If you remove the “ill” from Sammy Villegas’ name, you’re left with a moniker straight out of central casting for some cheesy 50s Sin City flick – Sammy Vegas. You can easily picture Sammy sliding in and out of cocktail lounges up and down Fremont Street, looking for the next mark on his latest hustle.
Sammy Vegas’ Hustle Just Flew
Unfortunately for the University of Toledo and the game of college basketball in general, Sammy V(ill)egas may just be the latest black eye on a sport that periodically must deal with the ugly spectre of organized crime’s influence around the margins of the game. In other words, another pointshaving scandal. A little over a year ago, in reference to the Tim Donaghy officiating scandal in the NBA, we wrote the following in a piece called It Happens More Than We Think:
A recent statistical analysis from the Wharton School at Penn suggests that one percent (~500) of NCAA basketball games from 1989-2005 fell into an outlier that suggests gambling-related pointspread corruption. This dovetails with a 2003 NCAA report that states that 1.1% of NCAA football players and 0.5% of NCAA basketball players accepted money to play poorly in a game (extrapolating from the sample suggests that this affects ~21 basketball and ~112 football players annually).
Well, it appears that we now know two of those players from the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Sammy Villegas has been indicted by federal prosecutors for conspiracy to influence sporting events by bribery, and all indications are that he is now cooperating with the government to help bring down the Mafiosos who were supporting this endeavor. Villegas is also alleged to have paid an unnamed teammate to help him pointshave. According to published reports of the indictment:
On Feb. 4, 2006, Villegas placed a call to a conspirator in Michigan at about 12:15 p.m. Villegas made another call to a conspirator in Michigan at 12:29 p.m. He made another at 3:57 p.m. On that same day, according to the indictment, Villegas is accused of intentionally missing two free throws in a game against “Central State University.” The box score for Feb. 4, 2006, however, shows that Toledo beat conference rival Central Michigan 78-62 that day. The home game tipped off at 7 p.m. Villegas came off the bench to play 21 minutes, hitting his only shot of the game, a 3-pointer, and missing two free throws.
What’s odd about that game is that, according to RJ Bell at Pregame.com, the final Vegas spread on it was Toledo -15 points. Despite Villegas’ alleged best (er, worst) efforts, Toledo ended up covering the spread by one point anyway, which would have blown a lot of money of some dangerous folks. Since the indictment only mentions this one game, we don’t know how often or how deep Villegas got himself into this mess, but just looking at his statistics for those two seasons compared to the previous two, it is apparent that something was seriously weighing on his mind (or his wallet).
As you can see, his numbers during his last two years are down across the board, which is unusual for an upperclass player who isn’t injured or recruited over. Shooting is precipitously worse in every area, and minutes, scoring and rebounding are also down, as expected. What really caught our eye, though was Villegas’ assist numbers. He’d shown a decent propensity for finding open teammates his first two seasons, but in his last two he hardly ever passed the ball to a teammate in a scoring position. Is this circumstantial evidence that he was wilfully not seeing those openings like he was? We think so. The USAO for the E.D.Mich. can send it payment to us COD.
For what it’s worth, his coach doesn’t believe the accusations.