It has been a rather quiet week in college basketball with the excitement of November in the past and students taking finals. Things will ramp up over the next few weeks, starting with some big games on Saturday, including a sunny bi-coastal game of Florida at Arizona. Like we did last week, we’ll look at five value plays on Saturday and a few Sunday stars to consider for FanDuel battles.
Elijah Pittman, forward, Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Cincinnati (Draft for $5,800 on FanDuel): Pittman is a junior college transfer who is playing his first year with the Thundering Herd and averaging 14.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. In a home game against the perimeter-based Bearcats, the 6-9 junior could do some damage. He is averaging 14.3 points and had a 16-point, 14-rebound game earlier in the season. Pittman is also a decent passer out of the low post, so he could add some bonus points via assists.
Leslie McDonald, guard, North Carolina Tar Heels vs. East Carolina (Draft for $5,500 on FanDuel): One of the questions I had coming into the season was who was going to be the second option on the Tar Heel offense. James Michael McAdoo was the clear number one, but who would knock down shots from 3-point land? The 6-5 junior tore his ACL last year, but has returned for his junior season. In his last six games, McDonald has hit 19 3-pointers and is converting 50% of his threes on the season. Even in limited minutes, he has scored 38 points in his last two games with eight rebounds and eight assists.
Dominic Artis, guard, Oregon Ducks vs. Nebraska (Draft for $5,500 on FanDuel): The Ducks have blown out their last three opponents and Artis, a 6-1 freshman, has taken part in the fun with 12.3 points and 5.0 assists. He has scored at least 10 points in all but two games and shot a respectable 44.4% from the field. Nebraska is coming to the Pacific Northwest and the Cornhuskers may have trouble corralling Artis. He is a nice mid-range play.
Juwan Staten, guard, West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Michigan Wolverines in Brooklyn (Draft for $5,500 on FanDuel): Last week I was hurt by a Mountaineer (Aaric Murray) and a player going against Michigan (Arkansas’ B.J. Young), but I am going with another West Virginia against the Wolverines. This game is not in Ann Arbor; it’s in Brooklyn as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Classic. Like Murray, Staten is a transfer who came from Dayton to play for coach Bob Huggins. He has been scoring well (10.6 points), but his assists are down from his freshman year with the Flyers. He will need to be at his best to give the Mountaineers a chance to win over Michigan.
Ronnie Johnson, guard, Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame (Draft for $5,200 on FanDuel): I hesitate to take medium players in road games when they are playing in tough arenas. Of the Boilermakers’ three players named Johnson, I am most intrigued by Ronnie. The 6-0 freshman has shown the ability to hit the boards, score, and provide assists on occasion He had 11 of the team’s 44 points last Saturday in the surprising loss to Eastern Michigan and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start again (or at least get starter’s minutes) against the Fighting Irish.
Tony Mitchell, forward, North Texas Mean Green vs. Southeastern Louisiana: Mitchell will likely cost you, but don’t worry too much about his slow start. As a freshman, Mitchell provided double-double averages, but he only getting 14.2 points and 8.5 rebounds in his first 10 games of his sophomore season. North Texas has had to get used to a new coach, Tony Benford, and Mitchell has been hyped like no Sun Belt Conference player in recent memory. Despite the downsides, Mitchell is producing nicely and the Lions of Southeastern Louisiana will not be able to stop him. I am predicting a breakout game.
Markel Brown, guard, Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Central Arkansas: The undersized Cowboys have been one of the more pleasant surprises of the first five weeks of the season. While sophomore Le’Bryan Nash and freshman Marcus Smart have garnered most of the headlines, Brown has been producing steadily. The 6-3 junior has provided at least 11 points in all but one game and is one of the better rebounding guards in the country. He is averaging 14.0 points and 4.9 rebounds. Central Arkansas gives up points in bunches, so Brown should have a nice game.
Joseph Bertrand, guard, Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Eastern Kentucky: I like to spotlight second and third options. For Illinois, the first option is Brandon Paul and fellow senior D.J. Richardson is Paul’s wingman. Bertrand is a 6-6 guard who comes off the bench. He is hitting 45.5% of his threes and 59% of his field goals. He has not scored in double digits in three December games, but if Illinois takes a big lead on the unbeaten Colonels, Bertrand could get some extra playing time. His per minute stats are good for points, rebounds, and steals.
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