DFS College Basketball: Opening Night Preview

DFS College Basketball: Opening Night Preview

This article is part of our DFS College Basketball series.

Welcome to the 2019-20 college basketball season! Breakdowns like the one below will run roughly three times per week based on slate size, including every Saturday. We'll review the high-priced options and some value options, in addition to highlighting a game or two to target and/or fade. Both primary CBB DFS websites — FanDuel and DraftKings — will be covered within this article.

Since this is the first column of the season, I'd also like to run down some of the general tools we offer on RotoWire that subscribers will have access to all season. The best DFS players develop a process and fine tune it over time, and whether we feature a full breakdown on a given day or not, the following tools will always be at your disposal:

  • CBB Injuries, which can be viewed via our news updates or in grid form (tip: sort by date to see anyone injured for that specific day).
  • Subscriber Discord: Included with your subscription, you can join our Discord server to share ideas with other subscribers and root for your collective plays.
  • CBB Team Pages: From our Team Stats page, click on any team for an in-depth breakdown of various factors related to the team. Here you can see depth charts, starting lineups over the last five games, a full schedule with results/box scores and various other metrics calculated by RotoWire.

And here are a few more that are DFS specific:

  • Lineup Optimizer: Your general lineup-building starting point. Here, you can edit our mathematically based projections to your liking and use customizable features such as lock/exclude to build lineups that have your own personal touch. "Like" a player to boost his projection by 20 percent. And NEW this season, generate up to 150 lineups for a given slate.
  • Daily Matchup Info: This tool organizes the entire slate with sortable columns for things like implied point total and pace. It's a great starting point for figuring out games/matchups to target.
  • Advanced Daily Lineups: This feature needs a few games to fully populate, but it displays a team's recent starters alongside their usage rates. A high usage rate and below-average price tag typically signals a good DFS play.

Without further delay, let's get into the Tuesday slate.

Top Players

Cassius Winston, Michigan State ($8,800 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel)

A preseason Wooden Award favorite, Winston is as complete a college basketball guard as they come. He should see very heavy usage with Joshua Langford (foot) still out for the foreseeable future and Kyle Ahrens (ankle) a game-time call at less than 100 percent health. The only downside is he draws a matchup against Kentucky sophomore Ashton Hagans, but there are few guards in college basketball who can hope to contain Winston. Given his scoring responsibility, Winston is a fine play for cash games. With enough bargains on the slate, I assume his usage will be quite high.

Vernon Carey Jr., Duke ($8,500 DK, $8,000 FD)

Everyone remembers Zion Williamson as a shoe-in for all types of CBB DFS games last season, as failing to roster him came with severe consequences more often than not. While Carey gets a bit of the Zion treatment, he's far from the same type of player. He was stifled in Duke's first scrimmage, but got back on track in the second with 11 points and eight rebounds in just 16 minutes. He's also accumulated five personal fouls in 26 minutes of exhibition play. The foul trouble risk, mixed with the fact that he'll be guarded by Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Udoka Azubuike, likely makes him a fade for me on opening night. He'll develop into a core DFS play as the season progresses, but going to Carey out of the gates is a risky proposition. 

James Banks, Georgia Tech ($8,300 DK, $7,800 FD)

Banks draws an opponent that ranked No. 39 in adjusted tempo last season (per KenPom), and N.C. State also happens to be without starting center DJ Funderburk (suspension). Funderburk will be replaced by 6-11 Manny Bates, who is a three-star recruit coming off a redshirt year with no true collegiate experience. There's always a bit of a foul-trouble risk when spending up for a center — and Banks fouled out five times last year— but the pace and matchup are almost too good to be true. 

Jordan Ford, Saint Mary's ($8,100 DK, $7,900 FD)

Ford will seemingly have a difficult time matching last season's average of 21.1 ppg, as the Badgers will once again be one of the slowest-paced teams, and experienced guard play will help them on the defensive end. He may be the lowest in the $8,000-plus tier, but my preference is to scrape and save for Banks, or just go with a more balanced approach. I'll discuss more reasons to fade this game below.

