This article is part of our DFS College Basketball series.
College basketball season is upon us, with nearly 200 game set to tip off Monday night. The typical Champions Classic games are delayed one week this season, but there are plenty of quality matchups for DraftKings to carve out a nine-game slate with a $10,000 top prize up for grabs.
Here at RotoWire, we'll be using this format to cover the larger DFS slates all season long (at the editorial team's discretion). Each preview will contain picks from the upper, middle and "value" tiers. The focus will largely be on DraftKings due to the contest size and more reactive pricing, but we'll occasional sneak in a FanDuel special for values that are simply too good to pass up.
On days that don't have long-form advice columns, we recommend checking out our brand new College Basketball DFS Recommendations page, where a number of experienced DFS players and college basketball editors on our staff will nominate their favorite plays by salary tier.
With this being the inaugural column for the 2022-23 season, I first want to run down a few of the tools we offer here on RotoWire. The home base for most of our subscribers is the DFS Lineup Optimizer, but as any DFS player knows, an optimizer is only as good as how you use it. Sure, go ahead and give the default optimizer a spin, but if there's a play you're not sure of, we encourage using the red X to remove them from the lineup/pool. Think our formula might overvalue a mid-major player whose stats are built on lower competition? Boom, trust your gut and eliminate them from the pool. You can also "like" a player to increase their projection by 20 percent, or manually change a projection to whatever you like! If you agree with any of my recommendations below, use the padlock button to make sure they are featured in your lineup.
Some of my other favorite tools include the DFS Matchup Info page, where you can sort the games by implied total, as well as offensive/defensive efficiency stats calculated by our our developers behind the scenes. It's the perfect place to get started, as it will help you find out which games to target. Here's what tonight's nine-game DraftKings slate looks like:
Once we get a few games into the season, our Advanced CBB Lineups page is a resource that's second to none. Here, you'll be able to view recent starters for each team in the player pool alongside salaries, with stats like minutes, usage and fantasy PPG included. It's perfect for researching mid-majors early in the year. You can also click on any team logo to navigate to a team-specific page, which shows usage from last year among other stats.
If you like what you see or just want to give these tools a try, head to rotowire.com/free for a free 48-hour trial. We won't ask for a credit card, and the trial simply expires at its conclusion. That also covers every other sport on the site.
Without further delay, let's jump into my favorite plays on the Monday college basketball slate.
Hunter Dickinson, F, Michigan ($9,100 DK)
Looking at the top tier of players, Oscar Tshiebwe ($9,700) has been limited by a knee injury for weeks, Cam Whitmore ($9,300) has been ruled out for VIllanova and freshman Nick Smith ($9,300) is unproven for a deep Arkansas team. Of course, mass entry players will want to get a little Tshiebwe exposure if he plays, but the safest play among the top tier is Dickinson. The 7-1 center is a bonafide stud with no real competition for minutes, and IPFW is a team that won't have an answer for him down low, in addition to playing at an above-average pace. Foul trouble and blowout potential are the only risks here, but Dickinson can still clean up early before coach Juwan Howard decides to empty his bench.
Editor's Note: Tshiebwe is now considered doubtful for Kentucky's first two games. John Calipari even said "I'd be stunned if he played Monday." It's probably a good idea to leave him out of your player pool, at least for opening night.
Azuolas Tubelis, F, Arizona ($8,400 DK)
Arizona lost a lot of production from last season, with Bennedict Mathurin (17.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Christian Koloko (12.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg) both moving on from the program. While Oumar Ballo ($6,700 DK) should step in at center, Tubelis will be another double-double threat at power forward after posting 12.2 and 13.9 ppg during his first two seasons with the program. The matchup is great as well, as Nicholls State nearly broke the top-50 nationwide last season in KenPom's adjusted tempo metric, in addition to checking in at No. 280 in defensive rebounding rate.
