Now that March Madness is over, here are a few games to mark on your calendar this week to keep feeding your sports appetite.
After a thrilling season of college basketball we saw Stanford take home their first Women's NCAA Basketball title in 29 years while on the men's side Baylor handed Gonzaga their first and only loss of the season and earned the school's first Men's NCAA championship. Since we didn't have the tournaments last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was amazing getting to see the highlights and the drama return, and both tournaments delivered on the promise of madness.
Gonzaga all season until they played Baylor tonight 😂 #NCAAChampionship https://t.co/2O2M1ZiXBy— El Maestro (@El Maestro)1617678325.0
But now that we'll have to wait until next year to get more college basketball action, here's a rundown of some of the best matchups in the NBA as their season is getting closer to their postseason, and in the MLB where teams are just ramping up nearing the end of the first week of their season.
Utah Jazz vs. Phoenix Suns Wednesday April 7
We start with the top two teams in the NBA's western conference who play on Wednesday night. The Utah Jazz bring the league's best record to Phoenix to take on the second place Suns. If you haven't been paying attention to the NBA and are now craving more basketball, now is a perfect time to jump in.
That wasn't a typo you just read either; the Jazz and Suns are ahead of the likes of the Clippers and Lakers in the standings, and these are two very good teams you need to get acquainted with. If only someone could have suggested you do it sooner by, I don't know, writing a feature article about one of them in the first week of the season.
DEVIN BOOKER. Another 30 point performance. https://t.co/DN07ZaMsnd— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1617675411.0
Chris Paul continues to make everyone around him better, including Alfonso Ribeiro in those State Farm commercials. But more importantly his presence has expedited the development of all of the young talent around him in Phoenix, resulting in the Suns being a team we talk about in terms of "they can win now" versus "they can win someday."
The Jazz are basically the Spurs during the Duncan era. They're a very fundamentally sound team that plays basketball the way you should play it, and it's not very fun to watch most of the time. But that's not a shot at them, it's a testament to their coaches and players for putting together an excellent game plan and executing it night in and night out.
Longest win streaks in the NBA this season: Utah Jazz - 11 Utah Jazz - 9 (active) Utah Jazz - 9 Hawks - 8 Bucks - 8 Nets - 8— John Keeffer (@John Keeffer)1617514941.0
If you haven't seen these teams play it's a great opportunity to see two of the best fight it out as they battle for positioning atop the western conference.
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors Friday April 9
I know what you're thinking. Why would I spend my Friday night watching a Wizards game? Well a lot of this rests on Bradley Beal returning to action who has missed the last five games with a hip injury. But if Beal is good to go against the Warriors, we'll get to see the aforementioned Beal go head to head with Stephen Curry. Beal is currently leading the league in points per game with 31.3 ppg, and Curry is third in that category averaging 29.4.
People seem to forget Steph Curry led the Warriors to 73-9 WITHOUT Kevin Durant— Ben Stinar (@Ben Stinar)1617637387.0
Even if Beal is unable to go, my backup argument for watching this game is that you then get a matchup of Curry vs. Russell Westbrook who is fresh off leading the Wizards to a win over the Raptors behind the former MVP's triple double on Monday. Either way it's a low stakes game with some talented scorers, and it's going to be fun.
Russell Westbrook insane game: 35 PTS 14 REB 21 AST The first 35/10/20 game in NBA history. https://t.co/MnS5NHOAHH— StatMuse (@StatMuse)1617067788.0
Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals Wednesday April 7 3:35 pm EST
The reason I had to denote the time of this game is that it's the second game of the scheduled double-header we'll see between these teams on Wednesday. Due to some positive Covid-19 test results the series that was meant to start last week will actually begin today on Tuesday April 6.
GOT 'EM! Bryce Harper tried to stretch this into a double, but @Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr. had other plans 💪 https://t.co/bESXJlYJPY— FOX Sports: MLB (@FOX Sports: MLB)1617481262.0
Furthermore, the reason that this game is on this list is that the Braves and Nats are going to play three baseball games in the span of about 27 hours. This is the last game on the schedule within that timeframe. That means we could very well see some weird stuff, and in baseball we love weird stuff.
We could see minor league call-ups whose only professional game is this one. We could see pitchers being used as pinch hitters. We could see position players being called upon to be relief pitchers, maybe even a half inning called by only one announcer because the other had to make a bathroom break run.
