Sunday, March 29, 2009


I have been asked a number of times on radio shows and once when speaking about the book at my university library if I think that the games are influenced by point shaving.

My regular answer is that they are not and yesterday provided some more evidence to support it.

Shaving, for those readers unaware of it, refers to a practice of deliberately reducing a differential in a game's outcome. A criminal might suggest to a player that instead of the team winning by 7 why not win by just 5. A win is a win. If a spread is 6, the criminal and any conspirator might rationalize that to shave would be harmless. The team would win and a bettor would win. The team would win by 5 and the bettor would win because the 6 point spread would render the bettor, better by one point. This logic is convenient, irrational, worthy of ridicule, and reprehensible.

Nevertheless, there certainly have been instances when shaving has occurred with scandals in the 50s, 60s, 80s, and recently in the nba when an official was accused of and admitted to shaving points by making strange officiating decisions to influence a score.

I have been curious to see how the ends of tournament games might be affected by strange behavior. I have not detected any strange behavior. The players and coaches seem to be unaware of the spread entirely.

Yesterday, for example, the end of the Connecticut game with Missouri was a classic case when the game was won on the court, but people in Las Vegas suffered infarctions. The spread in the game was 5 1/2 points, Connecticut was up by 7, and Missouri had the ball with a few seconds left. The game was over. A Missouri player dribbled the ball and with less than anything approaching enthusiasm drove aimlessly to the basket. He was unimpeded as he should have been. The last thing CT would want to do in that scenario was foul. As he drove to the basket people in Las Vegas held their collective breath as the Missouri player flipped a shot up without much in the way of concern regarding the success of the effort. As it turned out, the ball rolled around the rim and out. No big deal was made of this on the court, by the players, by the coaches, or by the announcers. If shaving was prevalent, someone, somewhere, other than las vegas, would have reacted to this event. That ball rolling around cost some people hundreds if not thousands of dollars and made others hundred if not thousands richer. The ball goes in, the differential is 5 and someone with 5 1/2 is a winner. The ball bounces out, the 5 1/2 is one and half points short. There was no reaction on the court. If you listened carefully you might have heard the groans from Nevada, but not on the court where the games was played.

This could be naive, but I dont think I am wrong. I doubt that anyone on that court knew of the spread or was concerned with it.

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