Value Plays

Ochai Agbaji, Kansas ($6,400 DK, $6,200 FD)

I have to start with last season's DFS darling, even if his price is a little high to be considered a "value." Duke is a young team that struggled to make and defend three-pointers in exhibition play, and Agbaji represents a big matchup problem, as a 6-foot-5 wing that can tear it up from outside. While Udoka Azubuike is back from injury and Silvio De Sousa is finally eligible, there's still rebounding upside for Agbaji if Duke goes with a smaller lineup and tries to run the floor more.

Ashton Hagans, Kentucky ($5,200 DK, $5,900 FD)

Last season's chalk play returns to this column, as Hagans is once again expected to serve as Big Blue's starting point guard. While a lot of the supporting cast is different, Hagans remains a reliable play. Even if he doesn't light up the scoreboard, his tremendous contributions in assists and steals help elevate his fantasy floor. Immanuel Quickley ($5,300 DK, $4,600) has also seen his role grow if you're looking for a lower-owned alternative.

Shakur Juiston, Oregon ($5,600 DK-only)

While much of this preview focuses on the games shared between the sites, don't overlook a bargain option like Juiston on DraftKings. The UNLV transfer is eligible immediately for the Ducks, and fills an area of tremendous need. Francis Okoro is dealing with an undisclosed injury, while N'Faly Dante is on the shelf due to eligibility issues. That leaves the 6-7 Juiston as the most experienced forward option by a mile, and he should see a plethora of rebounding opportunities. There are no Oregon exhibition games to confirm his workload, but Juiston had 12 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes in an Oct. 30 intra-squad scrimmage. He averaged 10.0 and 8.8 rebounds in his first two seasons at UNLV, respectively.

Manny Bates, NC State ($4,800 DK, $4,200 FD)

Bates' inexperience helps make James Banks one of my favorite higher-priced plays, but his price and projected minutes scream value. Somebody has to rebound for a guard-heavy N.C. State team, and the unit didn't necessarily solidify its power forward position in exhibition play.

Thomas Kithier, Michigan State ($3,00 DK, $4,200 FD)

He's minimum-priced on DraftKings, and coach Tom Izzo hasn't been shy about saying he'll be on the court over the likes of Marcus Bingham in crunch time. Kithier is capable of playing alongside Xavier Tillman ($7,300 DK, $7,600 FD) at both the four and the five, and while he plays a crowded position, the Spartans are down a few bodies due to injuries. I can't think of a better punt play on DK, where 15 fantasy points represents plenty ROI. 

Note: Kithier recently suffered a broken nose, but plans to play through it with a mask. That throws a big question mark in his expected production, but we have confirmation he will start, at least.

Games to Target

Kansas at Duke (-2), o/u 153, 7 p.m. EST

Duke replaces much of its rotation from a season ago, but Tre Jones ($7,600 DK, $7,400 FD) is back to man the point and should provide some familiarity. Without a Williamson/Barrett combo on hand, Jones will presumably have to increase his scoring until other options start to stand out. I expressed hesitation in Carey above, but one freshman who looks ready out of the gates is Matthew Hurt ($5,400 DK, $6,100 FD). After scoring 19 and 17 in two exhibition games, he appears to have locked down a starting role and is an outside candidate to lead the team in scoring. It should be Wendell Moore ($5,600 DK, $6,000 FD) or Cassius Stanley ($6,100 DK, $5,800 FD) that locks down the last starting spot (don't forget about Jack White — $4,900 DK, $4,500 FD), with a familiar face in Javin DeLaurier ($6,000 DK, $4,900 FD) ready to provide a defensive boost off the bench. The team might give DeLaurier more run in an effort to contain Udoka Azubuike ($6,900 DK, $7,500 FD), but I think there's probably more bang for your buck with White.

