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Joshua Christopher stuns recruiting world by picking Arizona State over Michigan

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Joshua Christopher stunned the college basketball recruiting world Monday night.

The five-star Class of 2020 shooting guard committed to Arizona State over Michigan with a late-night announcement.

Many in college basketball assumed the 6-foot-5 Christopher was heading to Ann Arbor. The 247 Sports Crystal Ball had Michigan as the 91 percent favorite among 11 recruiting analysts. But Christopher did the (practically) unthinkable and pledged to the Sun Devils.

According to Eli Boettger, Christopher represents the biggest recruiting flip of a top-10 recruit since 247 Sports started its Crystal Ball recruiting predictor. For reference, Andrew Wiggins, from the Class of 2013, is on that list. So the California native staying out west and playing in the Pac-12 is one of the biggest recruiting surprises of the last decade.

With Christopher, Arizona State adds one of the most complete scorers in the 2020 class. Not many freshmen are three-level scorers physically mature enough to thrive right away. At 215 pounds, armed with an array of scoring moves, Christopher checks some notable boxes. The No. 11 overall prospect in the Class 2020, Christopher should make an impact right away.

The addition of Joshua Christopher makes the Sun Devils an intriguing potential preseason top-25 team. Romello White and Remy Martin are both testing the 2020 NBA draft waters. But if both (or even one) returns, Arizona State has a fleet of dangerous weapons at its disposal.

Alonzo Verge, Kimani Lawrence and Taeshon Cherry are a talented core expected to return. The addition of Christopher means another likely double-figure scorer. He helps offset the loss of Rob Edwards. Getting Martin and/or White back would just be the icing on the cake. Head coach Bobby Hurley would be running back mostly the same roster as last season. Except a potential one-and-done prospect is replacing Edwards in the lineup.

That’s the type of team who could make serious noise in the Pac-12. Between the addition of five-star wing Ziare Williams to Stanford and Christopher’s commitment to Arizona State, it’s been a huge week for the Pac-12.

Washington’s Isaiah Stewart enters 2020 NBA draft

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Isaiah Stewart is entering the 2020 NBA draft.

After only one season at Washington, the forward will turn pro, he told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Washington was a disappointment this season. The Huskies finished 15-17 after a 10-2 start and fell to Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament.

That didn’t stop Stewart from having a strong season. The 6-foot-9 forward was productive on both ends for the Huskies. Putting up 17.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, Stewart was at times a force on both ends. Stewart also showed efficiency by shooting 57 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free-throw line.

Stewart was impressive during his final game of the season. Against Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament, Stewart ended the season on a high note with 29 points and 12 rebounds.

A potential first-round pick, Isaiah Stewart is still young for this NBA draft class as an 18-year-old freshman. With a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Stewart also plays bigger than his 6-foot-9 frame. Thanks to his high motor and capable skill level, Stewart is an intriguing prospect for teams seeking a frontcourt rotation player. There won’t be many better rebounders in the entire draft.

The latest CBT NBA mock draft from Rob Dauster currently has Stewart going No. 16 overall. At 250 pounds, as Dauster notes, Stewart will be able to handle NBA bigs right away. Although Stewart will need to show more of his jumper and defending one-on-one, he has actual tools to work with for the next level. Teammate Jaden McDaniels, who could also turn pro after his freshman season, was more of the enigma for Washington this season.

Washington’s 2-3 zone didn’t give us a good idea of what Stewart could be defensively. But the 2.1 blocks per game are an encouraging sign that Stewart can at least make some impact plays on defense.

USC’s Onyeka Okongwu enters 2020 NBA draft

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Following a standout freshman season, USC big man Onyeka Okongwu is entering the 2020 NBA draft.

The 6-foot-9 Okongwu made his declaration official on Wednesday.

A pleasant surprise with his overall production and consistency this season, Okongwu lived up to his early five-star billing out of high school. Early in his preps career, Okongwu was a known national prospect. As the big man for the Lonzo Ball-led Chino Hills High School team that took the nation by storm, Okongwu drew national recruiting attention as an underclassman.

Some believed Okongwu plateaued and didn’t improve much during his high school career. That led to Okongwu being ranked as only the No. 25 overall prospect in the Class of 2019 national high school rankings.

The rankings and perception didn’t matter once Okongwu reached USC.

Putting up 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game, Okongwu was a force on both ends of the floor this season. Okongwu registered back-to-back double-doubles to open the 2019-20 season. From there, the freshman established himself as one of the best big men in all of college hoops.

Shooting 61 percent from the floor and 72 percent from three-point range, Okongwu was efficient on offense. Okongwu will have to work on expanding his range for the next level. But at only 19 years old, there is plenty of time for that to happen.

Okongwu currently projects at No. 11 in the latest CBT NBA mock draft. Some teams could be intrigued enough to take Onyeka Okongwu in the top ten of the NBA draft based on his upside. It’s a notable climb for a player many had outside of the top 20 in his own high school class entering this season.

AAC, Big East, Pac-12, SEC among leagues to ban fans from conference tournaments

Conferences cancel tournaments
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Conference tournaments across college basketball will feel empty this week.

Coronavirus continues to grow as a public safety concern. As a result, conferences across college basketball are taking unprecedented steps. Fans will be banned from the AAC, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC conference tournaments beginning on Thursday.

These four power conferences follow the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC, as well as numerous others across college basketball, amid growing public health concerns. Once the NCAA announced the 2020 NCAA tournament would be without fans on Wednesday, conferences aggressively followed suit.

