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March 9, 2012
Reports broke on Thursday from Yahoo! Sports' Charles Robinson that the FBI was investigating Auburn guard Varez Ward in a point-shaving probe.
Robinson's report called into question two games that the FBI was honing in on. A Jan. 25 game at Arkansas where Auburn lost 56-53, and a Feb. 7 home game against Alabama where Auburn lost 68-50.
For now, they are only allegations, but what do the numbers say?
In the two games in question, here's what Ward did: Against Arkansas on the road, Ward was injured in the first minute and failed to return. Against Alabama at home, Ward scored only three points and committed six turnovers in 17 minutes.
In the three games between the Jan. 25 Arkansas loss and the Feb. 7 Alabama loss, Ward scored a combined 53 points in 87 minutes of play, and committed only three combined turnovers.
[ RELATED: Robinson talks about Auburn probe ]
But here's the strange part, in Ward's last 12 games played, Auburn was 10-2 against the spread according to Covers.com. Auburn was 12-4 against the spread in SEC play.
In addition, Ward only started four of Auburn's last twelve games, coming off the bench in the last seven games he participated in. Five of Ward's last seven games he played, he only committed one turnover per game and scored in double-figures in four of five.
Ward averaged 6.7 points and three turnovers per game in his three full starts in the last twelve, and in games where Ward came off the bench, he averaged 10.8 points and 2.4 turnovers per game.
Some have said the over/under is a better indicator of point-shaving, where a player, especially a guard, is able to dictate tempo. Auburn went under in nine of Ward's last twelve games, and went under in 15 of 23 games.
But is that due to one player, or a change in offensive philosophy? Auburn coach Tony Barbee said this after the Tigers' competitive loss to Kentucky on Jan. 11.
"We changed a little bit of the style of how we have to play, so that was a big change too," said Barbee. "We had to grind it out a little bit more, and that is the type of team we have to be."
[ RELATED: Robinson: Auburn being investigated ]
Auburn finished the season averaging just 63 points per game, 58 per game in conference play. In Auburn's SEC Tournament loss on Thursday to Ole Miss, they were a four point underdog. Auburn lost by 14, only scoring 54 points.
Four different sportsbook managers told Covers.com Thursday afternoon that they hadn't heard or seen anything suspicious with Auburn games.
What exactly has led to Ward's inconsistencies? We don't know. Yahoo! Sports' Robinson claims Auburn players were concerned enough about the potential of point-shaving to notify the Auburn coaching staff about it.
Auburn reacted swiftly and in line with proper protocol with the FBI, NCAA, and the SEC. The Tigers' proactive response may mitigate any damages to the program down the road. As for Ward, his fate is certainly a precarious one.
But one has to wonder if the Tigers' quick pursuit and addition of Florida combo-guard Brian Greene Jr. is an indicator of what the Auburn staff thinks the chances of Ward ever suiting up in an Auburn uniform again.