The college basketball season is really a sprint. The non-conference slate is largely just stretching and warm up. Conference games are the meat of the race and the postseason tournaments are the final kick. We are heading around the first curve and this weekend has some really intriguing games. Louisville hosting Syracuse appears to be the game of the weekend, but there are good games across the country. Let’s look at my nine-player lineup for Saturday.
Jeff Withey, forward, Kansas Jayhawks at Texas (Draft for $8,200 on FanDuel): Withey has taken a nice and somewhat unexpected step up as an offensive player while his defense has continued to be top notch. The seven-footer is second in the nation in blocked shots (behind St. John’s freshman Chris Obekpa) with 4.7 rejections per game to go along with 13.1 points and 8.2 rebounds. Perhaps even more impressive than his shot blocking prowess is his ability to stay out of foul trouble. Texas has a pair of young inside players (Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh) who are decent on defense, but the fifth-year senior should be able to school them. Last year against the Longhorns, Withey averaged 10.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks.
Carrick Felix, guard, Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Arizona (Draft for $7,500 on FanDuel): If you like guard-eligible players that can rebound (and who in their right mind doesn’t?), the Felix should be strong considered. The senior swingman has provided at least six rebounds in his last 12 games and topped 10 five times. He isn’t as a slouch as a scorer as well and is averaging 15.5 points. The Sun Devils host their intrastate rival on Saturday in their only game this week. Felix had nine points and six boards in the loss at Arizona last season, but had 23 points in the win over the Wildcats in the Pac 12 tournament. He is getting more shots as a senior and doing more on the defensive end (1.7 steals and 1.4 blocks).
C.J. Fair, forward, Syracuse Orange at Louisville (Draft for $6,800 on FanDuel): When one player goes out, someone else is going to get more shots and playing time. While Fair’s playing time was already quite high, he should get more shots with James Southerland on academic suspension. Louisville is a top defensive team, but Fair can score in a variety of ways and has taken a bigger offensive role in his last two games. He has provided 45 points against Providence and Villanova to go along with 16 rebounds and eight blocks. The 6-8 junior will cause match up problems for the Cardinals and had 13 points and five boards last year in 35 minutes as a reserve at Louisville.
Keith Appling, guard, Michigan State Spartans vs. Ohio State (Draft for $6,800 on FanDuel): Sometimes these picks have to be counter intuitive. Appling has been slumping and faces the tough defense of Aaron Craft. However, he is the Spartans’ leading scorer and has the ability to get to the line to get easy points. In his last four games, Appling has made just 25% of his field goals (9-of-36) and 11% from 3-point land (1-of-9). Despite the slump, he has been playing heavy minutes and averaged 9.5 points and 5.8 assists. The Spartans beat the Buckeyes twice in three meetings last year and Appling averaged 9.7 points and 3.0 assists.
Alex Oriakhi, forward, Missouri Tigers at Florida (Draft for $6,800 on FanDuel): Missouri took a licking last Saturday against Ole Miss (in a game that I watched and wrote about). The team is missing Laurence Bowers, who is doubtful for Saturday’s match up against the Gators, which should be one of the best games on the SEC slate this year. No one is going to confuse Oriakhi with Bowers, but the 6-9 transfer from Connecticut can take advantage of missed shots and defensive errors to put some points on the board. He is a strong rebounder and has blocked nine shots in his last three games. The price on Oriakhi might be a bit high, but he should be able to produce against Patric Young.
Chane Behanan, forward, Louisville Cardinals vs. Syracuse (Draft for $6,700 on FanDuel): Behanan keeps defying injury reports. He was supposed to be out two weeks ago with the flu. The 6-6 sophomore suffered a high ankle sprain and only missed one game after he was slated to miss at least a week. We’ll have to give him points for toughness. Look for Behanan to do damage to the vaunted 2-3 Orange zone on Saturday. Last year in two games against Syracuse, Behanan averaged 13 points and 8.0 rebounds despite playing just 23.0 minutes. He shot 12-of-15 (80%) from the field in the two games. Syracuse won both meetings, so Louisville will have revenge on their minds.
Jaquon Parker, guard, Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Marquette (Draft for $5,900 on FanDuel): Cincinnati may be another team without one of its stars. Cameron Wright sprained his knee and might not be able to play Saturday against the Golden Eagles. While Parker may not be Wright’s direct replacement, he figures to get more opportunities. He has scored 23 points in his last two games to go along with 11 rebounds. Parker is hitting 40% of his 3-pointers this season. He also had the best scoring game of his career last year against Marquette. The 6-3 senior put in 28 points in a Feb. 29 win to allow the Bearcats to split the season series. Parker had 15 points in the other meeting with the Golden Eagles.
Jabari Brown, guard, Missouri Tigers at Florida (Draft for $5,400 on FanDuel): It may seem like a bad strategy to take more than one player from a team, but there are plenty of instances when doubling down works out. Since becoming eligible on Dec. 17, the 6-5 Brown has not been shy about hoisting 3-pointers. The sophomore transfer from Oregon should be able to shoot over Florida defenders and has been able to out produce his salary consistently. He did get into a bit of foul trouble Wednesday against Georgia, but still managed to put up 15 points in 22 minutes by hitting three 3-pointers. Because of his size, Brown is a nice rebounder for a guard (4.4 per game) and will get other counting stats because of his high number of minutes.
Amath M’Baye, forward, Oklahoma Sooners at Kansas State (Draft for $5,300 on FanDuel): Prior to the season, I overrated a lot of transfers. I won’t do it again next season. M’Baye looked to be a solid contributor for the Sooners after a good sophomore season at Wyoming in 2010-11. The 6-9 Frenchman has started every game and averaged 11.8 points in his last five games. He is not the primary scorer for Oklahoma, but can play off of Romero Osby and Steven Pledger. Despite his height, M’Baye has only blocked 0.7 shots and none against Big 12 competition. To round out your bench, the junior should get plenty of playing time against the Wildcats and hopefully play more than the 18 minutes he did on Wednesday against Texas Tech.
Perry Missner likes to watch college basketball, but he does so on mute. You can contact him at email@example.com or @PerryMissner on Twitter and he won’t put you on mute. He likes you better than Dick Vitale.