The Week Ahead - March Madness Edition

It used to be that the Men's NCAA College Basketball Tournament here in the US was my favorite sporting event of the year.  And for so many reasons...imagine all the drama of the FA Cup packed into 3 consecutive weekends in March.  Throw in the fact that the weather here on the East Coast of the US is generally getting nice just about now and you have a great excuse to take some time off of work and watch basketball and perhaps enjoy a few adult beverages on an outdoor patio.  Well, as it turns out, life changes and despite the fact that today is a beautiful day outside and is also the first day of the tournament known here as "March Madness" I'll be in the office all day.  Life is all about choices for me these days and the fact that I spend what some would consider a pretty crazy amount of time on the Premier League means that something has to give from late August through early May and one of those things has been the amount of time I have for college basketball.

Before we get to the player ratings, I do have a few rants from last weekend...
  • How did Wilshere only get 1.5 points as an attacking midfielder playing 90 minutes when his team scored 4 goals (OK, 3 goals since one was an OG)?
  • At the same time, how does Adam Johnson come in for 20 minutes when Citeh were C...R...A...P... for nearly all of the first 70 minutes of the match and manage to put up 12 points (admittedly, his goal was sweet)?
  • How does N'Zogbia get 17 points against Bolton when his team is losing 4-0?
  • How big a disaster was the Gabby Agbonlahor pick? I was thinking briefly about RPav but just couldn't justify taking one game from him vs. what I thought was going to be two from Gabby...oops;
One final note before we get to the player recommendations for this week.  To everyone who checked in hoping for a Live Chat during the Arsenal match (as advertised) last weekend, I'm sorry I wasn't able to get back to the computer in time.  As has been noted here previously, my wife and I are in the process of building a house and from time-to-time we have weekend commitments where we have to go choose stuff like flooring or cabinets or paint colors.  We intentionally scheduled our meetings early last weekend because the early matches on TV weren't very interesting but despite that, we couldn't get home in time for the Arsenal match.  Chalk it up to yet another downside of doing this as a second job as opposed to as my primary job (if anyone wants to change this by paying us a living wage to do this, we'd both jump at the opportunity but until then, there will be the inevitable situations where life intervenes).  Hopefully, we have most of these things behind us now so there should be time for Live Chats again going forward.


Schedule
Once again, we have a mix of one and two-gamers this weekend with Chelsea, Villa, Citeh, Everton, Sunderland, Pompey, Brum, West Ham, Wolves, and Rovers having two while the rest have just one.  Here are the most attractive of the two-gamers...
  • Villa - home for both with Wolves and Sunderland the opposition - the only downsides are that Villa appears to be tiring as they tend to do this time of year and Sunderland has been playing better in recent weeks;
  • Chelsea - both on the road but they're Pompey and Rovers so Chelsea's relatively poor form and injury difficulties should be minimized by inferior opposition;
  • Citeh - a big drop from the previous two as @Fulham and Everton is a tougher road and Citeh haven't really been lighting it up recently (although their defence has been strong since Mancini took over);
  • Everton - the trip to Citeh isn't ideal and the home date with Bolton is looking tougher as Wanderers' form improves as Coyle settles in;
Of the one-gamers,  Arsenal is the most interesting as they host West Ham at the Emirates where they have been very good against mediocre competition.

Forwards
  • Drogba - tough to buy him now at his current price but hard NOT to have him for two matches on his current pace - the tight nature of the title race and Chelsea's Champions League exit mean that he will play every match down the stretch;
  • Gabby - I'd say "yes" but PhysioRoom has him listed as doubtful with a groin strain so follow the news and act accordingly;
  • Carew - Much better value for the money if you want in on Villa;
  • Diamanti - shockingly high price after a down week but still likely to return value over two matches;
  • Yakubu - with Saha still a ways away, he's great value for just over 8;
  • Kalinic - really only a desperation play but at 3, he could help you afford something else or even a few something elses;
  • Bendtner - can't argue with the results since he entered the starting XI;
Midfielders
  • Arteta - Still not quite the fantasy force he used to be but certainly getting better and with two matches, he's that much more attractive;
  • MGP - See Arteta;
  • AJ - The price went up a little bit but not so much that he's a bad idea - it should be clear to Mancini at this point that AJ is important to his midfield;
  • Milner - He definitely wasn't as good as I'd hoped last weekend but he was still a good investment and I look for the same to apply here;
  • FloMal - Has had a better 2010 than Lamps at a significantly lower cost, what's not to like?
  • Cahill - with two matches on tap, Cahill's price is a better value than Pienaar but if you have the money, Pienaar is probably the better bet;
  • Downing - Not as high on him as I am on Milner but worth a thought if for no other reason than he hasn't played as many minutes this season;
  • Zhirkov/JCole/Ballack - none have been playing well but all are inexpensive if you want in on Chelsea's two-gamer and can't afford FloMal/Lamps;
Defenders
  • I'm still holding steady on Verm, Bale, Hutton but understand that there are people who have to make decisions here so here are a few thoughts;
  • Heitinga/Jagielka - both reasonably affordable and with at least one very favorable match-up;
  • Campbell - was jobbed last weekend with the offside PK/YC vs. Hull but was otherwise much more solid than expected and still cheap at 5.55;
  • Terry - I don't tend to buy high-priced defenders but at just over 9, there's definitely some value there;
  • Gardner - sort of a crap-shoot but with two matches against mediocre opponents, it might be worthwhile if you need someone inexpensive;
  • Spector - we never miss a chance to pimp a fellow Yank and with two matches including Wolves at Upton Park, another potential bargain;
Keepers
  • BBBF - certainly the most solid bet for points but you're going to pay a premium;
  • Turnbull - all indications are that Cech and Hilario(us) will miss out on both matches so the combination of price and opportunity are right - the question is whether you believe that he'll keep a clean sheet - the performances of Chelsea's back-up keepers certainly don't give you lots of confidence, do they?
  • THo - sort of a middle option that you should get at least one CS from - I'd guess his scoreline looks a lot like Friedel's did last week (18 to 20 points over 2 matches);
  • Brown? - Jeremy discussed Brown as a cheap option but with Chelsea on the docket, I can't see how this is going to work out for you.
Good luck - back for Injuries and Suspensions tomorrow.