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It comes as no surprise that additional leagues are starting to go the empty arena route. Some conference tournaments will allow some family and close team personnel. Others will maintain as much of a closed-door atmosphere as possible.

Coronavirus changing conference tournaments might only be the first step in how postseason plans could be altered. As coronavirus updates come through with every hour, it’s difficult to grasp how college basketball’s postseason will look the next several weeks.

Haldeman shot lifts Northern Iowa over No. 24 Colorado 79-76

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BOULDER, Colo. — Spencer Haldeman stole a pass and raced down the floor for a tiebreaking layup with 49 seconds remaining and Northern Iowa hung on to beat No. 24 Colorado 79-76 Tuesday night.

Northern Iowa defeated a ranked team for the first time since topping No. 25 Wichita State 53-50 on Feb. 13, 2016. The Panthers had lost their previous seven encounters against ranked opponents.

AJ Green and Trae Berhow had 20 points apiece to lead Northern Iowa (9-1), which has won three straight since losing to West Virginia 60-55.

Berhow and Green each hit five 3-pointers. Green’s last 3 with 1:10 left to play evened the score at 76-all after Colorado (7-2) had taken a 76-73 lead on a layup by McKinley Wright IV.

Haldeman then stepped in front of Wright’s pass and broke away for the go-ahead basket. After Green added a free throw, Colorado’s Shane Gatling and Lucas Siewert both missed tying 3-point tries in the final seconds.

Siewert scored a career-high 21 points to lead Colorado (7-2), which lost a second straight after opening the season with seven consecutive wins. Wright finished with 16 points.

Leading by a point at the break, the Panthers went on an 11-0 run to start the second half. The Buffaloes got back in the game with a 9-0 burst.

Evan Battey converted a three-point play to put the Buffaloes up 62-60 with 6:41 remaining, but Green and Berhow connected on 3-pointers.

The Panthers led by five points after a layup by Justin Dahl with 3:10 remaining but Wright hit a 3-pointer and Battey muscled in a layup, was fouled and made the free throw as part of 8-0 run that put the Buffaloes in front 76-73 with 1:39 left.

The Buffaloes went without a field goal in the last 5:44 of the first half and Wright hit a jumper that gave Colorado a 30-23 lead. Earlier in the period, Siewert hit 15 consecutive points for the Buffaloes to help Colorado take an early lead.

BIG PICTURE

Northern Iowa: The Panthers, prolific 3-point shooters, made better than half of their shots from beyond the arc (14 of 26) and that was enough to fend off a Colorado team that had leaned on its defense to get off to a solid start.

Colorado: The Buffaloes hallmark early this season has been defense but they let down on the perimeter, leaving themselves vulnerable to Northern Iowa’s prolific 3-point shooters.

UP NEXT

Northern Iowa: Continues road trip at Grand Canyon on Thursday night.

Colorado: Takes on rival Colorado State in Fort Collins on Friday night.

Stewart leads No. 20 Washington past Mount St. Mary’s 56-46

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SEATTLE — Isaiah Stewart scored 16 points and blocked five shots, Nahziah Carter scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, and No. 20 Washington overcame an awful first half offensively to pull away for a 56-46 win over Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday night.

Days after opening the season with an upset of then-No. 16 Baylor, the Huskies looked sluggish and at times lost at the offensive end of the floor, but they found enough scoring in the second half to shake the pesky Mountaineers.

Stewart was again a force on the interior as the freshman made 7 of 10 shots, mostly from close range, and was imposing defensively. Carter ignited a sleepy arena with a fast-break dunk midway through the second half and followed with a 3-pointer from the wing to give Washington a 43-36 lead.

The Mountaineers (1-2) wouldn’t go away, hitting five 3-pointers in the second half as they found gaps in Washington’s zone defense. Vado Morse finished with 10 points. Naim Miller and Damian Chong Qui both added nine points.

Washington had lengthy scoring droughts and struggled to run its offense without Stewart in the post. The offensive woes were an amplified version of what Washington experienced in the opener against Baylor. It took a late 21-5 run to pull off the upset, which at least for one game hid the question of how the Huskies will go about replacing 80% of its scoring from last season.

Defense won’t be the issue with Washington. It will be finding the right scoring options.

For this night, it was Stewart and Carter providing enough punch. Hameir Wright added nine points and seven rebounds.

Tied at 21-all at halftime, Washington jumped to a seven-point lead in the opening moments of the second half, but it was gone in a matter of minutes. Nana Opoku’s rebound and basket caped an eight-point run and gave Mount St. Mary’s a 34-33 lead with less than 12 minutes remaining.

It was the last lead for the Mountaineers, who were outscored 23-12 the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

Mount St. Mary’s: The Mountaineers can be proud of their effort in two games this season on the road against power programs. The Mountaineers led Georgetown by 19 points in the second half last week before watching the lead disappear late in an 81-68 loss. Mount St. Mary’s easily could have built a substantial first-half lead against Washington if not for its shooting woes. The Mountaineers shot 21.2% in the first half and were 2 of 12 on 3-pointers.

Washington: The Huskies will need to get more out of Jaden McDaniels. The prized freshman was 2 of 9 shooting. He did have nine rebounds and four assists, but also committed five turnovers.

UP NEXT

Mount St. Mary’s: The Mountaineers continue their early-season trip at Lamar on Friday.

Washington: The Huskies will face Tennessee in Toronto on Saturday.