It was difficult to gauge Ja Morant's potential at times this season considering Murray State plays in the underwhelming Ohio Valley Conference. However, the 6-foot-3 superstar had his first real opportunity to impress against a ranked opponent when the Racers took on Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and he was absolutely dominant.
The pregame hype was focused on the battle between Morant and Marquette's Markus Howard, but it turned into a one-sided affair as the former finished with a 17-point, 11-rebound, and 16-assist triple-double in the 83-64 victory.
Morant has risen up NBA draft boards throughout the season, but this performance should make him a virtual lock for the top three in June. His versatility was on display the entire game against the Golden Eagles and his passing is what likely puts him among that elite company.
Of his 16 dimes, this left-handed bullet to K.J. Williams for the easy hoop may be the best of all:
Morant draws attention from all angles because of his ability to get to his spots with ease. Marquette threw double-teams at him throughout the game, but Morant was able to escape that pressure by quickly finding the open man in traffic or in transition.
In addition to his passing acumen, Morant proved he's capable of hitting long-range shots despite finishing the season as a 33.6 percent 3-point shooter. There's no certainty he'll immediately turn into an impactful perimeter scorer in the NBA, but it's promising to see the Harden-esque step-back jumper is in his arsenal.
However, it's really his athleticism which is the key to Morant's success. He's able to blow past defenders with an explosive first step and his verticality helps him play above the rim in traffic despite his 175-pound frame.
Murray State (28-4) has been terrific all year and Morant's teammates deserve credit for their excellent shooting Thursday - they hit eight of 11 attempts from behind the arc in the first half, which was well above their 34.8 percent average from three during the season.
This provides a better picture of how scouts should perceive Morant's potential in the NBA. The spacing allowed him to display his unique ability to dominate games, making it undeniable that he'll translate into an excellent pro and someone worth watching for however long he keeps the Racers in the tournament.