As Marquette is set to face Murray State Thursday afternoon, we reached out to our old friend Cam Newton to see what the Golden Eagles should expect from the Racers. Cam is a must-follow for any college basketball fan on Twitter, so give him a follow @MorrisonCrying
Big East Coast Bias: Ja Morant is obviously one of the best players in the nation, statistically. For those who may have heard the name but don’t know much about him, what makes Morant so good?
Cam Newton: Ja Morant is absolutely the real deal, and the hype surrounding him is 100% justified. It’s difficult to pinpoint any aspect of a typical basketball game that Morant isn’t able to affect, as his presence can be felt literally anywhere on the court and on either side of the ball.
As it stands, Morant boasts a very respectable three-point percentage, but he is also one of the best passers in the country, a tale told by his astronomically high assist numbers (he’s first in the nation in that category). However, Morant has greatly improved his defensive game from last season, using his quick hands and vertical to create peak disruption.
And then there’s the subject of his dunks. You’ve seen those. You know how good they are. If he’s driving: get out of the way.
BECB: Shaq Buchanan won OVC Defensive Player of the Year. For a Marquette team that relies heavily on the scoring of Markus Howard, it seems like it could be an issue that Murray State’s guards are so good defensively. Am I wrong?
CN: Murray State does an excellent job of defending the perimeter, which is where Markus Howard is known to bury opposing teams. That being said, it could be tough for Howard to get any space should Murray State throw either Buchanan or Morant at him. Both possess a significant height advantage, and the former’s proclivity for blocks and steals could make someone of even Howard’s caliber slip up.
BECB: Both of these teams are very talented on both sides of the ball. Who is an x-factor for Murray State that Marquette fans should be aware of?
CN: Marquette cannot let Tevin Brown get hot. The freshman forward is certainly Murray State’s best perimeter shooter, even if he has seen a drop-off in outside efficiency. Now, he was able to get back on track in the OVC Championship against Belmont, and if Morant is able to find him for a solid look, he’s going to take it. If he can get going and provide even two or three buckets from behind the arc, the Racers will be poised for a pretty good performance against Marquette.
BECB: What, if anything, could be a fatal flaw for the Racers in this game?
CN: I have always maintained that the Achilles Heel for this Murray State team is its post play, which is essentially focused on junior center Darnell Cowart. He’s good, but there’s a limit to how much he can do, which is why I believe that—with a healthy Nick Muszynski—Belmont would have beaten Murray State in the OVC Championship.
If there’s one commonality between the losses that Murray State has suffered this season, it’s the efficiency demonstrated by post players on opposing teams. They’ve routinely demonstrated an inability to defend against talented big men, so don’t be surprised if Marquette’s game plan involves more touches for Theo John and the Hausers.
BECB: Finally, who wins and why?
CN: This is so tough. The more I research Murray State and watch their film, the more I want to pick them. Plus, the NCAA Tournament needs as much Ja Morant as it can get (and the mid-major supporter in me would love to see them pick up a game or two). However, I believe that Marquette’s big men will be the difference-maker, giving them an edge down low against a Murray State team that has been weak in that area all season.