This article is part of our DFS College Basketball series.
DraftKings is providing us with a nine-game main slate Thursday. As usual, things tipoff in the Big Ten as conference heavyweight Purdue clashes with Maryland at 6:30 p.m. EST. It's a somewhat rare lineup of games with five of the contests featured in the night slate, which tips off at 10:00 p.m. EST.
Thursday's games aren't the most offensive-friendly either, as only three of the nine have totals above 140. This upper trio of games are all projected to finish with 147.5+ combined points, but all three have spreads between eight and 10 points. That leaves a very tough slate to work for us to work with. Therefore, we'll hone in on a couple of promising top-tier picks followed by a combination of high-upside and low-floor options in the middle and value tiers.
Jarace Walker, F, Houston ($8,400)
This game definitely falls into the less-attractive section of Thursday's slate. Houston is favored by 15.5 points and the over/under is only set at 138.5. It's typically against our rules to invest a lot of salary in a game projected to be this lopsided. However, Walker is worth the exception. The 6-foot-8 freshman had a breakout 23-point double-double against SMU back in early January. In his eight outings since then, Walker has seen a significant uptick in scoring with 15.3 points per game while converting 51.6 percent of his 11.4 field-goal tries per contest. He's also posted 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.5 steals over that span. What's more, the Mustangs rank 284th in rebounding percentage (47.6) this season, per TeamRankings. This should give Walker a pretty safe floor even if he does get pulled from the court early in this potential blowout.
Cameron Shelton, G, Loyola Marymount ($7,800)
Shelton should be a no-brainer pick at this salary, as he's been putting up monster numbers this season as Loyola Marymount's team leader in both points (20.4) and assists (4.4) per game. That's not to mention his additional 5.6 rebounds per game. Of the players on Thursday's slate that average at least 25 minutes, Shelton has the highest usage rate (34.3). I also wouldn't be surprised if the Ramblers go through Shelton even more than usual against West Coast Conference titan Gonzaga. The fifth-year senior scored 27 points and hit the go-ahead shot to secure a 68-67 win back in mid-January that snapped the Bulldogs' 75-game home unbeaten streak. With Loyola Marymount listed as an 8.5-point home underdog this time around, I think it's highly likely Shelton puts up at least 20 field-goal attempts for the fifth time this season and the third game in a row Thursday night.
Zed Key, F, Ohio State ($6,600)
Key should provide a very solid base for our lineup Thursday. The 6-foot-8 junior's 7.7 field-goal attempts per game don't provide as much upside as Ohio State's top scorers Brice Sensabaugh (12.3) and Justice Sueing (10.6). But, Sueing has been the most consistent rebounder of the three, collecting at least eight boards in all but three of his 11 appearances during Big 10 play -- one of which came in his Jan. 5 outing against Purdue that was cut short after he went down with injury four minutes into the game. This matchup versus the Hawkeyes also has the second-highest total (152.5) among Thursday's games, and Iowa ranks 48th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom. This figures to give Key additional opportunities to build off his consistent scoring (11.1) and rebounding averages, which could very well result in his fourth double-double of conference play.
Hakim Hart, G, Maryland ($6,500)
Hart is coming off two of his best fantasy performances of the season with 39.8 and 30 DKP against Penn State and Michigan State, respectively. The 6-foot-8 senior sits square in the middle of Maryland's starting five in points per game (11.6), though he's been this unit's most consistent shooter with a 50.3 field-goal percentage on the season. Hart is also second among this unit in steals per game (1.1). While this category usually doesn't lead to much significant fantasy production, it could against Purdue, which ranks 334th in turnover percentage (15.6) and 330th in opposing steal percentage (7.2). Playing their hard-nosed, defensive style of play should be the game plan for the Terrapins as they look to take down No. 3 Purdue.
Amari Bailey, G, UCLA ($5,900)
Bailey has delivered rather solid fantasy production since returning from his seven-game hiatus with a foot injury. The freshman guard has posted at least 18 DKP in all but one of UCLA's past four games. This has come almost exclusively from his role as a scorer with 13.2 points per game over that span. Shooters like Bailey do typically carry more volatility, but he's been shooting 57.1 percent while averaging 9.8 field-goal tries per game since returning from injury. Bailey's team-high 28.4 percent usage rate over that span makes him a very worthwhile flier.
D.J. Rodman, F, Washington State ($5,700)
Rodman is another player recently coming back from a short absence. The 6-foot-6 senior missed back-to-back games with an illness before logging his second-highest rebounding total of Pac-12 play with nine versus Washington on Saturday. Rodman has hit a rough stretch of scoring over his last nine games, converting 38.8 percent of his 7.4 field-goal attempts per game. However, he's still posting 9.9 points and 6.6 rebounds while playing 30.9 minutes per game over that span. So, while Thursday's matchup against Oregon State has a total of just 123, Rodman's extensive playing time should give him ample chances to log another productive outing on the boards, especially against a Beavers squad that ranks 305th in rebounding percentage (47.2).