Why the Big East’s breakup isn’t all bad

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I grew up on the Big East.

Born and raised in Connecticut, my teenage years consisted of living and breathing with every games the UConn Huskies played. My first “real” sports memory is watching the 1996 Big East final with my father, bargaining with him to be able to watch the final three minutes despite the fact that Allen Iverson and the Hoyas were up 11. I won, and UConn came back to win. It’s one of my most cherished memories, and not just because of the male bonding moment I shared with my Pops.

Big East basketball is my first true love, and that’s why it hurts to see it come to this: the Catholic 7 — the seven basketball-only schools — leaving the carcass of the league that they built, all because they couldn’t contribute to the TV dollars generated by the network they helped build.

The Big East, as I grew up on it, is officially dead and gone. That sucks, and I say that as not only a journalist, but as one of the biggest fans of the sport as well. I know the Big East has been on life support for months, but it’s akin to losing a loved one with terminal cancer: just because you’ve made your peace and said your goodbyes doesn’t mean it feels good when they’re gone.

But the isn’t all bad news, and I’d go as far as to say that this could end up being a good thing for college basketball.

Let’s says that the seven schools that left join forces with five other programs that aren’t at a University with FBS football. Spitballing here, but: Xavier, Butler, VCU, Creighton and St. Louis. Couple them with Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, St. John’s, Providence, DePaul and Seton Hall, and you have yourself a pretty good basketball league. This year alone, that could produce five or six NCAA tournament teams, and that’s with Xavier and Villanova is down years.

Now let’s fast-forward 10 years into the future. You don’t think that this can consistently be a league that has eight or nine teams capable of making the tournament? You don’t think that a decade of conference battles will spawn some heated rivalries? Xavier and Butler already have a pretty glorious feud budding. What happens the first time a tough Marquette team gets in a tussle with an aggressive VCU program? Or Creighton plays three straight great games against Georgetown?

The Big East became great over time.

The same can happen when a new hoops league.

It will at least be better than seeing Georgetown try to build a rivalry with Central Florida, SMU and Tulane.

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.