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A serious study on point shaving

Between work (our new site design and the NFL kickoff occupied most of my time the last few weeks) and my baby daughter at home, my time for reading random links has been greatly diminished.

That means stuff like this paper from two professors at Temple University - Point Shaving in NCA Basketball: Corrupt Behavior or Statistical Artifact? - hasn’t made the cut. Hey, the PDF is 25 pages and I’d probably need two cups of coffee to properly process their conclusions.

Luckily, the guys at Rush the Court did read it. Their breakdown is here, though it can be summed up in two sentences:

  • The bigger the point spread, the greater incidence of point shaving.
  • This doesn’t apply during the postseason.

How can the authors come to these conclusions? They studied a sample of more than 35,000 games from 1995-2009. If you’re game, read the study and see if the authors’ logic is sound. Common sense indicates there’s ample opportunity for shaving points here and there, which should help hoopheads digest the study’s details. As Rush the Court writes, this is serious stuff.

Regardless of what you believe may cause the statistical anomaly, there appears to be strong evidence that favorites carrying high point spreads are coming up just short of that spread with much more regularity than those in the postseason. And it’s not happening randomly; it’s happening with purpose. ... It’s a difficult issue, but it’s no joke; not only is point shaving a federal crime, but its mere presence (or even just a hint of it) sullies the entire game.

So, I’m making some coffee and setting aside time this week to read the thing myself. Then we can talk more about it.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.