This article is part of our DFS College Basketball series.
It's our first official weekend of conference play, and holy moly is DraftKings bringing the heat. We have a 12-game main slate Saturday that runs 12-2:30 p.m., a nine-game afternoon slate from 3:30-6 p.m. and a six-game evening slate from 8-9 p.m. A whopping 27 games are included, and I get the dubious task of picking 18 players total from those. Good times. Fingers crossed all these games actually happen.
With this slate being so large, I absolutely prefer a balanced lineup as opposed to a Joes-and-schmoes approach. Sure, the depth should lend solid value, but I'd still prefer plenty of depth and stability. Yes, that's more of a 50-50 strategy than GPP friendly, but guess what? I've swallowed the 50-50 pill. It simply gives you the best odds at winning — that's indisputable. The picks below may not play out that strategy, but that's how I'll approach my lineup construction. Ironically, as the column played out, I landed on a lot of guys I think will be lowly used.
Hunter Dickinson, F, Michigan ($8,400)
Dickinson has gone for 4x or more in five of his last six outings. That seems to create a stable floor at worst. He averaged 13.5 ppg and 8.5 rpg against the Spartans in two meetings last year, which isn't good enough, but I'm willing to trust the tight spread and higher total when paired with a discount to Armando Bacot ($9,300) to suggest boosted production.
Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue ($7,600)
Let's get the negative out of the way first; Penn State checks in 348th in tempo, so there likely isn't a huge ceiling for Ivey. But he's also priced lower than Caleb Love, who is far more volatile. The choice for a stable guard with reasonable upside comes down to Ivey and Scotty Pippen for me, and we can buy the dip on both as they're routinely priced at 8k-plus. Both enjoy high usage as well, so it truly is a flip of the coin. I'm simply siding with Ivey due to a slightly higher team implied total.
Marcus Williams, G, Texas A&M ($6,800)
Williams has gone for 25.25 DKP or more in four consecutive games, creating a likely 3.7x floor. Arkansas plays at the 14th-fastest pace, per KenPom, which should provide a boost as well. I don't trust A&M head coach Buzz Williams, as the Aggies' rotations haven't been consistent. But Williams transferred in to be a big piece, he's shown that form lately and the matchup is encouraging.
Jericole Hellems, F, North Carolina State ($6,600)
This is a game we want a piece of given the 144 point total and even spread. And Hellems seems to offer a decent pay down from Dereon Seabron ($9,000) and Terquavion Smith ($7,100). He's topped 30 DKP five times overall and has failed to reach 4x return at this number just twice all season.
Jimmy Boeheim, F, Syracuse ($5,900)
I think both Boeheim and Marcus Carr ($5,900) are going to be popular pay downs. So pick your poison. Carr is surging and has a much higher ceiling, Boeheim has the more stable floor. He's pulled down at least seven boards in four consecutive games and is clearly priced down after a bad outing at Miami where he scored only seven. He's been priced as high as $7,300 this season, so there's a huge discount in play. Add in that this game has the highest total by nearly 10 points, and this looks like an easy building block.
Armaan Franklin, G/F, Virginia ($5,600)
Franklin has quietly emerged for the Cavs, scoring 10-plus in four straight and five of six. He's hoisted at least six threes at the same ratio, so there seem's to be a clear path to some stable fantasy points so long as the shots fall. Pair that with UNC's faster pace, propensity to turn the ball over and certain low usage, and Franklin looks like a cheap path to 4x, which he's reached in three consecutive games.
Dylan Addae-Wusu, G, St. John's ($5,300)
A bonus play here, but it's difficult to omit Addae-Wusu from this column or lineups. He's scored in double-digits in six consecutive games three times handing out at least seven assists. He's seized the Johnies point-guard job, playing at least 30 minutes in six of eight, and that opportunity alone should lend a stable floor in a game with a nice 146 point total.
This is an interesting slate, as almost all of the high-total contests feature teams that are favored by double-digits. For me that stings — we're chasing one individual's unpredictable smash spot when four of his teammates are capable of the same. They aren't games we want to ignore, but also not spots on which we want to go all in. It's a guard-heavy slate, so don't be afraid to build a core frontcourt and then seek value on the perimeter.
Christian Braun, G, Kansas ($8,600)
I'm willing to pay up, as Braun has simply been automatic all year, going for at least 30.5 DKP in every outing since the season opener. Texas Tech is fifth overall in defensive efficiency and 295th in tempo, but all that tells me is we don't want secondary pieces. We have a decent 140 point total and Kansas is a slight favorite. Braun should be a rock solid anchor.
