March Madness DFS Advice: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16: Day 1 (March 23)

The NCAA Tournament continues with a full four-game slate on Thursday, March 23 — the first of two Sweet 16 slates. This column will dive into each game and highlight the top March Madness DFS picks and value plays to target with the help of Stokastic’s CBB DFS projections.

March Madness DFS Picks | Sweet 16

Michigan State vs. Kansas State | March Madness DFS Picks

Michigan State holds a two-point advantage over Kansas State. The total (137.5) isn’t that high, but it isn’t the worst on the slate. The Spartans soundly defeated Marquette and USC on their way to the Sweet 16. On the other side, Kansas State defeated Montana State and Kentucky. ShotQuality graded the Kentucky game as a loss for Kansas State, which explains the current line somewhat.

Let’s start with the favorite. Michigan State has excelled at perimeter accuracy this year, but the Spartans rank only 298th in 3-pointers taken per game. MSU’s offense flows through Joey Hauser ($7,500), who has played at least 34 minutes in three straight games. On the year, he has a solid 17.4% shot rate and 19.8% rebound rate.

The Spartans also have three solid guards in Tyson Walker ($7,200), A.J. Hoggard ($7,800) and Jaden Akins ($5,600). Hoggard typically runs the point and leads the team with a 20.5% usage rate. He battled foul trouble in Michigan State’s last contest, which cut his minutes. As a result, Walker played more minutes and recorded a solid 18.1% usage rate. Slightly more shot-dependent, Walker has a lower floor but a solid ceiling. Akins rounds out the group as the glue guy. Between these top four, Hauser still projects the best with the most double-double upside.

Finally, Malik Hall ($5,300) deserves mention behind solid rates but questionable minutes. Hall has battled injuries throughout the year, but his 28 minutes in back-to-back games make him interesting for GPPs. Mady Sissoko ($4,900) also deserves mention — but only because this is only a four-game slate. Likewise, Carson Cooper ($3,100) may look interesting to some, but his minutes depend on foul trouble from the other bigs.

On the Kansas State side, the Wildcats work through two studs in Keyontae Johnson ($7,900) and Markquis Nowell ($9,400). Both play almost every single minute. Nowell dominates the team with a 21.8% shot rate and 46.6% assist rate. This gives Nowell an outside chance to reach the double-double bonus via assists. Johnson also plays every minute and posted a 22.1% shot rate, 19.9% rebound rate and 13.3% assist rate this year. Both are elite DFS plays, but Johnson offers more salary flexibility.

The secondary options for this team are Nae’Qwan Tomlin ($6,600), Desi Sills ($5,500) and Cam Carter ($4,000). Sills does a little bit of everything, but he doesn’t stand out in any particular usage category. The same goes for Carter, but Carter plays fewer consistent minutes. The only redeeming quality for Carter is the cheap price tag that may help to jam extra studs.

Tomlin just played 30 minutes in Kansas State’s last game, but his minutes are volatile. He played 20 minutes in the second most recent game but also recorded four fouls. Ultimately, the presence of David N’Guessan ($4,200), Ismael Massoud ($3,600), Abayomi Iyiola ($3,000) and Tykei Greene ($3,0) leave Tomlin with inconsistent minutes.

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Arkansas vs. Connecticut | March Madness DFS Picks

This game’s total (140.5) slots in above the slate’s average. Connecticut is a 3.5-point favorite over Arkansas and the Huskies just knocked off Iona and Saint Mary’s to get here. However, ShotQuality graded their second-round game as a 65-55 loss. Arkansas defeated both Illinois and Kansas on the way to a Sweet 16 berth.

The Arkansas guards have been somewhat tricky to evaluate since the return of Nick Smith Jr. The Razorbacks essentially play four guards, but one will randomly log 20 minutes on the whims of the coaching staff. Recently, Smith has found himself in that role, with 16 and 28 minutes over Arkansas’ last two games.

Anthony Black ($7,300) has been the most consistent option of late, but he was spotted in a walking boot after the second round. Black came into the game with a foot injury and still played 37 minutes, which suggests the boot is merely a precautionary measure. Black still boasts a 14.9% shot rate, 14.3% rebound rate and a 21.7% assist rate over the last three games.

Ricky Council ($6,600) has been even more involved than Black through that span with a 19.4% shot rate, 19.4% rebound rate and 21.7% assist rate. Coming in at a cheaper price with similar minutes, Council makes plenty of sense here.

