The 2015-16 Fantasy college hoops season is now underway, and we have had quite a few early upsets. Big teams going down to defeat early is certainly nothing new, as top-tier teams are incorporating freshmen and JUCO transfers and jelling on the fly. Sometimes there can be growing pains. Sometimes, as is the case with the early returns from the LSU Tigers and California Golden Bears, the incoming freshmen are so polished that it doesn’t really matter, and those clubs haven’t skipped a beat.
One player has been heads and tails better than anyone in the country, and he is no spring chicken, either. Michigan State senior G Denzel Valentine ($8,800) has been tearing it up, and he makes no bones about the fact that he wants to set the all-time school record of eight triple-doubles, held by the esteemed Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson (1977-79). With a triple-double against Kansas, posting 29 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, Valentine joined the school’s list of triple-double performers. He needs two more to tie MSU alum, and current Golden State Warriors player, Draymond Green. Valentine’s triple-double certainly got Green’s attention, as he posted about it from his official Twitter account.
Valentine is averaging 16.3 points, 10.7 assists and 9.0 rebounds through his first three games against Florida Atlantic, Kansas and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Against APB, he actually struggled with his shot, hitting just two of his nine field goal attempts while misfiring seven times from behind the arc. Don’t expect Valentine’s shooting struggles to continue against Eastern Michigan and Boston College in his next two games. He might face some stiffer resistance against Louisville on Dec. 2, and Florida on Dec. 12, but really the biggest obstacle he has to overcome is in between his ears. Who would have expected his worst day to come against Pine Bluff? As long as Valentine can stay focused, and not worry too much about records and accolades, this is going to be a special season. For Fantasy purposes, he can contribute so much in various categories that even when he is having an off night shooting he will salvage the evening with boards, dimes and occasional steals.
Wichita State Shockers PG Fred VanVleet (hamstring) is likely to be sidelined for this week’s Advocare Invitational in Orlando due to a hamstring injury, according to head coach Gregg Marshall. He missed a game over the weekend against in-state school Emporia State, and was limited to just three minutes in the team’s opener against Charleston Southern after an ankle sprain. He shook that injury off to start against Tulsa, but that’s when his hamstring grabbed again. It isn’t the start the senior hoped to have, obviously. To compound matters for the Shockers, backup PG Landry Shamet (leg) is uncertain due to a stress reaction, and he was set for an MRI Monday. It could mean more run and Fantasy value for Gs Ron Baker and Ty Taylor II.
Staying in the Sunflower State, Kansas has suspended G Brannen Greene for six games due to conduct detrimental to the team. He will not make the trip for the Maui Invitational this week, but he will be eligible to practice once the team returns from Hawaii. Anyway, in case you’re looking for a value guard this week, scratch Greene from your cheat sheets.
(DraftKings.com salaries listed in parentheses)
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Anthony Barber, G, North Carolina State ($8,300): Someone has to pick up the scoring slack in Raleigh with the offseason departures, and Barber has taken the ball and run with it. He is averaging 15.7 PPG through three outings, although his shooting percentage has been a dismal 27.9 percent (12-for-43). Still, when those shots start falling on a regular basis, he is going to light someone up for a 30-point performance. He is also a strong rebounder for a guard, and he has dished out 5.7 APG while turning the ball over just eight times in three games.
Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma: Hield has fired out of the chute, posting 54 points through his first two games. The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year already has nine 3-pointers, and he is averaging 5.5 RPG and 2.0 SPG. He has been tremendously efficient from the floor, including a 30-point effort at Memphis Nov. 17.
Monte Morris, G, Iowa State ($7,800): Morris has been everything as advertised during the early going, averaging 13.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game through his first two outings. He isn’t a prolific scorer, but he is a rare five-category player who takes good care of the ball and has a strong assists-to-turnover ratio.
Ivan Rabb, F, California ($8,100): Rabb has been a force for Cuonzo Martin, logging two double-doubles in his first three collegiate games. While Rabb struggled with his shots and with foul trouble in the game Nov. 16 against UC-Santa Barbara, he adjusted his game and made it to the free throw line 10 times, nailing all 10 of his shots from the charity stripe. Rabb has shown tremendous maturity in his first week, and the sky is the limit for him in Berkeley.
Ben Simmons, F, Louisiana State ($10,000): Apparently you’re going to have to pay a premium if you want Simmons in the lineup. His DFS price skyrocketed to $10K this week on the heels of a 23-point, 16-rebound performance against South Alabama Thursday evening. Simmons is averaging 18.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals with 1.3 blocked shots per game through his first three outings, and maybe some of those LeBron comparisons are legit. Still, his hefty price tag might leave you hamstrung most nights, so perhaps it’s wiser to wait for his salary to come back to Earth.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kenny Gaines, G, Georgia: Gaines has been an offensive force for the Bulldogs, including a 35-point effort against Murray State Nov. 20. He already has 10 3-pointers through just two games, and he will chip in with an occasional steal and a blocked shot as well.
Tony Parker, F, UCLA ($8,100): Parker has been a rebounding machine in his first three games, grabbing 16 boards per game while also averaging 16.7 points per outing. He snagged 19 rebounds in the team’s opening game loss to Monmouth, and has had at least 14 or more boards in each of his three games. He has been a DFS beast, and he comes with a much cheaper price tag than Simmons for nearly the same kind of production.
Jakob Poeltl, F, Utah: The early-season offense has been going through Poeltl, and he has been more than up to the task. The 7-foot-0 Austrian is averaging 20.8 points per game through the first five outings, including 32 points in a win Sunday against Temple. The impressive part of Poeltl’s game has been that his offense has come against four top-division teams and few cupcakes. He has at least one blocked shot in each game to date, averaging 2.0 BPG, and he is averaging 9.8 RPG during the early going. He does it all and will be a DFS regular before too long.