Mid-March is a fantasy sports’ lover’s dream (er, fantasy?): not only do we have the usual slate of March Madness bracket picks, but drafting for the fantasy baseball season is in full swing, AND both fantasy hockey and fantasy basketball playoffs begin. And don’t even forget the regular PGA tournaments. I don’t think there’s any busier or more exciting time throughout the entire year. You just need to hold on to your hat and hang on for the ride.
Amid this chaotic season, yesterday I was hit by a double-whammy. I made it into the first round of the playoffs in my Yahoo fantasy basketball league and my Yahoo fantasy hockey league, and the head-to-head matchups were close throughout the week. They were, in fact, too close for comfort, and it came down to the final day of the matchup – which was yesterday – to see who came out on top.
Well, I have both good and bad news to report on that end. First, the bad news.
Fouling out: failing to advance in the fantasy basketball playoffs
So close, but yet so far. Not long ago, I wrote about how I was able to turn around my fantasy basketball season after an excruciatingly slow start. That was a victory in itself considering that I was 18-36 in the Fall, and I know from experience that anything can happen in the playoffs.
I made it in as the sixth seed (12-team league) and was playing the third seed. The week saw my opponent and me exchange leads in our nine-category, head-to-head matchup, and by Saturday we were essentially at even strength in about seven categories.
When it comes to the fantasy playoffs, it’s all or nothing. Unless you’re in a keeper league, you need to be prepared to drop any player on your roster who will not help you advance to the next round. If this means dropping a good player on the last days of your matchup who doesn’t have a game in order to pick up a mediocre player who does have a game, then so be it. If you advance to the next round – and that’s a big “if” – you can figure out how to deal with what comes next.
With that in mind, I picked up three players late on Saturday night who had games on Sunday (Toney Douglas, Gerald Henderson, and J.J. Barea) and dropped three players who didn’t have games (Andrew Bogut, Kent Bazemore, and Josh Richardson). All together, I now had seven players in games on Sunday against my opponent’s five players.
Unfortunately for me, my opponent did the same at 2:52 a.m. (eight minutes before the deadline) and picked up two players who would start for him on Sunday. That turned out to be the difference, as I lost my playoff matchup by a score of 5 to 4. The categories were very close, with five categories being decided by differences of less than 10% as you can see below:
For me, the real killer was losing by three blocks. The two players my opponent picked up late on Saturday night, Cole Aldrich and Hollis Thompson, combined for four blocks on Sunday. Without that production, I would be the one advancing to the next round.
Adding insult to injury, I noticed that Anthony Davis was just ruled out for the remainder of the season. Davis is owned by the #2 seed in the league – the same team that I would be playing had I advanced to the next round in the playoffs! Salt in my wound as the fantasy basketball season approaches its quick end.
But now on to the good news…
He shoots, he scores! Advancing to the fantasy hockey semifinals
My fantasy hockey season progressed much better than my fantasy basketball team did this year. In my head-to-head, 12-team league, I ended the season with a record of 106-79-15 (.568), which was good enough for a third place finish. I was hovering around first/second place back in February, but problems in the goaltending category haunted me at season’s end and led me to slip down a few spots.
As the third seed, I was matched up with the sixth seed in the first round of the playoffs which began last week. It became evident that my poor goalie play – which had carried me through much of the season but which sputtered at the end – was spilling over into the playoffs. My goalie core of Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby, Craig Anderson, and Petr Mrazek simply was not performing as it should have been. Through the entire week, they managed a collective total of three wins with 2.95 GAA and .902 save percentage. That’s nasty stuff – and by “nasty” I mean putrid rather than “incredibly awesome”.
Anyway, I fell into a hole last week once my opponent got a shutout from Jonathan Quick (this is a 10-category league which includes shutouts). Fortunately, my opponent sputtered on offense, so even though I managed only 9 goals and 22 assists, I was able to best his 6 goals and 17 assists.
While this matchup did not come down to the wire quite as closely as my basketball matchup did, it was still competitive. I had to use all my allotted waiver wire pickups for the week in order to ensure my victory, which meant that I made a couple of pickups late on Saturday night so I could have starting players on Sunday.
On the final day of the matchup, I had eight players playing and my opponent had seven. The only close stat categories that could have gone either way in the final few days was goals (I won with a 9-6 advantage, with two goals coming on the final day), PIM (I held out with an 18-12 advantage) and wins (we tied with three each). Had my opponent made a move to pick up a goalie starting goalie for Sunday who would have won, we would have tied 5-5 and then the series would have been given to the winner of the tiebreaker (which would have been me because a 10-9 advantage in head-to-head games).
Now that I’m in the semi-finals, my goalies need to pick up the pace if I want to advance to the finals. I led the league in goalie wins this year, but if I can’t scrape together more than three this week, I probably won’t be advancing. At the same time, I can’t exactly drop any of my goalies because all those that are on my team are established leaders on their respective teams. I may end up picking up a fifth goalie as a type of “scorched earth” tactic to overwhelm my opponent in goalie categories, but at this point I’d like to see how the first few days of the matchup progress.
This double-whammy put a scare into me. I was looking at the prospect of having both my hockey and basketball seasons end on the same day. While it was a cruel way to lose in basketball by a handful of blocked shots, there’s only so much you can control in fantasy sports on any given day (or even any week). At least for now I’ll still have hockey, so I need to focus on one day at a time. Hopefully I’ll be in the finals by next week and vying for that championship trophy.