NCAA Tournament 2019: Ja Morant, projected NBA Lottery pick, defending champion Villanova highlight games in Hartford

Tue 19th March 2019

One of the most intriguing players in the NCAA tournament is coming to Hartford.

Ja Morant, the Murray State point guard, who has shot up NBA draft boards, will lead the No. 12-seeded Racers against No. 5 Marquette, Thursday at the XL Center. The game is the second of the session in Hartford and will start around 4:30 p.m.

The Golden Eagles feature standout Markus Howard creating a potentially outstanding point guard matchup that could crystalize NBA scouts’ opinions of both players.

Barely recruited out of high school, Morant ended up at Murray State, which won the Ohio Valley Conference title, almost by accident. An assistant coach watched him playing a three-on-three game and got interested.

Morant, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound point guard, was good as freshman (12.7 points per game) last year and has been dominant as a sophomore. His 24.6 points were game were No. 8 in the nation and his 10.0 assists were No. 1. No player directly created more points in all of Division I than he did.

His production didn’t drop off against bigger competition. Morant had 28 points against Alabama and 25 vs. Auburn earlier this season.

He’s a consensus top five pick in the 2019 NBA draft if he comes out and he’s certainly expected to come out. Many mock drafts have him as the No. 3 pick behind Duke’s Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett.

He’ll face Howard, the 5-foot-11 junior, who averaged 25.0 points and 4.0 assists per game to lead Marquette to a 24-9 record. He was the 2019 Big East Player of the Year.

The winner gets whoever emerges from the pod’s other matchup, No. 4 Florida State and No. 13 Vermont.

No. 6 Villanova, the defending champs will face No. 11 St Mary’s while No. 3 Purdue will take on No. 14 Old Dominion in the other Hartford pod.

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