Thursday, January 14, 2010

Game 38 - Arkansas @ Mississippi State - Jan. 14, 2010

Game - Arkansas @ Mississippi State - Thursday, January 14, 2010

Line - Mississippi State -14

Result - Mississippi State wine 82-80, but Arkansas covers the spread

This is the perfect kind of game for an official "on the take." An official determined to help Arkansas cover the spread (ie. win outright, or lose by 13 or fewer points) can do so either by letting Arkansas win naturally or by making sure Mississippi State doesn't win by MORE than 13. In other words, the official can alter the spread without affecting the outcome.

Use Calls To Stop Momentum Of The Team You Are Not Helping

Even with a 14-point spread, Mississippi State looked like they were going to blow it open early, taking a quick 12-5 lead and seizing ALL the early momentum. When they threatened to make it a 9 point lead less than 4 minutes into the game, Tony Greene stepped in and called a walk on a Bulldog player driving to the hoop.

But no matter what this officiating crew did to help the Razorbacks, it wasn't enough, as MSU couldn't miss and hit 11 of its first 12 shots to take a 14-point lead and cover the spread less than halfway through the first half.

After the Bulldogs took a 17-point lead with 5 minutes to go in the half, the Razorbacks turned up the defense and the shooting, and the officials turned down their whistles. Not a single call was made as the Hogs bumped their way to an 8-0 run and sliced the MSU lead to single digits. The MSU lead was 12 at the half.

Swallow Your Whistle When Things Are Going Your Way

Although Mississippi State had surged to an early spread-covering lead, a couple of momentum-shifting calls had stopped this surge, and the halftime lead was only 12. As Arkansas began to find its second half rhythm, the officials virtually stopped calling fouls on either team and the Razorbacks began chipping away at the Bulldog lead.

Then, as MSU began to push the lead back into double digits, an imagined hand-check call against a Bulldog was followed by ANOTHER call on the same player, and Arkansas was awarded free throws which cut the lead to 9. An eschewed foul call on Arkansas on the next position allowed the Razorbacks to cut the lead to 7.

The Charge/Block Call. It Can Go Either Way So Make Sure It Goes Your Way

After a brief Mississippi State run extended their lead to 13 with about 10 minutes to go, it looked like the Bulldogs might pull away and dominate (and thus cover the spread.) Enter Tony Greene. Even though he wasn't working under the basket on a Razorback drive to the hoop, he swooped in to call a mysterious block on MSU that baffled even the ESPNU commentators.

With Arkansas seizing the momentum, the officials began ignoring Mississippi State fouls (in particular, one obvious one on a Razorback possession with 5 1/2 minutes to go - a possession that ended in a three-pointer), and the Razorbacks cut the lead to 6 with under 5 minutes to go.

At this point, the spread was not as much in question as the game was. Just as an official "on the take" would like it. With the spread taken care of, let the teams battle it out for the win.

And that's exactly what they did. With what appeared to be good officiating the last 5 minutes of the game, Mississippi State was able to pull out an 82-80 victory... but Arkansas covered the spread.

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