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Daily blurbs from the Guru
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3/29 - Spring training is winding down. You've gotten about as much of a sneak preview as you're going to get. If you've been working on your rosters for awhile, then you probably have more options than you need. Time to make some cuts! If you've been procrastinating, then you'd better get started. There are plenty of opportunities, but not many (if any) slam dunks. (Oops, wrong sport.)

For the TSN games, your rosters must be set by noon EST on Sunday. However, since there is only one game on Sunday, if you have no players on Anaheim or Cleveland, then nothing is lost by waiting until Monday to draft your lineup. And some managers have decided to postpone until at least Tuesday, conceding a day's worth of points in order to get a look at the first games and the first repricing. Pick your poison, and get set up. Just be aware that waiting until the last moment (regardless of the day) is seldom a good idea for TSN games, as server congestion can really throttle your ability to make last minute (or last hour) pickups.

For Swirve, you have until Monday. For some reason, they have decided to ignore the Sunday game. So don't draft Colon or Washburn, hoping for an early jump on the competition. Just get your rosters set by Monday morning. For those who don't want to pay for TSN's Ultimate game, and who don't like the watered down Basic version, you might want to try Swirve. The game is free, and you'll have a lot more managing to do in this game than in the TSN Basic game. Give it a try.

Progressive Sports Challenge only allows weekly transactions, so waiting for a late start is not a viable option. Usually, the trade week is from Monday-Sunday, but the first trade week is an 8-day period from Sunday-Sunday. The opening roster freeze is at 7pm EST on Sunday. If you're looking for a challenging game that doesn't require daily decision making, then you really ought to give this a trial. The prizes are outstanding, and they do offer a free version.

Need a crash course on who's hot, who's starting, and who's sidelined? Check out the baseball message forum. You'll find plenty to chew on, whether it's ideas on general strategy, or plenty of peeks at others' roster ideas. It's always a good idea to know what your competition is thinking about. Maybe you'll find some pearls of wisdom that you hadn't considered before. Or maybe you'll take comfort in the knowledge that some of your prime candidates are still relatively undiscovered.

Let's get started. Time to make some mistakes!

3/28 - Maybe the best Hoops strategy is to wait until a player misses a game due to injury, and then pick him up. Shawn Marion missed a game last week, and then averaged better than 60 TSNP in his next three. Tracy McGrady missed a game after a nasty spill, and then picked up right where he left off, with back-to-back games of 46 and 52 TSNP.

But then, it didn't work for Rasheed Wallace. He missed Monday's game, and then returned last night to post 1.5 TSNP in just 11 minutes. So there goes that theory.

With Market Madness and Baseball preparations consuming my recent attention, I haven't commented much on basketball of late. Over the past 15 days, Jason Kidd has been the top point producer, averaging just over 50 TSNP/G for 9 games. That's pretty remarkable, given that it includes his last two games which combined for only 57 TSNP. The only other player with more than 400 TSNP over the last 15 days is Ben Wallace, who has been a rebounding and blocking monster. With 20 rebounds (and 8 blocks) last night, Wallace passed Tim Duncan for the league lead in rebounds, and could become only the fourth player in history to lead the NBA in both blocks and rebounds. It's essentially a 2-way race in rebounding, and his lead in blocks is insurmountable - even if he sat for the balance of the season.

Baseball note: I realized yesterday that I inadvertantly had some incorrect player prices in the sortable stats (and the Assimilator) for TSN's free baseball game. The Ultimate prices have been correct all along. The draft prices for the Basic game are the same as for the Ultimate game, although they will go their separate ways once the season begins. The prices are now corrected, but if you have an old printout or download that you've been relying on, you'd better doublecheck to be sure you have correct prices. Sorry for the goof.

3/27 - It was a good night to be a Texas guard. Or Chris Webber.

Webber led all fantasy producers with 64 TSNP. But you could have done almost as well with any starting guard from either Houston or Dallas: Mobley (54.5), Finley (54), Francis (53), and Nash (45).

On the flip side, it was not such a good night to be Jason Kidd, who managed only 19.5 TSNP in a blowout loss to Atlanta. He sat out the 4th quarter with "flu-like symptoms", but one wonders whether he was mostly sick of the result. In spite of their being on the right side of that game, the most popularly held Atlanta players didn't benefit, however. Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jason Terry only combined for 45.5 TSNP.

