Mining Data

Scouting and film study on the college level has become a science in recent years, with sophisticated recording, editing and breakdown hardware and software making just about any cut of game action available to coaching staffs preparing for a game. However, in this age of sabermetrics and computer analysis, there's still room for some old fashioned perusal of stats and trends.

That's where West Virginia basketball student assistant Joel Pinto comes in. A veteran of the Mountaineer program, whose tenure extends back to the John Beilein era, Pinto helps with scouting reports and preparation for upcoming games in something of an unusual manner. He examines statistics and trends for insights into WVU's next foe, and tires to find things that the coaching staff might not be able to glean from tape.

"I try to find a lot of stuff that the coaches might not look for," said Pinto, who also holds down a position on WVU's bench during games. "I look through a lot of stat stuff that others might not see.

"I try to look at why teams are winning and why they are losing," he continued. "Are they getting outrebounded when they lose? Maybe they average a lot of free throws, like Marquette did a year ago. They were doing really well from the free throw line, so we didn't want to put them there. We ended up losing to them, and we lost was because they got to the line so much. They averaged like 28 trips that year."

Sometimes the trends are rather obvious, such as the one attached to the Washington Huskies, who dropped a 69-56 decision to WVU on Thursday. Pinto quickly saw that UW was 22-1 when outrebounding its foes, but just 2-6 when losing the board battle. That's of course, played directly into WVU's strength on the glass, so it was not surprise that the Mountaineers came out with a double-digit win after mushing the dogs by 20 on the boards. Other trends, however, can be hidden below the surface.

"It's funny to look into numbers," Pinto noted. "You can find a couple of things about a team that if a certain thing happens they are probably going to lose the game, but if they do it right, they will win. It's like us with rebounding. If we outrebound opponents we are going to win a lot of games."

Pinto, like most of the older members of the program, began under John Beilein, where he got his start with the scouting aspect of the game.

"I got lucky being on Coach Beilein's staff, and then when Coach Huggins came in I got to work a lot on the video stuff," he related "Later on, last year, I got to start looking at opposing teams and working with the coaching staff. Kevin Schappell, who is a graduate assistant, and Josh Eilert, our video coordinator, do the video work."

Pinto's output doesn't always make it into the scouting report, but when it does, it provides a special sort of satisfaction.

"It depends on what the coaching staff wants. I try to come up with these things. This [was] the first time Washington has played in a dome, for example, so I put that in there, and also that they had to fly five hours to get here. I just try to pick up as many little things as I can, and it's up to the coaches as to whether or not they want to use them. I just try to see how many things I can find out.

It just goes back to finding out certain things that the coaches don't have time to think about. They are looking at film and tearing it down and getting what they want to teach together. I'm not a coach, so I'm going to try to find those other things that they don't look for. If I find something, it really makes me feel like I have done something to help the team."

That satisfaction level has been on the rise for Pinto and the Mountaineer program, which has reeled off nine consecutive wins going into Saturday's difficult confrontation with Kentucky. And even though the hours are long, it's all worth it to Pinto.

"The first weekend of the tournament, we get about ten hours of sleep the first few days," he said of the workload in watching film and working the numbers for that odd bit of information that could provide an edge. "But the rewards, like winning the Big East tournament, are great."


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