Finally, Davonte Davis ($5,900) rounds out the guard rotation. Davis has a 20.6% shot rate, 20.4% rebound rate and a 13% assist rate over the last three games. Davis’ minutes haven’t been quite as consistent as Black’s or Council’s, but the usage and price line up to justify taking a shot on Davis here.

The minute merry-go-round continues in the frontcourt. Makhi Mitchell ($5,900), Jordan Walsh ($5,200), Makhel Mitchell ($3,000) and Kamani Johnson ($3,300) could all play 5-30 minutes. Makhi Mitchell has played 19, 23 and 30 in the last three games. Walsh has played 33, 27 and 24, which tentatively makes him the safest. Makhel Mitchell only has three total minutes over the last two games despite playing well into the 20s at various points during the year. Johnson notched 19 and 12 minutes despite not seeing the floor in multiple games at the end of the regular season and the SEC tournament.

Connecticut has a pair of usage dominators in Adama Sanogo ($7,800) and Jordan Hawkins ($6,000). Sanogo boasts a 19.8% shot rate and 19% rebound rate on the year. However, he seldom eclipses 28 minutes played, which makes him a tricky DFS option. Hawkins committed four fouls in UConn’s last game, leading to just 20 minutes logged, but he leads the team with a 19.1% usage rate on the year, driven primarily by his 18.8% shot rate.

Coming in at a similar price, Andre Jackson ($6,400) is a buy-low option. Jackson fouled out of UConn’s Big East tournament finale, but he logged 35 and 34 minutes to start the NCAA Tournament. Jackson has solid peripheral upside and deserves consideration at this price tag.

UConn’s final two starters are Tristen Newton ($6,100) and Alex Karaban ($6,000). Karaban has played a more consistent role of late, but Newton has better rates. Regardless, both are too close to Jackson and Hawkins in terms of pricing. This makes them GPP pivots and nothing more.

Finally, Connecticut uses a deep bench that includes Joey Calcaterra ($3,400), Nahiem Alleyne ($3,300), Hassan Diarra ($3,100) and Donovan Clingan ($4,700). Alleyne and Calcaterra are at least worth mentioning as punts, but better options exist.

Florida Atlantic vs. Tennessee | March Madness DFS Picks

With a total of 131.5, this game has the lowest of the card. Tennessee is a 5.5-point favorite over Florida Atlantic. Florida Atlantic basically won the lottery to get here — the Owls defeated Memphis in the opening round before facing lame-duck Fairleigh Dickinson in the Round of 32. In contrast, Tennessee defeated Louisiana and Duke to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16.

On the FAU side, the Owls play a nasty nine-man rotation. Fortunately, FAU did somewhat consolidate things in competitive games to open the NCAA Tournament. Among those earning more minutes, Alijah Martin ($7,100) leads the team with an 18.7% usage rate. Martin has played 32, 34 and 28 minutes in FAU’s last three games, accounting for a 26.3% shot rate, 16.8% rebound rate and 7.7% assist rate.

Martin also comes in with a slightly cheaper price tag than Johnell Davis ($7,600). Davis has accounted for 34, 29 and 32 minutes over FAU’s last four games, including a 21.1% shot rate, 22.4% rebound rate and 11.5% assist rate. Ultimately, both project somewhat well, but FAU still has the lowest implied team total on the slate against an elite Tennessee defense. Limiting yourself to one of these studs makes sense.

FAU’s other starters are Bryan Greenlee ($4,100), Nick Boyd ($5,400) and Vladislav Goldin ($5,800). None of these players project particularly well, but Boyd has a 14.3% shot rate, 15% rebound rate and 21.2% assist rate over the last three games. Greenlee doesn’t do anything particularly well, but he also comes in extremely cheap. Goldin simply hasn’t played enough to deserve legitimate consideration at that price tag.

On the bench, Jalen Gaffney ($3.800) and Giancarlo Rosado ($4,800) each play between 18-25 minutes per game. Gaffney provides a slightly better price-adjusted projection, but this is pure GPP punt territory.

Tennessee continues to play with heart despite the loss of point guard Zakai Zeigler. In his place, Santiago Vescovi ($7,500) has generated much of the team’s offense while playing almost every minute. He only has a 16.5% usage rate this year, but expect that to continue climbing with Zeigler sidelined.

From there, Josiah-Jordan James ($6,300) is Tennessee’s next-best option. Banged up late this season, JJJ has logged 29 and 33 minutes in back-to-back games. This includes a solid 17% shot rate, 11.4% rebound rate and 22.2% assist rate over the last three games.

