Men’s college basketball fantasy draft: Who got Zach Edey?
The 2022-23 men’s college basketball season is well underway, preseason No. 1 North Carolina has dropped out of the rankings and Purdue and UConn have risen dramatically. In other words, things have changed a month and a half into the season. So, as programs finish their non-conference schedules and prepare for conference play, it’s time for another college basketball fantasy draft.
ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway and Myron Medcalf revisited their original fantasy teams from the preseason — eight players, including five starters and three reserves, and a coach — and were given the opportunity to start afresh in ranking 2022-23’s top players. The draft method (snake) remained the same, but the order was flipped. The original two stipulations — each GM couldn’t draft more than one player from a particular team, and each team needed to have a non-Gonzaga mid-major player — also remained the same.
Jump to the full rosters here.
The first draft recap
To tip things off, let’s look back at the first Fantasy Draft from October
Any thoughts from the experts as you look at your past picks?
Jeff Borzello: I had an incredible draft, if we’re being honest. All hits, no misses. While my rivals had some highly questionable selections, all my guys have reached the expectations I set for them when drafting. As a bonus point for myself, when I chose Colin Castleton, I even wrote that I would probably regret not taking Zach Edey. Two months later, Edey is the first overall selection. Just saying, my foresight when drafting in October has been pretty good.
Myron Medcalf: I think my team looked great throughout the preseason. Then, the real games began. Dereck Lively II just hasn’t found a rhythm after dealing with injuries earlier this season. And who could have predicted Matt Bradley’s struggles? Will Richardson isn’t as efficient as he was a year ago and Caleb Love did not pick up where he left off following last season’s remarkable effort in the NCAA tournament. We all need a second chance.
John Gasaway: As they say in big-budget movies centered on stricken space vehicles far from Earth, let’s start with what’s good. I got in on the ground floor of Kris Murray and scooped up Adama Sanogo with a late-round pick. After that, I was still able to snatch Jordan “Jelly” Walker — who again ranks near the top nationally for made 3s per game. Wow, I’m good. As for my early rounds, Trayce Jackson-Davis still looks nice on paper, but now there may be even better options for a precious first-round pick.
Onto the draft 2.0
Zach Edey with the massive block at the rim
At Big Ten media day in Minneapolis, Matt Painter tried to convince the room that Edey was prepared to put more miles on his 7-foot-4, 295-pound frame after averaging 19.0 minutes per game last season. I wasn’t convinced. But that’s why Painter is the head coach of a national title contender and I’m just a guy trying to right my previous wrongs in a fantasy draft. Edey has been incredible. I love the analytics around his performance thus far: 22.0 PPG, 13.7 RPG, 2.3 BPG in 31.6 MPG. Per hooplens.com, Purdue has rebounded 40.1% of its missed shots and connected on 56% of its shots inside the arc with Edey on the floor. So yeah, I just picked the best college basketball player in the country.
Welcome back, Mr. Sanogo! I picked UConn’s star in our earlier draft, and I’m happy to do so again — only now as a first-round franchise player. Sanogo’s converting a higher percentage of his 2-point attempts than Edey, and he’s doing so while taking even more of his team’s shots during his minutes. The junior has also blossomed overnight into an automatic shooter at the line, hitting better than 80% of his free throws. Here’s your 2023 Big East POY.
Tshiebwe was the first overall pick, to me, in October, and while he isn’t the runaway pick for National Player of the Year like he was then, his numbers aren’t that far off from a season ago. Sixteen points and 13 boards with the third pick? I’ll take it. He also hasn’t slowed down against top competition, finishing with 22 and 18 against Michigan State, and 20 and 15 against Drew Timme and Gonzaga, and 13 and 14 against Hunter Dickinson and Michigan. He’s a great anchor up front for me.
This isn’t generally how I like to build my teams, with two bigs as the focal point, but Tubelis is having one of the best starts to the season of anyone in the country. He’s averaging 20.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, shooting better than 60% from the field and 40% from 3. Tubelis runs the floor better than nearly any big man in men’s college basketball and, as an added bonus, he’s used to playing alongside another post player in Oumar Ballo. That will be helpful next to Tshiebwe.
