Move over, men’s soccer team. There’s another team on campus vying for a national championship.
Eight Sport Analytics students from the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics will compete Feb. 1-2 in the AXS National Collegiate Sports Analytics Championship hosted by Baylor University in Dallas, Texas. This is the second half of the competition; in the first half, which was held virtually, Syracuse University finished first in both categories – Game Analytics and Business Intelligence – and had four students in each category finish in the top 15.
“This competition means a lot to me and the rest of the Syracuse University team as it’s a good representation of the work that the Sport Analytics students and faculty have put into the program,” says Alexander Borelli, a Sport Analytics major with minors in Economics and Sport Management. “We’ve been able to practice working with datasets like the ones provided in this competition throughout our courses and clubs, and to see our success displayed on a national level is really fulfilling.”
In the virtual part of the competition, where students were given a prompt and had to prepare and present their analytics work to judges, the performance of the Sport Analytics students enabled Syracuse University to rank ahead of Rice University and Baylor in the Game Analytics category, and ahead of Baylor and the University of Iowa in the Business Intelligence category.
Rodney Paul, director of Syracuse University’s Sport Analytics program and a professor in the Department of Sport Management at Falk, and Sport Management Assistant Professor Jason Maddox are the “coaches” of the Syracuse team and will travel to Dallas with the students. The trip is funded through a gift from Syracuse University Trustee and alum Andrew Berlin ’83, who continues to support Sport Analytics student-focused initiatives.
“I’m very pleased that our students will have the opportunity to take part in the competition and I’m extremely proud of their hard work, dedication, and resolve which has led to their individual and group success,” Paul says. “Going into the finals, we are in the position of the hunted as we lead both tracks, and it’s sure to be a pressure-packed environment that will prepare them well for their future endeavors.”
The Syracuse students participating in the Game Analytics category include Borelli ’23 (ranked No. 1 after the first half of the competition); Benjamin Wachtel ’23 (No. 2); Sam Gellman ’23 (No. 13); and Matthew Gennaro ’23 (No. 15). The individual “power rankings” for Game Analytics are listed on this Sports Analytics Championship LinkedIn page.
The Syracuse students in the Business Intelligence category include Eli Miller ’22, G’23 (ranked No. 3 after the first half of the competition); Kylie Dedrick ’23 (No. 4); Shane Halpin ’22, G’23 (No. 9); and Corey Goldman ’23 (No. 14). The individual “power rankings” for Business Intelligence are listed on this Sports Analytics Championship LinkedIn page.
As an example of what the students were required to do in the first half of the competition, Wachtel says he was given the data set of Big 12 Conference men’s basketball games and he chose to predict the shot outcome based on the actions taken by the offense each time it possessed the ball.
“This competition allowed me to explore new and more advanced data analysis techniques and gave me the freedom to approach the data provided in any way that I saw fit,” says Wachtel, who’s majoring in Sport Analytics with minors in Economics and Information Management & Technology. “I’m looking forward to representing Syracuse University on the national stage for the next phase of this competition, where I’ll have the opportunity to network and interact with like-minded peers and industry professionals.”
Dedrick, who is president of Falk College’s Sport Analytics Women (SAW) Club, says participating in this competition enables her to showcase the skills she and her teammates have acquired in the Sport Analytics program.
“Any competition I have competed in during college has focused on the player side of sports, but (the National Championship) has allowed me to dive deeper into my true interest, the business side,” says Dedrick, a Sport Analytics major with minors in Marketing and Applied Statistics. “The sport industry is a daunting place to start coming out of college, but hopefully my participation and success in this competition will help me show the sports world what I can offer.”
Miller, who majored in Sport Analytics and Economics as an undergraduate and is now pursuing a master’s degree in economics, agrees that the data analysis and coding skills he learned in Sport Analytics prepared him and his teammates to compete with the best sport analytics schools in the country.
“I look forward to seeing how these skills will continue to be pushed as we go to the finals,” Miller says. “This competition is just one of the many ways in which Syracuse has continuously given me new opportunities to grow and prepared me for life after graduation, and I look forward to representing this great University come early February.”
For these students, the competition had already been a success but now they look to duplicate what the men’s soccer team accomplished in December – bringing home a national championship to Syracuse.
“It’s been awesome to see the appreciation the (Sport Analytics) program has been receiving as a result of the success of our team,” says Borelli, a Sport Analytics major with minors in Economics and Sport Management. “It’s exciting to go to Dallas and perform in front of analytics professionals in the sports industry and put our skills up against some of the best students in the nation.”