Before you read any further, this is not an article asking you to sign up at all, much less under my name. I am not wanting a reference. This is intended to be an unbiased review, so there is no quid pro quo that I am requesting here.
Needless to say, they don't involve picking the strongest mascot (a Boilermaker vs. a Golden Hurricane anyone?) or the colors you like best, with all due respect to the Purple Eagles (I'd love to see that bird) and the Blue Hens (yeah, that one, too).
It's not likely that Maggie the office secretary is going to beat you at this game unless, of course, Maggie is a college basketball aficionado, and/or you are a moron.
When it comes to spending the little bit of money I make (especially during a period of recession), I want to know a few things, and I want to know them from as unbiased a perspective as possible:
1. Am I going to enjoy the game? Is there anything that makes it unique?
2. Is it a good value and therefore worth my money? Is there a reasonable chance that I will be getting a return on my investment?
I've researched the site thoroughly and spoken with the owner several times, and these are the answers I've come up with to the aforementioned questions. I am using the following ratings system: 93-100 is Excellent, 85-92 is Good, 77-84 is Fair, 70-77 is Below Average, and below 70 is Poor.
1. Originality / Enjoyability RATING: 94/100 (Excellent)
Despite not being enthralled with the NBA regular season, I like to play Fantasy NBA basketball, in which rosters are shifting day-to-day. I have often wondered if this concept could be applied to college basketball, but have frequently been told that for legal reasons, the games don't exist.
I don't pretend to know what these legal reasons are, but apparently it is possible to have "rosters" during a March Madness competition, because that's exactly what these games entail. Instead of a draft, anyone can select any of the available players, either for the duration of the tournament (Survival mode) or weekly (One and Done mode).
Since you can create your own leagues, there is a good deal of flexibility in how you choose to score your league. I would like to see more statistics available for scoring your own league (e.g., FG%, FT%, Offensive vs. Defensive Rebounds, instead of just total rebounds, Personal Fouls).
Take the entire UNC roster (cheerleader above not included), or five players from five different teams. Either way, it's like adding crack to Krispy Kreme donuts. You were already glued to the games; now you have to watch every minute of all four monitors at once.
I have looked for any other major sites that allow you to set a lineup in any kind of college basketball fantasy league and, unless I'm just doing a bad job of searching, I have yet to find one. The originality score is therefore very high.
2. Value / Return on Investment RATING: 90/100 (Good)
There are elements here that are pretty difficult to beat.
First, you can play the "One and Done" game for free. In the free game, a Nintendo Wii is the top prize. And you don't even have to go through a deadly stampede at Wal-Mart to get it.
Now, what are your chances of winning this Wii? Well, obviously, only one is being handed out, so it depends on how many people are signing up. Since this is a fledgling operation, it's not like you are competing against the hordes of CBS, Fox, ESPN or Yahoo! users, some of which don't offer any reward for free games.
How about the paying game? (This is only the "Survival" version in which you keep your players for the entire tournament). The entry fee is $10 until March 14 and $20 after that. I can't emphasize enough how much the value increases if you sign up early; it's simple math.
The prizes are either a 40" LCD television or an $800 gift card (cold, hard cash, not a gift certificate to Target). That's a whole lot of cash, but I would have liked to seen it spread out a bit.
For example, if $800 is available, I would like to see $500 to the winner, $200 for second place and $100 to third place. This would have increased the score for "return on investment." Also, if you enter the game while the fee is $10, I would keep this rating of 90/100, but if you enter it at $20, I would score it an 85/100.
My advice: If you're going to join, do it early.
Some other things I examined and considered before giving the games a final score included the website itself (design, ease of navigation, information available), the process of joining or creating accounts and leagues, the terms of service (including privacy), method of payment (it's primarily PayPal, a good choice in my opinion), and ease of communication/professionalism of the site's owner.
Website Rating: 85/100 (Above Average)
The website design is a bit cluttered, but considering the speed at which it came together, this is to be expected. There are a variety of links to useful information, including college basketball news and statistics (as well as other sports). Ads are kept to a minimum (similar to B/R) and, most importantly, I experienced no pop-up ads.
You have the ability to ensure that your information is not used by third-parties or advertisers to contact you.
The individual game pages could contain more information, such as the prizes offered, details on creating your own leagues, etc., though this information is available on other parts of the site. I also think a FAQ would probably be helpful.
Join / Create Process: 95/100 (Excellent)
Basically, it's about as easy as it gets. All of the links work, and Len is readily available if there are any issues. Other payment options are available by contacting the site owner, if PayPal isn't your thing.
Site Owner: 100/100 (Superior)
Len is available right here on B/R for starters. He answered all emails within 24-48 hours (usually much sooner). He was professional, honest and thorough in all communications. I would feel very secure in signing up. And, yes, that's why I'm a fan of his here on B/R.
OVERALL RATING: 93/100 (Excellent)
I can't find a single reason not to join the free game and, honestly, $10 is not a bad chance to take on winning $800, considering the likely number of participants (that's not a shot at the site, but more of a comparison to sites with hundreds of thousands of entrants).
Biggest Positives: Extremely unique concept (using NCAA rosters), Good value / Quality prizes, Professionally operated
Biggest Negatives: Too few statistical categories in Create Your Own League option, would like to see more people win smaller prizes than one person win a big prize
I will be signing up myself, so maybe I should be discouraging you but, hey, you have to beat the best to be the best, so I hope to see you there. As the picture indicates, the game's a winner.