In 2068 when Jon Scheyer retires after having won 1,203 games, he’ll single out Filipowksi as the player who started it all. The seven-footer’s a regular in KenPom’s top-10 POY standings, which is impressive considering Filipowski hasn’t really hit his stride yet from beyond the arc. At the tender age of 19, he’s the heart and soul of a Duke rotation that thrives on getting second chances and then forcing misses. Who knew Scheyer would pattern himself after Kelvin Sampson? Filipowski is a big reason why it works.
I watched Miller up close at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland. And I’ve watched most of the games he’s played since that tournament. I’m convinced he has the highest ceiling in America. If an opposing team is sending help for Edey, then Miller (18.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 43% from 3) will have the space to utilize his 6-9 size to make a significant impact on the game. He’s a projected first-round pick in the 2023 NBA draft right now because he’s one of the most difficult matchups in the country because of his versatility.
If you give me a team with Edey’s dominance, Miller’s star power and the best player for one of the best teams in America, I think I’ll be good. Sasser is making up for lost time after missing most of last year due to injury. He’s averaging 16.2 PPG and 1.5 SPG, while also leading a Houston squad that’s ranked second in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom. In isolation situations, opposing players have connected on just 27.3% of their field goal attempts with Sasser guarding them, per Synergy Sports data.
Jalen Pickett makes a sweet pass
Pickett is your Big Ten Breakout Fifth-Year Senior of the Year. At a listed height of 6-4, he’s wearing out opposing defenses inside the arc while controlling the defensive glass like a miniature Oscar Tshiebwe. Now add in the fact that Penn State’s point wing is doing all of the above while posting one of the highest assist rates in the nation. Pickett is versatility personified and the Nittany Lions will go as far as the onetime Siena star can carry them.
I was hoping Brandon Miller would fall to this spot, and I considered taking him instead of Tubelis — but I’ll audible and go with Wilson, Kansas’ breakout star. He’s taken a huge step forward since last season, improving from 11.1 points and 7.4 boards to 21.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists entering Thursday. He can play the 4 spot if I need to go smaller, but his 3-point shooting is now at a point where he can be used as a big wing too.
Kendric Davis shows off vision with nice dime vs. Texas A&M Aggies.
Not a lot of guards out there! But Davis should be used to my culture and system after also being drafted by me in October — important for continuity purposes. In the real world, Davis has been awesome, once again. He’s been the best player in the AAC, with remarkably similar numbers to a year ago despite leaving SMU for Memphis. His perimeter shooting has taken a step back, but he’s a high-level playmaker who just had 57 points and 11 assists in two games against Auburn and Alabama.
Just three picks in and my team already has size, post scoring, rebounding and deft passing to burn. (Wow, I’m good.) Now it’s time for a turn-key perimeter scorer. Walker’s drained over 200 shots from beyond the arc in his career while wearing the uniforms of Seton Hall, Tulane and UAB. This season he’s hitting better than 40% of his tries from outside for the Blazers. In fact, Walker’s already made five or more 3s in a game four times on the young season.
Last year, Jaquez played through ankle issues and bone spurs and still managed to average double figures. This year, he is healthy. And that’s a problem for opposing players. In his team’s 87-60 win over Maryland on Dec. 14, he finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals. He’ll bring energy on both ends of the floor. And we need that. But Jaquez (17.1 PPG, 5.5. RPG, 1.8 SPG) can also take defenders off the dribble, make good passes and do whatever he has to do on defense to help his team win. I respect what my colleagues have done thus far with their teams. But I’m here to win championships. Edey, Miller, Sasser and Jaquez can get it done.
We all know guard play matters in college basketball, and it becomes more important later in the season. That’s why I prefer to trust a veteran at point guard. Boum’s collegiate career started at San Francisco during the 2017-18 season. Now, he’s on his third team in his fifth season of college basketball and he looks better than ever. Boum (17.0 PPG, 4.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 51.2% from 3) has quietly emerged as one of the top players in the country. Next to Sasser, he will anchor a championship-level backcourt. He’s also one of the top 3-point shooters in the country and he will help my team stretch the floor.
