UConn men’s basketball will continue its quest for NCAA Tournament glory on Thursday night, as the Huskies take on the 8-seed Arkansas Razorbacks in the Sweet Sixteen 7:15 p.m. on CBS for the right to take on the winner of 2-seed UCLA and 3-seed Gonzaga for a Final Four bid.
Our friends at DraftKings have a bevy of player props, over and above the spread and total, for each of the games this weekend. For entertainment purposes only, let’s take a look at some of the props available for the battle between the Huskies and Razorbacks in the West region semifinal and make some predictions.
Lines and odds are accurate as of 1 p.m. on Wednesday
Adama Sanogo: 16.5 points (over -120, under -110)
Ryan Goodman: This one was tough for me. I know the UConn faithful are going to say this is a mortal lock, but with Arkansas being able to rotate both Mitchell twins on Sanogo and basically matching his size in the post with fresh bodies, Sanogo simply isn’t going to dominate as much as he has been. Life will likely be tougher on Thursday night for the star big man. With that said, Clingan will give him a few breaks to keep him in peak form, and if UConn wants to try to limit Arkansas possessions they may run some prolonged sets where their best scoring option ends up with the ball later in the shot clock. I’m going to go over on this one, but only by a few points.
Shawn McGrath: I’m going to go over, but only just a little. Arkansas is in the top 50 in tempo according to KenPom, which will create opportunities in the fast break for UConn. This will be to the advantage of the guards, including Tristen Newton and Jordan Hawkins, as 3-pointers in transition has been one of the ways the Huskies have gone downhill and pulled away from teams.
He’s still going to go over, however, because of Arkansas’ lack of size down low. Makhi Mitchell, the Razorbacks’ starting center, is the same listed height as Sanogo, but 10 pounds lighter, with nobody listed as heavier than Sanogo’s 240 pounds, and only reserve forward Makhel Mitchell (6-foot-10) standing taller. He’s been on fire to start the NCAA Tournament and will have plenty of opportunities to collect more points on Thursday.
Anthony Black: 11.5 points (over -115, under -115)
McGrath: UConn has played another taller SEC freshman wing with size and lottery talent this year in Brandon Miller. He led the way for Alabama with 18 points, but the Crimson Tide only scored 67 points in 74 possessions. Miller’s usage rate is slightly higher, but Black plays more minutes and this game is going to be in the neighborhood of 75 possessions.
Andre Jackson will likely be assigned to Black for much of the evening and while he’s a terrific on-ball defender, Black is a strong midrange shooter and at 30 percent from beyond the arc on 90 attempts, is one of the few 3-point shooters Arkansas has. If this goes under, it means UConn probably rolls, but Black is going to get well into double-digits.
Goodman: Black hasn’t shot the ball well in the tournament at all (5-18 through two games) but has been checked by some guys with solid length and defensive chops — Terrance Shannon on Illinois and Gradey Dick/Kevin McCullar on Kansas. All three of those guys aren’t as good of a defender as Jackson, and while there will be plenty of opportunities to score as Arkansas tries to get out and run, both of those teams Arkansas beat to get here are top 75 in adjusted tempo, while UConn sits at No. 213. The Huskies can run, but they would rather work the ball around to get Hawkins free or dump it down low mid-late clock and get Sanogo a bucket. With Black drawing another tough defensive assignment and the Huskies likely giving some resistance to the quickened pace, I’ll take the under on 11.5. The biggest factor to monitor on this prop is how fast the two teams get into the bonus with their propensity to foul. That could blow it up completely.
Andre Jackson: 3.5 assists (over -115, under -115)
McGrath: Jackson has had seven helpers in each of the team’s first two NCAA Tournament games and has exceeded this total in six of his last eight games. However, he is susceptible to foul trouble and sitting on the bench for long stretches, which can make hitting this total more difficult.
UConn has the ninth-highest assist rate in the country, recording them on 62.8 percent of their made field goals, which is led by Jackson and Newton, but if the game is faster and the Huskies are operating less in the halfcourt, then he may have fewer opportunities and they’ll be more spread around. Give me the under.
Goodman: Similar logic to Sean, but I’m going another direction. UConn’s swiss army knife is averaging six dimes in as many games, and if Musselman wants to push tempo, Jackson’s ears are gonna perk up. No one on this UConn team loves running as much as their captain, and he’ll be able to create at least a few opportunities in transition for his running mates. I’m riding the hot hand. Over.
Jordan Hawkins: 1.5 3-pointers made (over -205, under +150)
Goodman: If this doesn’t go over, I think UConn may be in trouble. I know the bench can make up for it, but the Razorbacks are a different beast, especially athletically. The Sweet 16 is that point where seeds can basically be thrown out the window for some matchups, and this is one of them. It’s going to be extremely tough for Hawkins to get space, but he just needs to see one go in. Also, based on the sheer volume of shots he’ll take, this one’s easy money.
McGrath: The Huskies have been calling Hawkins the air fryer since he’s been getting lightning hot in an instant. After some brutal first halves, he’s come alive in quick bursts and without warning in the second half. He’s hit multiple 3-pointers in 29 games this year. This one is tilted pretty heavily toward the over, at -205, which makes sense.