This article is part of our DFS College Basketball series.
DraftKings is bringing the heat , seemingly for the first time or what will become our norm. Three slates, 20 games, 200 starters to sort through.
DraftKings gives us an absolutely loaded 11-game main slate Saturday, with tipoffs between noon and 3:15 p.m. EST. The big injury consideration is North Carolina's Armando Bacot ($8,400), where there appears to be growing confidence he'll play. He's a viable option that many may stay away from given the ambiguity, or potential for a decreased workload. His return would also zap the appeal of Pete Nance ($6,900).
Column format works against me here, as there are 110 starters to sort through, and I get to feature six. There's going to be a ton of differentiation in tournaments Saturday, and high scoring is going to be required. We're in need of upside not stability.
Jalen Pickett, G, Penn State ($9,000)
I made the mistake of fading Pickett Wednesday, and won't do so again Saturday. I think we can make an argument for any of the top four priced options, but Pickett is the lone guard in that group, and comes at a pretty hefty discount from Zach Eddy ($10,200) at the top price point. He's impacting the game everywhere, averaging 15.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.4 steals, allowing him to struggle in one spot and still maintain stability. And he's not struggling anywhere, having returned 4x this price in all but two games. Illinois plays sound defense, but they also check in 27th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom, further providing appeal.
Zach Freemantle, F, Xavier ($7,200)
See the intro above; we want upside and differentiation for tournaments, not safe plays. That's exactly what Freemantle offers. He's coming off a woeful 9.25 DKP outing, but he also has three games where he's sailed past a 5x return, showing a 51.75 DKP ceiling. Cincinnati doesn't have the size to match Freemantle and teammate Jack Nunge ($8,100), and if Xavier can push tempo (40th nationally), this sets up as a bounce back spot for Freemantle at a pretty substantial discount.
Joe Girard, G, Syracuse ($6,700)
There isn't a more streaky option on this slate. Girard was 2-for-22 in two games for the Orange in late November. But he's bounced back over the last two, going 16-for-28 while averaging 30.88 DKP. I don't love targeting a guy who is pretty one-dimensional as an off night shooting sinks us. But he's been worth 4x this number in five of nine. The matchup with Georgetown offers optimism, as they come in 222nd in adjusted defense while allowing 73.3 PPG, a number I expect Syracuse to eclipse.
Matt Cleveland, G, Florida State ($6,200)
This is the 'Noles first game since losing Cam'Ron Fletcher for the season, so it could be a little bit of a guessing game on who steps up. But Cleveland was third on the team in usage with Fletcher healthy, and has shown to be trending positively. Now coming off a double-double, he's scored in double-digits in six of seven while offering more peripheral upside than Darin Green ($6,400). Louisville is simply woeful, losing their last five against Power 5 schools by an average of 78.0 - 52.2. A 5x return is in the cards.
Makhi Mitchell, F, Arkansas ($5,900)
It's a challenge to label someone as chalk on an 11-game slate, but I think Mitchell is as close as we get. Arkansas will be without Trevon Brazile, and Mitchell put up a massive 45.5 DKP in his last outing, posting 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks across 32 minutes. He could honestly cut that in half and still carry ample value. Both teams here can defend, so it will be interesting to see who dictates pace, with Arkansas sitting at the nation's 25th fastest tempo, and Oklahoma 335th. But I like Mitchell to at least board and defend, with points coming via minutes.
Jahvon Quinerly, G, Alabama ($5,100)
Quinerly is an upside dart throw. We saw a resurgence in 'Mama's four-OT win over North Carolina, but Quinerly returned to a limited role against South Dakota State. The encouraging side is he posted seven assists and five boards in that game after eight and six against the Heels. Houston is absolutely elite defensively, ranking second nationally, so expectations can be tempered. But I'd also expect Alabama needs to play their best players, and that includes Quinerly, to be competitive here. We're banking on a minutes uptick for upside, but a 4x return shouldn't be a tall ask. In limited run, Quinerly has a team-high 25.4 percent usage rate.
A much more manageable four-gamer is on tap for the midday crowd, with tipoffs being at a compact 5:00-5:15 p.m. EST window. Differentiating may be a bit more challenging. And managers are simply faced with one question; are you going to roster Jalen Wilson ($9,900) or not? He's rightfully priced $1,100 above everyone else, and the prices fall pretty quickly into the upper 7k range just five players removed. You can build a balanced attack without him, or take the sure thing and hope some value pops off.
Caleb Daniels, G, Villanova ($7,300)
Full disclosure, I'm very interested in stacking the Wildcats' here, as their production is very centralized throughout a core. Daniels has been far more consistent than the higher-priced Eric Dixon ($7,400) and comes with a sound 25.7 percent usage rate. He likely doesn't have elite upside with a freshman teammate surging (more below), but the floor should be incredibly stable against a Boston College side that has lost its two games against Power 5 opponents by a combined 163-126.
Kevin McCullar, G, Kansas ($7,000)
I'm definitely in the corner of building a well balanced lineup on this slate. And if that means no Wilson, we are going to have to find alternative targets in this matchup given that it has a total 18 points higher than any other game. I'll take McCullar for his ability to score and rebound at a lower price than teammate Grady Dick ($7,200). He's posted 4.8x or better in three of the Jayhawks last four, and with the pace boost Missouri provides, we should expect similar production.