Here's a baseball thought. Houston and Arizona are likely to have some popular pitchers this year. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are marquis studs, and Houston's combo of Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller are also likely to attract some early interest. Both of those teams play in Coors Field during the second week of the season. While Miller might escape a Rocky Mountain start (assuming he pitches the day before), the other three seem likely to work in the rarified air. If you draft any of these players, you probably want to rethink any plans to make them long term holds.

3/26 - I did some tinkering with the Market Madness standings yesterday, adding an option that lists only GuruPatrons. This is relevant because GuruPatrons are the only entrants who are eligible to receive runner-up prizes. (See the description of "Memento Prizes" in the contest rules.) For this purpose, I am including immediate family members of GuruPatrons as well. If you should appear on this list and do not, please let me know. I used several methods to identify GuruPatrons, but some may have escaped detection.

Yesterday afternoon, I buckled down to start some serious baseball research. For now, I'm just going through team-by-team discussions, trying to identify players who might assume a much more meaningful role this year. Those are likely to be the underpriced players in any salary cap game that uses last year's stats as a draft pricing basis.

In additional to general research, I strongly recommend that you read through some of the preseason threads at the baseball forum. For a good recap of many strategy issues, you might want to start here. Another thread raises the question about whether it makes sense to start the season with Randy, Pedro, or Curt? Or how about Considering 5 Closers to begin the season? Those threads also contain links to other useful threads. If you need a crash course in advance of Sunday's opener, the forum is probably the best place to get it.

3/25 - The Players Championship provided a lot of volatile action this weekend, including many lead changes, a few aces, numerous drowned balls, and an improbable finish. Unfortunately, a lot of people missed it, as it went head-to-head with the NCAA regional finals. Fortunately, the "jump" button was working on my remote control, so I managed to multi-task reasonably effectively.

The Market Madness situation has now clarified somewhat, although I haven't run through the eight remaining combinations to see what the ultimate possibilities are. Just looking at the unit returns, though, provides some interesting observations:

  • after the first round, it looked like the #5 seed basket would be among the best shorts. Three of the #5 seeds were upset in the first round, with only Indiana surviving... and surviving, and surviving. Now that seed basket is one of the better longs, with a net return of +G$23, and no further downside potential.

  • The #1 seed basket could still turn out to be one of the best shorts, and cannot be a good long. With two #1 seeds facing each other on Saturday, that basket has a guaranteed return of +16 for the next round. But if the Kansas/Maryland winner goes on to take the overall title, the basket will earn a net return of +G$8, at best. A loss in the finals would give it a net return of -G$33.

  • Among conference baskets, the big winners will clearly be the Big 12 and the Big 10. The losers will be the SEC and Conference USA. A lot of entries shorted the correct conferences, but the long sides were more scattered. While 132 entrants went long on the Big 12, another 82 shorted that conference. The most popular conference on the long side was the ACC, but Maryland will now have to win out in order for that basket to post a positive return.

  • Indiana currently has the best upside potential. Only 14 entries have them as an individual long (vs. 131 shorts), although they are also represented on the long side in 38 #5 seed baskets and 78 Big 10 baskets. Only one entry has all three of those longs, but it's not currently ranked in the top 100 overall.
No more activity until Saturday. Good thing, because I need to start planning my baseball drafts.

3/22 - Upsets are pretty common in the NCAA tournament. But last night offered some decidedly uncommon results:

  • The Indiana-Duke game was the 22nd time that a #5 seed faced a #1 seed in the Sweet Sixteen. The #1 seeds had won 18 of the previous 21. Now it's 18 of 22.

  • There had never been a game between a #8 and #12 seed in the history of the tournament. So there wasn't much history to put last night's UCLA-Missouri into perspective. Missouri's win, however, makes it the most successful #12 seed ever (since the tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1985). No team seeded #12 (or higher) has ever advanced to the Elite Eight. Teams seeded #11 have done it three times, and #10 seeds have been there five times. But Missouri is now in uncharted waters.

