Ja Morant is not just about the hype machine. The potential top five pick in the 2019 NBA draft came up huge in the biggest moments. Morant averaged 24.6 points, 10 assists and 5.5 rebounds. However, it wouldn’t have meant as much if he didn’t lead the Murray State Racers to consecutive Ohio Valley Conference championships on Saturday night.
The 77-65 win over the Belmont Bruins more than exacted revenge from the earlier meeting. Furthermore, Morant came up big in the final moments of a brilliant win over the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Without a game-winning basket and free throw, the Racers wouldn’t have been in position to earn an automatic bid. Therefore, they would have been waiting a full seven days just to be let down on Selection Sunday.
Morant scored 65 points in the two games to average 32.5 points in the OVC tournament.
NCAA Tournament Profile: Murray State Racers (27-4, 16-2)
The Racers can score on any team in college basketball. They will enter the NCAA Tournament averaging 83.3 points per game. That’s good enough to be the No. 15 scoring offense in the country. They also hold opponents to 67.8 points per game.
Including Morant, the Racers have four players scoring in double figures. Leroy Buchanan is second on the team with 13 points per game. He shoots around 33.5 percent from 3-point range. However, Buchanan is able to produce from many areas on the floor. He is connecting on 57 percent of his shot attempts inside the arc. Buchanan could be a guy that needs to explore all offensive opportunities in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament.
Tevin Brown is their most explosive 3-point shooter on the team. He is scoring 11.7 points per game. Brown attempts the majority of his shots from downtown. So far, he is taking seven 3-pointers per game. More importantly, Brown will launch them from anywhere. His spacing provides the open floor for Morant.
Darnell Cowart is the inside presence for the Racers. Although he only plays around 19 minutes per game, Cowart is still scoring 10.4 points per game. Cowart also leads the Racers with 6.5 rebounds per game. Will he be able to get his shot off against an athletic front line? That will be key in the round of 64.
The Racers aren’t close to the best rebounding team in college basketball. You’ll quickly notice how small they are as a unit. However, they team-rebound as best as they can. The top five scorers all secure at least four rebounds per game. Therefore, Racers will need to send five guys to the glass at all times. Furthermore, they need to use their team speed to control the defensive backboard. They are giving up 11.2 offensive rebounds per game.
Streaks: The Racers have a winning streak of five games in December. They won seven straight games in January before the loss to Belmont. Currently, the Racers are on an 11 game winning streak. They also avenged their only two conference losses during the OVC Tournament.
Head Coach: Matt McMahon (4 Seasons) 86-41 record
Matt McMahon has been the head coach the last four seasons. After a slow start, he’s come roaring back with consecutive sweeps. In 2018, the Racers won the regular season and tournament titles in the OVC. He tied for the regular season title with Belmont this season.
Recent Tournament History
Last season, the West Virginia Mountaineers Knocked off the Racers 85-68 in the first-round. The Racers haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2012 under former head coach Steve Prohm. They defeated Colorado State, 58-41 and lost to the Marquette Eagles, 62-53. This will be their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years.