Beyond the top two, Tennessee’s rotation extends somewhat evenly to seven more players. Olivier Nkamhoua ($6,200) has excellent rates but will only play 20-25 minutes. He still has an 18.2% shot rate and 22.7% rebound rate over the last three games in that role.

Jahmai Mashack ($4,700) played 19, 28 and 31 minutes over the last three games. Tyreke Key ($4,500) played 23, 31 and 27 minutes through that span. Key has slightly more double-double upside but both are volatile GPP plays based on inconsistent minutes.

Julian Phillips ($5,100) has recently faced a minute reduction, which makes him just as volatile as Jonas Aidoo ($5,000). With both playing the forward position, there’s also a risk that Uros Plavsic ($3,700) figures out what sport he’s playing and doesn’t immediately foul the second he steps on the court. Ultimately, the frontcourt brings tons of volatility in terms of minutes.

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Gonzaga vs. UCLA | March Madness DFS Picks

UCLA-Gonzaga boasts the slate’s highest total at 145.5. The Bruins currently sit as a two-point favorite over the Bulldogs. Gonzaga defeated Grand Canyon and TCU to reach the Sweet 16 but looked a little vulnerable along the way. UCLA defeated UNC-Asheville and Northwestern, but ShotQuality graded UCLA with a 71-61 loss to Northwestern based on the shots taken on the floor.

On the Gonzaga side, the Bulldogs will consolidate their minutes in competitive games. This should mean more minutes for usage leader Drew Timme ($8,900). Timme leads the team with a 21.8% shot rate, 19.9% rebound rate and 21.6% assist rate. He is way too cheap among the other studs for this slate.

Behind Timme, Anton Watson ($8,000) and Julian Strawther ($8,100) have emerged as solid secondary scorers. Both play well north of 30 minutes. Watson has especially dominated behind a 13.3% shot rate, 30% rebound rate and a 27.3% assist rate in Gonzaga’s last three games. Strawther is a little more shot dependent, but he also has a 19.1% shot rate, 19.1% rebound rate and 13.6% assist rate.

Gonzaga’s last two starters are Rasir Bolton ($4,600) and Nolan Hickman ($5,300). Bolton has accounted for 28, 23 and 18 minutes over the last three games with below-average usage. However, his price and attachment to the Gonzaga offense make him a decent overall play. Hickman has accounted for 30, 29 and 25 minutes with even less usage. Bolton presents a superior price-adjusted play, with Hickman providing pure leverage. Sixth man Malachi Smith ($4,300) plays more in blowouts, but that does not project to be the case here.

UCLA could be the trickiest team to evaluate here because of injuries. Starting with the knowns, Jaime Jaquez ($10,000) continues to play every minute and dominate usage. Jaquez accounts for a 30.5% shot rate, 28.6% rebound rate and 14.6% assist rate over the last three games. With Timme’s nonexistent defense, Jaquez still projects as a solid play despite the price tag.

Behind Jaquez, point guard Tyler Campbell ($7,900) will also play every minute with an elite 21.3% usage rate. This includes an 18% shot rate, 11% rebound rate and 39.6% assist rate over the last three games. From there, Jaylen Clark‘s injury has forced Amari Bailey ($7,000) into an every-minute role as well. This has led him to produce a 19.8% shot rate, 16.5% rebound rate and 27.1% assist rate over the last three games. Ultimately, all three of these top options are elite plays.

From there, the UCLA lineup gets dicey. David Singleton ($5,700) suffered an ankle injury late in the Round of 32. Like most college basketball players, he acted like he needed his leg amputated after the play. However, he was seen bouncing around with his team after the game. He has been playing 30-plus minutes for this team, which makes his status one to watch.

Likewise, Adem Bona ($5,500) suffered a shoulder injury in the Pac-12 tournament. After missing the first round, he returned to play 21 minutes against Northwestern in the Round of 32. Bona clearly played at less than 100%, which makes him a difficult option to evaluate. Rather than force someone into these roles, UCLA filled the gaps via committee. This approach gave more minutes to Dylan Andrews ($3,900) and Kenneth Nwuba ($3,500). Both would only become interesting if Singleton or Bona sat out.

Matt Gajewski
Matt Gajewski graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Economics. Matt has worked in the fantasy industry for the past four years, focusing on DFS and Sports Betting. Matt specializes in NFL, College Football, College Basketball, XFL, and MMA. With GPP victories across the major sports, Matt also qualified for the DraftKings 2020 Sports Betting Championship and won a seat to the College Basketball Tourney Mania final.

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