  • Only once before have two teams with double-digit seeds advanced to the Elite Eight in the same year. That was in 1990, when Texas (10) and Loyola Marymount (11) both lost in that round.
Beware those contest entries with either Missouri or Kent State (or the #10 seeds, #12 seeds, or Big 12). The bonus for advancing to the Final Four is 10 times the seed value. Two entrants have all five of those units in their long positions, and another 12 have four of those five long holdings. Aye carumba!

Meanwhile, only two #1 seeds remain. Nothing unusual about that. In the seventeen years that the field has included 64 teams, only three times have more than two #1 seeds advanced to the Final Four. Seven times, only one #1 seed survived, and seven tourneys produced two #1 seeds in the Final Four. Never before have zero #1 seeds made it to that round, so the historical odds suggest that it's about 50-50 whether both Maryland and Kansas get there, or whether just one makes it. But youneverknow.

In any event, if last night was any indication, it should be a very entertaining weekend. Bring it on!

3/21 - Sometimes I think I'd be much better off if I were less attentive.

A few weeks ago, I got burned when I dumped Elton Brand after a DNP. He went on to have 4 great games after that, and the premature shift cost me almost 100 TSNP.

Then, last Sunday morning, I was all set to pick up Allen Iverson for a brief Payton interlude. But Allen had just missed a practice, and playing was a game time decision. Given that his wrist was hurt, even if he did play, I wondered if his shooting would be off. So I looked for alternatives. Andre Miller had the same schedule, as did Kobe Bryant. Miller had played the night before, but had also been hurt the prior week, and I wondered if the 4-in-5 might reduce his effectiveness. Kobe, on the other hand, was healthy. He hadn't been producing up to Kobe standards, but with games against Dallas (2) and San Antonio, I though maybe it was a good time for Kobe and the Lakers to step up their game.

What a Bozo! (me and Kobe) The original plan, Iverson, produced 143 TSNP in his three games. Andre Miller had 131.5 TSNP in his three. Kobe? 74.5 TSNP. Suffice it to stay that neither he nor the Lakers stepped up. They got stepped on.

Had I just stuck with my original plans on both occasions, that team would now be ranked #6, rather than #15.. Granted, I've (obviously) made some good calls as well. But when you get close to the top, every decision gets magnified, and it's easy to identify the boneheaded ones.

I know, I know... I should just shut up.

3/20 - A lotta big points last night. Jason Kidd had a triple-double in a controversial loss at Cleveland. But Chris Webber had the top fantasy output, with 70.5 TSNP and 73 PSP. Of course, with his recent DNP, and a lighter than average schedule next week, he isn't widely owned right now (although those who inserted him during Duncan's 3-day vacation got a nice return). Consequently, Kidd's 68 TSNP output probably impacted more teams. But Kidd is so widely owned that his big night might not have made much of a relative difference in the standings.

So maybe the more critical games were from Tracy McGrady (64 TSNP) and Andre Miller (53.5), each who appear on about 15-20% of TSN Ultimate rosters. McGrady's worst game in the past week was 59.5 TSNP, and he's averaged better than 50 TSNP/G over the past month. En fuego! I suspect the only reason he's not more widely owned is that Orlando's schedule hasn't been as dense as that of many other teams (14 games in the past 30 days). But at better than 50 TSNP/G, that hasn't mattered much. Only 3 players have produced more total TSNP in the past 30 days - Kidd (16 games), Iverson(15), and Shaq(16). (Hard to imagine that Shaq has now gone for a full month without missing a game.)

3/19 - There's quite a battle going for the top division in TSN Ultimate Hoops. This morning, the RotoGuru Belly division leads the GuruPatron division by 9 TSNP, which is an average of less than 1 TSNP per team! The Puget Sound Fantasy League, another Gurupie division, is about 600 TSNP back, but should remain in contention for the final month. And the division, which held the top spot for awhile, could still challenge with a good stretch drive. Unless you're still in contention for the #1 worldwide ranking (and, barring a miracle or some sort of divine intervention, I'm not), then this is the only race left with cash prize implications.

I got the PSC version of the Baseball Assimilator loaded yesterday, and all of the covered games (TSN, Swirve, and PSC) are now accommodated by the sortable stats and the Assimilator. Please let me know if you detect any errors, or if you notice any players which need to be added.

3/18 - Well, that was fun! By the way, in case you were wondering, a Saluki is a breed of dog..

