Non-BCS schools inching closer to routine ‘upsets’

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Want to know the formula to how a non-BCS school pulls off that upset against a Big East, Big Ten or ACC school? Of course you do. So does every “mid-major” coach in the country.

Those coaches are working on it, though. Soon that blueprint will be easy to read and easier to execute. It’s just a matter of time.

“I think college basketball is getting to the point where mid-majors are beating Big East teams,” Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson told Kevin Duffy of the Connecticut Post. “I don’t think there’s a lot of room for moral victories anymore. I think these guys know that.”

That’s the opening to a solid story by Duffy, who details what schools like Wagner and Long Beach State have done this season to pull off upsets. (The obvious answer? Play Pitt.) But it went a little deeper than that, too, focusing on how teams make the transition from the “near upset” to ensuring those final few minutes don’t play out as we’ve become accustomed to.

Namely, where the big boys always win.

Wagner coach Dan Hurley says much of it relies on a team’s mental toughness and attitude. But Duffy notes that a team such as Long Beach State (or ’06 George Mason) is often filled with experienced, more physically developed players who can handle younger players, even if those younger players have more “talent.”

But in the end, it just comes down to making shots and keeping cool. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

“You get butterflies, but once you see that first basket drop, it all goes away, and it’s back to basketball,” LBSU forward T.J. Robinson told Duffy. “Because at the end of the day, we all just play basketball.”

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A record $439 million was bet on basketball in March in Las Vegas

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The month of March was quite friendly to Las Vegas.

According to ESPN, more money was bet on basketball during the month of March than in any month in the state’s regulated sports betting history.

And while the numbers produced by Las Vegas books don’t separate college and professional basketball betting, the money coming in on college hoops is pretty clear: $439 million was bet on basketball in March, more than double the $213 million bet on the sport in February.

It was profitable, too.

Those Vegas books kept more than $40 million dollars of the money that was gambled on basketball, which shattered the previous record of roughly $28 million in winnings.

Gonzaga lands their first post-Final Four commitment

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Gonzaga capitalized on their run to the national title game by landing a commitment from French point guard Joel Ayayi, who announced the news on twitter.

Ayayi is an interesting long-term prospect, according to Draft Express. He has the size and the frame to eventually be a significant contributor in the college game, but he’s raw. His handle needs work, as does his ability to create off the dribble and find teammates off of the bounce.

That said, he’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and the ability to shoot it from the perimeter, and if Gonzaga can do anything, it’s develop players that enter their program.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson, top three prospect in 2018, breaks defender’s ankles

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Zion Williamson, one of the most sought-after recruits in college basketball, had himself a highlight-worthy moment at the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas over the weekend, breaking a defender’s ankles before hitting a three.

Illinois lands important commitment from four-star Class of 2017 guard Mark Smith

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Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.

The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.

Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.

This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.

Northwestern gets commitment from Boston College transfer A.J. Turner

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Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.

With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.