sense. The NCAA should surely use this format, or a modification of this format. (I am going to send this proposal to the NCAA’s front offices).

Why should this define a season?

Wisconsin and Oklahoma are just 2 examples of what harm the BCS can do to a great football program.

How can a few simple inches ruin a team’s season completely?

The BCS, that’s how.

By Sam Brief

The Sports Blog Movement


Hi! On Wednesday, I introduced a new segment on the blog, called The Weekly Word. This is where YOU send me your questions (with name and location), and I will answer them every week on The Weekly Word. Here is my first go-round:

Tom B. (North Carolina)-

Who will be in the Super Bowl, and who will win?

I think that from the AFC, the Jets will go to the Super Bowl. They looked really good in the first two weeks. A comeback victory against the Cowboys showed their ability to win tight games, which was also displayed last year by the “Cardiac Jets.” Today, they blew out the Jaguars, and I think their

Saints fans saw this image after Super Bowl 44, and can expect to see it again after Super Bowl 46.

amazing defense mixed with a solid offense and the key offseason addition of Plaxico Burress can propel them to the Super Bowl. From the NFC, I’m going to go with the Saints. They have looked sharp in their first two games, and even though their defense was terrible against Green Bay, they were great against the Bears. Also, in the second half against the Packers, they really picked up their game. Any team with Drew Brees taking snaps is a contender, and Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram are great additions to their offense. Expect Jets vs. Saints in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI. Also expect the Saints to win, their overall balance and experience will serve them well on their road to a second championship in the past 3 years.


David C. (Texas)-

What’s your take on all of the week 1 injuries in the NFL?

Simply, many of the players a just out of shape. After the lockout, many players were not in top shape, and this led to injures. A decrease of physical activity leads to an increase in proneness to injury.

Rams running back Steven Jackson highlighted the unusually extensive week 1 injury report.

Many, many players got injuries week 1 and there were almost as many week 2, including season-ending injuries to Jamaal Charles and Nick Collins. In the words of Reggie Williams, “In this game all you need is speed, strength and an ability to recognize pain immediately.” Well, the speed, strength, and ability of players to recognize pain was lost during the lockout with a lack of physical activity, and that is why almost 30 players left the field week 1 with injuries.


Paul R. (New Jersey)-

What are your thoughts on the idea of a pitcher wining both the Cy Young and League MVP?

The idea of this possibly happening with Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander excites me. I am pretty sure that you’re talking about Verlander here. He leads the MLB with a 2.29 ERA, and a whopping 24 wins! Verlander also leads the Majors with 244 strikeouts and an 0.91 WHIP. Now, after all that, how can one

There is no problem with a pitcher who is as good as Justin Verlander winning Cy Young and MVP, and it should happen.

say that he isn’t worthy of winning both AL Cy Young and AL MVP? It doesn’t matter to me if they are a pitcher, shortstop, or right fielder, Justin Verlander is more valuable to his team than any other player in the league, and that is the definition of an MVP.


Mike P. (Tennessee)-

What are your thoughts on the new kickoff rule in the NFL this year?

I can’t stand the new NFL kickoff rule. By moving kickoffs from the 30 to the 35 yard line, the NFL has almost ruined the single most exciting play in football. Kickoff return studs such as Devin Hester and Joshua Cribbs won’t get the chances that they usually get. If you look closely at a game, you will find that most kickoffs nearly go through the goalposts! That should only happen in video games! I know in week 1, there were a few return touchdowns from Randall Cobb, Darren Sproles, and Percy Harvin, but I expect that number to die down drastically given that there is a 34% increase in touchbacks from last year. I find this new kickoff rule just obnoxious, and I hope it doesn’t last too long.


The League Sports Talk (Tennessee)-

What are your thoughts on the idea of super conferences being prevalent in college football?

I like this idea very much. I think a great proposal would be to have 4, 16-team, super conferences: The

With Syracuse and Pittsburgh joining the ACC, the super-conference idea becomes more of a reality.

Pac 12 (or 16), the Big Ten (or 16), the ACC, and the SEC. I would also hope that a total conference realignment would prompt the NCAA to ditch the BCS and introduce a playoff system. I hope that super conferences do become prevalent in college football very soon.


Thank you all for your wonderful questions, and I hope to get more questions for next week on The Weekly Word.

Remember, to ask a question, leave a comment on the blog, email me at:, or ask me on Twitter (@SamsSportsBrief)! I need you first name and your location, thanks!

By Sam Brief


Goliath (True meaning)-

The giant warrior of the Philistines whom David killed with a stone from a sling.

The current Fighting Irish are highly misinterpreted as a "goliath" in the College Football world.

Goliath (Meaning to College Football fans all over the World)- 

Notre Dame.

