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Duke becomes the first college team to implement SportVU tracking system

Oct 10, 2013, 1:13 PM EDT

Miami v Duke Getty Images

SportVU is a player tracking camera system that has revolutionized the way that some data is analyzed by NBA teams.

What is SportVU?

It’s a system that records the coordinates of the players, the refs and the ball 25 times per second to spit out data on things as simple as the exact number of touches a player gets and how many potential assists he has to things as complicated as how quickly he accelerates and how fast he can change direction.

Simply put: SportVU spits out massive amounts of data that adds another layer to the analysis of stat-junkies.

The system is currently in every NBA arena, but this season, SportVU will be making the jump to the college level for the first time.

And as you might have guessed, it’s the Duke Blue Devils who are paving the way. From the Wall Street Journal:

Duke was intrigued by SportVU last spring, when a former team manager who works at Stats showed off some of Duke’s geo-spatial statistics from its 2013 NCAA tournament games in Philadelphia, and Stats senior vice president Brian Kopp pitched Duke’s staff at a June meeting in Durham, N.C., that included Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski. The only difference between the six SportVU cameras installed last month in Cameron and those in NBA venues is that Duke’s tiny arena required smaller lenses with wider angles.

Limited by opportunities to collect game data—NBA teams play 82 regular-season games, while Duke has 17 home games against teams of varying quality—Duke also outfitted its practice courts adjacent to Cameron. “You add 75 or 100 practices when the quality of your opponent is the same every day, and you can get a much better picture of who a player is,” said Kevin Cullen, Duke’s director of information technology. With its emphasis on practice data, Duke hopes that SportVU is as much a tool for its training and medical staff as it is for the basketball coaches, Cullen said.

The system will be used for the first time in a collegiate arena when Duke opens up their season at home on November 8th. It won’t be the first college game that’s been logged, however; the Big Ten tournament, which was played at the United Center last year, had the system in place then.

(UPDATE: According to Marquette’s AD, the Golden Eagles began implementing this technology over the summer as well.)

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