Late Night Snacks: Kentucky, Duke, Arizona and Syracuse all win

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 4 Arizona 66, Drexel 62

Arizona erased a deficit that reached 19 points at the seven minute mark of the first half, using a 25-4 run to regain the lead and a late surge to take control down the stretch. Drexel got terrific play from their back court of Chris Fouch and Frantz Massenat, but the biggest news coming out of this game was that Damion Lee went down with a knee injury midway through the second half. He landed awkwardly on  jump shot and immediately went down, grabbing his knee. Those are the kind of injuries that generally don’t end up well.

Anyway, the Wildcats advance to face No. 6 Duke in the final.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 8 Syracuse won the Maui Invitational, taking home a 74-67 win in the final over No. 18 Baylor. The Orange seem to have hit their stride a bit out in the islands, as C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant both got into a bit of a rhythm offensively. That’s huge considering the fact that a) Trevor Cooney has been shooting the cover off of the ball this season and b) Tyler Ennis has been one of the best possession point guards in the country. As a freshman, he’s got eight turnovers in seven games.

2) Did anyone make more of a statement this week than Dayton? The Flyers wrapped up a terrific Maui Invitational with an 82-64 win over Cal in the third place game. Devon Oliver finished with 21 points in the win, as the Flyers put their name into the conversation for the best team in the Atlantic 10.

3) Jabari Parker went for 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting to lead the No. 6 Blue Devils to a 74-64 win over Alabama to advance to Friday’s final in the Preseason NIT.

STARRED

1) Sam Dekker led the way for No. 10 Wisconsin with 21 points and 12 boards as the Badgers knocked off West Virginia to win the Cancun Challenge.

2) Derrick Marks went for 39 points as Boise State picked up a 98-89 win over Idaho. He was 9-of-13 from the floor, taking 23 free throws.

3) Kevin Pangos went for 34 points as Gonzaga managed to salvage one relevant win in the Maui Invitational, knocking off Arkansas 91-81.

STRUGGLED

1) Trevor Releford played far from his best game in Alabama’s loss to Duke, but his first half? Woof. Zero points, zero assists, zero rebounds, four turnovers and three fouls.

2) James Young played 37 minutes in No. 3 Kentucky’s win over Eastern Michigan. He finished with six points and five assists, shooting 1-for-8 from the floor and 0-6 from three.

3) Andre Hollins finished up a disappointing Maui Invitational with an eight point performance against Chaminade. He averaged 11.0 points and just 1.0 assists in the three games, shooting 32.3% (10-31) from the floor and 27.8% (5-18) from three.

NOTABLES

  • Kelsey Barlow had 38 points on 8-for-11 shooting, adding eight boards and five assists as Illinois-Chicago beat Wagner.
  • Dwayne Evans had 21 points as St. Louis beat Old Dominion.
  • James Woodard finished with 24 points, hitting the game-winning three with eight seconds left as Tulsa beat Indiana State.

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.