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Gonzaga vs. UCLA Player Props: The Final Four Picks to Make for Jules Bernard, Jalen Suggs, & Joel Ayayi

Gonzaga vs. UCLA Player Props: The Final Four Picks to Make for Jules Bernard, Jalen Suggs, & Joel Ayayi article feature image

Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Suggs of Gonzaga.

  • Gonzaga's perfect season is on the line when it tips off against Cinderella 11-seed UCLA.
  • Brandon Anderson expects the Zags' fast tempo to win out over UCLA's slow pace, which allows for some interesting possibilities in player props.
  • Read below to see which overs he's targeting in the game.

Final Four Player Prop Picks

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 11 UCLA

8:34 p.m. ET on CBS

Our second Final Four matchup brings us a battle of blue bloods, and what a matchup we’ve got. On one side, 1-seed Gonzaga hopes to keep its perfect season and title run alive. Directly in the Zag’s path is 11-seed “Cinderella” UCLA, no stranger to titles or perfect seasons itself.

UCLA may be an 11-seed, but the Bruins are now up to 15th in KenPom’s overall ratings after dispatching 1-seed Michigan and 2-seed Alabama, so they’ll certainly have Gonzaga’s attention.

Gonzaga loves to push the pace and let its swath of future pro talent go to work. UCLA plays quite a different style. Tyger Campbell will literally walk the ball up the court on every possession. The Bruins play at a glacial pace and refuse to turn the ball over, making every possession count.

So who wins the tempo battle? That’s the key question to this game from a props perspective. Gonzaga ranks No. 6 in the NCAA in Adjusted Tempo, while UCLA ranks No. 338 out of 357 teams. The Zags average 91.6 points per game. The Bruins allow 67.6. Something’s gotta give.

Gonzaga is no stranger to opponents trying to slow things down. The Zags played the nation’s slowest team, Virginia, back on December 26. Gonzaga hung 98 on the ACC champ-to-be, shooting 60% and nearly hitting its usual pace of play. Gonzaga also played St. Mary’s three times this season, another team that’s slower than UCLA. The Zags did average “only” 79.3 points per game in those contests and had two of their three games all year under 80 points, but that wasn’t really a pace problem. The Gaels are just awesome at defense, ranking 12th in the nation.

Everything we’ve seen this season tells us Gonzaga will force the issue and play this game the way they want to, forcing UCLA to keep up. From a props perspective, that means overs are our friend. Higher tempo means more scoring, more assists, and more shots to rebound.

Will UCLA stay in the game long enough for Gonzaga to play its best players big minutes? That may not be as relevant of a question as you think. Jalen Suggs has played at least 34 minutes in three straight. Corey Kispert played at least 34 in five March games. Gonzaga will play its best guys, close or not.

That means we’re hunting overs with favorable value for either team.

For those who are new to this article, we’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NCAAB projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Each bet is then graded on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best possible grade.

Our props went 42-19-1 through the first two weekends of games, with an impressive 69% hit rate and an incredible 33% return on investment.

Below, I have laid out three prop bets that I’m playing from Saturday’s NCAA Tournament second Final Four matchup, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.

Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.

Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga

(1) Gonzaga vs. (11) UCLA, 8:34 p.m. ET on CBS

Jalen Suggs over 5.5 rebounds (-134)

If you don’t know Jalen Suggs by now, you must not be watching.

Suggs was the best player on the court against USC, no small feat with future top-five NBA Draft pick Evan Mobley on the court. Suggs is a certain top-five pick himself and showed out against the Trojans with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists, coming up a couple dimes short of a triple-double on the biggest stage of his career.

Suggs is the highest recruit in Gonzaga history, and you better believe Mark Few will lean heavily on his talented freshman guard just two games away from glory. Suggs has seen his minutes trending up down the stretch. He’s played at least 32 minutes in seven of his last eight, with the only under in the first round blowout against Norfolk State. He’s averaging 15.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game in those seven games. Not bad for a freshman, huh?

Among his many other skills, Suggs is a terrific rebounder, and Gonzaga is an excellent rebounding team overall, while UCLA does not count rebounding as a strength. Suggs has played at least 30 minutes in 13 games this season, and he’ll certainly hit that number here barring something going wrong. He’s averaging 6.7 RPG in those games and has gone over 5.5 boards in eight of the 13, hitting this over 62% of the time.

This is what Jalen Suggs came to Gonzaga for. This is his moment. Look for another big game. I’ll play this over to -155.

Joel Ayayi, Gonzaga

(1) Gonzaga vs. (11) UCLA, 8:34 p.m. ET on CBS

Joel Ayayi over 6.5 rebounds (-134)

We said we’re hunting overs in this game, so it’s back to the well for another Gonzaga rebounding over. The Zags rank No. 13 in the nation in rebounding, and it’s largely because their perimeter players are such good rebounders.

Joel Ayayi is probably the second-best rebounder on this team. Ayayi is surely catching scouts’ eyes with his all-around complementary game this tournament. He’s an excellent cutter and a very nice passer, and he’s a terrific positional rebounder.

Ayayi has at least four rebounds in all but three games this season. He has at least seven in 17 of 30, hitting this over 57% of the time. But that undersells Ayayi’s rebounding upside. Ayayi has had double-digit boards five times already this season. He even had 18 boards in one game and recorded Gonzaga’s first ever triple-double in another.

Ayayi has been the definition of a star role player for Gonzaga, and he will certainly fight hard on the glass here in a tough battle that should have plenty of boards. We project Ayayi at 7.7 rebounds, providing a little margin of error here. He’s gone over 6.5 in five of Gonzaga’s six tournament games (including WCC) with at least eight boards in all but one of those games, and even the one under only missed by a single board.

I trust Ayayi to fight hard on the glass and get us another over. I’ll play to -160.

Jules Bernard, UCLA

(1) Gonzaga vs. (11) UCLA, 8:34 p.m. ET on CBS

Jules Bernard over 18.5 points + rebounds + assists (+100)

UCLA’s shocking Final Four run has come mostly on the backs of its trio of sophomore starters: Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell. Campbell is the steady point guard, Juzang has been the dynamic scorer, and Jaquez has done a little bit of everything as the fiery leader of this team.

But junior Jules Bernard was UCLA’s top recruit before Juzang transferred in, and he has become quite an X-factor for this team, stepping up his game a lot down the stretch. Through the first 21 games of the season, Bernard played only 26.4 minutes per game and averaged 9.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists.

But look at how Bernard’s production has risen over the past 10 UCLA games as the Bruins fight for their lives with everything on the line. Suddenly, Bernard is playing 36.5 minutes per game (helped by a few overtime games, admittedly) and averaging 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Quite a leap! That’s more than four additional points per game along with a couple rebounds and twice as many assists.

Bernard played at least 38 minutes in six of his last nine games, and he’s been especially big on the glass, averaging 7.5 RPG in UCLA tournament games. He’s also had multiple assists in six of his last eight games. Make no mistake about it,UCLA would not be here playing in the Final four tonight without Jules Bernard.

I’m not sure the books have caught up with Bernard’s increase in production. We need to go over 18.5 points + rebounds + assists, but Bernard is averaging 21.9 PRA over these past 10 games. He’s gone over 18.5 PRA in seven of the 10 games, and in the three he came up short, it’s because he disappeared as a scorer.

Bernard’s scoring shouldn’t disappear entirely in a faster game where UCLA will need all the scoring it can get, and he should pick up a couple of assists and plenty of rebounds along the way. We project him at 12.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.4 assists, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him clear this PRA line by a good margin if he has a nice game.

This is a great play at even odds. I’ll play the over up to -120.

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