NCAA Tournament Player Prop Picks: Bets for Cade Cunningham, 2 More First Round Games (Friday, March 19)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Cade Cunningham #2 and Kalib Boone #22 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Mark Vital #11 and MaCio Teague #31 of the Baylor Bears.
- Three more games, three more player props.
- Brandon Anderson is going big on rebounding and fading a pair of scorers in three games on the evening CBB slate.
- Check out where he's finding value using the Action Labs prop tool.
NCAA Tournament Player Prop Picks
Round 1: 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 over 60% and a 20% return on investment. Now we're releasing it for college hoops, just in time for the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
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 evening 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.
Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
(13) Liberty vs. (4) Oklahoma State, 6:25 p.m. ET on TBS
Perhaps you've heard of Cade Cunningham.
He's a heavy favorite to be drafted No. 1 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft, no matter who gets the pick. That's the sort of thing that happens when you're a 6-foot-8 freshman point guard who averages 20.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game and leads his team to wins over Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma (twice), West Virginia (twice), and Baylor in the final month of the season.
Cunningham is a superstar, and all eyes will be on him as he debuts in what will surely be his only March Madness run. But folks tuning in hoping to see Cunningham running and gunning up and down the court in a blowout win could be sorely disappointed, because Liberty is really good. The Atlantic Sun champ has a terrific offense, and the Flames play at a glacial pace that should slow this thing down and make life frustrating for Cunningham.
Will Cunningham score at a high rate? That remains to be seen. He tends to start slowly in games, feeling opponents out, then cranking things up late, but he's had some big scoring numbers lately.
But what we surely know is that Cunningham will be out there, and that he'll be playing hard in big minutes. The dude averaged 40 minutes per game in the five games prior to the Big 12 Championship, and there are only 40 minutes in a game, if you forgot.
Cunningham's size makes him a great rebounder — he averaged 8.2 rebounds per game during that stretch. He's at 6.3 RPG on the season, but that average undersells his true ability because of handful of outlier low rebounding games, like the three he had list time out. Cunningham's median rebounding outcome is seven boards, and he's over 5.5 rebounds in 16-of-25 games, hitting this over 64% of the time.
We can't control whether or not Cunningham's shot falls, but we can certainly expect big minutes and high effort on the boards from a man with a serious size advantage. We're projecting him at 7.0 boards, right at his median outcome, so this is worth a play.
Besides, let's be honest — it's not like you weren't playing a Cunningham prop today. Let's have a little fun.
RJ Davis, North Carolina
(9) Wisconsin vs. (8) North Carolina, 7:10 p.m. ET on CBS
When the season opened, RJ Davis was a starter. Davis was a top-50 recruit, and the freshman was starting next to Caleb Love in the backcourt, but the duo wasn't working out for Roy Williams. The Tar Heels lost four of their first nine games, and Williams decided to make a change: Davis was out, and Kerwin Walton was in.
The move stabilized the Tar Heels, who came on late down the stretch, but it was a bummer for Davis. He scored double digits in each of his first five games for Carolina but went cold the next couple games and never really got it back. Davis is shooting a paltry 35.5% from the field on the season, and that's a big part of why he's moved to the bench.
Since the start of February, Davis has been muted even further. He began the month with two scoreless games and has averaged only 7.8 PPG since. He's only cracked double digits four times in that stretch, all four of them when he got hot from behind the arc and knocked down a few threes. But Davis is only a 32% 3-point shooter on the season too, so that's not reliable either.
Davis has gone under this line in nine of his last 13 games, hitting the under 69% of the time. We project him at 7.4 points, and if he isn't hotting shots early, I could see his role minimized even further with everything on the line.
I'll play the under here to -140.
Zach Edey, Purdue
(13) North Texas vs. (4) Purdue, 7:25 p.m. ET on TNT
Zach Edey is a very large human being.
It won't take you too long to find Edey on a basketball court. The man stands 7-foot-4 and weighs 285 pounds after all. In case you need a comparison, Andre the Giant was also 7-foot-4.
Yes, Zach Edey is tall, and he can dunk the ball like you when you play on one of your kid's hoops. Edey finished the season with aplomb, dropping 21 and 20 points in Purdue's final two regular season games, wins against Wisconsin and Indiana.
Edey has had a strong closing stretch. He scored double-digit points in six of Purdue's last eight games, averaging 12.6 points per game over that stretch, and that's why we got a line this high. But the rest of the season matters too. Edey averaged only 7.5 PPG over the first 19 games of the season, and his minutes have only barely ticked up since then. He just happens to have had his biggest scoring games right at the end of the season, boosting this line.
North Texas plays very stout defense and slows things way down. That will limit scoring opportunities, and Mean Green big man Zachary Simmons should be able to hold his own against Edey at nearly seven-foot himself.
We project Edey at 8.8 points, going well under this line. Even with that strong finish, he only went over this number seven times all season. I'll play the under here even with the juice, and I'd play as high as -190.