Considering we don't even know who the probable pitchers are for this one yet, it's a safe bet that we're going to get weird.
Washington Nationals vs Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday April 10
I promise you that I didn't intend to list three Washington sports games on here, but it's just how the schedules played out.
This day was supposed to be all about the star power that the Lakers and Nets were going to bring to Brooklyn in primetime, but thanks to injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it will instead be a game worthy of a blackout rather than a national spot.
So instead we turn to another L.A. team taking on an east coast powerhouse in the MLB, and if it's star power you want, these teams can bring it. Even though we don't have projected starting pitchers yet, it's likely we see Trevor Bauer toe the mound for the Dodgers, and it's unlikely we'll see Max Scherzer ready to go by then as he's going today in their season opener.
Hi hello Opening Day is TOMORROW Let's watch some *crushed* Juan Soto homers to get us ready 🙌 ⬇️ https://t.co/SWGADq3deS— Sarah Langs (@Sarah Langs)1617236372.0
But on the offensive side there is an endless supply of power for both teams. Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger lead the way for the 4-1 Dodgers while Juan Soto and Trea Turner highlight the lineup for the Nationals.
If you're bummed you're missing out on the Lakers and Nets matchup we've been waiting for, tune in for this one as it could turn into a barnburner of a Saturday night.
Going into 2021 there are only a handful of elite options at second base to add to your fantasy team.
D.J. LeMahieu and Ozzie Albies are clear cut studs that won't last beyond the second or third round in most drafts. The next tier includes the likes of Whit Merrifield, Ketel Marte and Jose Altuve, so there is still plenty of production to be had there. But once you start getting past those guys, question marks begin to surround the remaining options, and you're going to have to decide whether or not to reach on someone like Jeff McNeil or wait on a prospect like Gavin Lux.
Here are the top 20 second basemen for fantasy baseball according to FindBet.
Brett Gardner on DJ LeMahieu: He's one of the best I've seen at leading by example. https://t.co/2GXrga7aVh— YES Network (@YES Network)1616531400.0
The third place finisher in the AL MVP race last season is fresh off signing a new contract worth $90 million over the next six seasons, as the Yankees prioritized retaining LeMahieu. D.J. has been one of the best hitters in the league for several years, and he's helped by being in one of the best lineups in the MLB today. No matter where LeMahieu hits in the Yankee order, he's so good at finding holes in the defense and getting on base that D.J. is going to produce for your fantasy team across the board.
LeMahieu has some of the best pop in his bat at the position and should be among position leaders in hits, runs, runs batted in, average, and home runs. If that's not enough to warrant a pick inside the top 20 I'm not sure what is.
Ozzie Albies' home run. https://t.co/RLjbYGBAy9— Baseball GIFs (@Baseball GIFs)1614799160.0
It's very easy to overlook Albies considering he plays on the same team as Ronald Acuna Jr. But that probably means that you're forgetting that Albies is only 24 years old and he has plenty of time to get better, which is scary considering he's already one of the best middle infielders in the game. In his only full seasons (his first season he only played 57 games, and in 2020's already shortened season managed to play in only 29 games) Albies earned an all star nod and a silver slugger award.
Albies has the potential to score 100 runs, drive in 100 runs, reach 200 hits, finish around 30 home runs, and should end the year batting around .300. Atlanta has a potent offense and that means Albies should have a lot of chances to hit good pitches. If you miss out on Acuna, don't sleep on Atlanta's other young stud. Feel good about grabbing Albies early to secure one of the top options at a thin position.
Merrifield has been one of the most consistent players both from a fantasy and real world perspective since entering the league in 2016. A rare player that can score for you in every statistical category while virtually being able to carry your entire team in stolen bases. While his stolen base total has decreased over the past two years, 2020 can't be taken into account due to the length of the season.
Most hits in MLB since May 18, 2016 (Whit Merrifield's big league debut): 1.) Charlie Blackmon - 644 2.) Whit Merr… https://t.co/HtxX00yWum— Danny Vietti (@Danny Vietti)1616383375.0
If Merrifield can get his SB total back up closer to 30 and maintain his high batting average, the Royals stand to be much better this season and that can only mean good things for Whit Merrifield fantasy owners. Considering Merrifield appears to be moving to right field full time, this will also be the last year we'll be able to play Whit at 2B/INF in fantasy.