48 games down, and 15 to go. Hopefully, your shorts are disappearing quickly (so to speak), and your longs are surviving. Market Madness Contest standings are always a little difficult to interpret until the Final Four, but the entries to watch are those that have plenty of longs remaining, because that's were the sustained upside comes from. If any of the double-digit seeds survive that long, they'll earn a 100-120 point bonus (10 x seed value). That's unlikely, but... youneverknow. In any event, last year's grand prize winner accumulated a total score of 693, and two years ago the top score was 907. So we still have a long way to go.

With an impending three days of non-madness, it's time to refocus on other sports. The NBA has only one month of regular season remaining, and if you haven't started your sprint to the finish, you might want to get going. I haven't devoted any blurb-space to the NBA for the past week. But during that time, the top TSN producer was Jason Kidd, with 207 TSNP over four games. Tracy McGrady was #2 with 197. Tim Duncan led all forwards with 196.5 TSNP. And there were no centers in the top 20. Even Shaq, with four games, could only manage 144 TSNP, ranking only 22nd for the week.

Baseball is less than 2 weeks away! Fantasy draft activity is already intense, and if you haven't started thinking about it yet (and I haven't), then it's about time to kick into gear. I never seem to get off to a fast start in baseball, and maybe my inability to focus during March is a significant contributing factor. Madness!

3/15 - So far, the tournament is going according to form. A few upsets were popularly predicted. A few weren't. A few top seeds had a scare. And most contest brackets are already in shambles. Maybe that's why they call today "The Ides of March". This morning, we're all saying, "if only I'd...", and if we aren't feeling that way this morning, just wait until tonight.

In my Market Madness contest, Gonzaga was selected as a long on 231 entries, about 3/8 of all slates. They were shorted only 21 times, and the net imbalance of 210 longs was the largest net long position in the contest. (Click on the link for a complete tabulation of contest entries.) Pepperdine and USC were also popular longs that came up short. Some of the other popular picks did well, including Kent State and Missouri. The #12 seed basket was a good long, and the complementary #5 seed basket is working out well as a popular short. But it's still way too early to sense the theme of this tournament.

Ditto for the early contest standings. In the early rounds, the standings are dominated by entries with a heavy short imbalance. If you raised G$300 (by shorting a lot of high seeds or baskets), but spent only G$100 on longs, then you start the contest with a net return (i.e., score) of G$200. Others, who started with a balanced set of picks (long value similar to short value), began with a score near zero. After the first couple of rounds, the scores begin to converge, but the nature of the beast is that shorts (good shorts, at least) contribute their favorable value early, while the best longs generate their value in the later rounds. So don't put too much stock in the early standings. It is interesting to see how different people construct their entries. But to do well, you'll need to have some productive longs, and those returns just take awhile to build.

For those who may have forgotten to enter, or for those who just felt it was too complicated to figure out, (or for those who already feel like they need a "Mulligan"), I've set up the contest site to continue to accept entries - with two caveats:

  1. If you have a valid entry in the contest, then those picks are locked in, and you cannot make any changes.
  2. If you don't have an official entry in the contest, you can submit a late entry - but it will not be included in the official contest standings.
If you submit a late entry, you can track your scoring progress using the "My Score" link. This lets the system do the scoring arithmetic for you, letting you see how that set of picks would have fared. (Your total score is the rightmost number on the bottom row, but it also appears in the heading, just below your entry name.) Many people find that the scoring framework becomes much more intuitive after they've had a chance to follow the progress of a set of picks through a tournament, so here's a chance for you to try an "off the record" practice entry.

3/14 - Especially for the few days when everyone is picking their brackets, and then for the sub-regional rounds, the national sports landscape is consumed by only one event. Spring training, the NBA, golf,... if you want to escape notice in any of those areas, this is probably the best time to do it. On the other hand, that didn't work so well for Ruben Rivera.

Overall Market Madness registrations appear to be on par with last year's contest. But only 368 sets of picks have been submitted as of 10am this morning. Last year, there were more than 600 submissions. Either there will be a lot more no-shows this year, or there will be a big rush of activity during the last two hours. Or both. Just don't get caught short at the last moment. Servers have been known to behave strangely when put under duress.

