This article is part of our DFS College Basketball series.
The 2019-20 college basketball season's first week continues on with a great slate of games from a DFS perspective Friday. This will be a one-off column on a Friday, but I'll be here every Thursday during the season to breakdown the DFS slate for contests on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Aside from our useful tools like our lineup optimizer and value report every night, I'll break down some of the top players, bargains and games to target every Thursday night. I am a true KenPom disciple, so I will highlight many of his analytics in my articles throughout the season. I will try to focus on the games that are shared on both platforms, but I will add an additional paragraph on the DraftKings-exclusive games.
Like my other esteemed colleagues, I will look to use the sportsbooks' odds, especially over/unders to formulate games have the highest probability of optimal production.
Both FanDuel and DraftKings:
Duke (-23.5) vs. Colorado State O/U: 146.5
Kentucky (-29.5) vs Eastern Kentucky O/U: 151
UNC (-21.5) @ UNC-Wilmington O/U: 162.5
Kansas (-15.5) vs. UNC-Greensboro O/U: 144.5
Baylor (-5) @ Washington O/U: 138
Colorado (-5.5) vs. Arizona State O/U: 147.5
Memphis (-19) vs. Illinois-Chicago O/U: 157.5
LSU (-13.5) vs. Bowling Green O/U: 157
East Carolina (-1) @ Navy O/U: 137
*Odds provided via FanDuel Sportsbook and are subject to change
It's a quite difficult slate with so many games forecasted to be blowouts, but that gives us a great challenge to provide ourselves with some variation from the public. North Carolina plays at a ferocious pace with coach Roy Williams, but the fact that the Tar Heels are favored by 21.5 gives me pause to deploy the starters in the likely event of a blowout. Eastern Kentucky is graded the fastest paced team per KenPom, so their game against Kentucky is certainly one to keep an eye on, and possibly try to find a bargain or too in a blowout. I'll outline the top players, value options and games to target and avoid for Friday's slate.
Cole Anthony, North Carolina, G ($7,000 FanDuel, $9,300 DraftKings)
What a start for one of the most talented players in the country. Anthony set a college record for a freshman in their debut with 34 points in Tuesday's win over Notre Dame. His 52.7 fantasy points were by far the most in the slate on opening night, accomplishing a double-double with 11 rebounds. He plays on one of the fastest teams in the country, with the highest over/under on the slate. All the positives being said, I have to fade Anthony on Friday. He's obviously a great player, but at $9,300 on Draftkings that's far too high for my liking, and I'm expecting almost every player to have Anthony in their lineup. It's almost impossible to follow up Tuesday's output, and with a rout expected, I'm banking on Anthony underperforming his modest salary.
Tre Jones, Duke, G ($8,000 FanDuel, $7,700 DraftKings)
Jones played all but one minute in Duke's opening night win over Kansas in the Champions Classic, suggesting Coach K has the utmost confidence in the sophomore. He put up a solid 33.7 fantasy points in the game, going off for 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists. With a likely blowout coming in the opening game at Cameron Indoor, it's hard to justify paying up for the most expensive player on the slate who could only see 25-30 minutes. The general public could be all over Jones after his great performance Tuesday, so one could make a case to deploy some variation in tournament formats and fade the Blue Devil star in tournaments. I could see the possibility of Duke wanting to get freshman Wendell Moore ($4,900 FanDuel, $5,000 DraftKings), or Alex O'Connell ($5,000 FanDuel, $5,600 DraftKings) some more run against lesser competition, so deploy Jones at your own risk.
Justin Pierce, UNC, G ($7,900 FanDuel, $6,000 DraftKings)
The William & Mary transfer didn't live up to the hype in his first career game with the Tar Heels, only racking up five points and seven rebounds in the game. He only played 20 minutes in the game, but his usage could be on the rise, considering fellow forward Brandon Robinson is expected to miss several weeks with a severely sprained ankle. Pierce was used in just 18 percent of offensive possessions in the game while he was on the floor against Notre Dame on Tuesday, and I can't advise to play Pierce in any formats considering he's the second most expensive player on the slate on FanDuel.
