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Slalom’s Colin Davy wins the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference’s inaugural hackathon

A strong offense gets the win

Colin Davy two-time winner of MIT sports analytics hackathon

March 2016 update

This marks the second year of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference hackathon. This also marks the second year that Colin Davy has won. Davy, a sports-data junkie and information management and analytic consultant from Slalom San Francisco, took the open division with a Tableau viz that grades offensive-line performance using vector-based metrics, complete with play animations.

Slalom’s Colin Davy wins the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference’s inaugural hackathon

On the opening day of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, 27 analytics junkies—13 students and 14 professionals—gathered to compete in the event’s inaugural hackathon, presented by the EPSN Stats and Information group.

Hackathon participants were given just three and half frenzied hours to draw visual insights from a complete set of ESPN’s detailed NFL play-by-play data.

When the winners were announced during the conference’s closing dinner, Slalom San Francisco’s Colin Davy emerged victorious.

Data visualization and the NFL

“They said: ‘Here’s the data set. It’s everything you’d ever want to know about every single play—go do something interesting with it,’” said Davy.

Having done similar research for college football, Davy had a plan of attack. He set out to answer “whether or not having really big playbook or a really small playbook makes a difference” to a team’s offensive prowess.

“You have two fundamentally opposed philosophies,” said Davy. “I wanted to know: Which one is better, or does it correlate at all?”

Davy’s insights caught the judges’ interest.

“It’s not that cut and dry,” said Davy “[Offensive] complexity is neither good nor bad in itself. Understanding your offensive identity is far more important.”

After taking his turn at a 60-second pitch to the judging panel, Davy’s analysis was selected as one of three finalists in the open division.

A trophy for the “nerdiest thing” possible

Davy and his fellow finalists joined “a bunch of head honchos" from the ESPN Stats and Info group for dinner.

It was an opportunity to network with fellow sports data analysts, including Ben Alamar, director of production analytics at ESPN.

And, at the end of the evening, Davy was announced as the winner of the open division.

“I’ve never gotten a trophy like that before, much less for the nerdiest thing I could possibly imagine,” said Davy.

Tennis insights for Advanced Baseline

Sports analytics are more than a hobby for Davy.

“‘There are plenty of interesting data sets out there and interesting problems that no one is solving,” Davy said.

He stumbled into the realm of tennis analytics, and is now a contributor to SB Nation’s Advanced Baseline blog.

Davy’s posts include commentary on who’s over-seeded at the U.S. Open and tracking the Aussie Open contenders.

Slalom “show of faith”

Davy was encouraged that Slalom “showed enough faith” in him to send him to the conference.

“We really focus on enabling our consultants to pursue their passions and curiosities,” said Kyle Roemer, information management and analytics solution principal at Slalom San Francisco.

“Sports analytics is one of those passions for Colin, and he exemplified this through competing and winning Sloan’s hackathon,” added Roemer. “It’s a great representation of him pursuing an area he’s passionate about, Slalom supporting him, and ultimately him delivering in a big way.”

In good company

Davy’s performance is just one of a handful of recent Slalom displays of award-winning viz whizzery.

San Francisco’s John Mathis emerged victorious as the Tableau 2014 Iron Viz Champion.

And members of the Slalom information and analytics practice—Slalom New York’s Steven Carter and Slalom Atlanta’s Nelson Davis—created two of the top five Tableau Public vizzes of 2014.

Learn more about Slalom’s Information Management and Analytics practice.


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