Once the tournament begins, I'll post the consolidated list of picks. I should have that done before the early games are completed. And I hope to have the scoring and standings updated after each group of games is completed. Today, that will probably include updates by approx. 3pm (EST), 6pm, 10pm, and whenever the late games are done.

This is one of the best days of the year to be able to "work" at home. Bring it on!

3/13 - We're coming down to the final 24 hours. The first tipoff on Thursday is at 12:20 EST, which is when your Market Madness picks will be locked in.

It can be instructive to see what a successful set of picks looks like. Look at the results from last year's overall winner, Fishin'Rod. On the short side, he had 4 conference baskets, four seed baskets, and only two individual teams. When you consider that 75% of the teams are eliminated within the first two games, it does make sense that baskets are attractive short candidates, since they allow you to bulk up on those early exits. Of course, it is important to get the right baskets, because some will undoubtedly be the best performing longs as well.

On the long side, he had four individual teams, including three of the Final Four teams. He also had the three best conference baskets, and the two top seed baskets (#11 and #12). Only two of his picks were losers - Xavier (a #11 seed), and the #2 seed basket. That was a pretty remarkable success rate. And it seemed to reflect a reasonably optimal mix of teams and baskets.

For the basket-free competition, PureVaj led the way. Once again, his long side included 3 of the Final Four teams, plus Gonzaga. His other longs were less successful, mostly long shots that didn't pan out. He also only picked seven teams on the long side, even though he had some funds available to make a few more picks. Perhaps discretion was the better part of valor - although I think I'd have been inclined to pick up a few more underdogs.

On the short side, his successes represented two themes. He shorted six teams seeded #5-7, and did well when four of them lost in the first round, while the other two dropped in round 2. He also shorted four teams seeded either #1 or #2. Neither of his #2 seeds reached the Sweet 16, and neither of the #1 seeds made it to the Final Four, thereby getting a positive contribution from all four of these teams.

Many of their successful picks were relatively popular last year. Overall, the top three longs were Arizona, Maryland, and Duke, which all advanced to the Final Four. The most heavily bought conference baskets were the ACC and the Pac-10, and they turned out to be the two best performing conferences as well. The two biggest shorts were Illinois and Iowa State, a #1 and #2 seed which both underwhelmed (and therefore were good performing shorts). And the worst performing conference, the Big Ten, was also the most heavily shorted conference. So the collective wisdom of the field of contestants was pretty much on target.

Not all of the popular picks worked out, however. Florida was a popular long, but as a #3 seed which lost in the second round, it was a costly mistake. And USC was a popular short (135 shorts vs. only 26 longs), but they turned out to be the 5th best performing team, a #6 seed which upset both #3 Boston College and #2 Kentucky before succumbing to Duke in the Elite Eight. So somewhere along the line, it's probably good to deviate from the consensus view. If nothing else, you'll need some differentiation to separate yourself from the pack. Of course, in many instances, we know which way the separation will probably go.

But maybe, just maybe...

3/12 - I thought it might be helpful to dust off some Market Madness strategy hints from prior years. Following is a slightly amended "recast" of the blurb from 3/14/01:

I know the rules are somewhat daunting, especially for newcomers. But it's really not as complex as it seems - and you don't really have to understand all of the nuances. Here are a few basic hints:

