NCAA Tournament Player Prop Picks
Sweet 16: Saturday, March 27
What a weekend we had! We waited two long years for March Madness, and it was a wild and wacky opening weekend of the tournament, with upsets galore and all sorts of fun basketball.
Hey, you know what else is fun? Winning bets.
Last weekend, our Props Tool expanded to March Madness, and boy did it pay off! We went 31-12-1 on picks last weekend, hitting a whopping 72% of our picks. We’re up +15.8 units right now on March Madness props, an incredible 35.1% return on investment thus far.
That’s a heck of a weekend right there! Let’s see if we can keep the momentum going in the Sweet Sixteen.
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 Thursday’s NCAA Tournament First Four 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.
Zach Reichle, Oregon State
(12) Oregon State vs. (8) Loyola Chicago, 2:40 p.m. ET on CBS
Can you believe the Oregon State Beavers are still playing basketball?
It’s safe to say no one saw this coming. The Beavers were just 14-12 entering the Pac-12 conference tournament, very much an afterthought in a conference that was mostly the same. Then Oregon Started started winning games and hasn’t stopped since. The Beavers have reeled off five straight wins, all against teams in the 64-team tournament field.
Well, suffice to say folks have finally noticed, and you can bet Porter Moser and his Ramblers will be ready with a game plan. Loyola Chicago has a stifling defense, and they’ll give plenty of attention to Beavers senior Ethan Thompson, a top-50 recruit who has carried Oregon State through most of these recent wins.
Zach Reichle is another senior starter, and he’s been quieter with Thompson balling out. He didn’t even score in the last Beavers game and is averaging just 8.0 points and 1.6 assists over these last five wins. Reichle can really create, though. He had multiple assists in each of his first 10 games this season and averaged 3.8 APG over his first 16 before slowing a bit down the stretch.
Even with the slowdown, Reichle has multiple assists in 23 of 31 games, hitting this over in 74% of his games. And now that Oregon State has everyone’s full attention, you can bet Loyola will have their sights set on shutting Ethan Thompson down and forcing other Beavers to beat them. That could mean more opportunities for Reichle and his teammates to step up, and the senior should play big minutes in what could be his final game.
Even in this quieter recent stretch, Reichle has an assist in six of his last seven games, which puts us one away from a win. We’re projecting Reichle at 3.0 assists, doubling this total, so that makes it a clear play. We’ll play to -180.
Lucas Williamson, Loyola Chicago
(12) Oregon State vs. (8) Loyola Chicago, 2:40 p.m. ET on CBS
Everyone knows the name Cameron Krutwig by now, but Krutwig isn’t the only senior on Loyola — and I’m not talking about Sister Jean.
The Ramblers start four seniors, actually. Lucas Williamson is one of them, and he’s been here before. Williamson started five games as a freshman on the team that went to the Final Four and averaged almost 24 minutes a game during that tournament run, so this stage is not new to him.
That’s probably why Loyola is leaning so hard on Williamson so far this tournament. He’s played 36 minutes in each tourney game, his two highest minutes totals of the season, and he’s averaging 17.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game thus far. The key number there, though, is the 36. That’s way up from Williamson’s season average, and the increased time on the court means about 20% extra court time and 20% more rebounding opportunities.
Williamson has always been a really good rebounder, especially for a guard. He averaged 5.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore and grabs a rebound every 7.6 minutes for his career at Loyola. At that rate, we’d only need 27 minutes to feel good about a Williamson over, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him play nearly every minute if this one stays close.
Wiliamson is over 3.5 rebounds in 16 of 30 games, but remember, that’s at under 30 minutes per game. He’s gone over in nine of 12 games with more than 30 minutes, and he looks like a good bet to go over here too. We project Williamson at 4.7 boards, and I’ll play here to -135.
Matthew Mayer, Baylor
(1) Baylor vs. (5) Villanova, 5:15 p.m. ET on TV-CBS
Matthew Mayer probably isn’t the first guy you think of when you picture Baylor. You might be thinking of Davion Mitchell locking down on defense or snaking to the rim, or of Jared Baylor sizing the defense up and knocking down a stone-cold jumper. Maybe it’s glue guy Mark Vital doing the little things or MaCio Teague hitting a barrage of threes.
Heck, Mayer isn’t even a starter for Baylor, but he’s becoming increasingly important. Flo Thamba is the starting center for Baylor, but he has been minimized thus far in the tournament. Thamba is a raw big man who defends well, but instead it’s been more Mayer coming off the bench as a versatile 6-foot-9 forward acting as a big man. Mayer’s presence on the court stretches the opposing defense out since he’s a good shooter, leaving more driving lanes for Mitchell and Baylor.
Mayer only played 14.9 minutes per game this season and never started once, but he scored 8.0 PPG. That’s a very respectable average for a guy under 15 minutes, with a point every 1.8 minutes. Now Mayer is playing more in the tournament. He played 21 minutes against Hartford and 24 against Wisconsin, and he’s scored 25 points in those two games, right at his usual scoring rate.
Villanova is not a particularly big team, so expect even more Mayer in this one since Baylor can get away with playing him on defense, considering how much he helps on offense. His minutes load has been up about 50% from the regular season, a huge increase, and that’s a lot more scoring opportunity. Considering Mayer has gone over 7.5 points in exactly half his games even in fewer minutes, that gives us a great chance.
We project Mayer at 8.9 points, and it would be easy to see him hit double-digits. We only need eight for an over, and I’ll play Mayer for another starring bench role as high as -135.