Carol Elliott | September 27, 2019
Basketball competitions aren’t always won on the court.
University of Notre Dame graduate business student Peter Zanca recently took home first prize in the 2019 NBA Hackathon, an annual event that challenges teams of students, statisticians, developers and engineers to build tools to solve challenging data problems faced by the NBA.
Zanca, who is pursuing a dual MBA/Master of Science in Business Analytics degree at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, competed in the Hackathon final round on Sept. 21 with teammate C.B. Garrett, a recent graduate of Syracuse University. The competition, held at the NBA office in Secaucus, New Jersey, featured two tracks — basketball analytics and business analytics.
Zanca and Garrett won the basketball analytics track, earning prizes that include lunch with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, tickets to an NBA game, a gift card to the NBA Store and a technology product. A total of 27 teams representing 36 colleges and universities competed.
“Our research project was ‘Challenge Accepted: Identifying Optimal Cases for Exercising NBA Coach’s Challenges,’” said Zanca, who interned this summer with the Indiana Pacers and has been involved with analytics projects for the Notre Dame Athletic Department. "My partner and I used an expected value approach to model the expected points gained on different types of calls that can be challenged under the NBA’s newly implemented coach’s challenge.”
After an initial application process, each team submitted a research abstract and executed a research project using data supplied by the NBA prior to the event. Projects were selected based on their novelty and usefulness.
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