Ja Morant

USA Today

Ja Freaking Morant

If you had to sum up yesterday, you could do it in two letters: J-A.

March 22, 2019 - 9:38 am
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The Thursday of the NCAA tournament is the best day of the sports calendar. I’ll unpack that a little later, but there is always so much hype, so much buzz, so much drama, so much to chop it up about about. And yet, if you had to sum up yesterday, you could do it in two letters: J-A.

As in Ja Morant. Because he took the greatest day in sports and made it his own. He ripped the moment and dominated it like almost nobody has ever done.

Here’s his stat line versus Marquette

17 points

16 assists

11 rebounds

The first NCAA tournament triple double since Draymond Green in 2012. The eighth in tournament history. 16 assists is the second-most in a tournament game.

Murray State 83, Marquette 64. That was an upset that didn’t feel anything like an upset. Because Murray State was the 12-seed in that game. And Marquette was the 5.

But that sure didn’t feel like a 12-5 matchup. Marquette is a good team. A very good team, with a very good coach and a stud of their own in Markus Howard, but they had absolutely no answers yesterday. They ran into a buzz saw. Murray State put that game to bed so early the only question was whether or not Morant would get his 10 rebounds for the triple double. And he did. Because he did everything yesterday.

He didn’t just dominate the first day of March Madness, he pretty much locked up the second pick of the NBA draft. And it’s not just because of THAT dunk. You know the one I’m talking about. And if you don’t, you will soon.

That wasn’t a game. That was an event. That was a happening. But…but…whatever you do, don’t call it a coming out party.  

Don’t get it twisted. There’s a reason why he was on this show more than a month ago. And there’s a reason why his coach was on a few weeks ago. I hate to say I told you so, but those who know, already knew.

Or, as Ja himself said afterwards, "Honestly, if they don't know me by now, I don't know what to say. I just hope they can really see not me, but Murray State is a great team and we can run with the big dogs."

Run with the big dogs? I’m not sure they aren’t one of the big dogs. I know Ja is.

There’s a reason why the Russell Westbrook comparison gets made. Because he’s so explosive and because he isn’t just a scorer, he’s a playmaker. He can do it all

This wasn’t a debut, this was a confirmation. Because he had it all working. Let’s go to the highlights. There was the alley-oop.

The filthy step back three at the end of the first half

That’s just cruel and unnecessary. That was an NBA move in a college game. That shot had so much confidence in it. That was a grown man move.

And then there was the left-handed bullet pass. And if you’re near a TV, look up now, because you’re about to see something you don’t see very often.

And by the way, his left hand is supposedly his weaker hand.

There was this late bucket.

And then there was the iconic dunk. The one that nearly broke the internet into a thousand pieces. And if you missed it yesterday, don’t sweat it. You’re going to see it about a billion more times before the end of this tournament and in every tournament to come.

Roll it.

I mean thoughts and prayers to Marquette freshman Joey Hauser. Dude is a really nice player. He won Big East Freshman of the Week three different times this season. He averaged 10 and 5, and shot 42% from three as a 6-foot-9 forward. 

But somebody needs to go to the front door of the Hauser household in Stevens Point and break the news to mom and dad. Because Ja just stuffed that dude in a coffin. Joey Hauser could have a 10-year career in the NBA and he's still always gonna be the guy that Ja Morant put on a poster in the NCAA tournament

 Run it back again.

There’s the casual reaction after he passes the ball, the impeccable timing on the cut, and the perfect pass back to Ja. Then there’s the collection of the pass, the elevation, and the finish.

That is 6 foot 2 Ja Morant going up and over 6 foot 9 Joey Hauser. He’s giving up seven inches and not even flinching. AND Morant’s teammate Brion Whitley did have a piece of advice for Hause and anyone else who has it in their head to try to deal with Ja at the rim. He told Pete Thamel that "I hope homeboy gets some recovery, some ice. That was on his head. That was bad. Don't jump with Ja."

Don’t jump with Ja. Print that shirt immediately. Get it to the people. Don’t jump with Ja. Because you will get ruined.

Now some reaction. Murray State head coach Matt McMahon: "He's an once-in-a-lifetime type player. His IQ for the game, he sees things before anyone else."

And more from McMahon: "It's amazing. Cross-court passes, lobs, backdoor cuts. Whatever. It's always right where the ball needs to be to lead his teammate into the shot. He's had multiple games this year where more than half his assists were one-handed lefty passes."

And here’s another reaction, from my guy Brion Whitley again: "Teams should be scared to play us."

That is the truth. Everyone should be scared of Murray State, because they aren’t just about Ja. They’ve got talent. And they have internal expectations. And nobody’s internal expectations are higher than Morant’s.

Were you impressed by his performance? You should be. Just know that Ja wasn’t. Tom Schad of USA Today tweeted: Fun fact: Ja Morant grades his performance after every game. He gave himself a 3.5/5 today. Too many turnovers, he said.

Just had one of the greatest games in NCAA tournament history and he gave it a 3.5. That’s a 70. That’s a C-minus. That’s barely above a D.

And the absolutely best part, was Morant’s tweet after the game: RELAX ‼ I’m not done yet

Like, settle down, I’ve got even more. I’m not sure I can ever remember clapping when I saw a tweet. But I clapped when I saw that tweet. Yes. Hell yes. Go on, young fella. Go on.