Every Conspiracy Theory You've Ever Had About College Basketball Refs Is True

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↵If you are a fan of college basketball, you know the impotent rage ↵that goes along with virtually any game, when Ed Hightower (above)—it's always ↵Ed Hightower—and two ugly bald white guys make up the rules of ↵basketball as they go along. This year promises to be extra fun since ↵the NCAA added the NBA's no-charge circle without actually adding the circle. ↵

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↵If you're an engineer too, you know that you're being irrational ↵because you want to see your team win and that basketball refereeing is ↵probably poor but fair. You don't believe in black helicopters. ↵

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↵Sorry, rational thinker, but score one for the black helicopter crowd, according to a study co-authored by a professor at Indiana: ↵

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↵⇥An examination of 365 major conference games played during the ↵⇥2004-05 college men's basketball season found a clear pattern of an ↵⇥increased probability of a foul on the team with fewer fouls, the ↵⇥visiting team and the team that is leading. ↵
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↵If you're on the road, or leading, or in better shape foul-wise, ↵you're about to get screwed. You knew this in your heart, and now there ↵are real actual unbiased facts to make it up: yes, that moving ↵screen call was the crappiest crap that's ever been crapped. Yes, that ↵charge was ridiculous. Yes, you should try to make Hightower's head ↵explode with your mind. ↵

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↵The economics professors who ran this study were just like all of ↵us—suspicious—but even they were surprised by the magnitude of the ↵incompetence here: ↵

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↵⇥"We had suspected that, having played and watched ↵⇥basketball," [Kyle J. Anderson, a visiting assistant professor of business economics at Kelley-Indianapolis] added. "But once we started to run the data, I ↵⇥think the magnitude of the effect was much more than we had ever ↵⇥anticipated. We thought that this was going be a very small ↵⇥effect." ↵
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↵The most ridiculous stat dropped: if a home team is ↵trailing in the foul count by five fouls—i.e. they've established that ↵they're considerably more likely to foul than the opponent—69% of the ↵time the next foul goes on the visitors. The effect steadily increases ↵as the disparity grows. Evening the calls up is a real motivator. ↵

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↵This is why Big Ten message boards have been tracking home-road free ↵throw disparities for years. In 2007, home teams took 323 more free throws in ↵conference games. In 2008 it actually got worse, with home teams taking ↵387 more free throws. Some of that is end-of-game fouling by losing road ↵teams—road teams lose a lot in the Big Ten—but disparities that ↵large are about more than that, as the study shows. ↵

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↵This can only be incompetence. If a foul is a foul, then none of ↵these trends would exist. Several of them would be reversed: presumably ↵the team that's ahead is better at basketball and less prone to fouling, ↵and that's even more obviously true for the team with fewer fouls on it. ↵

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↵Let this be cold comfort to you the next time your team goes on the ↵road and Ed Hightower puts your star on the bench for looking at him ↵funny. They are out to get you. ↵

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↵(HT: John Gasaway. Deadspin on the photo.) ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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