NCAA Tournament Player Props: Early Friday Picks for Florida, Arkansas & Utah State (March 19)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Tate.
- Brandon Anderson using our Props Tool to help gain an edge in the NBA, and now he's using it in the NCAA Tournament.
- Anderson has identified three value plays from the early-afternoon games on Friday.
- Continue reading to find out the best bets, including the third-seeded Razorbacks.
NCAA Tournament Player Prop Picks
First Round: Friday, March 19
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 of better than 60% and a 20% return on investment. Now we’re releasing it for college hoops, just in time for the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
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 Friday’s NCAA Tournament early afternoon 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.
Noah Locke, Florida Gators
(10) Virginia Tech vs. (7) Florida, 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS
The Gators don’t take or make a ton of threes, but when they do, it’s almost certainly Tre Mann or Noah Locke. Locke is Florida’s sharpshooter, and he’s out there to space the defense and knock shots down.
Locke leads the Gators with 54 made 3-pointers on the season, double every other Florida player but Mann. He also leads the team in attempts with 133, 5.8 per game, and in 3-point percentage at 40.6%. Locke is a shooter.
Locke has attempted at least five threes in all but six of his games this year, so he’s going to get his shots up. But even with all that shooting, he’s gone under 2.5 threes in 13 of 23 Florida games, hitting this under 57% of the time.
The attempts are fading a bit too. Over Florida’s final four regular-season games and two games in the SEC tournament, Locke’s average number of 3-point attempts fell from 6.1 to 5.0, and he went under this line in four of those six games.
As the games have gotten bigger, Florida has become more and more Tre Mann all game, all the time. Mann’s scoring has exploded in recent games, and that’s meant less scoring for Locke. He’s scored single-digits in six of the last eight games after hitting double digits in 10 of the first 15.
Add in Virginia Tech’s slow tempo and solid defense, and this looks like a spot to fade our sharpshooter. This one is hardly a “Locke,” and we’re going to have to just hope for a few misses, but you know we have to play something in the first official game of the tournament.
Jalen Tate, Arkansas Razorbacks
(14) Colgate vs. (3) Arkansas, 12:45 p.m. ET on truTV
Most of this season has been exactly what Jalen Tate was hoping for.
Tate transferred to Arkansas after playing four years with Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League, and he was an immediate contributor to the Razorbacks. Tate averaged nearly 14 points per game in each of his past two seasons with the Norse, and he looked the part early on for the Hogs.
Tate opened his account with 12 points and hit double-digits in 10 of his first 16 games, averaging 11.5 PPG over that stretch and culminating with his best game with Arkansas, a 25-point night in a win over Vanderbilt. Tate averaged 28 minutes a game during that opening stretch, basically the first half of the season, and took 8.5 shots per game.
The minutes haven’t gone anywhere since that Vandy win, but the production has faded. Tate dropped into single-digits in each of his next three games, and he’s down to just 8.8 PPG in the 12 games since the Commodore win. His shots are down to 7.5 per game, and they’re not falling as easily either.
It’s been even worse as Arkansas wrapped up its season. Just look at his point total over the Hogs’ final five games: 2, 2, 22, 4, and 3. That’s just 6.6 PPG over the last five and almost nothing in four of them.
And yet, Arkansas has won four of those games, so I’m not sure anything will change anytime soon. This formula is working, and if anything, Tate may end up playing fewer minutes against Colgate if the Razorbacks run away with this thing. He’s gone under 11 points in seven of his last 12 and way under in four of the last five. I’ll play to -135.
Justin Bean, Utah State
(11) Utah State vs. (6) Texas Tech, 1:45 p.m. ET on TNT
Most people think of Utah State as the Neemias Queta show, and that’s fair enough. It’s hard to miss the seven-foot Portuguese giant, and Queta is certainly at the heart of everything the Aggies do on both sides of the court.
But don’t overlook how much Justin Bean contributes to this team. Bean is the next biggest regular contributor, and he’ll have a big role in a game in which Utah State will surely hope to impose its size and significant rebounding advantage as an underdog.
Bean has averaged 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds a game for the Aggies, and he’s been even hotter heading into the tournament with 15.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game over the past seven, including five double-doubles. Utah State would not be here playing today if not for Bean’s strong play down the stretch, and that should keep him on the court in a major role here.
And do you know who else has noticed Bean’s ascension? Texas Tech coach Chris Beard. Beard will have his tenacious Red Raiders defense ready, and you can get he’s going to try to get the ball out of the hands of Queta and Bean and force Utah State’s guards to win the game. That should give both big men plenty of passing opportunities, and that’s where this prop comes in.
Bean averages 1.9 assists per game on the season, but he’s had at least one dime in 11 straight games entering the tournament. That puts him a dime away from hitting our prop, establishing a nice floor. It’s also worth noting that Bean has six games this year with four or more assists. We don’t need four or more to win, but that high ceiling outcome shows just how nice a passer Bean can be.
Bean has gone over this line in 16 of 28 games, hitting the over 57% of the time. It’s going to be a sweat, but this line should have a minus in front of it, not a plus, so the fact that we’re getting such significant plus juice here is huge. Let’s hope Bean is ready for the spotlight. I’d play this one at any plus number.