Where College Basketball Teams Recruit


Last week, I made an interactive map exploring where different conferences and colleges recruit college football players. Several readers mentioned that they’d like to see the same map and analysis for college basketball.

Sounded like an interesting idea. So here it is.

The graphic below maps out where all of today’s D-I college basketball players, teams, and conferences come from. You can filter it by position, and see views for both the total number of players and players per capita. You can also see which schools and conferences are the most popular in each state.

Click on the map to see the interactive visualization


A couple of differences between this map and the football map are immediately obvious. First, there only 5,300 D-I college basketball players, which is about one-fifth the number of college football players (for this reason, this map is shown by state rather than county). Second, basketball is a much more international sport than football: 14% of basketball players are from outside the United States, compared to about 3% of football players.

The map also reveals a couple other interesting trends:

  1. While most players come from heavily-populated states (as is expected), states in the South have the most players per capita. Relative to the size of their college-aged male populations, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Louisiana produce the most college basketball talent.

  2. College basketball teams appear to do a reasonably good job of protecting their home turf from other recruiters. The ACC, for instance, recruited 32 players out of North Carolina, the most of any state. The Big East, Big-12, Big Ten, and Pac-12 recruited four players total out of North Carolina. Even the SEC, which includes several schools close to North Carolina, has only five North Carolinians.

Where’s Livermore Falls, Maine? #

The map raises another interesting question: Why aren’t there any basketball players from Livermore Falls? While looking at the football map, Twitter user @SandlapperSpike noticed that not only were an astounding 38 players from Androscoggin County, Maine, but they were also all from Livermore Falls, a town of only 3,200 people. After poking around the rosters from ESPN and comparing them to rosters provided by schools, we discovered that while these 38 players do actually exist, many of them are not from Livermore Falls. (See, for example, the Jacksonville Dolphins roster on ESPN and on the university website.)

So what are you, Livermore Falls? A football diamond in the rough? The center of a vast sports conspiracy? Or the hometown of mischievous ESPN intern?

The world demands answers.

Data #

Information on players’ hometowns (as reliable as that apparently is) was provided by ESPN. Geographic information was provided by the Google Maps API. State population data was provided by the U.S. Census. All scripts, visualization code, and data is provided in this GitHub folder.

Benn Stancil is the chief analyst at Mode.


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