Darius Hicks, EKU, F ($7,800 FanDuel, $7,200 DraftKings)
I'd be willing to bet almost every college basketball fan hasn't heard of Hicks, but he's set to be a force this season for Eastern Kentucky after sitting out last year following his transfer from NC State. The junior produced 38.9 FanDuel points last time out against Chattanooga, racking up 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. I mentioned before that the Colonials are the fastest paced team in college basketball, and Hicks leads the charge, taking 32 percent of his team's shots so far this season. With a high total and fast pace expected, there will be plenty of opportunities for shots taken and rebounds for Hicks. Give me the Colonels junior in all formats to give us at least a double-double Friday.
Tyler Bey, Colorado, F ($7,700 FanDuel, $8,500 DraftKings)
I absolutely love this kid. After averaging 13.9 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game last campaign, Bey is trending towards an even better output in his sophomore season. He and star guard McKinley Wright IV ($7,500 FanDuel, $7,800 DK) are back to guide the Buffs to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2016. Playing in the third-highest total from Vegas on the slate, I want to get Bey into every lineup I can Friday. I would expect a double-double in a tightly contested game, and one thing I love about Bey is his rebounding potential. The sophomore was graded second in the country by KenPom in defensive rebounding percentage last season at 33 percent. The only thing that gives me pause is a tough matchup looming with Romello White ($5,800 FanDuel, $6,100 DraftKings) across from him. Bey is my second-best option on the slate behind Hicks.
James Wiseman, Memphis, F ($9,000 DraftKings only)
Wiseman possesses some of the most vital attributes to be successful at this level. The 7-footer can dominate inside with rebounds and scintillating dunks, as well as step out and shoot from the perimeter. He turned his potential into immediate production in his Tuesday debut, needing just 22 minutes to collect 28 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. There's blowout potential here with Memphis entering as (-19.5) favorites against the UIC Flames, but as we saw in the opener, Wiseman doesn't necessarily need a lot of minutes to produce a big stat line.
A quick two-fer in the back court for the Wildcats. Hagans was used in 26 percent of offensive possessions in the opening night win over Michigan State, with Quickley factoring in on 19 percent of possessions. The big spread certainly scares me that John Calipari will elect to give his bench some more minutes, but at the current prices, I love the value with these two. Eastern Kentucky is the fastest-paced team in college basketball, so there should be plenty of opportunities for both teams. I'd expect the Colonels to be a bit careless with the ball, as they've turned the ball over 29 percent of the time this season, which could open the door for steals for an active Kentucky backcourt.
Jomaru Brown, EKY, G ($5,700 FD, $5,500 DK)
As mentioned above, the fastest paced team in America is bound to have some options from a fantasy perspective. Brown only played 20 minutes last game, but was used in a whopping 35 percent of offensive possessions. Looking like a bargain option, this game could get out of hand quickly, with Brown swooping in playing a few extra minutes and racking up fantasy points. Garbage time points count the same as in a close game! Give me Brown to have a solid fantasy night for his price.
Kaleb Hunter, UNCG, G ($5,300 FD, $6,400 DK)
Phog Allen will certainly be rocking Friday night, but expect the Spartans to put up a fight. Last game, Hunter had an outstanding outing, putting up 17 points along with five rebounds. He was used in 22 percent of possessions, and that statistic alone is intriguing enough for me to take notice. He's capable of making 3's – he went 2-3 from beyond the arc last game – and can crash the glass. Hunter is another guy I would love to add to my roster from a garbage-time perspective as a 13.5 underdog Friday. I love Hunter as a cheap option if you choose to deploy more well-known and expensive options.
