As if the Barry Bonds news was not enough, David Leonhardt in the New York Times reports on some research showing that point shaving in college basketball may be more prevalent than any one involved in the game would care to admit.
Research by Justin Wolfers at the University of Pennsylvania shows that heavy favorites miss covering the spread more often than would be expected. This is a possible sweet spot for point shavers.
Mr. Wolfers has collected the results of nearly every college basketball game over the last 16 years. In a surprisingly large number of them, it turns out that heavy favorites just miss covering the spread. He considered a number of other explanations, but he thinks there is only one that can explain the pattern. Point shaving appears to be occurring in about 5 percent of all games with large spreads.
With March Madness around the corner the folks at the NCAA cannot be happy to see this research publicized. This kind of research cannot provide proof, per se, but can point out anomalies that should be further researched. This is interesting reading for any one interested in sports betting or forensic economics.
The Sports Economist also notes the NYT article and includes a link to the underlying paper. The Freakonomics guys, who know something about forensic economics, note the Wolfers research as well.