Solid Mid-Round Options
Moustakas is slotted to be the second baseman for Cincinnati which makes him an interesting player for fantasy. Moustakas' ability to hit for power makes him someone to keep tabs on heading into your draft.
Mike Moustakas makes it 5-0 #Reds after an RBI single. https://t.co/8ikWWmE21j— Justin Groc (@Justin Groc)1616035209.0
In most formats he will have eligibility at 1B, 3B, and 2B, so you can move him around your lineup if needed, but in regards to second basemen he possesses some of the best power at the position. If you miss out on some of the elite players ahead of him, and you can solely focus on power numbers, Moustakas is a sneaky good option this year.
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades - Prospects and Everybody Else
Cronenworth is part of the young nucleus that the Padres organization is building to become a championship contender. He may not have the gravitas that Fernando Tatis Jr. brings or the sweeping power of Manny Machado, but he looked the part as a rookie which earned him votes for NL Rookie of the Year, finishing second last season.
Jake Cronenworth has his 2nd RBI of the game after splitting the gap for a double! @Padres | #PadresST https://t.co/07hBLKyzcV— Fox Sports San Diego (@Fox Sports San Diego)1616364748.0
Considering there will likely be a good number of players taken ahead of him at the position, Cronenworth is a good bet to provide consistency at the position. Hitting in one of the best lineups in the MLB will provide a lot of chances for both scoring and driving in runs. You can do much worse for a later round pick as Cronenworth should be a staple of his fantasy owners' lineup throughout 2021.
It appears that the Dodgers are ready to hand the keys to second base to one of the top prospects in baseball in Gavin Lux. Lux has spent time with the major league club having the occasional cup of coffee with the boys in blue. So far he has only shown glimpses into the potential the club is hoping he can tap into.
Although he'll certainly hit towards the bottom of the Dodgers lineup for most if not all of the season, there will be stats to go around. If he can continue his run of play into the regular season it will be a nice boost for the young player to gain some confidence early. He's raking right now in Spring play so he may be climbing the ranks before your draft.
#Dodgers Gavin Lux continues his hot spring with a double down the 3B line past Manny Machado. Now 12 for 29 (.414) in Cactus League games— Bill Plunkett (@Bill Plunkett)1616272495.0
It's a common practice to load up on offense and as many top tier starting pitchers early in fantasy baseball drafts.
It's not until the mid rounds do you start to see relief pitchers coming off the board. The purpose of this article isn't to persuade you to reach on the top closers available, but rather to give you a different strategy to utilize during your draft if things start to fall apart.
Most people will play in a standard Yahoo! weekly head to head format. Meaning managers will play opponents for a week at a time, accumulating points in a variety of categories. Most leagues will include categories such as wins, losses, ERA (earned run average), WHIP (walks and hits per nine innings pitched), strikeouts, saves and a newer category we've been seeing more of is the combination of saves and holds into one category.
This is due to the fact that many people don't like having to draft and keep up with closers. There are only a handful of closers that have enough job security warrant a mid round selection in fantasy drafts. By combining the saves and holds category it allows fantasy managers to worry less about grabbing a closer and instead on getting quality relievers who don't necessarily have to get saves.
Most leagues will still run with a more traditional setup though and that means either splitting saves and holds into two separate categories or not having a holds category and only including a saves category for relief pitchers (as this has always been the equivalent to "wins" for starting pitchers).
For the purposes of this article we are looking at pitching stat categories of Wins, Losses, Saves, Strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP.
Obviously starting pitchers will be who you turn to in order to make up most of your wins and strikeouts. Closers are going to get your saves. You hope that all your pitchers help to limit your weekly losses. ERA and WHIP are categories that are representative of how consistently your players perform.
If a starter goes out in the first inning and gives up four runs and gets replaced he ends the day with a 36.00 ERA. But if that starter goes eight innings not allowing another run, he finishes the day with a 4.5 ERA. A player like Gerrit Cole or Max Scherzer is going to be given the opportunity to overcome bad starts. A backend rotation guy that happened to land on your roster may not.