(I've listed a bunch more in other games highlighted below)
Games to Target
Colorado (-5.5) vs. Arizona State, o/u 146.5, 10:30 p.m. EST
I love the Buffaloes as a sleeper to watch this season, led by the aforementioned Wright and Bey. With less talent on the team for Arizona State, I expect Bobby Hurley to revert back to his more run-and-gun style this season compared to a more conventional strategy in 2018-19. Arizona State plays at the 42nd fastest pace according to KenPom, but I can't really trust any players outside of Remy Martin ($7,000 DK, $6,700 FD). I would load up on Buffalos and Martin in tournaments, as I would suspect some lower ownership players, with casual players looking to deploy a strategy of more known players. I love Shane Gatling ($4,600 DK, $5,200 FD) and D'Shawn Schwartz ($5,400 DK, $5,400 FD) as bargain buys for the Buffaloes on Friday.
UNC (-21.5) vs. UNC-Wilmington, o/u 161.5, 7:00 p.m. EST
The top over/under on the slate is easy to pick on, and there are plenty of options. The point spread gives me pause, as I already chose to fade high-priced assets in Pierce and Anthony of the Tar Heels. UNC-Wilmington plays at the 72nd fastest pace, with UNC playing at the eighth-fastest pace, so the analytics are forecasting up-and-down action. I'm buying Armando Bacot ($5,600 FD, $6,500 DK) for the Tar Heels, as he was a factor in 25 percent of offensive possessions last game when he was on the floor. If you want to roll with higher priced players and dirt-cheap options, UNC-Wilmington trots out penny-pinching options in Jaylen Sims ($4,500 FD, $6,700 DK) and Mike Okauru ($3,800 FD, $4,700 DK) that are quite attractive.
Game to Avoid
Baylor (-5) vs. Washington, o/u 137, 9:30 p.m. EST
This has the makings of a grind-it-out contest with two great teams. For Washington, coach Mike Hopkins' teams are known for their great defense, and last season, opponents' possessions were in the bottom 20 in terms of average possession length against the Huskies. There are plenty of great players in this game to choose from, but with a cagey affair expected, it's one of those games that are hard to pick which players to play in your lineup correctly. I can't suggest playing any of the Washington freshman in their first collegiate game, because you never know what you'll get in a debut. Baylor on the other hand plays at a snail's pace – 282nd per KenPom – and has too many solid options to choose from. This should be a tight affair from the tip, and if I had to choose from this game, the only players I would be interested in are cheaper options such as Davion Mitchell ($4,100 FanDuel, $5,000 DK) and MaCio Teague ($5,800 FanDuel, $7,700 DK) of Baylor.
Memphis (-19) vs. Illinois-Chicago: In addition to Wiseman, I would take a look at Precious Achiuwa ($7,100 DK) and Boogie Ellis ($5,200 DK). In what should be a high scoring and fast affair, my only players to consider from UIC would be Godwin Boahen ($7,500) and Deon Ejim ($4,800).
LSU (-13.5) vs. Bowling Green: A game to target in DraftKings no doubt. LSU should be dynamite offensively this season, with both teams in the top 80 of pace projected by KenPom this season. Top plays for Will Wade's club include Skylar Mays ($6,700) who should handle the ball plenty, and fellow guard Javonte Smart ($5,700). With the high over/under and pace expected, both players are bordering must-start territory in all formats. For the Falcons, my top options in all formats include Justin Turner ($7,600) and Dylan Frye ($6,000).
East Carolina (-1) @ Navy: The closest game in Vegas' eyes comes with a low total, and is pretty much a complete avoid for me. East Carolina was an atrocious 10-21 last season, ranked 292 in offensive efficiency, and Navy comes in at 344 in average tempo in the country this season. For Navy, Cam Davis at $5,400 is really the only option worth a look, and ECU showcases one of the most expensive options on the slate in Jayden Gardner ($8,800). I would pass on Gardner and deploy a slightly cheaper option in Tristen Newton ($7,900) for the Pirates if I had to, but this game is an easy avoid for me.