Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and Jalen Rose each picked five players in an ESPN college basketball fantasy league. Yet they didn't necessarily chose a team to win.
We all love to play coach, or general manager. That is why Fantasy League games are so popular. We all think we could do the job better than those who do it for a living.
On Saturday's Game Day show, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and Jalen Rose had the chance to play coach, to choose five players for a team that would be tracked for its performance until the last GameDay show of the season. The players would earn points for points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
The three experts chose their teams, and they all seemed pleased with their picks.
Only they all failed.
They chose teams based on the big names; they chose the guys from the big time conferences. Those guys will get the oohs and the ahhs. Those are the guys who everyone knows.
But as a winning strategy it is a flop.
To win, you need to have the guys who are going to dominate over the remainder of the season, the guys who are that much better than all the competition that they will be seeing.
You need to pick the guys who are the go-to players for their teams, the ones that are going to dominate against the competition they will see for the remainder of the year.
Jalen Rose somewhat got that. He chose Doug McDermott, one of the top scorers in the country, with his first pick. McDermott adds enough rebounds to make that a worthwhile selection, and one we would have made.
Isaiah Canaan also went in the draft, a scoring threat and an assist machine.
But that is where the guys outside of the Big 6 conferences ended, the guys who could really make the impact in each and every game going forward.
It also tells you that these guys don't play a lot of fantasy sports, because they should have been picking very differently. The funny thing is that Rece Davis tried to get them to pick differently and threw out a few names at the end that could have made a real difference.
If we were picking, here is what we would do:
1. Start with the scorers. Since Rose took McDermott, the default choice, you have to go elsewhere. Thursday night a guy dropped 53 points on his opponent and he doesn't get picked? Yeah, that's right, you go with Nate Wolters. What is the worst that he could do for you? The worst conference game he has all season was against IUPUI, and he still had 12 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and a couple of more points from a steal and a block.
Yeah, you pick South Dakota State's Wolters.
2. Pick the all-around guy who is the best player in a small league. Mike Muscala, you are up. One of the best players in the country statistically, he scores, blocks, and rebounds. He kicks the ball back out to assist his teammates. About the only thing you aren't going to get from him are the steals. No worries, he is a big man. He is going to rack up the other stats. I am trying to find a game where he would have hurt this type of fantasy scoring, and I can't. He is getting at least 30 of these fantasy points per game. On a good night, you are getting 50.
3. Take the star point guard that is left. Canaan is off the table, C.J. McCollum is hurt. You take Detroit's Ray McCallum, Jr. I almost went with Ohio's D.J. Cooper here, because, Coop is one of those stat machines. But he is too susceptible to not being the focus for his team on a given night. He will still get the numbers, but not like McCallum will. Saturday afternoon, McCallum scored 30 while his team didn't do much else for him. If he has an off night, the rest of his team is that good, where he might have the ability to dish the ball a lot more often. Cooper is going to have some nights where inexplicably the offense doesn't run through him. So the coach's son gets the call here. At worst, he gets me 25 a game from assists and steals. On a good night, we get 40-plus.
4. Take the swat machine. Nerlens Noel was taken, which is a great way to get blocks filled. But how about getting a guy that blocks shots, scores, and is the rebound machine for his team. Oh, and he isn't a freshman and won't get himself into foul trouble that often. You take Akron's Zeke Marshall. He is one of the best shot blockers in the country, and when you go against the undersized MAC, you are going to get a lot of chances to send balls into the stands. The only worry with a guy like Marshall is that he won't have a big scoring night. He has the tendency to not be as effective a scorer as you would expect from a 7-footer. But I will still take him, because on the nights he is on, he will sway enough to make up for the lack of production. And I already have Muscala. I can take a guy that is going to have the opportunity to really turn it on over the remainder of the season.
5. Pick the wildcard. This one was easy to come up with, if only because we have been paying so much attention to him this season. Pick Towson's Jerrelle Benimon. You know he has high-major talent as he was originally at Georgetown, and he has taken that talent and turned it into something within the Towson offense. He is on a run where he gets at least 20 and 10 every time out. He gets assists; he gets blocks. He is like a Mike Muscala lite. What's not to like about that? Plus, he doesn't have to save anything for the postseason. Towson won't be playing in it, so he can leave everything on the floor during the remainder of the season.
So there you have it. Wolters, McCallum, Muscala, Marshall, Benimon. That is a nice lineup for any team, and a really nice fantasy lineup. Those five guys would have meant that the expert went out on a limb, but it also would have shown a deeper understanding for the game outside of the major conferences.
We will keep track of our lineup the rest of the way. Who says that a Cinderella can't win anything?