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College basketball fantasy draft 2.0: Three GMs, eight rounds, the 24 best players

Byusanewscart.com

Dec 30, 2023 #Sports

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With 2023 drawing to a close, we’ve now seen enough men’s college basketball in the 2023-24 season to make some informed fantasy picks for 2024. Time for our latest mock draft.

Once again ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, Myron Medcalf and John Gasaway are out to build their very best fantasy rosters with eight picks and one coach.

As always, our would-be GMs chose a draft method (snake) and an order (determined by the day of the month of their birthdays). Each roster can have no more than one player from any one team. Additionally each roster is required to have at least one player from a mid-major program.

To quickly recap, here are the players picked last time, in the preseason.

Eight tense rounds and one head coach pick later, let’s see how the top 24 players (and three best coaches) sort themselves out approximately halfway through the 2023-24 season, according to our experts.

Jump to the full rosters here.


Round 1

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1:36

Kyle Filipowski just misses triple-double in win over Hofstra

Kyle Filipowski records 28 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists in Duke’s 89-68 win over Hofstra.

No. 1 Pick (John Gasaway): Kyle Filipowski, C, Duke Blue Devils

Surprise! Or is this really so shocking? Filipowski ranks No. 2 in KenPom’s POY rankings and the 7-foot-0 projected lottery pick is blowing up before our eyes both on offense and on the defensive glass. If his 3s start dropping, look out. Filipowski already shoots them, and he’s a potential threat from anywhere on the floor. By zigging when one is expected to zag here, I don’t have to configure the entire rest of my team on both offense and defense around my first pick.

No. 2 Pick (Myron Medcalf): Zach Edey, C, Purdue Boilermakers

I honestly thought this was an early April Fools’ Day joke. Edey didn’t get snapped up first? The guy who’s averaging 24.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks for the No. 1 team in America? The player who has already separated himself from the pack in the Wooden Award race … again?

I appreciate the gift from John. I think Edey would be the first pick in most fantasy drafts. All the concerns about his mobility have been put to rest with his efforts against athletic lineups this season in wins over Marquette, Alabama and Arizona. I think I’m off to a great start here.

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1:38

Zach Edey puts up 28 points, 15 rebounds in key win vs. No. 4 Marquette

Zach Edey puts up a remarkable 28-point, 15-rebound double-double in No. 2 Purdue’s win vs. No. 4 Marquette.

No. 3 Pick (Jeff Borzello): Tyler Kolek, G, Marquette Golden Eagles

There’s a bit of game theory in this and the next pick. With John and Myron both taking bigs first, I’m betting neither of them takes another one before the draft gets back to me in the third round. But Kolek is a worthwhile pick either way. Arguably the best point guard in the country and putting up career highs in points and 3-point shooting percentage.


Round 2

No. 1 Pick (Borzello): Terrence Shannon Jr., G, Illinois Fighting Illini

Shannon is a legit All-American halfway through the season. He’s put the Illinois offense on his back and is averaging nearly 22 points a game, shooting better than 51% from the field and 40% from 3. He scored 33 against Florida Atlantic, 30 against Missouri. I’m not sure there’s a perimeter player in college basketball playing better right now. And he has the size to play four positions for me.

No. 2 Pick (Medcalf): RJ Davis, G, North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina has its flaws. But Davis has been a leader for this squad. He’s the guy they turn to when they need a bucket or a critical play. He’s committing turnovers just once every 10 possessions, per KenPom. And he’s even shown up in losses. Against UConn and Kentucky, Davis combined to go 9-for-18 inside the arc and 7-for-17 from the 3-point line. I think he’s the toughest combo guard in America.

No. 3 Pick (Gasaway): Tristen Newton, G, UConn Huskies

Newton’s one of the best all-around basketball talents in this draft, and he’ll do whatever my team requires. At 6-foot-5, he distributes the ball in the UConn offense, but he’s also perfectly comfortable filling the bucket as the featured scorer or even taking care of business on the defensive glass.


