Sunday, March 28, 2010

great coaches win

I mention in the Madness of March that there are several clever tee shirts worn by the avocational bettors with whom I engaged during the weekend. One shirt read, "Good Coaches Win, Great Coaches Cover." The reference is to the fact that winning, to a bettor, is relatively insignificant and what is paramount to the bettor is whether the team that wins can cover the spread.

While I have occasionally wondered if coaches are aware of the spread and make any decisions based on trying to beat the spread as well as the opponent, after watching hundreds of college games I can not remember more than one or two times when it crossed my mind that there was, indeed, a coach's awareness of the spread at the conclusion of the game. I do mention one of those occasions in the book, but even then I was certainly not sure, and more significantly, the times such thoughts have registered in my consciousness are infinitesimal.

Today Michigan State a two point favorite was at the foul line for two shots in a tied game with 1.8 seconds left. The player for State hit the first free throw. Then Tennessee called time out apparently to either ice the shooter or to plan an inbounds play. After that timeout, Michigan State called timeout for reasons I could not fathom. Then when I saw what transpired, I got it. The player resumed his position at the foul line and then deliberately missed the foul shot. The strategy was to decrease the 1.8 seconds by the time that would elapse when the ball was rebounded, and also to compel Tennessee to either score in 1.8 seconds with a rebounded ball going who knows where, or to call a timeout to attempt a shot. They did the latter, did not score, and MSU won by one point.

If the coach had any desire to cover the spread, there is no way he would have instructed his player to deliberately miss the shot. Missing the shot wins the game but loses the bet. Despite the notions of conspiracy theorists, I do not think coaches care a whole lot about beating the spreads.

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