Gerrit Cole gets Didi on three pitches: 83 mph curveball 98 mph fastball 90 mph changeup (!!) https://t.co/If9H2gaWda— Talkin' Yanks (@Talkin' Yanks)1615488218.0
If you are a fantasy manager that is lucky enough to land some top end starters early in the draft, you know that you have the ability to turn to building your offense in the mid rounds and are probably putting getting relievers on the bottom of the priority list.
That's good for you if you are one of the managers that missed on the Jacob deGrom's and Yu Darvish's of the world.
Jacob deGrom faced 9 Astros tonight. He struck out 7 of them. 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/qQGFwupF6m— SNY (@SNY)1615509255.0
I've never personally prioritized getting starting pitching when playing in a head to head format. The reason for this is, I instead focus on getting strong relievers to pad my teams' stats. This also allows me to be adding bats to my roster with my first few (usually four or five) picks giving me an edge offensively in my matchups.
Okay that's step one. Gain an offensive advantage by ignoring starting pitching early.
Now even though this is about using bullpen guys to help you win, after adding a few top tier position players I typically will grab one or two starting pitchers here. Get the best available that will help you in at least three categories. A guy like Dallas Keuchel is a perfect example. In 2020, Keuchel, went 6-2 in 11 starts with a 1.99 ERA, 1.09 WHIP. But only accounted for 42 strikeouts over 63 and 1/3 innings.
Lucas Giolito. Dallas Keuchel. Lance Lynn. You absolutely love to see it. https://t.co/ipf8Hx0cCO— Chicago White Sox (@Chicago White Sox)1607814006.0
This is the opposite of a sexy fantasy pick. It is so boring that you may want to shotgun a Red Bull before hitting the draft button on him. But it's laying the foundation for building the rest of your pitching staff up.
After grabbing a few starters, now you may want to start picking off relievers in rounds 7-10. This seems really early, I know. But remember this is a different strategy and you've got four studs on offense already in the draft.
So here's a quick snap shot of how I break down the relief pitcher "tiers".
Liam Hendriks looks like the kid on your little league team who slept in his uniform the night before picture day b… https://t.co/60NTBTHxm2— Jessica Kleinschmidt (@Jessica Kleinschmidt)1615424914.0
Josh Hader MIL
Liam Hendriks CWS
Aroldis Chapman NYY
Brad Hand WSH
Kenley Jansen LAD
Fun fact: James Karinchak had the 7th highest BB% among qualified relievers last season. However, since he punches… https://t.co/rcWyYsj5Yn— The Stable (@The Stable)1615477383.0
Edwin Diaz NYM
James Karinchak CLE
Drew Pomeranz SD
Raisel Iglesias LAA
Craig Kimbrel CHC
Kirby Yates TOR
Next Best (it's pretty early to really know enough about a lot of these guys)
Get to know the guys on the 40-man roster! RHP Ryan Pressly had an impressive Spring Training debut, striking out… https://t.co/J3QxCkw3TT— Houston Astros (@Houston Astros)1615328454.0
Ryan Pressly HOU
Rafael Montero SEA
Archie Bradley PHI
Greg Holland KC
Richard Rodriguez PIT
Jake Diekman OAK
Jose Leclerc TEX
Will Smith ATL
Joakim Soria ARI
Daniel Bard COL
Matt Barnes BOS
So from this list you can see there aren't a lot of closers with clearly defined roles. There are far more options that might be the closer or that are hanging on by the thinnest of threads. I try to seek out three of what I consider to be top 10 relievers. They can be non-closers. I drafted Josh Hader before he was a closer in this spot and would draft someone like Devin Williams in this spot now. Just make sure that the players you're getting here are consistent and can get you saves if he isn't the primary closer.
Most important is that these relievers will consistently lower your team's weekly ERA, WHIP, and contribute to strikeouts. Some weeks your best starter only pitches once. If three of my best pitchers are relievers they are going to have much more exposure to playing throughout the course of a week and thus giving my fantasy team more chances for my best pitchers to rack up stats for me.
Step two complete. Gain an advantage in relief pitching against opponents.
Considering in fantasy baseball there's really only three ways to score: offensive stats, stats that starting pitchers primarily get, and stats that relief pitchers primarily get, you've put yourself in a good mathematical situation to win on a week to week basis.
Try this strategy in a few mock drafts and see how the roster shakes out. Keep checking back for more things fantasy baseball before your draft happens this month.
Even though it feels like the football season just ended, the NFL Draft is next month, and if you're like me you're looking for a chance at redemption in your fantasy football league in 2021.
