It has been a week and highlights from the triple-overtime thriller between Kansas and Oklahoma are still flickering in my mind’s eye and dominating my Internet search history. The NCAA is into the swing of conference basketball play, which means the competitive edge that comes with it is omnipresent, and continually reminds me why I love the game of basketball. Many of these teams have squared off for decades, so the potential to claim bragging rights takes the pace and intensity of the game to a new level of excitement. Whether it is a “one and done” player or a four-year graduate, it is also entertaining to see professional ballers get into the mix by attending NCAA games decked out in their school colors or Tweeting to cheer on their alma mater. Conversely, it stands to reason that fans of respective schools form an allegiance to professional players who continue to bring honor to their institution by excelling at the next level of play.
This series examines the top 10 current fantasy NBA basketball players from each of the major NCAA conferences to see which school can claim bragging rights for producing the most successful pro stars compared to other schools in their conference.
The Big 12 Conference gave us a classic matchup between the #1 and #2 schools in the country on Monday, so we will start right where this week began.
#10. P.J. Tucker (Texas)
This versatile SG/SF for the Phoenix Suns has been a player that owners can rely on to play through injuries and bruise his way through the paint, challenging opponents for rebounds with the “Texas Fight” spirit. His coaches reward him with quality minutes (41 minutes on Friday) for quality play on both sides of the court, earning a reputation of consistency for Phoenix, but his average of 5.5 rebounds and a paltry 6.6 points a game make him a deep fantasy play at best.
#9. Ben McLemore (Kansas)
The former Jayhawk has worked to carve out his spot in the Sacramento Kings lineup as a shooting guard by averaging nearly eight points a game, with only 20 minutes of playing time. The recent injury to Rajon Rondo opened a door to increase Mclemore’s role in the Sacramento offense, but a back injury of his own actually decreased the number of minutes to 19 in Friday’s double-overtime matchup with Dallas.
#8. Cory Joseph (Texas)
Another deep fantasy play, Joseph’s playing time has fluctuated over the past several weeks, coming off the bench to give their marquee backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan breathers. He is good for rebounds, steals, and even an occasional block, but his inconsistent point total each night make him a risky play in any fantasy format, especially if December’s downward trend of his minutes on the court continues into the new year.
#7. Mario Chalmers (Kansas)
Mario Chalmers is a player to keep an eye on in Memphis. His minutes nearly doubled to the 40 range over the past two games while Chris Conley was sidelined with an injury. Chalmers made Jawhawk Nation proud with a dazzling performance on Wednesday night, totaling 23 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists in his first audition as the starter. The Grizzlies recently acquired Elliot Williams to bolster the point guard position, but it looks like Chalmers has first crack at the starting job if Conely’s injury keeps him out of action for an extended period of time, and should be worth considering in daily and season-long fantasy formats.
#6. Markeiff Morris (Kansas) and #5. Marcus Morris (Kansas)
Only five minutes separated the twin brothers of Markeiff and Marcus Morris in the 2011 NBA draft, selected 13th and 14th overall from Kansas. They enjoyed a brief stint together in Phoenix before Marcus was traded to Detroit this past offseason. The emotional dust has settled a bit, and Marcus has established a solid position for the Pistons in the frontcourt, averaging nearly 37 minutes, 14 points, and 5 rebounds each night. Markeiff’s playing opportunities are more limited (23 minutes/game), but he makes the most of them with an average of 10 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. Both of the former Jayhawks are fantasy contributors, but Marcus seems to have the slight edge as long as his playing time continues to trump his brother’s.
#4. LaMarcus Aldridge (Texas)
The darling of the 2015 free agency frenzy, LaMarcus Aldridge has struggled at times to live up to fantasy expectations this year, considering his previous productivity. The nine-year veteran is on pace to post his lowest point production since his rookie season, averaging 15.8 points a game with the San Antonio Spurs. It has taken time for Aldridge to click with Coach Pop’s offense; additionally, his rebounds are down from the past three seasons, and he’s seen the largest dip in his playing time since the 2006-2007 campaign. There is still hope that Aldridge will regain the form that earned him so much hype in the offseason: over the recent five-game winning streak for San Antonio, Aldridge averaged 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in the four games he suited up, which is much closer to the former Longhorn’s career average, and a better payout in relation to the price fantasy owners typically pay to have him on their roster.
#3. Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)
Born and raised in Oklahoma, this former star for the Sooners has been a hometown hero for years, and was on pace for a truly dominant fantasy season while sporting the Los Angeles Clippers uniform in 2015-2016. Unfortunately, thanks to a quad injury the Clippers have not seen him in that uniform since Christmas Day. Despite missing the past seven games, Griffin’s numbers still put him right at the cusp on nearly all fantasy top-10 lists for his position, boasting an impressive 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 5 assists a game. It may be another week or more before Griffin’s injured quad can be evaluated again, and fantasy owners wait in anticipation, hoping he’ll be back in their lineups sooner than later.
#2. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)
The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t won too many games as they continue to develop the young prospects of Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns amidst veterans like Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince, but Wiggins has carved out a decent fantasy performance thus far. The former #1 pick from Kansas can definitely get to the basket with his ability to slash across the perimeter, and is continually working to improve his outside shot. Wiggins’s 20.6 points a game have been fairly consistent throughout the season, yet fantasy owners hope he’ll find ways to increase his stats in other areas of the game. After a four-game stretch of lackluster scoring outputs below his season average, he exploded on Friday night for a career-high of 35 points in the face of his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The potential is undeniably sky-high, and one can only hope Wiggins will flourish for all lineups.
#1. Kevin Durant (Texas)
It is safe to say that Kevin Durant is back after a 2014-2015 season cut short by injury. Although it is only January, Durant has already played three more games than he did all of last season, and has been a beacon of consistency for fantasy owners. His 26.5 PPG average is right near his career average, and he has scored at least 20 points in 29 of 30 games for the Thunder this year, with six of those games above the 30 mark. Throw in the fact that he is averaging 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, a steal and a block each night, and Durant clearly comes out as the top NBA star hailing from a Big 12 school. As always, Kevin, “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You,” and you never disappoint!
Written by: Jeff Sommerfeld, January 10, 2015
Follow me on Twitter: @jsommerfeld29
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