- Murray State sophomore guard Ja Morant put on a show in the first round of the men’s NCAA Tournament while helping the Racers beat the fifth-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles.
- Morant notched the first triple-double in the tournament since Draymond Green in 2012 while showing off his elite athleticism and playmaking.
- Morant was already considered a top-three draft prospect, but his performance has the NBA world buzzing that he could become a better pro than Duke’s Zion Williamson.
Ja Morant was already considered a top NBA draft prospect entering the men’s NCAA Tournament, but his stock is now soaring after an impressive first performance.
The sophomore guard on Thursday notched the first March Madness triple-double since 2012, scoring 17 points with 11 rebounds and 16 assists while helping the No. 12 seed Murray State beat the fifth-seeded Marquette – one of the biggest upsets of the first round.
Most mock drafts have had Morant going second or third in this year’s NBA draft, but all players have been viewed as a tier below Duke’s Zion Williamson, the clear-cut No. 1 prospect.
Morant may have changed that Thursday.
The wiry, explosive 6-foot-3 guard dominated Marquette, shredding every defensive look the Golden Eagles threw at him.
Perhaps most impressive was Morant’s comfort running an NBA-style offence. Murray State put the ball in his hands, ran pick-and-rolls and other off-ball actions, and let Morant bend the defence to his will. From there, he simply picked apart Marquette, hitting open shooters and cutters from every angle.
Morant has been an iffy shooter in his two years at Murray State, and his 3-point shooting is considered his biggest weakness ahead of the NBA draft. But Morant hit both of his long-range attempts Thursday, including an impressive stepback that will surely delight some NBA scouts about his prospects at the next level.
Morant also showed a bit of what has made him one of the most tantalising athletes in college: his leaping ability. Morant may be the second-best dunker in college after Williamson, and he put a Marquette defender on a poster on Thursday with a beautiful backdoor cut.
Morant’s triple-double put him with some elite company in March Madness history.
Ja Morant becomes the 8th player to record a triple-double in a NCAA tournament game.
He joins Shaq, Draymond and D-Wade … some great company ???? pic.twitter.com/178syN4Xe6
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 21, 2019
Granted, Morant doesn’t have much room to climb on the draft ladder, but some wonder whether Thursday’s performance elevated him into Williamson’s category.
Sources: I already know the top two picks in the NBA draft
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) March 21, 2019
ESPN’s Jay Williams argued on “Get Up!” on Friday that Morant might even have more success at the NBA level than Williamson, comparing Morant to Russell Westbrook.
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) March 22, 2019
The next round of the tournament, against the No. 4 seed Florida State, will be a big moment for Morant and Murray State. Another impressive performance and win could propel Morant into the running for the No. 1 pick and Murray State into contention as this year’s Cinderella team.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.