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Bracketology Today: A battle between top-5 picks could be brewing

How does Texas Tech match-up with Ja Morant and Murray State?

NCAA Basketball: Murray State at Austin Peay Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the Red Raiders on a nice winning streak, most of the Bracketologists have moved the Red Raiders to a four seed, meaning they will face a thirteen seed which are reserved for smaller school that won their conference. Today, I take a very interesting match-up and bring it to you. The Murray State Racers out of the Ohio Valley Conference could be on a collision course with the Red Raiders. This is a particularly interesting match-up due to the all-star on each team. Red Raider Jarrett Culver and Racer Ja Morant are both predicted to be taken at the top of the NBA Draft this summer, something that could attract not only media but NBA Scout attention come March.

Matt McMahon is the head of the Racer program. He has been the head coach at Murray State since 2015 and has had a ton of success with the school. He was the understudy of the current Iowa State Head Coach Steve Prohm and came back from another coaching job after Prohm took the job in Ames. McMahon led the Racers to an NCAA Tournament Appearance in 2018.

NCAA Basketball: Murray State at Auburn Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Personnel wise, the Racers are led by one man, Point Guard Ja Morant. Morant has been a beast for the Racers, averaging 24 points, 5 rebounds and 10 assists per game this season for his team. The entire team runs through him, and without him they cannot win games. The key for the Red Raiders in this game will be to contain Morant and make the other players on the team beat you.

Morant has been a human highlight reel for the past couple of months as he has shot up NBA Draft Boards everywhere, he is now solidly in the top-5 of most Mock Drafts. Looking at his film, he looks legit. He has a good shot, he can drive and his passing is crisp and clean, especially in transition. He has an explosive first step and is a player that no one can seem to stop. He is bouncy off the floor and has been dunking on everyone in the Ohio Valley Conference. Not only is Morant a great player, he makes everyone around him better as well.

Guard Shaq Buchanan has been one of the many beneficiaries of Morant’s play this season. Buchanan is averaging 13 points and 4 rebounds per game. He is also shooting 38% from behind the arc. Buchanan has a similar build to Morant, about 6’3 and slender, but he bounces as much if not more than Morant. Buchanan is usually on the receiving end of lobs and great passes from Morant and is a great athlete and dunker.

Tevin Brown has been a surprise for the Racers this season. As a freshman, he is third on the team with 12 points per game and is the final piece of this dynamic backcourt. Brown is also the best three point shooter on this team shooting 38% from behind the arc. He likes to spread the floor and hit from the wing when Morant drives and kicks from in the paint.

These three guys all average over 30 minutes per game and are the only three players that play over 20 minutes per game. There are other guys that can play on this team. The other two starters are both forwards that can clear out space in the paint. Darnell Cowart is a 6-8, 300lbs forward/center that plays down low. Cowart is averaging 9.6 points and 6 rebounds per game and mainly stays in the paint. KJ Williams is a 6-9 freshman that averages 7 points and 4 rebounds per game. He has been getting more minutes of late and has really come on as a rebounder and defender for this team.

Brion Sanchious is a 6-8 senior that comes off the bench for defensive purposes. He is this team’s sixth man and doesn’t do much on the offensive end as he only averages 2 points per game for the Racers. The Racers don’t really play anyone else that many minutes with a couple of guys coming off the bench getting maybe four or five minutes per game.

The Red Raiders will have their work cut out for them. The Racers are dangerous with Ja Morant running the show. Matt Mooney and Brandone Francis will have to contain Morant. Davide Moretti will also get some minutes against Morant but the way to beat Morant is to get a bigger athlete on him. Mooney and Francis will be able to use their active hands to get some steals and keep Morant from getting too many assists.

This will be Jarrett Culver’s game. Pitted against another top NBA Prospect, I think Culver will step up big time for this team. He will be able to drive on smaller defenders and run by the bigger ones. Culver will be able to carve space in the paint with a smaller defender, most likely Brown or Buchanan, on him. There are other mismatches on the floor in advantage of the Red Raiders but the team will have to shut down Ja Morant in order to take advantage of these mismatches.