Round 5, No. 14 pick (Gasaway)
Oumar Ballo, C, Arizona Wildcats
Oumar Ballo rocks the rim with flush
Ballo rounds out my devastating frontcourt. He’ll likely be shooting 70-something percent on his 2s all season long, and he’ll do so as a strong second option on offense alongside the already drafted Tubelis. If the junior can stay on the floor, my team is going to be very tough to beat. As for the 50-something percent shooting at the line — well, I’m going to hire a shooting coach. Maybe we’ll try underhanded. Hey, our fans will see this glass as half-full: Ballo makes a dull part of the game more suspenseful. Anyway, he’s well worth the occasional missed free throw.
A top-five pick in this draft back in October, Smith missed the first six games of the season while managing a knee injury, but has hit the ground running since seeing the court. He had 59 points in his first three full games back, showing off his shot-making and playmaking ability. He’s also getting to the free-throw line at a high rate. Despite missing a few weeks, he’s still considered arguably the best NBA prospect in college basketball. At 15? Done and done.
I wanted to take Cason Wallace here, providing some toughness and two-way ability to my backcourt. Just before I was set to select him, though, I was reminded of the infamous “no two players from the same team” rule. So Wallace remains available, and I went with Drew Timme, who was, incredibly, still available at No. 16. He was picked third in October, has improved his numbers in every single category since last season — and somehow dropped 13 spots? Make it make sense! On my team, Tshiebwe, Tubelis and Timme are an elite post trio.
Tyree Appleby gets the hoop and the harm
After plying his trade at Cleveland State and Florida, the well-traveled Appleby is having the best season of his career at Wake Forest. In a road game at Wisconsin, the fifth-year senior rang up 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go along with five assists. My team will of course usually have the game put away early, but on those rare occasions when there’s crunch time, the ball will be in Appleby’s hands. He’s a trustworthy ball handler who shoots 87% at the line.
Round 6, No. 18 pick (Medcalf)
Cason Wallace, G, Kentucky Wildcats
Whenever I watch Kentucky play, I wonder what would happen if Wallace had more opportunities to employ his talents. The projected first-round NBA draft pick is playing off pure talent and wit right now as he continues to learn the collegiate game, which is why his significance for that team is growing. By the end of the season, however, he could be one of the most feared guards in the country. Right now, it feels like Wallace (10.7 PPG, 2.4 SPG, 52% from 3) is just getting started. But I think he’s the top playmaker on my roster. You need a steal? He’ll get it. Big 3-pointer? He’s got it. Anything else? Wallace will figure it out.
I need some grit. And that’s all Beekman knows. The third-year wing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is an irreplaceable component of Tony Bennett’s squad. He’s efficient. He’s made 47% of his 3s and 86% of his free throws. He’s also unselfish (4.6 APG). I think you could add Beekman to any team and he’d make an immediate impact. I think Beekman is a star. He’s also on his way to making some NBA money if this dominance continues.
You can never have too much 3-point shooting, and Davis made 10 of those (10!) earlier this month at Charlotte. Also, it will be cool to have someone on my team who can say they scored more career points than Oscar Robertson. Yes, yes, Davis is in his fifth season and Robertson played three. Still, it’s a nifty sound bite.
I knew I needed to take one mid-major player — and Abmas was my guy back in October, so we’re running it back with the 2021 NCAA tournament star. I thought about going with Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis, a 6-7 wing who is on NBA radars and putting up huge numbers as a sophomore. But I needed another ball-handling guard who can create off the bounce and make shots from the perimeter, and Abmas is capable of getting hot in a hurry.
Cam Whitmore with the steal and slam for Villanova
I had targeted Gradey Dick in this spot, to get me another wing with size who could really shoot from 3. Alas, I forgot about the two-players-from-one-team rule again. I also considered Iowa breakout star Kris Murray and UConn’s Jordan Hawkins, one of the elite shooters in college basketball. But I just felt Whitmore, another holdover from my October draft, brought a little more versatility and two-way ability. After missing seven games with a thumb injury, Whitmore almost single-handedly turned around Villanova’s fortunes. Along with Smith, he’ll give me another guy in the NBA draft’s green room come June.
