The NCAA tournament started last Thursday and Murray State point guard Ja Morant stole the show. Morant was the highlight of his team’s 83-64 win over Marquette in the opening round of the tournament.
Morant had a triple-double, his third of the season – 17 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds. It was the first triple-double in the NCAA Tournament since Michigan State’s Draymond Green did it in 2012.
“It was a lot of fun,” Morant told Myron Medcalf of ESPN. “just being able to go out with these guys and get a win in the NCAA tournament. … “I really don’t pay too much attention to the hype. I just try to go out and play the same game every night.”
The impressive game raises the question of where Morant might be selected in the NBA draft in June. Before the tournament he was projected to be a top-five pick. One NBA scout told Medcalf that he had Morant at number two. I think that Morant should be a top-three pick.
This season Morant averaged 24.6 points, 10 assists, and 5.5 rebounds. He will probably become the first Division I player to average 20 points and 10 assists since assists became an official stat in 1985-86. And while the Racers were run out of the gym in their second-round loss to Florida State, Morant emerged as a star known beyond the Ohio Valley Conference.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry believes that Morant is ready for the NBA.
“What he did on Thursday, it shows you he’s ready for whatever,” Curry told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “That transition to the NBA isn’t going to be difficult at all for him.”
Curry added, “From what I’ve seen, he’s a beast. He’s athletic, knows how to play, he’s fearless and he shows up for big games even though everybody knows he’s coming. That speaks volumes about his game.”
The only thing standing in Morant’s way of being the number one pick in the NBA draft is Duke phenom, Zion Williamson. Williamson has averaged 22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists this season. In the Blue Devils’ two NCAA Tournament victories, he’s scored 57 points.
If Williamson is the odds-on favorite to be the first pick, I think Morant has proven that he’s a strong possibility to be the second player who hears his name called before shaking hands with Adam Silver.