Zion Williamson dunks for Duke against Virginia. Feb 9, 2019; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) dunks the ball against the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half at John Paul Jones Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As neural networks and artificial intelligence operations, like Conversational AI, have grown more advanced, more sites have incorporated artificial text. A very basic example would be how Yahoo Fantasy uses it for weekly recaps and grades, among other things.

But as with all automation, there’s been a morbid curiosity as to whether sportswriters could lose their jobs to a machine capable of taking in stats and play-by-play information and spitting out a rudimentary game recap in seconds. We’re not quite there yet, thankfully, and we may never be, but the Associated Press is still pressing forward. They’ve used AI to do minor league baseball recaps for a few years now, but those games would have otherwise gone uncovered altogether.

Now, the AP is taking their next step in the process, automating college basketball game previews.

Via SportsTechie:

The Associated Press is automating all previews for NCAA Division I men’s basketball games following successful tests of the technology for MLB-affiliated minor league baseball games.

The news platform is deploying natural language generation from Automated Insights to automatically turn data from STATS into narratives without human input. While the AP has typically provided previews for all NCAA Tournament games, this marks the first time it will offer previews for over 5,000 regular-season games. Automated stories previewing the matchups will begin appearing on the wire the week of Feb. 11.

“We’re pleased to deliver significantly more content of value to our customers,” said Barry Bedlan, AP’s director of sports products. “Given the large number of college games played each season, using automation as a tool to more thoroughly cover this sport makes sense.”

It does make some sense, for sure. A college basketball game preview has a very short shelf-life, and unlike the NBA or MLB where there are also plenty of games in quick succession, there are so many more teams in college basketball that the content demand is huge, and not every team has multiple beat writers. They’re also rarely going to be essential; for big matchups like Duke-Virginia this past weekend, there was plenty of coverage in the buildup, but for a random Sun Belt game in January that wouldn’t have otherwise gotten a preview, there will now at least be something.

In the long run, though, it’s certainly a development to watch. Sports media isn’t exactly a booming industry for the people in it already, after all.


About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.