Sloan Visitor, Case Competition Highlight Busy Week for SMBA ’14

One of the best parts about the SDSU sports MBA program is that we are exposed to a plethora of guest speakers multiple times a week with varying ideas that run the spectrum of the sports industry, and that was particularly the case this week.

On Tuesday Matt Goldman dropped by to present some findings on the NBA that he will showcase this weekend at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. Today we spent a few hours learning about international sports from Jorge Arangure, who is in town to judge the eighth annual SDSU International Sports MBA Case Competition.

That’s because the case, which will be presented today on SDSU’s campus, touches on the Tijuana soccer team the “Xolos” who Arangure recently profiled in terms of their ability to bridge the gap between America and Mexico.

First Goldman introduced us to correlations through the presentation on his paper co-authored by Justin M. Rao entitled “Live by the Three, Die by the Three? The Price of Risk in the NBA.”

Goldman and Rao found that “teams get better at basketball when they’re losing. Trailing teams understand the price of risk, but leading teams don’t. They don’t do what they think we should do.”

Goldman showed a pair of graphs depicting a series of game states in the first through third quarters as well as the fourth quarter. As he and Rao wrote in the aforementioned paper, “Most NBA offenses are able to increase their fraction of 3-point attempts in proportion to their preference for risk. This is not a requirement of our model, but instead is novel evidence that offensive strategy (rather than defensive) dictates play in the NBA.”

Ultimately this explains why we often see so many comebacks in NBA games. Goldman and Rao also feel that losing motivates NBA players to do better.

Furthermore, Goldman unveiled some research in which he and Rao discovered that the accuracy of home players’ free throw attempts declined as the pressure increased in a game, whereas there was no impact on road players. However, in an effort-driven task such as rebounding the opposite was true.

Goldman attributed this to the fact that when you remove a cognitive impediment, a player can do better. This also begs the question why fans make so much noise when a visitor is on the free-throw line if it isn’t impacting anything. Perhaps they should try to be silent to unnerve the shooter since this white noise clearly isn’t making much of a difference.

All told, Goldman served as an example of the kind of smart work that can be done with basketball statistics.

Whereas most speakers come in to tell us how they got to where they are in the sports world, Arangure skipped to the finish by asking if we have any questions. We did … for the next two hours.

The topics ranged from the Xolos to whether college athletes should be paid to Dominican baseball and the travails such players face. He also enlightened us on new MLB draft rules and told us he feels it’s a matter of when, not if, there will be an international draft.

Based on his experience covering the Xolos, Arangure was a logical choice to judge the case competition in which teams must imagine the Xolos’ front office requested them “to devise a revenue development and branding strategy that will define the future of the club.”

This plan mainly involves figuring out how to leverage the Xolos’ recent success in capturing the 2012 Liga MX Apertura title in only their fifth season to grow interest (and thus revenue) across the border in the United States.

The case, which participants spent all day Thursday (and probably all night as well) working on, also incorporates putting together a ticket pricing and seating plan as well as a “wild card” strategy of their choice.

The cool part about this case, according to Arangure, is that the Xolos are in such a situation that if they like any of the recommendations enough they very well may implement them.

Although SMBA ’13 will be representing the program in the competition, SMBA ’14 will be on hand to help out where needed and get a handle on what it takes to compete in a competition of this magnitude throughout the day tomorrow.