Round 8, No. 23 pick (Gasaway)
Gradey Dick, G, Kansas Jayhawks
Did someone who’s building an undeniably superior roster say something about never having too much 3-point shooting? Dick has begun his college career as a can’t-miss option from beyond the arc. Even if his perimeter shooting cools off a bit, which it could, you’re still looking at a versatile 6-8 wing. He’s also hitting his 2s while carrying a significant load on offense at age 19 for the defending national champion.
Yes, he’s my mid-major guy, but he’s so much more than that. Pember is a 6-10 star who has connected on 42% of his 3s this season. Overall, he’s averaging 20.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG and 2.7 SPG. Pember is a force. And he’ll come off my bench ready to do some damage. You might not know him now. But he’s the real deal.
Original picks who went undrafted this time: Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana Hoosiers),Tyger Campbell (UCLA Bruins), Armando Bacot;(North Carolina Tar Heels), Hunter Dickinson (Michigan Wolverines), Hunter Maldonado (Wyoming Cowboys), Rasir Bolton (Gonzaga Bulldogs), Caleb Love (North Carolina Tar Heels), Kris Murray (Iowa Hawkeyes), Dereck Lively II (Duke Blue Devils), Matt Bradley (San Diego State Aztecs), Keyonte George (Baylor Bears), Will Richardson (Oregon Ducks)
Who’s coaching these teams?
Lloyd lost three players in the first 33 picks of last summer’s NBA draft. That alone should lead to a regression. That’s just the way it goes. Usually. Lloyd, however, just hit reset and kept going. His achievement with Arizona this season is stunning. The Wildcats are playing at a top-five tempo while also earning the highest effective field goal percentage (61.6) in America. When you play that fast, things tend to unravel. When you lose elite players, you tend to take a step back. Lloyd doesn’t care about any of that.
Sampson’s not only my head coach, he’s my choice as coach of the last decade. When he arrived at Houston in 2014, the Cougars had made one NCAA tournament appearance in the previous 22 years. Now you’re looking at a program that was already ranked No. 1 in the nation this season and will join the Big 12 for 2023-24. Sampson has worked miracles. He can coach my team any day of the week.
Borzello: Rick Pitino, Iona Gaels
I actually really liked both of my rivals’ picks. Lloyd would have fit my roster really well, given his experience coaching two-big lineups, and Sampson is arguably the best coach in college basketball. But, like I said in October when I tabbed Pitino to be my coach, I don’t think there’s a better coach for a one-off game than Pitino. My roster isn’t quite as balanced as I would’ve liked, but it’s got at least six guys who can make 3s and run the floor, so Pitino will figure out how to make it work.
Borzello: The sheer number of talented big men in college basketball this season is eye-opening, and there are simply a limited number of roster spots in this draft. Guys like Edey, Tubelis and Ballo replaced Jackson-Davis, Bacot and Dickinson this time around. The surprising one to me is Kris Murray. He was selected 20th in October, after averaging 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds last season. Two months later, he’s had a bigger breakout than any of us could have imagined, is putting up 19.4 points and 10.1 rebounds — and went undrafted.
Medcalf: Yeah, there’s some real talent on that list. And I don’t think our second draft is a knock against those guys. We’ve just had time to watch real games, and they have answered some questions we might have had before the season but couldn’t answer. (See: Zach Edey playing more minutes in 2022-23). In some cases, it’s just surprising that those players haven’t met the hype. For the young guys, it’s understandable. But Love, Bolton and Bradley are all veterans who looked like they would have big seasons. That hasn’t happened. But apologies to the Murray family. Kris should be on one of our teams.
Gasaway: Quite a list! In some instances maybe we’ve been a bit harsh with this second draft. Jackson-Davis and Dickinson have performed to expectations. Love’s 3s aren’t falling but his 2s sure are. Murray has missed time due to injury. Lively is 18 and foul-prone. George appears to be coming along nicely. Richardson was excellent against Michigan State. To all the 1.0 draftees who were passed over this second time, I say keep trying! We’re watching closely, rest assured.