Speaking of Azubuike, he just missed our "top-priced options" by a hair, but is in an exceptional spot here against what looks to be an inexperienced frontcourt (with the exception of DeLaurier). He may be coming off a wrist injury last season, but that's one of the lower prices I've seen for a preseason POY candidate. He and Agbaji are probably the best KU plays, as I'll fade Devon Dotson ($6,800 DK, $6,900 FD). Dotson will have a tremendous season, but a one-on-one matchup against Tre Jones is almost always one to stay away from (see Shamorie Ponds last year). Isaiah Moss ($6,600 DK, $6,000 FD) will serve as guard depth and add a perimeter boost, but has been dealing with an ankle injury and may not be 100 percent healthy, so I'm staying away at that price. Marcus Garrett ($5,200 DK, $5,600 FD) should start at shooting guard, while Silvio De Sousa ($7,100 DK, $6,500 FD) and David McCormack ($4,500 DK, $4,100 FD) split time at power forward. Coach Bill Self started McCormack in the last exhibition and that might be a better value, but De Sousa has the better skill set (but a much higher price tag along with it).

In any case, go ahead and get at least a piece of this one, as KenPom is projecting a 78-74 Duke victory. A tight game means heavy starter minutes, with plenty of scoring to go around.

Georgia Tech at N.C. State (-8.5), 8:30 p.m. EST

The Wolfpack offer a delightful DFS combination — top-40 pace with a below-average defense, at least among power conference teams. That's expected to repeat in 2019-20 with the team returning most of its guard-heavy rotation (with the exception of Torin Dorn). That lines up plenty of available points for an already high-scoring team that enters the night as big favorites. The Wolfpack pounded Mount Olive in a tune-up game and put up 113 points, with Markell Johnson ($7,500 DK, $7,200 FD) scoring 26. He has the highest ceiling of the bunch, but can be troubled by inconsistency at times. Both C.J. Bryce ($6,600 DK, $6,800 FD) and Devon Daniels ($5,800 DK, $5,800 FD) had 20 points in that game, and are in play as well Tuesday. As mentioned, Bates is the most attractive play due to his price. Braxton Beverly ($6,000 DK, $5,600 FD) didn't start in the exhibition, so he's perhaps a GPP ticket at best if he gets hot from outside off the bench — though the Yellow Jackets were No. 12 in perimeter defense last season.

On the Georgia Tech side, I profiled Banks up top. As long as he avoids fouling when N.C. State looks to strike quickly in transition, he should be poised for solid production (and one of the more popular plays of the night). The starting backcourt of Jose Alvarado ($7,000 DK, $7,300 FD) and Michael Devoe ($6,600 DK, $6,100 FD) is in play as well. Bubba Parham ($6,200 DK, $7,100 FD) is priced higher due his ability to score in bunches at VMI, but was held scoreless in exhibition play against Alabama, so I'd hold off until his price levels out. Moses Wright ($5,600 DK, $5,300 FD) and Khalid Moore ($4,800 DK, $5,300 FD) round out the expected starting lineup for Georgia Tech. Both offer cheaper pivot points from Banks.

Game to Fade

St. Mary's (-1) at Wisconsin, 9 p.m. EST

The Badgers finished No. 4 in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency and No. 331 in his pace metric last season, so even though the team success was limited, they were a nightmare to face from a DFS standpoint. That team loses Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson, and while that will hurt it defensively, it will allow coach Greg Gard to return to his swing offense, and KenPom predicts the 2019-20 unit to play at the nation's 347th fastest pace. Given the circumstances, I don't expect to roster much, if any, Gaels for this neutral-court matchup opening night.

The one player I can talk myself into is Wisconsin's Nate Reuvers ($5,800 DK, $5,900 FD), who will be asked to do a whole lot more with Ethan Happ out of the mix. Gard's return to his swing offense is largely because Reuvers can offer outside shooting from the five spot. He's also a formidable defense presence with shot-blocking ability. St. Mary's would normally be a matchup to fade, but given the price of Reuvers with his potential for Happ-like numbers, he's at least in consideration for me. The Badgers have historically developed centers very well, and that leap often happens between a player's sophomore and junior seasons (see Frank Kaminsky). Might as well get out ahead of the situation while there is still value.

Have questions about our DFS content? Want to learn more about games that aren't mentioned here? Leave a comment, or jump in on our subscriber Discord to chat with other CBB DFS players.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Jake Letarski plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: rotojakeski, DraftKings: RotoJakeSki.
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Jake Letarski
RotoWire Editor for College Basketball and MMA. Frequent podcaster, plus radio and video guest. Follow Jake on Twitter at @RotoJake.
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