NCAA Tournament Player Prop Picks for Monday Early Evening: Best Bets Include Michigan, Ohio & UCLA (March 22)
Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Smith of Michigan.
NCAA Tournament Player Prop Picks
Second Round: Monday, March 22
March Madness is back!
We waited two years for this day, and we’ve got big news at Action Network: Our handy dandy Props Tool is expanding and it’s killing it so far — already 18-8-1 through the first round (69% hit rate) with a 29.7 return on investment!
The Props Tool has been racking up NBA wins all season, with a hit rate over 60% and a 20% ROI. Now we’ve released 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 Monday’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.
Johnny Juzang, UCLA
(11) UCLA vs. (14) Abilene Christian, 5:15 p.m. ET on TBS
If you’ve been watching UCLA the past couple tournament games, you probably think it sounds absolutely nuts to fade Johnny Juzang right now. If you watched the Bruins the rest of the season, you might understand.
Juzang was at a respectable 14.0 points per game in 21 games entering the week before he exploded for 23 and 27 in wins against Michigan State and BYU. Juzang has been awesome, and he’s the biggest reason UCLA is still playing today, but there’s good reason to believe these games are outliers.
Juzang has only four other games all season with at least 23 points like these past two. He’s also taken a ton of shot volume in these two tournament games with 20 and 16 field goal attempts. He only hit those numbers in four other games all season.
Juzang is UCLA’s leading scorer, but he’s not the only one on this team who can score. The Bruins actually have six different players averaging double-digit points per game, though one is hurt right now, and they typically tend to have a different leading scorer step up from one game to the next. Maybe this will be a game for Jaime Jaquez or Tyger Campbell.
Consider the opponent too. Abilene Christian absolutely wrecked Texas in the opener with a barrage of forced turnovers, and they will make life miserable for Juzang and company. You better believe they’ll be giving him a little extra attention with the way he’s been balling.
We project Juzang at 13.2 points, well off his recent inflated number. Juzang has gone under in 15 or 23 games (65%), and I’ll play the under to -135.
Jason Preston, Ohio
(13) Ohio vs. (5) Creighton, 6:10 p.m. ET on TNT
Welcome to the Jason Preston show.
Preston has been doing this all season, you just haven’t noticed because you weren’t watching. Like many teams this year, the Bobcats had a really weird season. Ohio played only 15 regular season games thanks to a bunch of COVID-protocol cancellations, so they entered the MAC tournament playing well but knowing they couldn’t lose again.
And they haven’t, including Saturday against the defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers. Now Ohio is back in the round of 32, and they’re riding on the shoulders of future pro Jason Preston, just like they have all season.
Preston is averaging 16.3 points, 7.2 rebound, and 7.3 assists per game, doing a bit of everything for the Bobcats. He was two assists short of a triple-double against Virginia and he put up 31 points, six boards and eight dimes against Illinois earlier this season. If you watched the other night, you saw why. Preston is the real deal, and he’s going to be playing pro ball for a long time.
Preston played all 40 minutes against Virginia, and I expect him to do the same again here. He averaged more than 38 per game a season ago before dropping a bit in this weird season, but Ohio knows they need all the Preston they can get. Preston averages 8.4 rebounds per 40 minutes on the season, so if he plays all 40… well, that math is pretty easy.
Preston has at least five rebounds in all but two games, so that’s a pretty high floor that puts us in range. We already played and hit Preston’s rebounding over in round one when he more than doubled the line, so let’s go for the double and hit Preston up again. He’s going to be everywhere in this one and have plenty of minutes to get them.
It’s not quite as rock solid a play as the over-5.5 was last round, but this still looks good, so I’ll play to -130.
Mike Smith, Michigan
(1) Michigan vs. (8) LSU, 7:10 p.m. ET on CBS
Mike Smith is the guy everyone overlooks for Michigan. Maybe it’s because he has such a generic sounding name, or perhaps it’s just because Hunter Dickinson, Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers and Eli Brooks are all so good.
Smith runs point guard for the Wolverines, and he led the team with 5.4 assists per game this season. Michigan moves the ball around quickly and tends to rack up team assists. Smith had a Big Ten tournament record 15 assists in a win against Maryland 10 days ago, and he has seven or more assists in six games this season.
Even more importantly, Smith has at least six assists in 13 games already, which means six dimes is his median outcome. It’s also his most common outcome, which makes me think this line may be an assist too low. Smith does have an absolute dud every now and then, but he’s been within half a rebound of this line or better in 76% of his games.
And don’t overlook the opponent. LSU will be a fierce test, especially with Livers sidelined, but that’s because the Tigers are so great on offense. They’ll really push Michigan’s defense, but LSU doesn’t play much defense of its own. That leaves a lot of easy looks for opponents, and as well as Michigan moves off the ball, it should make for some easy assists for Smith.
I think the line is too low here, so I’ll play the over and expect plenty of assist opportunities in a high scoring game. I’ll play Smith’s over to -140.
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