March Madness Elite 8 Player Props: The Bets To Make for Houston vs. Oregon State & Baylor vs. Arkansas
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Tate.
- Quentin Grimes and Justin Smith have been carrying Houston and Arkansas through the NCAA Tournament.
- Can we expect another big night from both in Monday's Elite Eight matchups?
- Let's look at how our college basketball props analyst is betting on it.
NCAA Tournament Player Prop Picks
Elite Eight: Monday, March 28
The Elite Eight is here, and just like everyone expected, the 12-seeded Oregon State Beavers tip off our first game … wait, what?
A wild NCAA Tournament continues on Monday night as we find our first two Final Four teams, but as unpredictable as the tourney has been, our Props Tool has been consistently great. We hit an absurd 72% of our props on opening weekend with an incredible 35% return on investment. Let’s keep it going as we narrow this field even further.
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 Monday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight 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.
Quentin Grimes, Houston
(2) Houston vs. (12) Oregon State, 7:15 p.m. ET on CBS
This is what Quentin Grimes came to Houston for.
It feels like forever ago that Grimes made his debut for Kansas, knocking down six 3-pointers in a marquee opener against Michigan State and looking like a one-and-done lottery pick. But that season didn’t go according to plan for Grimes or for his Jayhawks. He struggled to find his scoring touch the rest of the season, and Kansas got run off the court by Auburn in the second round of the tournament.
Grimes transferred to Houston for a fresh start and had a great season for a dominant Cougars team that looked ready to make a real tournament run, but then the season was shut down for the pandemic.
Now, finally, Grimes is playing where he probably always dreamed he would be: As the star of a 27-3 team on the brink of the Final Four.
Grimes is Houston’s leading scorer at 18.0 points per game, and that’s despite giving up plenty of minutes so far this season when Houston was blowing out yet another opponent. Heck, the Cougars have blown out two opponents in three NCAA Tournament games, too. But Grimes played all 40 minutes in a close second-round win over Rutgers, which portends well for his playing time in what should be another close contest with Oregon State playing so well.
Grimes is a big, strong guard who should have ample rebounding opportunities against the Beavers zone. He was over 4.5 rebounds in 19-of-28 games this season, hitting this over 68% of the time. Grimes actually had seven or more rebounds in half his games this season, and remember, he probably plays more minutes here, unless this is another blowout.
We project Grimes at 6.7 rebounds — about his median outcome — and this line feels a full rebound too low. I’ll play him over 4.5 rebounds to -175.
Jalen Tate, Arkansas
(3) Arkansas vs. (1) Baylor, 9:57 p.m. ET on CBS
One of the things that’s been so fun about Arkansas this tournament is how balanced and unpredictable the Razorbacks’ scoring can be. Freshman Moses Moody leads the team, of course, but Justin Smith has become reliable on the interior while Jalen Tate, Davonte Davis and JD Notae are all a threat to hit double-digit points any given night.
Tate is a fifth-year senior transfer after spending four years at Northern Kentucky, and you have to believe even in his wildest dreams, he didn’t figure to be playing for a shot at the Final Four this year at Arkansas. Yet here he is, averaging 29.3 minutes on the season and filling up the box score for the Hogs with 10.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Tate can do a bit of everything, and that versatility has earned him big minutes in the tournament as Eric Musselman hones in on his best guys. Tate has played 38 minutes in two of three tournament games, and his production has risen to the occasion. So far in March Madness, Tate is averaging 15.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in almost 36 minutes a game, and it’s no wonder Musselman keeps giving Tate all the minutes he can handle when he fills up the box score like that.
Tate can get to the line, and he moves well off the ball and plays within the flow of the offense. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s helped him go over this line in all three tournament games.
Tate is over 9.5 points in 18-of-31 games this season, hitting it 58% of the time — but remember that he’s also playing more minutes as one of Musselman’s trusted guys. Expect Tate to be out there most of the game against Baylor in a fast-paced, perimeter-oriented matchup, and he should have a good shot at cracking double digits again.
We project Tate at 11.0 points. I’ll play this over to -135 and hope for a shootout.
Justin Smith, Arkansas
(3) Arkansas vs. (1) Baylor, 9:57 p.m. ET on CBS
Justin Smith has been an absolute monster so far this tournament for Arkansas. Smith is the de facto big man for the Hogs at 6-foot-9 now that Connor Vanover has been shrink-wrapped for the important games. Smith has played all but two minutes of the first three Razorback games, and he’s averaging 20.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per game so far.
This isn’t new for Smith either. Over the last nine Arkansas games, Smith has played virtually every minute. He’s averaging 37.7 minutes per game over that span, pouring in 17.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Smith has been especially effective hammering the offensive glass lately. He’s averaging an impressive 4.3 offensive rebounds per game during this stretch, and that includes a whopping 11 offensive boards against Oral Roberts.
All of that sure sounds like the lead-up to an over pick, but the books have adjusted this line too far in Smith’s direction.
Sure, it’s super impressive to rack up 11 offensive rebounds in a Sweet 16 team, but Oral Roberts struggled on the defensive glass as a pretty small team outside of Kevin Obanor. Heck, Smith had 10 offensive rebounds against Oral Roberts in December, too, with 17 total boards that game. Baylor is a far more athletic team, and big men like Flo Thamba, Matthew Mayer and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua will keep Smith from putting up a huge number on the offensive glass.
It’s great that Smith grabbed 44 rebounds in three games against Oral Roberts and Colgate, but those are outliers against lower level competition, and Baylor is decidedly not that. Smith is under 10.5 rebounds in all but one of his other 24 games, and he averages just 6.4 RPG outside of those three outliers. That undersells Smith a little because his minutes were not quite as high, but even in this great recent stretch, Smith has gone under 10.5 boards in six of nine with 9.1 RPG.
We project Smith at 8.3 boards, and as good as he’s been lately, I just have to play the under at this number. Baylor will not let him eat on the offensive glass like Oral Roberts and Colgate did. I’ll play up to -175.