Point shaving has become a catchall phrase for all things that might control the score of a game.
Call it rigging, point shaving, deliberately missing shots, faking injuries – there are myriad ways for a player or coach or referee can impact the final score.
And how do you detect it, without some admission of guilt, loose lips or a bettor who has bragged about winning all his bets on a certain team?
In the Auburn basketball probe reported first this week by Yahoo!, guard Varez Ward is being investigated. But you can’t point to the Tigers’s record against the spread as evidence of wrongdoing or even to raise suspicions.
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In their final 15 regular-season games, Auburn was 12-3 ATS, meaning a bettor who backed the Tigers every time would have won 12 bets. That’s hardly the type of record that would indicate ‘rigging’ or ‘throwing’ games.
The report indicates at least two games are under investigation. The Jan. 25 game at Arkansas where Auburn covered the 9.5-point spread in a 56-53 loss and the Feb. 7 home loss to Alabama, where they were routed 68-50 as 5-point underdogs.
In the first game, Varez played just 19 seconds in that game, committing a turnover before leaving the game with a leg injury. The report leads one to believe the injury was faked, taking one of Auburn`s best players off the court.
But that did not guarantee an Auburn loss or even ATS loss. They covered the spread.
In the second game, Ward was again a seeming non-factor, playing just 17 minutes off the bench. He had three points on 1-for-5 shooting and had 6 turnovers. There were three technical fouls in the first half vs Auburn, but none against Ward.
As a team, Auburn committed 20 turnovers and made just 12 of 26 free throws. If anything, it would seem the while team was in on the act with such a horrible performance. Did Ward rate suspicion because he had been dominant just days before, scoring 24 in a 91-88 loss at No. 20 Mississippi State?
Or maybe we are missing the point by focusing on the point spread? In those 15 games where they were 12-3 ATS, the UNDER was 11-4. That means scoring was less than expected in 11 of those games. The first game went well under 133 points (109) while the second game was precariously close to going over (118 points and the betting line was 121 points).