Round 3

No. 1 Pick (Gasaway): Jamal Shead, G, Houston Cougars

Have I mentioned how much I love my team after just three picks? Shead is hands down the strongest two-way point guard in the country. Show me another D-I player who blows up opposing offenses Davion Mitchell-style while also assisting on 40-something percent of his team’s makes during his minutes.

No. 2 Pick (Medcalf): Wooga Poplar, G, Miami Hurricanes

Last season, Poplar had some breakout moments during his team’s run to the Final Four. This season, however, he’s playing the leading role for the Hurricanes and is averaging 17.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG and shooting 51% from 3. The 6-foot-5 wing fits perfectly next to Edey and Davis and gives my squad the versatility it needs. I like where we’re going.

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0:21

PJ Hall elevates for the big-time block

PJ Hall elevates for the big-time block

No. 3 Pick (Borzello): PJ Hall, C, Clemson Tigers

I was right about no other bigs being selected since my last time up to the board, and Hall falling onto my roster at 3.03 is tremendous value. He has been the anchor for a 10-1 Clemson team, having by far the best season of his career as a senior. And the biggest value-add to my team will be his presence on the defensive end: Hall is averaging 2.5 blocks per game and has blocked at least three shots on six occasions.


Round 4

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0:50

Kevin McCullar Jr. helps Kansas to a win with a triple-double

Kevin McCullar finishes with 12 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds to help Kansas rally back against Kentucky.

No. 1 Pick (Borzello): Kevin McCullar Jr., G, Kansas Jayhawks

I guess I’ll just keep going against my usual roster construction in these situations and keep picking seniors playing like All-Americans. McCullar has been one of the biggest breakout stars in the country, becoming a legitimate go-to guy for Kansas, averaging 20 points and five assists, shooting 41% from 3 — all while being an elite defender. He’s going to line up at the four for me, and I’m very comfortable with my quartet right now.

No. 2 Pick (Medcalf): Rob Dillingham, G, Kentucky Wildcats

John Calipari has been coaching college basketball for a long time. Who am I to question his rotations? But on any other team in America, Dillingham would be a starter. I’m not bringing him off the bench with my squad. The 6-foot-3 guard is an explosive scorer and he’ll get a lot of touches. Dillingham (14.2 PPG, 44% from the 3-point line) makes mine a difficult team to deal with. Edey surrounded by good 3-point shooters and capable scorers? Good luck.

No. 3 Pick (Gasaway): Hunter Dickinson, C, Kansas Jayhawks

Welcome to this episode of “Behind the Draft,” where truth reigns supreme. Did Borzello surprise Team Gasaway’s front office by taking Hall so early? Yes. He did. We were sure Hall would still be available here. (Stupid Borzello.) Now we need a Plan B, and a preseason first-team All-American is a pretty good fallback.


Round 5

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0:17

From downtown, Boogie Ellis hits the long 3

From downtown, Boogie Ellis hits the long 3

No. 1 Pick (Gasaway): Boogie Ellis, G, USC Trojans

You say Ellis is averaging better than three made 3s per outing while dropping dimes and meshing seamlessly in the same backcourt with 2024’s potential No. 1 overall pick, Isaiah Collier? I say there’s a spot for him in my starting five. While the Trojans have underperformed expectations thus far, one of their biggest issues has been turnovers by people not named Boogie Ellis.

No. 2 Pick (Medcalf): K.J. Adams Jr., F, Kansas Jayhawks

I love the Ellis pick. He was definitely high on my draft board. For this pick, I’m going with a glue guy. Adams, the 2023 Most Improved Player in the Big 12, is the catalyst for the Jayhawks this season. Per EvanMiya.com, when he’s paired with Dajuan Harris Jr., Kevin McCullar Jr. or Hunter Dickinson, the Jayhawks have held opponents to just 92 per 100 possessions. Adams (12.4 PPG, 1.3 SPG) won’t be afraid to defer and, based on his work ethic, make an impact on the game while on a roster full of scorers. I feel like this is a hidden gem.