  • To "go long" means to buy. You want to buy teams that you think will do better than their seed expectations. For example, if you think any team other than a #1 seed will get to the Final Four, then you should buy that team.
  • Shorts have the same return pattern as longs, but the sign is reversed. If you short a team, you are betting against it. So, you want to short teams that you think will do worse than their seed expectation. If you think a #1 seed will lose before the Final Four, then you should probably short that team, particularly if you think it will lose in the Sweet 16 round or earlier.
  • It is usually not a good idea to short a team seeded #9-16. They are "expected" to lose their first game, so it's difficult for them to do worse than expectations. While it is possible for a short of a #9-16 to work out OK, you should only do this if you understand the implications. You are much better off to short teams that will lose to underdogs.
  • You must short exactly 10 units. These units can represent single teams, or a basket of teams. There are no economies in owning a basket unit - they are just the sum of the underlying teams. Basket units simply allow you to "lever up" your holdings. For example, if you think Duke will underachieve, you might want to short them, the #1 seed basket, and the ACC conference basket. Just be aware that the basket units expose you to other teams, and even if you're right about Duke, a good showing by Maryland (for example) could cancel out the benefit in those two baskets.
  • There is a separate prize this year for the best result excluding basket units. Since you can enter three times, you might want to set up at least one entry without any basket units. While all entries will be eligible for this prize, basket unit returns will be zeroed out in the calculation. For a fuller description of prizes, see the rules.
  • For the confused, the best tool to help you is the scoring simulator. Simply fill out your expected winners for all 63 games, and see what the resulting returns would be. Then, short the worst ten, and buy the best ten (if you can afford them). You might also want to use the simulator to test the results of some of the pundits' picks. For example, yesterday morning I listened to Jay Bilas make his picks, so I compared his results with mine. Obviously, we're both wrong. But it does help to point out some of the risks, and to suggest some of the alternatives.
I also found this Brackets for Dummies article at CBS.Sportsline, which offers some general hints on filling in your bracket. Nothing earthshaking, but good food for thought.

3/11 - The NCAA Hoops tournament is one of the most anticipated spectacles in sports, and one of the most "contested" as well. By that, I mean that there are probably more contests of varying formats related to this tournament than for any other sports championship series, including the World Series and the Super Bowl. But for all of the hoopla, much of the real action is collapsed over a very short time span. There are only three days to work out your bracket picks. And four days later, 75% of all of the teams have already been eliminated. The nature of the beast.

I thought I would start the week with some early reflections on picks for RotoGuru's Market Madness Contest. To excel (including basket units), you'll need a mix of teams and baskets. Here is how last year's contest would have been optimized (with 20/20 hindsight, of course):

  • Teams: You definitely want to be long the ultimate winner, as well as any Final Four teams that are not #1 seeds. Beyond that, it's good to own any Sweet 16 team seeded #9-16. On the short side, you want the teams seeded #1-4 that get upset in the first two rounds. Any team that survives to the Sweet 16 is probably not going to be a good short.
  • Conference baskets: Last year, conference baskets were among the biggest winners and losers. The Pac 10 was the absolute best unit to be long, due mostly to the success of Arizona (#2 seed in the Final Four) and USC (a #6 seed in the Elite 8). The ACC was the 5th best unit to own, and the Atlantic 10 ranked 8th overall.. But the three worst units were also conference baskets: the Big 12, SEC, and Big 10 all performed dismally. Only one conference unit was not in either the top ten or bottom five, and that was the Big East. In 2000, the theme was the same, as all of the conference baskets finished near one extreme or the other.
  • Seed baskets: Last year, none of the seed baskets fared particularly well. The best was the #11 seed basket, which finished 9th overall. The #12 and #3 seed baskets also finished in the top 15. At the southern end, after the three worst conferences, the #8, #5, and #4 seed baskets finished 4th, 5th, and 6th from the bottom, respectively. Two years ago, the top basket was the #8 seeds, however, as two #8 seeds reached the Final Four. In general, I think you need to have two teams do well for that seed basket to rank near the top.
I think the best way to assess your basket alternatives is to use the contest simulator. Simply fill in the tournament bracket in the customary way, and then see the resulting scoring for that hypothetical scenario. Try it a few times, to test the sensitivity to some of your more difficult picks. The results are sorted from best to worst, so it's pretty easy to identify the best and worst performers for any scenario.

3/8 - In only six games, three players were in the TSNP 60s. At the top of the list was Pao Gasol, whose 63.5 TSNP were a nice reward for those who have stuck with him through his recent price declines. Tim Duncan (62.5) had his best result in more than a month, and Jamaal Tinsley (61) had his second straight game in that lofty point neighborhood. Two other players were in the 50s, and six were in the 40s.

In the first 24 hours, there were 43 registrations for the Market Madness Contest. I don't recall how that compares with prior years, although most of the registrations will come in next week. This contest has always had a pretty high rate of attrition between registration and tipoff. Last year, there were 922 registrations, but only 611 followed through and made their picks. I don't know if the no-shows just forget, or whether they lack the patience to figure it out. My recommendation is that even if you aren't comfortable with the scoring in advance, submit a set of selections anyways, and follow your progress through the tournament. Most people understand it much better after having gone through it once. I think it becomes much more intuitive when you follow it game by game.

