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September 17, 2006

Still recovering from my UFC hangover. Pulling gum out of my hair. Took my first shower in a while. Didn't realize I could grow a beard. Word is I was found wandering aimlessly down I-95, wearing cowboy boots and bibs, chewing on an unlit cigar at 2:30 in the morning. You go without sleep for a while, you do crazy things.

And we don't stop. Pick One Challenge. Add another item to the long list of new and improved on Fantasy for '06 to '07.

Do you use Shaq early or reserve him for 12/25?
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
So far, you have two options to satisfy your fantasy gaming needs. Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner is a fully customizable, draft-and-trade fun house of tools and settings. Whether you're new or experienced, we have the options for you to optimize your gaming pleasure. Like everything else found at Fantasy, it's free. For more information on the UFC, read here. To create or join a league, go here.

Next up is the Pick One Challenge. While the underlying idea here is to provide a game for the beginners and those looking for a low maintenance experience, Pick One appeals to all.

Last year's playoff game, Drive to the Finals, started the madness. The premise was that you picked one player for each day of the playoffs and you couldn't pick that same player twice. Fantasy points for adding that player's points, rebounds and assists. Very simple. The strategy came into play as you advanced further and further into the playoffs. Once we reached the Finals, you were in trouble if you didn't have any top Heat or Mavericks players. If you were smart, you were eyeing the match-ups and saving players from the teams most likely to advance in each series.

We apply that idea to a season-long game in the form of Pick One. One big difference. You can't pick the same player twice during the entire season.

Sound difficult? Sure, but not impossible. We're talking about approximately 150 players for 150 days. In your typical draft-and-trade league, you'll draft about 150 players, so talent is certainly 150 deep. Not to mention that this number is equal to the sum of starting lineups of each roster. Not overwhelming.

But there is plenty to consider when making your picks. You can pick any player at any time, but if Marcus Camby is healthy, the dude needs to be picked. You wait, he sits for the year, and your field is suddenly diminished by a player. Same is true for any player with an injury history.

Like any fantasy game, match-ups should be a consideration. If one team typically allows a higher number of points, rebounds or assists than any other team, you should give strong consideration to picking players whenever this team is the opposition.

Unbalanced daily schedules also throw a major curveball. If you don't plan appropriately, you could easily pick Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O'Neal and Lamar Odom prior to the Christmas Day game. This would be a significant mistake considering the only game played on December 25 is between the Heat and Lakers.

Finally, you must consider the rookie factor. First, rookies don't typically hit their stride until midway through the season, and there also exists (or doesn't) the fabled rookie wall. Don't pick him too early, don't pick him too late. But, you'll want to pick him. Why? Double points. As you sort through your player options and spot players with a T-Mobile symbol next to their names, this is why. For a typical player, 10 points plus 10 rebounds plus 10 assists is 30 fantasy points. For a T-Mobile Rookie, it's 60.

Sound complicated? It's really pretty simple, and we make the planning process as easy for you as is possible. On the main pick page there is a clickable calendar that allows you to view each day of a month in a single view. The days are color-coded according to number of games played on that day. Clearly, you want to pre-pick the days on which there are only one, two, or three games played on those days. Therefore, we've highlighted those days for you.

In addition, the calendar will display an "x" if you've already picked a player on that day. Mouse over, and it displays who you've chosen. Nice and easy, baby. Nice and easy.

It's stupid proof, really. Anyone can play, anyone can be successful. That said, there is plenty of strategy and room for error involved. Don't think that if you're an expert you can't be challenged by this game. Like any season-long competition, it's a marathon.

I've gone in and made all of my selections for days on which there are three games or less since I can scramble to find a player on a full schedule day much more easily than on one of these days. So, my picks for this week are partially determined by the picks I am planning for the future. I'm also trying to pick players at home and against weak opponents whenever possible. Based on last year's numbers, the teams that allow the most Points, Rebounds and Assists are Seattle, Toronto, Charlotte, Phoenix and Philadelphia.

This is what I am doing for week one (note that I am reserving Shaquille O'Neal for the Christmas Day Heat vs. Lakers showdown):

Tuesday, October 31 - Steve Nash, PHX @ L.A. Lakers
Wednesday, November 1 - Jason Kidd, NJN vs. Toronto
Thursday, November 2 - Elton Brand, LAC vs. Denver
Friday, November 3 - Kobe Bryant, LAL vs. Seattle
Saturday, November 4 - Jermaine O'Neal, IND @ New York
Sunday, November 5 - Dwyane Wade, MIA @ Philadelphia

Play Pick One Challenge Now!