No. 3 Pick (Borzello): Isaiah Stevens, G, Colorado State Rams

If I want a little more explosiveness off the bounce from the point of attack, Stevens can replace Kolek or play alongside him. He’s having a fantastic season for the 11-1 Rams, and has been at his best in the biggest games: 20 points and 11 assists against Colorado, 20 points and seven assists against Creighton. And, of course, he’s another veteran on the roster.


Round 6

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0:18

LJ Cryer buries 3-ball for Houston

LJ Cryer buries 3-ball for Houston

No. 1 Pick (Borzello): L.J. Cryer, G, Houston Cougars

I feel pretty good about my shooting — all five of my guys so far are hitting 39.6% or better from 3-point range, even Hall. But it can’t hurt to add a pure shooter, one of the truly elite perimeter snipers in all of college basketball, so let’s grab Cryer. He’s proven himself as a bona fide go-to guy offensively for Houston after averaging 15 a game at Baylor last season. Cryer made at least three 3s in nine straight games this season.

No. 2 Pick (Medcalf): Mark Sears, G, Alabama Crimson Tide

Cryer is the kind of guy you’d want on any team. Smart pick for sure. But I think Sears could easily be a starter on any of our rosters. He’s connected on 61% of his shots inside the arc and 44% of his 3-point attempts. The 6-foot-1 combo guard is the leader of an Alabama squad that entered the week ranked first in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom. My bench is strong with this pick.

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0:17

David Jones sinks a nice jumper for Memphis

David Jones sinks a nice jumper for Memphis

No. 3 Pick (Gasaway): David Jones, F, Memphis Tigers

Athletic directors really should consult Jones before making any hires. The young man in question has played for no fewer than four head coaches (Dave Leitao, Tony Stubblefield, Mike Anderson and now Penny Hardaway). Yet somehow, after all that change and adjustment, Jones has emerged as one of D-I’s more dependable pure scorers from both sides of the arc.


Round 7

No. 1 Pick (Gasaway): Xavier Johnson, G, Southern Illinois Salukis

Johnson is my mid-major selection, and he’ll bring a powerful scoring punch off the bench as Shead’s backup. The versatile Saluki will also function as the wise Udonis Haslem or Andre Iguodala figure at our practice facility because he’s even older than Dickinson. By the time we’re cutting down the nets in April, after winning six times by an average margin of 30 a game, Johnson will be 24.

No. 2 Pick (Medcalf): Baylor Scheierman, G, Creighton Bluejays

The 6-foot-7 Scheierman gives us size off the bench. He has made 60% of his shots inside the arc. The 3s have been a struggle for him this season, but the Creighton standout is a fifth-year guy and I wanted to add experience along with talent with this particular pick. And I think we did that.

No. 3 Pick (Borzello): Armando Bacot, F, North Carolina Tar Heels

Bacot was named a first-team All-American in the preseason and is now averaging 15.1 points and 11.0 rebounds for a top-15 team. Yeah, I feel good about that as my backup post player. He has had some down games offensively, including losses to Kentucky and Villanova, but he’s still one of the most dominant rebounders and low-post scorers in the sport. And he’s my seventh straight senior selected.


Round 8

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0:18

Reed Sheppard buries a 3 from the wing for Kentucky

Reed Sheppard’s triple pads the Wildcats’ lead late in the first half.

No. 1 Pick (Borzello): Reed Sheppard, G, Kentucky Wildcats

I had to get one freshman on the roster, right? Sheppard has been one of the biggest surprises among the sport’s newcomers, and he gives me a little more perimeter depth and two-way ability. His shooting numbers — 58.5 FG%, 57.8 3PT% — are unsustainable, but he plays with energy, he can really shoot it and he is a terrific passer and playmaker when running the show.