Eric Dixon, F, Villanova ($7,800 DK)
This was a debate between Dixon and Caleb Daniels ($8,600 DK), as this Villanova team isn't particularly deep and will be without the aforementioned Whitmore for at least the opener. Justin Moore is also out due to an Achilles injury suffered late last season. Gone as well are Collin Gillespie (15.6 ppg) and Jermaine Samuels (11.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg). Don't worry about the injury tag on Daniels, as he'll likely suit up with a mask on due to a broken nose. Dixon doesn't have such limitations, however, and he'll be matching up against a La Salle frontcourt that lost both of last year's starters -- Jack Clark and Clifton Moore -- to the transfer market. The Explorers were already a bad team that ranked 149th and 139th in offensive and defensive rebounding rate, respectively, last season. We're counting on Dixon to make a leap from the 9.1 ppg and 6.4 rpg he averaged last season, but it looks like a prime opportunity to do so.
Tyler Wahl, F, Wisconsin ($6,500 DK)
I'll admit a little Badger bias here, but after the team lost Johnny Davis to the NBA, Brad Davison to graduation (finally) and Chris Vogt to graduation as well, the program is once again scrambling to identify a top producer. Wahl showed signs of his ability to be that guy last year, with three 20-point games and two double-doubles, while also chipping in 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals per contest. As he sets his sights on the next level, Wahl has also added outside shooting to his offensive arsenal, as he pulled up from the three-point line and knocked shots down during a team scrimmage. Given his projected usage, the price won't stay this low for long.
Jarred Godfrey, G, IPFW ($6,000 DK)
Any way you cut it, this isn't a great matchup against Michigan. Godfrey gets on the radar due to volume alone, however. Now a graduate student entering his fifth year with the program, Godfrey averaged 15.2 ppg or greater in each of his last three seasons. He also loses his backcourt running mate and primary competition for touches in Jalon Pipkins, who left for Loyola-Chicago via the transfer market. A 2-for-17 shooting day isn't out of the question, but even in that scenario, he's produced enough in terms of rebounds, assists and steals over the past few years to potentially still hit value.
Jacob Toppin, F, Kentucky ($6,400 DK)
Toppin has received steady praise all offseason for his improvements, and the results are already starting to show. In a recent exhibition game, Toppin started and led the team in minutes (31), while scoring 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, in addition to racking up six rebounds, two assists and two steals. He might not light up the scoreboard, but he's a perfect "glue guy" that will collect plenty of ancillary stats. That will especially hold true if Tshiebwe (knee) or point guard Sahvir Wheeler (leg) are limited in any way in the opener. The matchup is also solid, as Howard ranked No. 35 in adjusted tempo and No. 238 in defensive efficiency in 2021-22 (per KenPom).
CJ Fredrick, G, Kentucky ($3,300 DK)
This might be the slate's free square, as Fredrick is understandably difficult to price after not appearing in a game since 2020-21 with Iowa. He's been a starter for Kentucky throughout exhibition play, which included scoring a team-high 15 points on 4-of-6 from distance. Kentucky has already been bitten by the injury bug early with primary contributors Oscar Tshiebwe (knee) and Sahvir Wheeler (leg) likely not at 100 percent, so Fredrick should have no problem getting his shots up, in addition to seeing enough minutes for minor contributions in the ancillary categories. Even at full strength, Fredrick is the best three-point shooter on the team and should lead the Wildcats in that category this year.
Davonte Gaines, G, George Mason ($4,100 DK)
Gaines started 29 of 30 games last season for George Mason, posting 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds across 33.0 minutes. I wouldn't expect much efficiency against what's projected to be a top-15 Auburn defense (per KenPom), but the Tigers play fast, so Gaines will have his opportunities. This looks like a mis-price that should open up plenty of options in lineups.
Paul Bruns, G, South Dakota ($3,900 DK)
Playing against the Badgers is typically a death sentence in DFS due to their slow pace and stellar defense. There's also a risk factor with Bruns due to the fact that he's transferring from what was a terrible team (North Dakota) to a real Summit League contender in South Dakota. While on that bad team, however, Bruns posted 14.8 points and 5.8 rebounds across 31.2 minutes in 31 games (24 starts). His exhibition stat line in a blowout against Simpson was nothing to write home about, as he scored just two points on 1-of-6 shooting. He did get the start, however, plus had three rebounds and two assists, so there's some potential here at this bottom-barrel price in what is essentially a punt play for GPPs (that may not be necessary due to the two aforementioned values).