No. 14 North Carolina overcomes sluggish second half to hold off Notre Dame

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North Carolina looked like it would cruise to victory over Notre Dame on Monday at home in an ACC contest, but the Fighting Irish had other ideas as the second half began.

Despite leading 41-27 at halftime, No. 14 North Carolina needed a game-saving block from point guard Marcus Paige with under four seconds left to preserve a 63-61 win over Notre Dame. North Carolina needed a 7-0 run in the game’s final minutes to give them a five-point lead and held on to beat the Irish on the final possession after Paige missed two of his final three free throw attempts.

Monday’s contest gives North Carolina 12 straight wins in the ACC.

After it looked like Notre Dame would roll over after a mediocre first half, the Irish came out aggressive in the second half, as a 22-5 run gave Notre Dame a 49-44 lead. Notre Dame threw some different defensive looks at the Tar Heels, including a Diamond-and-1 and North Carolina’s offense struggled to adjust for much of the half.

On the defensive end, North Carolina was also worrisome — at times — as its transition defense had multiple breakdowns and the Tar Heel defense struggled on ball screen defense.

Still, North Carolina stepped up when the game was on the line and its 1-3-1 defense created some turnovers and got some stops as James Michael McAdoo (14 points), Brice Johnson (nine points) and Paige (seven points) made plays down the stretch.

North Carolina has to be concerned with its prolonged no-show on both ends of the floor in the second half, though. Notre Dame was depleted, playing without Garrick Sherman, and still gave the Tar Heels a great fight despite falling to 1-8 on the road in ACC play. Against a more talented team, a run like that could have cost North Carolina the game, but maybe this is a wake-up call in the midst of the 12-game winning streak.

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.