For the past 25 years, the words associated with Notre Dame’s football team have been ones such as “Powerhouse,” “Goliath,” “Amazing,”  “Greatness, and ” “Goliath”.

This may have been true 25 years ago, but these associations are still alive and well. Instead, people should be associating the Notre Dame football program with words such as “Upsetting,” “Underperformance,” “Failure,” and “Overrated”.

The Notre Dame football program just simple isn’t what it used to be.

And people must learn to accept that.

From 1964 to 1996, the Fighting Irish were 278-89, a .757 winning percentage. In this time period, they won 4 National Championships. Notre Dame also made 20 Bowl games from 1964-96, winning 12 of

In 1966, when the Notre Dame football team was undefeated, and won the National Championship, one could consider them as a "goliath."


This is the point in time when the Irish were the “goliath” in the College Football world.


In the past 8 years, the record of the Notre Dame football team has been a mediocre 54-46, and in the past 4 years, it has been a lackluster 24-27.

In the first game of the 2011-12 College Football season, Notre Dame fell to a dismal Southern Florida team, by a score of 23-20.

This shows just how bland and lifeless the Notre Dame football program has become.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o walks off the field at Notre Dame stadium in disappointment as #16 Notre Dame fell to South Florida on Saturday. This is more proof on why Notre Dame shouldn't be ranked #16, and shouldn't even be considered a power in College Football.

Pretty much, ever since Brady Quinn took his talents to the NFL, the Fighting Irish have been nothing special at all what so ever.

A rich history of winning does not insure a program to be considered a “goliath” forever.

So then why does ESPN constantly overanalyze and overrate the Fighting Irish?

Why were they ranked #16 in the Preseason College Football rankings?

Why do fans all over the world continue to believe that Notre Dame is a goliath in College Football?

The answers to these questions remain a mystery to me.

By Sam Brief


We must put the BCS to a stop, and put it to a stop now. It is absurd, useless, unfair, and just plain wrong. 

College Football simply cannot go on this way.

TCU may have won the 2011 Rose Bowl, but we will never know if they were capable of winning the National Championship.

In 1998, the NCAA started using the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). They had always used bowl games, but the new system included an extremely complicated system of equations to determine the rankings, and eventually, who plays in which bowl games.


The system is totally unfair and ridiculous. Last year, TCU went 12-0 in the regular season, but didn’t get a chance to play for the BCS National Championship game just because they don’t play in an AQ (Automatic Qualifier) conference. They went to the Rose Bowl, and defeated the Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin Badgers. This victory proved that they could compete with the big boys. Now, none of us will ever know if TCU could have won the National Championship.

President Barack Obama has been quoted on saying that College Football needs a playoff system. Even the men of the highest stature know that there needs to be a change.

BCS coordinator John Swofford has said that the BCS system makes way for a much more exciting regular season. Yes it does, but only because under the BCS, the postseason doesn’t matter!

ESPN attempts to make the BCS more appealing to fans by airing the “BCS Standing Reveled” show. This is where they show one-by-one the top 10 teams in the BCS standings. This doesn’t fool me, the drama may be exciting, but we must remember that only 2 teams even have a chance to play for the championship. Anyway, “Selection Sunday”, which is the system that is used to reveal the seeding for the NCAA basketball tournament if much more fun to watch.

The MLB has 8. The NFL has 12. The NBA and NHL have 16. NCAA basketball has 65. NCAA football

This year, UConn was the Champion of the 2011 Men's NCAA Basketball tournament. They were 1 of 65 teams who could have won.

has… 2. I repeat, 2. Are you kidding me? 2? 

That is how many teams in College Football have a chance to win the National Championship in the postseason. 


Last year, Auburn and Oregon competed for the National Championship because they were ranked #1 and #2. Auburn won the game by a score of 22-19, and were declared the champions of the College Football world in 2010. 

But, what if…? What if under-appreciated TCU could have won it? What if powerhouses such as Oklahoma or Ohio State could have won it? What if history was made, and an extreme underdog such as Northern Illinois or Troy made a surprising run to be crowned champion?

We will never know.

Under a tournament/playoff system we will know if a team can do what VCU did in the NCAA college

What if...?: What if a team like Northern Illinnois, who defeated fresno state 40-17 in the uDrove Humanitarian bowl, could have made a shocking run to the National Championship game?

basketball tournament last year. 

What I am proposing is a 2-bracket, 16 teams in each tournament. The winners of each bracket play each other in the National Championship game.

Simple and to the point. No advanced formulas or unfairness. Just plain, simple excitement.

A playoff postseason system would make College Football a much better, fair, and fun sport to watch. We can only hope that the NCAA can get this type of playoff system implemented as soon as possible. 

And if they don’t, I have one message to the NCAA:

The clock is ticking on College Football’s future.

If the NCAA doesn't make a change soon, the future of College Football looks bleak.

By Sam Brief