DFS College Basketball: Opening Round Preview & Picks

DFS College Basketball: Opening Round Preview & Picks

This article is part of our DFS College Basketball series.

March Madness is here, and that means DFS sites are starting to care about college basketball again! DraftKings is offering a $50k top prize in its $150k Tourney Tip-Off contest, which features all 15 games set to take place Thursday. As a result, I'll beef up this column and offer twice as many suggestions for our readers. Note that Alabama players aren't in here yet, but I expect DK to add it once the Tide's opponent is determined.

Since we get a lot of new faces here this time of year, I'll also reboot the rundown of how to best use the RotoWire DFS tools, which I wrote at the beginning of the season. I'll also include a free trial link for anyone curious who wants to give these tools a spin. You can check it all out at the bottom of this article.

With 15 (soon to be 16) games to pick from, I was able to find plenty of value on this slate, which suggests a "stars and scrubs" lineup-building approach. Of the top tier of players, Jalen Pickett ($10,100) has the highest ceiling due to his triple-double potential, but I'm not in love with the matchup against the slow pace and solid defense of Texas A&M. He needs to be in your pool for mass-entry, but my primary builds will be paying up for forwards, as most of the value lies with the guard position.

 Let's take a look at some of my favorite plays for the day.

Top Players

Azuolas Tubelis, F, Arizona ($9,800)

Tubelis should be a popular play Thursday, as Arizona enters with the day's highest implied scoring total -- 84.5 points at time of posting -- which is similar to the KenPom projection of 85. The likely All-American has also scored 30+ DK points in five straight, averaging 38.26 over that span, just shy of the 4x we're looking for. Princeton has respectable defensive marks, but the Tigers haven't seen a player like this, participating in only one Quad 1 game this year. Frontcourt running mate Oumar Ballo is also playing with a broken left hand, and while we don't know exactly how that will affect him, it could lead to more rebounding opportunities for Tubelis, who is already averaging 10.2 rpg over his last five.

Jalen Wilson, F, Kansas ($9,300)

Few players enter the tournament hotter than Wilson, who has scored 21 or more in five straight and is averaging 39.32 DK points/game over that span, which includes three double-doubles. Kansas also has the second-highest implied total of the slate in an up-tempo matchup against Howard. The only downside is a possible blowout, but there's still plenty of room for Wilson to produce, even if the game is out of hand by the under-8 mark.

Kyle Filipowski, F, Duke ($9,000)

Oral Roberts plays at a top-40 adjusted tempo (per KenPom), and Filipowski has been on fire of late with double-doubles in four of his last five games and 20+ points in three of them. The Golden Eagles do have 7-5 Connor Vanover defending the paint, but he's more likely to be matched up against Dereck Lively, and when he does guard Filipowski, he'll struggle to meet him out on the perimeter. As a team, Oral Roberts ranks 201st in perimeter defense, and Filipowski has attempted 20 three-pointers over his last five games.

Johni Broome, F, Auburn ($8,600)

Broome draws a matchup against a Hawkeyes team that shoots the lights out and plays fast (No. 66 tempo rating, per KenPom) but cares little about defense. Iowa can get beat up by a versatile big man, as Trayce Jackson-Davis put up 58.5 DK points against them, and guys like Tyler Wahl and Derrick Walker also had above-average games against the Hawkeyes. Broome certainly isn't TJD and carries a bit more foul trouble risk than the above options, but there's a ceiling in the upper-40s, and he could be a sneaky pivot for mass entry. Don't forget that Auburn is essentially playing a home game here, with the 8/9 matchup set to place at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, AL.

Middle Tier

Dylan Disu, F, Texas ($6,800)

Coaches tend to tighten up rotations and play their best players in March, and that seems to be what's happening with Disu. While he's excelled to the tune of 31.6 DK points/game in three outings in the Big 12 tournament, that unfortunately means he's at his highest price of the year -- $1100 more expensive than he was for the final against Kansas. He also has to deal with the presumed return of Timmy Allen ($6,500), who missed the conference tourney with a leg injury. If Allen starts, he likely takes the place of Sir'Jabari Rice ($6,900), however, as Disu has started every single game he's played in this year. Despite these potential roadblocks, it's a good idea to get some type of stock in Texas, as the Longhorns have the third-highest implied total against a Colgate team that ranks 241st nationally in opponent effective FG percentage. The safest way is probably via Marcus Carr ($7,600), but the ceiling is a bit limited for that price tag, as he hasn't been above 30 DK points in his last seven games (though that did follow a four-game stretch in which he averaged 35.63).

Josiah-Jordan James, G, Tennessee ($6,100)

I know -- I got absolutely burned by JJJ on a 1-for-7 shooting performance that contributed to an early SEC tournament exit for the Vols. He did miss four games with an ankle injury only a few weeks ago, however, so perhaps the back-to-back got to him. He'll have plenty of time to rest up before facing a far inferior opponent Thursday, as Louisiana is an up-tempo matchup with no standout defensive strengths. I also like that since his return, James leads a slightly short-handed Tennessee squad in usage rate. There's definitely a high ceiling here.

Armaan Franklin, G, Virginia ($5,900)

Franklin isn't flashy, but he has the team's second-highest usage rate and consistently sees 30+ minutes. On the season, he leads UVA in scoring (12.5 ppg) and three-point attempts (164). In his last six games, he's averaged 23.85 DK points, just north of 4x at this price point (which is down $200 from his last game). Furman should keep this game close and will attempt to pick up the pace a bit, plus sports a defensive efficiency ranking of 183 in the country, per KenPom. These are all the factors you want to see when constructing lineups for cash games.

