This article is part of our DFS College Basketball series.
Happy New Year to all! We head into conference play after the New Year to a massive Thursday slate for the first time this season. I'd expect this to be the norm going forward, and I'll likely be touching on some of the same conferences, players and teams each Thursday.
The list of games on both platforms includes Oregon/Colorado, Illinois/Michigan State, Oregon State/Utah, Dayton/La Salle and UCLA/Washington. With DraftKings adding Gonzaga/Portland, USC/Washington State and California/Stanford. The only FanDuel-exclusive game is Minnesota/Purdue.
We have a much stronger indication of usage rates and how teams continue to fill out their rotations through two months of the season already. As always, we have plenty of useful tools to help you compile your rosters, especially our advanced daily lineups and lineup optimizer. Let's dive into the slate.
Daniel Oturu, Minnesota, F ($8,700 FD)
The sophomore has been an absolute machine this year, averaging 18.3 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Oturu's 25.8 percent usage rate, good for second on the team, is more reason that he's bordering must-play territory in all formats. Furthermore, Oturu has taken at least 11 shots per game this season, and considering he ranks 22nd in the country in effective field goal percentage (67.3 percent), more points could be coming Thursday. The bad news for the Minnesota native is that Purdue ranks 339th in tempo this season and is sixth in defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
Tres Tinkle, Oregon State, F ($8,200 FD, $9,200 DK)
The likely first-team all-Pac-12 player has gotten off to a dominant start to the season, scoring 40 or more DraftKings points in seven of 12 games this year. He's been in double figures each game this season, and leads his team in usage at 27.7 percent while playing in 82 percent of his team's minutes. This game looks to be one of the closest games on the slate with a modest tempo, meaning Tinkle should see upwards of 30 minutes. I like Tinkle as the top forward option over Oturu for Thursday's slate.
Obi Toppin, Dayton, F ($8,100 FD, $8,600 DK)
Toppin burst onto the scene late last season, and has solidified himself as one of the Player of the Year candidates for 2019-20. He's done it all for the Flyers, leading the team in usage (26.4 percent) and percent of minutes played (76.8 percent) this year. La Salle plays at a faster-than-average pace this year, as this Atlantic-10 matchup could yield favorable fantasy results. I'm looking for both Toppin and Tinkle to get 40-plus DraftKings points Thursday, so I'll be playing those two at forward over Oturu on Thursday.
Isaiah Stewart, Washington, F ($8,000 FD, $8,700 DK)
Stewart adds to the stacked forwards on the slate, as he's been above 30 DraftKings points in each of his last five games. Virtually a double-double every contest, Stewart leads his team in usage, sitting at 26.8 percent and taking 29.2 percent of shots while on the floor. UCLA sits at just 257 for average tempo this season, so it will certainly limit Stewart's chances with less possessions. Regardless, I see the Huskies taking it to UCLA on the road, with Stewart and fellow freshman Jaden McDaniels ($6,000 FD, $7,700 DK) hitting at least the 30-point DraftKings plateau in the game.
Payton Pritchard, Oregon, G ($7,700 FD, $8,800 DK)
A stacked slate gets even better with another Pac-12 player in the mix for the Player of the Year discussion. Pritchard is the top guard option on the slate with good reason, playing in 84.2 percent of his team's minutes, and leading his team in usage by far at 27 percent. I love the senior's ability to produce in all facets of the game, as he ranks 46th in the country in assist rate at 34.6 percent this season. With a safe floor at 25 and a high ceiling in the 50's, I'm looking to work in Pritchard as much as possible.
Jonah Mathews, USC, G, ($5,400 DK)
Mathews looks to be the best guard option for the Trojans in a game that possesses a high total of 147.5. The senior has averaged 21.0 DraftKings points per game this campaign, and owns a solid 19.7 usage rate. With Onyeka Okongwu ($8,600 DK) nursing an ankle injury and uncertain for the game, Mathews could continue to see his role expand. Mathews has started 11 of 13 games for the Trojans this year, and leads his team in minutes this season, as he's been on the court for 75 percent of the time to this point. He's also taken a little over six threes per game this year, and if those fall – he's shooting them at a 37 percent clip – he could be a steal Thursday.
