March Madness Elite 8 Player Props: The Bets To Make for Gonzaga vs. USC & Michigan vs. UCLA
Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Johnny Juzang.
- The Final Four will be set tonight, but not before we play a few more prop winners.
- Brandon Anderson has three props for tonight's two Elite Eight games, including Jalen Suggs and Johnny Juzang
- Continue reading for Anderson's picks for Gonzaga-USC and Michigan-UCLA.
NCAA Tournament Player Prop Picks
Elite Eight: Tuesday, March 29
It’s been a wild and unpredictable NCAA Tournament so far, but we’ll finally fill out the final two members of our 2021 Final Four on Tuesday night.
As wonky and unpredictable as the tourney has been so far, our Props Tool has been consistently great. Through the Sweet 16 games, we’ve hit an absurd 71% of our props for the tournament with an incredible 35% return on investment. Let’s keep it going as we narrow this field to four.
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 Tuesday’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.
Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 USC, 7:15 p.m. ET on TBS
Gonzaga may still be undefeated, but the Zags are about to face their biggest test of the season. They’re only three games away from glory now, so the pressure is mounting, and the USC Trojans are playing their best ball of the season and present a huge challenge.
Emphasis on huge.
USC features Evan and Isaiah Mobley, the former a likely top-5 NBA Draft pick this summer, much like Jalen Suggs. The Mobleys made USC the best 2-point defense in the nation this year, and the Trojans also led the Pac-12 in both offensive and defensive rebounding.
This game should be a battle, and that might finally mean a full game’s effort from Suggs and the Gonzaga starters. Suggs has played at least 32 minutes in six of his last seven, seemingly ramping up for this moment, and he should get at least that many here.
Suggs is an excellent all-around guard with a high basketball IQ and a nose for the ball. He’s constantly poking the ball away on defense, and his athleticism helps make him an excellent positional rebounder. Suggs has had at least seven rebounds in eight games this season, even with reduced minutes while Gonzaga blows everyone out, and he even hit double digits twice.
We don’t need anything near that much here — just five. Suggs did that in 17 of 27 games this season, hitting this over 63% of the time, and he averaged 5.3 RPG on the season. And remember, that includes a bunch of games with limited minutes. If you only look at games with 28 or more minutes, Suggs averaged 6.4 RPG and went over 4.5 boards in 13 of 15 games, hitting an over 87% of the time when the minutes were there.
I think this number is too low, and some books apparently agree since you can also find this rebounding line at 5.5 at some books with plus juice on the over. Our Props Tool likes that too, but slightly prefers the safer play, and I do too. I’ll play Suggs to go over 4.5 rebounds as high as -150 or shift to over 5.5 at plus juice from there if necessary.
Drew Peterson, USC
No. 6 USC vs. No. 1 Gonzaga, 7:15 p.m. ET, TBS
Everyone knows by now that USC is built around its twin towers in the middle, Evan and Isaiah Mobley, but the Trojans are going to need some guard play to have any chance against undefeated Gonzaga.
Tahj Eaddy and Isaiah White have stepped up to the challenge with big scoring the past few games, but don’t forget about Drew Peterson. He’s the fifth starter, and he’s averaging 9.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for the Trojans.
Believe it or not, that 2.8 APG was actually good enough to lead USC during the regular season. And look again at that line — we only need two! Peterson has had multiple assists in 26 of 32 games this season, hitting this over 81% of the time.
So why is this line so low? There are a couple reasons. First, Peterson’s passing numbers have faded over the course of the season. He averaged 3.9 APG the first 10 games and went over 1.5 in nine of them, but he’s down to just 2.2 APG since. Nevertheless, even at that slower rate, Peterson is still over 1.5 dimes in 17 of these 22 most recent games. That’s still a 77% hit rate.
There’s also the chance Peterson doesn’t get enough playing time. But even if Peterson struggles, USC doesn’t have many other options. Sophomore Ethan Anderson is the only other guard in the rotation, really, and he’s had a nightmare tournament so far with eight turnovers in just 48 minutes played.
Peterson’s role may not be as large as it once was, and Evan Mobley is handling more these days and making more decisions. The big man is an excellent passer for his size and had 11 assists the last two games. Still … we only need two dimes. Two!
This will be a sweat, but remember, Peterson has at least two assists in 81% of his games. That would imply that this over is worth playing past -400 if necessary. I won’t go crazy but will gladly drink this juice and play to -200 if need be.
Johnny Juzang, UCLA
No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 1 Michigan, 9:57 p.m. ET, TBS
Somehow, UCLA is still playing basketball.
On March 11, the Bruins lost their opening-round Pac-12 Tournament game when they blew a 16-point lead and missed a free throw that could have put the game away in the final seconds, blowing the game in overtime. At the time, that loss to Oregon State looked pretty terrible, and many wondered if UCLA would even make the tournament.
The Bruins did, but needed overtime to get past Michigan State in a play-in game, then outlasted BYU and Abilene Christian before a similar spot against Alabama on Sunday. Yet again, the team blew a big lead in the second half, and again the game hung in the balance on late free throws, but this time it was the opponent who missed them and the Bruins ran away with things in overtime to survive.
How many lives does this team have? It’s used quite a few of them now and have to be running on close to empty at this point. Guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. is averaging 40.5 minutes per game in four tourney games right now.
You know who isn’t averaging 40.5 MPG? Johnny Juzang.
Juzang had to think his season was over multiple times Sunday night, first when he fouled out in regulation and again down the stretch when Alabama kept making plays. Juzang led UCLA in scoring over its first three tournament games at 22.3 PPG, but had a nightmare game against ‘Bama, shooting 5-of-18 from the field before fouling out.
Now Juzang gets another chance, and with the rest of this team exhausted and Juzang such a key scorer, he should get every minute he can handle here. This is UCLA’s toughest test yet against 1-seed Michigan, and it will be an especially tough battle on the boards since the Wolverines are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation.
That’s the angle we’re playing here — Juzang minutes load and his having more energy than teammates to track down an extra rebound or two. Juzang has played 32.8 MPG over his last eight outings and averaged 4.0 RPG, going over this number five times (63%) and in three of four tourney games.
We project Juzang at 4.7 rebounds here. Expect a big game from UCLA’s star scorer with everything on the line. I’ll play the over to -135.