Allen Flanigan, G, Auburn ($5,700)

Flanigan is my preferred option if you can't squeeze in Broome, as the senior is third in both minutes and usage rate over Auburn's last 10 games and comes at a below-average price. He shoots 35 percent from the perimeter, and Iowa ranks 316th in the country in three-point FG defense. Flanigan is also quietly tied for the second-most rebounds on the team. This expects to be a tight game (1.5-point spread) that could easily become a shootout if Auburn's defense doesn't up, so try and find some exposure one way or another.

Value Plays

Kerr Kriisa, G, Arizona ($5,200)

Kriisa's price is at a season low after putting up just 6.0 DK points in the Pac-12 title game against UCLA, which happens to be the best defense in the country (per KenPom). He's the primary ball-handler going up against a Princeton team that doesn't threaten turnovers, and while his usage rate has dropped to the lowest among Arizona starters (over the last 10), he still has 20+ DK points in four of his last six -- perfectly fine at this new price point. We also can't forget about early-season matchups in which he scored 48.8 and 41.5 DK points, as well as putting up 34.5 against SDSU -- a top-10 KenPom defense. Not to mention, Arizona has the slate's highest implied total, so this might be the best way to get a piece. Stack him up with Tubelis or use as a standalone option.

DeAndre Gholston, G, Missouri ($4,900)

Don't mix Utah State up with Mountain West champions San Diego State, as the Aggies rank 108th in tempo (per KenPom) with a relatively mediocre defense that has given up 80 or more points six times this year. Gholston gets the nod here due to his cheap price tag and the fact he's scored in double figures in five straight, averaging 20.9 DK points/game over that span. He also leads the Missouri rotation in usage rate over that stretch, though a potential return of Tre Gomillion could cut into his minutes a tad.

Lamont Butler, G, San Diego State ($4,600)

There's no denying Charleston is the trendy 12-over-5 pick, but I'm fading the field on that one. SDSU won both the regular season and tournament in a Mountain West Conference that KenPom ranked ahead of the ACC in 2022-23, so the Aztecs are much better than what the general public gives them credit for. Which brings us to Butler. Charleston plays at a top-30 tempo in the nation, and while they defend the perimeter well, that's not necessarily Butler's strong suit, as he regularly chips in multiple rebounds and assists. He's third among starters in usage rate over SDSU's last five, trailing only Matt Bradley ($5,900) and Darrion Trammell ($4,700) -- two players who also represent great salary-relief options in this matchup.

Shy Odom, F, Howard ($4,300)

Odom is a starter and usage rate leader (25.6 percent over his last 10) at a bottom-barrel price. He's averaged 13.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists over his last 12 games. Kansas' top-10 defense will slow that down, but this is also an up-tempo game for Odom. After a likely slow start, the freshman wing should hit value in garbage time and is the type of salary relief needed to fit in multiple $9k+ forwards.

BONUS: Terrance Arceneaux, G, Houston ($3,400)

This is a punt play that's contingent on the health of Marcus Sasser, who left the AAC semifinal game with a groin injury and sat out the title game as a result. In his stead, Arceneaux started and logged 35 minutes, attempting 10 shots, though the final fantasy point tally wasn't great. 16-seed Northern Kentucky is the polar opposite of Memphis when it comes to pace, but is also brutal at defending the perimeter and doesn't rebound well. There's a path to 5x here, but only if you have a good indicator of Sasser's health.

Nearly a mirror image of this play is Joseph Yesufu ($3,500), who started the Big 12 title game with Kevin McCullar out and put up 19.5 DK points against the 11th-ranked Texas defense (per KenPom). The Drake transfer should be in your player pool as well, but only if McCullar's availability is known. Both Kansas and Houston are favored by about 20, so it's possible the reserves could come out late in the game, resulting in more run for these guys.

Some other "value" plays I would consider but am a bit less confident about are Tyrese Proctor ($5,400), Camren Wynter ($4,600), Andrew Funk ($4,900), David Singleton ($4,800), Tyrese Hunter ($4,700) and Donald Carey ($4,200). All are starters that see high enough minutes to get 4x but also have bust potential, with usage on the lower side.


With this being the first official column of March Madness, I'd like to run down a few of the tools we offer here on RotoWire. The home base for most of our subscribers is the DFS Lineup Optimizer, but as any DFS player knows, an optimizer is only as good as how you use it. Sure, go ahead and give the default optimizer a spin, but if there's a play you're not sure of, we encourage using the red X to remove them from the lineup/pool. Think our formula might overvalue a mid-major player whose stats are built on lower competition? Boom, trust your gut and eliminate them from the pool. You can also "like" a player to increase their projection by 20 percent, or manually change a projection to whatever you like! If you agree with any of my recommendations above, use the padlock button to make sure they are featured in your lineup.

Some of my other favorite tools include the DFS Matchup Info page, where you can sort the games by implied total, as well as offensive/defensive efficiency stats calculated by our our developers behind the scenes. It's the perfect place to get started, as it will help you find out which games to target. Here's what the 16-game DraftKings slate for the Thursday Round of 64 looks like (odds as of Monday night):

Our Advanced CBB Lineups page is another resource that's second to none. Here, you'll be able to view recent starters for each team in the player pool alongside salaries, with stats like minutes, usage and fantasy PPG included. It's perfect for researching the little-known mid-majors in the tournament. You can also click on any team logo to navigate to a team-specific page, which shows overall usage from this year, among other stats.

If you like what you see or just want to give these tools a try, head to rotowire.com/free for a free 48-hour trial. We won't ask for a credit card, and the trial simply expires at its conclusion. That also covers every other sport on the site.

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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