The trend in the NFL for more teams to lean on a pass heavy offensive attack has allowed for many fantasy managers to view top tier receivers as equally valuable assets as the top running backs available. This is good for opening up options in the first few rounds of drafts; but it places an increased importance on either hitting on your first RB taken, or finding some value later in drafts if you decide to go against the traditional strategy of coming out of the first four rounds with two starting running backs.
If you're someone looking to have a bounce back year in your fantasy league or just feel like being a maverick and switching up strategies, it's never too early to start your fantasy football league research. Let's take a look at a few backs that are trending up for 2021.
J.K. Dobbins Baltimore Ravens
This shouldn't be a surprise, and I must admit this is an obvious one. But it would be remiss of me to not lead off with Dobbins on this list. Unless the Ravens bring in competition either through the draft or free agency, Dobbins looks to have a clear path to being the lead back for the team in 2021.
Mark Ingram was released by Baltimore in January following a disappointing 2020 campaign which really served as a roadblock for Dobbins for the first half of his rookie season. Still with the team is Gus Edwards, who has been a solid backup in his three years with the team, and it's been rumored that he may be a target for an extension at some point before his contract expires at the end of the 2021 season.
We shouldn't expect to see the Ravens add any significant talent at that position, as we saw Dobbins excel down the stretch once given the opportunity to start. The biggest obstacle for Dobbins from a fantasy perspective moving forward will be consistency. In an offense that has Lamar Jackson at the helm, you never know when Lamar will take control of the rushing attack himself leaving scraps for his running backs.
As of right now JK Dobbins is the RB19 off the board in early redraft data He was an RB2 this year with just over… https://t.co/IKytZtOLLP— Justin Wright (@Justin Wright) 1614831736.0
Either way, you shouldn't be letting Dobbins slip past the second round in drafts this year. Baltimore should be adding some help at wide receiver this year in an effort to try to keep him in the pocket more. This should also translate to a more traditional rushing attack which will help the bottom line for J.K. Dobbins.
Ezekiel Elliott Dallas Cowboys
Doesn't it seem like Zeke has been around for a decade and it's right about that time for a bell cow running back's body to be breaking down? That must explain his down 2020 season, right?
Elliott did post a career-low 979 rushing yards last year, but the injury to Dak Prescott effectively disabled the entire Dallas offense. Also Zeke is only 25 years old; that's right: 25. Obviously running backs, especially ones that take on a workload like Elliott, have a shorter shelf life than most other position players based on the hits they're taking. But if other managers in your league want to let Zeke slip into the second, or even THIRD, round of drafts this summer please be the one to take advantage of that.
Believe me, it will happen.
It is important that either Dak Prescott returns next season or the team is able to bring in a viable replacement at QB. But Zeke just needs a little bit better play than what he got from Andy Dalton and Ben DiNucci last season to be better. Sure, we have seen guys take big dips in the prime of their careers in the past, but Elliott doesn't seem like a candidate to be one of those guys.
He comes with pedigree, a track record, and the Cowboys' offense is very good with Dak Prescott at QB. I would feel pretty comfortable with Elliott at the back end of the first round, but don't be surprised if you can target him into the early third round of drafts for 2021.
Chase Edmonds Arizona Cardinals
Remember all the hype surrounding Kenyan Drake before fantasy drafts last year? A do-it-all back in Kliff Kingsbury's high flying system with Kyler Murray under center to draw defenses attention to defending the pass. It worked out pretty well. Drake finished the 2020 season with 1,092 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. But Drake is a free agent, and up to this point hasn't worked out a new deal to return to the desert in 2021.
That would leave Chase Edmonds as the next man up for the Cards. In 2019 he broke out for a huge game against the Giants, rushing for 126 yards and three touchdowns. Last year Edmonds continued to serve as a solid backup and five double digit fantasy point games in a reserve role.
Chase Edmonds bell cow? 🤔 https://t.co/UPn8dFV1TR— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF Fantasy Football) 1614985322.0
The prophecy of Arizona being a fantasy promised land for running backs appears to be true, and if that continues to be the case into 2021, then Edmonds could be THE steal of fantasy drafts this summer. This is also a contract year for Edmonds, so if he's given the opportunity to perform in a starting role this year, you're going to get the most out of him if he's on your squad.