No. 2 Pick (Medcalf): JT Toppin, F, New Mexico Lobos

The good news here is that we have Edey, who is playing 29.3 minutes per game this season. I’m adding Toppin, my mid-major pick, because he’ll come off the bench and give my team the energy boost it will need. Plus, the 6-foot-9 freshman, who’s averaging 12.4 PPG, 1.7 BPG and 1.4 SPG, is a serious defender. Edey won’t spend much time off the floor, but when he needs a quick rest, Toppin will get the job done.

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0:17

Baylor’s Yves Missi denies Kyle Filipowski at the rim

Duke center Kyle Filipowski tries to drop in a bucket at the rim, but gets blocked by Baylor’s Yves Missi.

No. 3 Pick (Gasaway): Yves Missi, C, Baylor Bears

All my loaded and historically mighty team needs now is some rim defense. Missi blocked five shots in 26 minutes against Duke, plus he’s personally recorded a higher offensive rebound percentage than 13 entire teams. Just for the record, no, we’re not worried about Missi’s 50-something percent shooting at the line. Our games will never be close late.


Coaches’ round

No. 1 Pick (Gasaway): Kelvin Sampson, Houston Cougars

The only time Team Gasaway doesn’t pick Sampson as the coach is when he’s already off the board. Just to touch a few familiar bases here: Sampson has worked a programmatic miracle at previously moribund Houston. The Cougars are undefeated and No. 1 at KenPom by a healthy margin. His teams play the same relentless, swarming and, above all, effective style season after season. Sampson’s an easy choice.

No. 2 Pick (Medcalf): Porter Moser, Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma was projected to finish 12th in the Big 12, per the league’s preseason poll. Last week, it entered its matchup against North Carolina in Charlotte with a top-10 ranking. Moser is accustomed to exceeding the odds. And I trust him to get the most from a team that features America’s top player and a fleet of talent around him.

No. 3 Pick (Borzello): Bill Self, Kansas Jayhawks

Self has shown over the course of his career that he can win with any combination of personnel: with big lineups, with small lineups, with guards as the focal point, with post players as the focal point. And he’s done it to the tune of two national championships, three Final Fours and 11 NCAA tournament 1-seeds. This season, Self has four players he can consistently trust on his roster, and he has them 11-1 and No. 2 in the country. I think he could figure out a way to win with my rotation of veteran stars.


Full rosters

Final thoughts

Team Gasaway

Honestly and with zero hyperbole, my team’s the best one in ESPN.com men’s D-I Fantasy Draft history by a factor of a million. This group can both score and, crucially (and unusually in fantasy settings), defend. Filipowski and Dickinson are shooting a combined 58% on their 2s at very high volumes. Newton, Shead and Ellis will deliver the ball flawlessly or know when to call their own numbers. Jones and Johnson will score. Missi will erase my team’s misses and the other team’s attempts. Sampson will have all of the above playing like one fine-tuned instrument.

Team Medcalf

Well, the team that’s on top of the rankings right now is the team that features my No. 1 pick, who also led his team to a top seed a year ago. Good things happen with Edey on the floor. You give him explosive wings, size and good defenders, and I think that’s an advantage. The only loss on Purdue’s résumé right now is that weird game against Northwestern. But a collection of good teams have struggled against a squad with Edey on the floor. I don’t think my colleagues have an answer for the big man. That opens up everything for the players around him. We win.

Team Borzello

One of my opponents started by passing up on Zach Edey with the first pick and it only went downhill for them from there. On the other hand, my team has elite playmakers, an incredible amount of shooting, plenty of versatility, size on the perimeter, interior defense and rebounding — and it’s the oldest team I’ve ever drafted. There’s a lot of experience and a lot of wins on this roster. And Self will make any necessary adjustments. I honestly don’t see these matchups being close. 1975-76 Indiana should be concerned.

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