Michael Devoe, G, Georgia Tech ($8,200)
Simply buying a dip. Devoe is averaging 15.1 shots nightly, so if half of those fall, he's got a 2x floor without any peripherals, but he also averages five rebounds, three-plus assists and 1.7 steals. Some how Jordan Usher ($8,500) has seen his number rise above that of his teammate, and he's been held to less than 20 DKP four times in his last seven outings.
Also considered: Darius Days, F, LSU ($7,400)
Tanner Groves, F, Oklahoma ($6,500)
This seems too obvious. Groves has been priced as high as $9,000, which honestly hasn't been justifiable, but he's back from a bout with COVID and is clearly priced to be used. He's managed double-digit points in all but two games and has six boards in three straight. He only needs 26 DKP to reach 4x, a number he's sailed past five times. Expect heavy usage, which almost makes Groves a free square that doesn't hurt you to use, but does if he explodes and you don't.
Kellan Grady, G, Kentucky ($6,000)
You'll have to monitor news leading up to tipoff. But it looks like Sahvir Wheeler will miss this game, which leaves the Wildcats without a clear ball handling option. They're huge favorites, so we could see a youth movement, but Grady looks like the best option to facilitate, and with the ball in his hands, he should call his own number more often too. After a slow start, Grady has gone for 22.25-37.0 DKP in four of his last five, which works great at this number.
Tyrell Roberts, G, Washington State ($5,200)
Roberts hoisted 16 shots two games ago with Noah Williams in the lineup, but launched up 20 as Williams' replacement in the Cougars' last outing without Williams, leading to 34.25 DKP. There's not much news out there regarding why Williams missed the team's last game, or his availability for Saturday. If he's out, Roberts will see high usage. If Williams is in ... slot Roberts as a flex to allow for late adjustments. 'Bama's Juwan Gary ($5,200) has upside, Notre Dame's Cormac Ryan ($5,200) offers more stability.
J.D. Davison, G, Alabama ($4,500)
Davison is one of my favorite players the land, but he's been hampered by a knee issue for some three-plus weeks. This looks like a get right spot, however, and he's priced almost as low as possible. The Tide are double-digit favorites, and have an implied total of about 80 points. At this number, Davison doesn't need too much of a piece of the pie to reach 4x. And the talent/pedigree says he could go for 6x-plus if he plays extended minutes as a reserve. There's just huge upside for the number, and minimal risk.
The middle pricing isn't as deep as the earlier slates, so don't be afraid to load up on top-priced names and build around with some bench options that could see added run in blowout spots.
Paolo Banchero, F, Duke ($9,600)
You might argue higher upside in this pricing tier, but not by much. Banchero needs a robust 38.4 DKP to return 4x, but that's something he's done in consecutive conference games. Miami starts a guard dominant lineup that has no match for Banchero's size and is 214th in defensive efficiency. Less than 40 DKP would be troubling.
Wendell Green, G, Auburn ($7,400)
Probably not the name expected, as Green isn't a starter, and there's a plethora of top-tier options. But he's not cost prohibitive, has taken 10-plus shots in five of six, plays for a team with minimal backcourt options that is favored by a steady margin, and has a 75-plus point implied total. Green is just seemingly another lock for 4x.
Malik Osborne, F, Florida State ($6,600)
Osborne was expected to be an anchor for the 'Noles but has been as inconstant as he's been in the past when this roster was far more covered in NBA talent. As such, Osborne is in a spot to exploit matchups. He can board, create turnovers and while there's no reason to force Osborne into your lineup given the higher end forwards, his addition offers stability, a higher cap floor and low usage.
Charlie Moore, G, Miami ($6,400)
The DePaul transfer is finding his niche for Miami, posting 33.0 DKP or better in four of his last five, doing so with all-around production, offsetting his lack of consistent scores. The shots are now following, and the 'Canes look poised to make noise in conference ... just after their mid-week appearance in Durham.
Tolu Smith, F, Mississippi State ($5,800)
DK doesn't seem to have caught up, as Smith posted 18 points, six boards and five steals on Dec. 29 against Arkansas, yet it doesn't appear in his game log, nor in a price increase. That should be a perfect storm for players who are actually paying attention. He's proven to be extra brittle, so this isn't a slam dunk, but when Smith plays, he's a 30-plus DKP threat at a bargain number.
Matt Cleveland, G/F, Florida State ($4,300)
There appears to be little downside here, a rarity for the price point. Cleveland has earned 53.5 DKP across his last two games, and that alone screams elite upside for the number. There isn't much targetable about the matchup, with Louisville checking in 32nd defensively and 102nd in tempo. But the raw talent, emerging form and, most important, the bottom-tier pricing makes Cleveland a no-brainer.