3/7 - Three guys reached the TSNP 50s, but none were "explod-o-games". Rasheed Wallace was tops with 56 TSNP, while the runners-up (runner-ups?) were Allen Iverson (55) and Antoine Walker (52.5). Only six others reaches the 40s.

RotoGuru's Market Madness Contest is up and running. Of course, until the brackets are announced, there isn't much to be done - although you can register, and review the scoring framework, using last year's tourney setup. For more on this year's contest, and to raise questions about scoring or any of the rules, please use the Market Madness Message Forum.

Special thanks to Gurupie PAOK B.C. for suggesting today's quote.

3/6 - You didn't need to pay a lot for TSNP last night. Kurt Thomas led everyone with 63 TSNP. Jamaal Tinsley took advantage of Reggie Miller's absence to score 30 points, and produce 59.5 TSNP, the top output at guard. And although he wasn't the best center of the night, you could hardly go wrong with Vladimir Radmanovic's 44 TSNP at his price. Meanwhile, studs like the most popular two players on Gurupie rosters - Tim Duncan and Andre Miller - couldn't manage to top 35 TSNP. Another popular guard, Brent Barry, sat out with the flu. Differentiators, take heart!

The game site for the 2002 Market Madness Contest is not quite ready for release, but should be up in the next 24 hours. I have updated the rules, which are unchanged from last year, other than prizes (more on that in a moment). The pages with historical stats have also been updated.

With this contest, I am instituting a new framework for prizes, which will probably continue for future RotoGuru games. The grand prizes will continue to be in cash, and everyone is eligible. But additional prizes will be in merchandise, and only GuruPatrons are eligible to receive those prizes. This year, I've called these "Memento Prizes", and they are a choice of a minitiaure RotoGuru hoop or a DVD of the movie Memento, the latter which were generously donated by GuruPatron Will Tyrer. Since prizes are funded by voluntary GuruPatron donations, it makes sense that GuruPatrons should get preferential treatment in prize eligibility. If this induces others to step up to GuruPatronism, that's great - but that's not the primary motivation. The goal is simply to target the rewards to those who have generously funded this site.

It's been almost a full year since the GuruPatron program was introduced, and a number of you who were "charter GuruPatrons" have been sending in a second donation in the past few months. I'll be hyping GuruPatronism a bit more as we near the start of baseball season, but I'm deeply appreciative of those who have already sent in additional donations without any prodding.

3/5 - In a light schedule of only 4 games, just one player topped 50 TSNP. Karl Malone had 55 TSNP at home vs. Denver. Five other players were in the TSNP 40s. No center was above 20 TSNP.

Chris Webber managed only 56.5 TSNP in his last 2 games combined. I had swapped out of Garnett for a 2-day Webber interlude, and was hoping this might give my TSN teams a boost, since it seemed as though not many other teams had done the same. Sadly, an average of 28 TSNP/G just didn't get it done. Sometimes this game can be so maddening.

Swirve baseball prices are now included in the sortable stats. I have not yet added them to the Assimilator, nor have I included the roster configuration for the free TSN in that program. I may have to back-burner further baseball projects until next week, because I really need to dust off the Market Madness contest programs.

3/4 - Since returning from his stint on the IR, Shaq has averaged almost 50 TSNP per game, including 2 games above 60 TSNP over the weekend. Last night's 65 was without Kobe in the lineup, but Friday's 62 was with the tandem intact. In prior years, owning Shag during his reasonable schedule periods was almost a must if you wanted to be competitive in the TSN game. This year, he has seldom made a (positive) impact. But those who have recently gambled on him have been getting a favorable return on investment.

Over the past 15 days, Shaq has produced more TSNP (394.5) than all but one player. Know who that is? The answer surprised me somewhat, because I own this guy, and it hasn't seemed like he's been particularly consistent. Others must feel the same way, because this player's price in the Ultimate TSN game has dropped by $100K over that period. The answer? No, not Iverson, but Gary Payton, with 413.5 TSNP. Part of his success has been schedule related, as he's played 9 games in those 15 days. While his 45.9 TSNP/G over that period isn't too shabby, seven others have higher averages during the period. But none of them have played 9 times. Kevin Garnett has the best per game average (51.1), but he's only played 7 times, so he only ranks 5th in total points.

