March Madness Prop Bets & Picks For Thursday’s First Four Games
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images. Pictured: UCLA Bruins guard Tyger Campbell (10).
- Just as sportsbooks have expanded their college basketball player props offered during the NCAA Tournament, so too have we expanded our Action Labs Props Tool!
- Our Action Labs Props Tool now also includes March Madness college basketball player props, and Brandon Anderson wasted no time putting the tool to work.
- Read which three college basketball player props boast the largest edge for Thursday's First Four games.
NCAA Tournament Player Prop Picks
First Four: Thursday, March 18
March Madness is back!! We’ve waited two years for this day, and we’ve got big news at Action Network: Our handy dandy Props Tool is expanding!
The Props Tool has been racking up NBA wins all season, with a hit rate over 60% and a 20% return on investment. Now we’re releasing it for college hoops, just in time for the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Today we’ll start with three plays from Thursday’s First Four games:
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.
Below, I have laid out three prop bets that I’m playing from Thursday’s NCAA Tournament First Four matchups, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.
Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
Morris Udeze, Wichita State
(11) Drake vs. (11) Wichita State, 6:27 p.m. ET on TBS
Morris Udeze moved into Wichita State’s starting lineup this season, but it took him a while to settle into his expanded role.
Udeze started each of the Shockers’ first nine games, but he only averaged 17.9 minutes per game and didn’t make a huge impact, delivering a modest 7.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per contest. In the ninth game of the season, Udeze was held scoreless against Houston in a close and damaging loss. He played only 18 minutes and took just two shots.
Four days later, Udeze took the court against Cincinnati a changed man. He got up 12 shots against Cincinnati and made eight of them, pouring in a season-high 18 points. Udeze’s scoring output against the Bearcats is still his highest total of the season. Wichita State won that game and continued to go to Udeze early and often going forward.
In the 12 games since that shutout against Houston, Udeze has blossomed. He has averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game in over 27 minutes of action, enabling Wichita State to go 10-2 straight-up to close the season. Udeze has at least nine points in 10 of those 12 games, establishing a comfortably high floor, and he’s hit this over-10.5 in eight of 12.
We project Udeze to score 13.1 points against Drake on Thursday, which offers a comfortable margin of error in our favor here. If Wichita State wants to keep its tournament hopes alive, the Shockers will need another big game from their big man.
Joey Hauser, Michigan State
(11) UCLA vs. (11) Michigan State, 9:57 p.m. ET on TBS
Joey Hauser has been waiting for this day for two years.
Technically, everyone’s been waiting for this day for two years (since we didn’t have a tournament last year), but Hauser always knew he wouldn’t get to play last season — even for a potential national title contender. Hauser and his brother transferred away from Marquette and sat out the 2019-20 season — Joey at Michigan State and Sam at Virginia.
Then, when this season tipped off in November, Joey came out firing. Hauser scored double digits his first six games, then dropped a career-high 27 points vs. Wisconsin on Christmas Day.
… But, Michigan State lost by 9 — Sparty’s second loss in a row — and Hauser’s role was reduced following that loss.
He scored single-digit points each of the next five games, starting with six points on 1-of-8 shooting against Minnesota (another loss), and continuing from there. Michigan State struggled to find an identity, losing seven of nine and missing multiple weeks due to a COVID-19 pause. That losing stretch is why the Spartans are playing today in the First Four, rather than being seeded comfortably in the Round of 64.
However, Michigan State was by no means a lock to make this year’s tournament. The Spartans summoned a compelling series of performances to close the season that impressed the committee, and Hauser’s role was remarkably muted during that closing stretch of games. Michigan State defeated Illinois, Ohio State, and Michigan all in the past few weeks, and Hauser came off the bench in all three wins. That’s the role he’ll have in this game, too.
During Hauser’s first eight games, including that career game against the Badgers, Hauser averaged 14.0 points and 8.6 rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game. Since then, he hasn’t topped 11 points in any of his 19 games. His per-game averages have nearly cut in half to 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, and he has gone under 9.5 points in 12-of-19 games to close the regular season.
In his 11 most recent games coming off the bench, Hauser has put up 8.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. His minutes have dwindled further, including a notable decline from 20 to 17 to 13 minutes in the last three games. Hauser may have waited two years for this moment, but that doesn’t mean that Spartans head coach Tom Izzo is going to put him out there with the season on the line.
We project Hauser at just 7.0 points, giving this prop an 18% edge in our favor and making it the top play of the day. I’ll play the under here to -140.
Our Props Tool also likes Hauser to go under 5.5 rebounds at -134 on DraftKings. Remember, Hauser dropped from 8.6 RPG during those first eight games to 4.5 RPG since — and just 3.7 RPG since earning a role coming off the bench. He’s gone under 5.5 boards in 14 of his past 19 games; and if we’re fading Hauser’s production as a scorer — in part because his minutes have disappeared — then, fading rebounds makes sense too.
Tyger Campbell, UCLA
(11) UCLA vs. (11) Michigan State, 9:57 p.m. ET on TBS
UCLA stumbles into this game on the heels of four consecutive losses to close the regular season. The Bruins will need much more consistent play from sophomores Jaime Jaquez, Johnny Juzang, and Tyger Campbell in order to defeat the Spartans and keep their season alive.
Campbell is the smallest of the three sophomores but often comes up biggest in UCLA’s biggest moments — and furthermore, he’s the one guy the Bruins almost always have out on the court. He has played at least 27 minutes in every Bruins game this season, and he leads the team at over 34 minutes per game.
He has also scored at least seven points in all but four games. That’s a heck of a floor considering that we only need nine points to hit the over on his points total. Put another way, in 22 of 26 games, Campbell has been at least within one bucket of hitting this over — and he’s hit the over in 17 of those games (65% hit rate).
Our Action Labs Props Tool projects Campbell to score 10.4 points: Comfortably over.
His biggest games tend to come when he gets to the free throw line often, but this is really a volume play as much as anything else. Campbell played 38 and 43 minutes, respectively, in UCLA’s last two games — and with everything on the line on Thursday night, he could be out there for nearly all 40 minutes. If he plays that much, he’s going to have a good chance of adding another over.
We just need nine points from Campbell. Do it for William Blake:
“Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?”— The Tyger, by William Blake