A slam dunk: FSU researchers take on the science of basketball

| Wed, 03/09/22
FSU expert sources graphic

With Selection Sunday nearly upon us, the sports world is primed for March Madness. Who will be this year’s Cinderella story? Who will go home early? And which teams will make it to the Final Four?

Florida State University Associate Professor of Physics Hanwei Gao and Assistant Professor of Sport Management David Pifer break down the science of basketball. Both are available to speak to journalists who are covering the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments.

Hanwei Gao, associate professor of physics, College of Arts and Sciences,

Gao’s research focuses on solid-state nanomaterials with photonic and optoelectronic functions. In a new video, he breaks down the fundamental physics concepts behind basketball, alongside FSU forward Harrison Prieto.

“We all know you want to shoot the ball with backspin. The reason is that with backspin you can create the so-called soft touch on the rim of the basket. The aerodynamics would make sure the ball would follow the right trajectory. This would give you an effectively bigger target to shoot. This is all something the basketball player in the future could develop. We advance science, we advance basketball.”

David Pifer, assistant professor, Department of Sport Management, College of Education, david.pifer@fsu.edu

Pifer’s research focuses on sports analytics—the use of data and statistical methods to help sport organizations and individuals make better decisions. He is primarily concerned with variables related to on-field/on-court team, player and coach performance, and how analytics can help these groups enhance their decision-making processes.

“Whether placing money on the point spread or filling out brackets in the spirit of friendly competition, there is no shortage of people interested in predicting the outcomes of March Madness games. To this end, data analytics provide participating ‘bracketologists’ with supplementary knowledge that can help them minimize personal biases and examine the validity of the numerous anecdotes regularly touted by members of the sport media. Though a lot of ‘noise’ is present in single-elimination competitions, analytics can provide marginal gains to those making decisions in settings of high uncertainty.”