Chris Duarte, Oregon, G ($5,100 FD, $6,100 DK)
In the absence of Shakur Juiston (lower leg), Duarte exploded for a 50.8-point performance on DraftKings on Sunday against Alabama State. The junior continues to be an attractive option behind Payton Pritchard, as Duarte ranks second on the team in usage this season at 22.9 percent. He's started all 13 games for the Ducks this year, and playing 65.5 percent of minutes, those are the numbers I'm looking for in depth options. Even if Juiston plays, I can't imagine it would be much, so I love Duarte against a Colorado team that plays at the 133rd-fastest pace this year.
Cody Riley, UCLA, F ($5,400 FD, $5,800 DK)
The sophomore is quietly having a nice campaign in Los Angeles for a struggling Bruins team. Outside of leading his team in usage rate at 24.9 percent, he's started 12 of 13 games and has racked up at least 20 DK points in seven games. Facing a Washington team that plays at the 97th-fastest pace this year per KenPom, Riley is a guy I'm going to be targeting in all formats.
Both Gach, Utah, F ($5,100 FD, $6,100 DK)
Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Illinois, F ($4,600 FD, $5,700 DK)
Zach Reichle, Oregon State, G ($5,100 FD, $5,600 DK)
Sherif Kenney, La Salle, G ($4,300 FD, $4,300 DK)
JoJo Walker, Portland, G ($5,300 DK)
Jeff Pollard, Washington St, F ($5,500 DK)
Kareem South, California, G ($5,300 DK)
Eric Hunter Jr., Purdue, G ($5,500 FD)
Games to Target
Oregon State @ Utah (-2) o/u 144.5, 8:30 pm EST
It was tough to pick a game that i really loved, because all of the games on the slate aside from two have totals in the 140-range. This one caught my eye with one of the highest totals and a tightly-contested game forecasted, as I'd expect both teams to rely heavily on their starters. Not only does Oregon State showcase Tinkle, but one of the top guards in the conference in Ethan Thompson ($7,200 FD, $7,800 DK). Thompson has played a staggering 88 percent of his team's minutes, and is second on the team in usage at 23.6 percent. If you're looking for a depth option on the Beavers, I like Zach Reichle ($5,100 FD, $5,600 DK). He's started all 12 games this year, playing in 65 percent of minutes and owning a 17.4 percent usage rate. In a close game
Everything for the Utes seems to be ran through Timmy Allen ($7,600 FD, $8,400 DK). His numbers are quite staggering, as he's played 83 percent of minutes, taken 30 percent of shots while on the floor and leads his team in usage at 29.4 percent. Foul trouble isn't an issue for Allen either, as he's averaging slightly under two fouls per contest. Outside of Allen, Both Gach ($5,100 FD, $6,100 DK) is almost a must-start for me with an affordable price. Gach flanks Allen with a 22.4 percent usage rate, starting all 12 games and has been on the floor for 75 percent of minutes this year. The forwards look pretty top-heavy on the slate Thursday, so I'll be playing Gach in all of my lineups.
Game to Avoid
Minnesota @ Purdue (-7.5) o/u 129.5, 7 pm EST
This game has all the makings of a classic grind-it-out Big 10 clash. Not only does it possess one of the lowest totals on the slate, Purdue plays at the 339th-fastest pace and Minnesota plays at the 242nd-fastest pace this season, per KenPom. Purdue also ranks sixth in defensive efficiency this season, and has been stifling at home, holding road opponents to 57, 70, 49, 49, 40, 44 and 62 points through seven games. If you want to focus on the first game of the slate, however, Minnesota doesn't possess many options outside of Oturu. The Golden Gophers have a few injuries to Payton Willis (ankle) ($5,300 FD) and Alihan Demir (undisclosed) ($5,000 FD), so it's quite difficult to sort out the rest of their lineup. Gabe Kalscheur ($6,900 FD) is worth a look at his price tag, especially since he's played 80 percent of minutes and is third on the team in usage with 19.9 percent.
With the Gophers playing slightly faster than Purdue, the Boilermakers seem to be a bit more promising if you must use them. The two I like are Jahaad Proctor ($5,700 FD) and Eric Hunter Jr. ($5,500 FD). Both players have played 77.1 percent of their team's minutes, including starting every game at the guard positions. Proctor has a 20.4 percent usage rate along with a 19.4 percent usage rate for Hunter Jr., they appear promising in my opinion, especially considering the lack of strong guard play from Minnesota.
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