Now, do you know who has the best average over the past 15 days among players priced under $5 million in the TSN Ultimate game? No, it's not Pau Gasol, whose 31.2 TSNP/G ranks only 11th among players below the $5m mark. It's Antonio Davis, who's averaging just under 39 TSNP/G. Once again, though, judging by his recent price history, he hasn't attracted much attention.

Swirve baseball was launched over the weekend. The game is structured similarly to last season's offering, using the player contract concept. I haven't yet studied the rules, but I did note a few differences. Pitchers must be held for a minimum of 8 days (last year it was 5, I think), which will change the optimal pitching rotation strategy. Also, you can release a locked-in player prior to the termination of his contract. There is a cost (pro-rated value of 50% of his salary), but it does make it much more palatable (and perhaps necessary) to gamble on some cheapies early in the season. I'll have the prices posted in the sortable stats sometime this week. Strategy analysis will undoubtedly emerge at the baseball message forum.

3/1 - March. It's the start of the busiest period of the year at RotoGuru World Headquarters. But before looking ahead, I need to put closure on football.

Today I'm pleased to announce two new enshrinees in the RotoGuru Hall of Fame:

  • Michael Hicks - who finished with the #1 worldwide ranking in the Swirve Football game
  • Matthew Morris - who finished in the top spot in the RotoGuru Football Pickoff game
Congratulations to these two Gurupies for their dominating performances in these two games!

Tim Duncan was the top fantasy producer last night, with 57 TSNP. His output probably doesn't matter all that much, though, as he is so widely owned. In the Gurupie standings for TSN Ultimate Hoops, he appears on 111 of 119 rosters. The only other player with similar ownership is Pao Gasol (106 rosters), meaning that his 13.5 TSNP disappointment really didn't matter much either.

TSN launched its "free" baseball game yesterday. It's a stripped down version of the Ultimate game, with reduced roster sizes, trades, prizes, and season length. The game ends at the All Star break (when I suspect another will start). Probably the most controversial feature of the game is the ability to buy extra trades (for real money, not fantasy money). In all likelihood, you'll need to shell out some bucks to compete for prizes. But TSN needed to find a means to generate some revenue in its free offering, as advertising opportunities are negligible - especially for an audience which is self-selected to be "spending-averse". I'm sure that Gurupie divisions will be set up on a "NET" (no extra trade) basis, so if you want to compete against a "Gurup" of teams on a level playing field, that's your best opportunity. See the message forum for opportunities as the month unfolds.

And speaking of Gurupie division opportunities, there are typically several attempts to recruit Gurupies for baseball leagues at sites such as Yahoo, Sandbox, and CBS Sportsline. One of the primary requirements for the enjoyment of these types of leagues is that all teams remain active throughout the season, and that collusion be avoided. If you simply register for a public league, it's not uncommon for inactive teams and/or collusive behavior to wreck the experience. So if you're looking for an opportunity to join a more controlled league in one of these formats, check out the message forum to see if any recruiting is going on. Several efforts are already underway.

Finally, yes - there will be a Market Madness Contest again this year. Details will be announced next week.

Click here for prior daily blurbs, by month:

2001: December . . . . . November . . . . . October . . . . . September . . . . . August . . . . . July . . . . . June . . . . . May . . . . . April . . . . . March . . . . . February . . . . . January

2000: December . . . . . November . . . . . October . . . . . September . . . . . August . . . . . July . . . . . June . . . . . May . . . . . April . . . . . March . . . . . February . . . . . January

1999: December . . . . . November . . . . . October . . . . . September . . . . . August . . . . . July . . . . . June . . . . . May . . . . . April . . . . . March . . . . . February . . . . . January

1998: December . . . . . November . . . . . October . . . . . September . . . . August . . . . . July . . . . . June . . . . . May . . . . . April . . . . . March

RotoGuru is produced by Dave Hall (a.k.a. the Guru), an avid fantasy sports player. He is neither employed by nor compensated by any of the fantasy sports games discussed within this site, and all opinions expressed are solely his own. Questions or comments are welcome, and should be emailed to Guru<>.

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