Cam Whitmore, F, Villanova ($6,900)
Whitmore has pushed to a 32.4 percent usage rate in two games, and posted 34.5 DKP in just 24 minutes in his last outing. It just seems inevitable that he's going to claim a starting role, and 30+ minutes as was expected at the beginning of the year. I think this price point is high enough to turn most off, where it's easy to pivot to a more stable Wendell Green ($6,800). But where's the upside? I'm not buying Boston College's defensive metrics as their schedule has been soft, except where getting pummeled as noted above.
Eric Hunter, G, Butler ($6,300)
By and large, this is a game I'd try to avoid, with Butler checking in 210th in tempo and 89th defensively, and Cal following suit at 360th in tempo and 153rd defensively. But Hunter is playing at an elite level that his price doesn't reflect. Over his last eight games, he's failed to return 4x just twice, showing a 41.5 DKP ceiling. Hunter seems safe, and could come with low usage if most managers ignore this matchup.
Chandler Lawson, F, Memphis ($4,900)
This matchup with Auburn has a steady total, and narrow spread, so it's one where targeting starters on both sides seems prudent, as they'll likely all see 30+ minutes. Lawson doesn't do much of anything terrifically, but he finds ways to chip in, having scored at least seven points and grabbed at least five boards in four straight games, going for a 3x return in five of the Tigers first nine games. Nothing sexy, but 15-20 DKP while freeing up salary.
CJ Penha, F, Boston College ($4,800)
See the above write up for Lawson, and replace Pehna's name. There's next to no upside, but he's cheap, starts, and finds a way to produce on a nightly basis. He's coming off of his lowest DKP game of the season, and that was still a 2.5x return. He looks like he won't hurt you and allow for more spending in the slate's top tier.
We wrap up this loaded Saturday of hoops with a five-game evening slate, with tipoffs coming between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. Similar to the afternoon slate, managers have to ask themselves if they want to pay up for Trayce Jackson-Davis ($10,200), who is a massive $1,400 more than his nearest competitor. Unlike the afternoon slate, I think I'm personally more willing to entertain it. He's that good, and I think a joes and schmoes lineup could be more effective than in the afternoon, where I love the balance. But for content purposes, he's excluded here and we'll write as if we're looking elsewhere.
Ryan Kalkbrenner, F, Creighton ($8,000)
Kalkbrenner has a mediocre 19.3 percent usage rate, but he's the team's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder. Creighton is flirting with the slate's highest implied total, and I expect the masses to target Arizona/Indiana stars as their anchors, setting this up to be a low used, contrarian option who has gone for 30+ DKP in six of nine.
Xavier Johnson, G, Indiana ($7,400)
As noted in the intro, I think this is a slate to pay for the top-priced option. But if we're not, and we want a share of the Hoosiers' offense, which has the second-highest implied total, we're left with only Johnson. Dating back to his Pittsburgh days, he's shown the ability to be a triple-double threat. His shot isn't falling right now, being just 4-for-19 in the Hoosiers last two, but he's getting those opportunities nonetheless, and has at least four assists in six straight. He'll be the driving force to match Arizona's pace, giving him opportunity to exceed a 4x return.
Courtney Ramey, G, Arizona ($6,500)
I have no idea how Indiana is going to combat the Wildcat front court duo, but that figures to be their defensive focal point, with Jackson-Davis locking up, or dueling, with either Azuolas Tubelis ($8,700) or Oumar Ballo ($8,600), leaving one to feast. I'll pass on that guessing game and take Ramey as such. His worst game was last time out, a 23.0 DKP showing which represents a 3.5x return. Given the expected pace, Ramey looks to have 30.0 DKP potential at a bit of a discount.
PJ Hall, F, Clemson ($6,100)
This is likely the most obvious pick across the three slates, and thus a free square we take and move on. Hall is an All-ACC player whose price hasn't rebounded to his pre-injury levels. Across his last three games, he's taken 36 shots and posted a 30.75 DKP floor. This all comes with just 16 total rebounds, below his output a year ago, suggesting room for growth. Even if he doesn't hit the 5x return mark, he seems a lock for far more than 3x, slotting him safely into all lineups despite high usage.
Micah Peavy, G, TCU ($5,400)
I like the Horned Frogs to be overlooked on this slate, so don't be bashful if you want to use a top option as we learn who is available given their injury situation. But Peavy seems unlikely to be effected by that volatility and gives us a cheaper buy in to a lineup with a decent implied total nearing 75. He's taken at least eight shots in five straight games, totaling 63 attempts overall, giving him a decent floor if a few fall, with the potential for more given he's flirted with some rebounding prowess.
Zach Nutall, G, SMU ($5,500)
I don't love the other side of this matchup, but there's minimal risk in this pricing tier. Nutall is far from consistent, topping 20 DKP six times while showing a 13.5 DKP floor, but he's got a 22.8 percent usage rate, a nice number for the price. It's resulted in 22 shot attempts in his last two games. And in the two games prior; he's made 2-of-13 shots and still provided a total of 37.5 DKP; an unspectacular yet stable floor.