Day 1 of the 2019 NCAA Tournament is over and done, and plenty of compelling story-lines are already beginning to unfold. Here are three of the major takeaways from Day 1 that fans should keep in mind heading into the Round of 32.
Ja Morant is good. Like REALLY good.
No. 12 Murray State ran over No. 5 Marquette 83-64 on Thursday, with four different players scoring 14+ points. The Racers shot 53% from the field and a staggering 50% from 3. Murray State also posted an impressive 26 assists on 30 made field goals. The story of the game was the player everyone had their eyes on from the start: Ja Morant.
Morant, a likely lottery pick in the next NBA Draft, put up 17 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists, the first NCAA Tournament triple-double since Draymond Green in 2012 and the ninth all time. He got his teammates involved as well, and the Racers played good team defense. They’ll be a handful for No. 4 Florida State on Saturday.
Kansas is a legitimate threat
The Jayhawks, No. 4 in the Midwest, came into this year’s tournament a bit of a sleeper, or as much of a sleeper as a blue-blood like Kansas can be. They didn’t win the Big 12 regular season or tournament title for the first time in about 1,000 years, and lost star guard Lagerald Vick midway through the season. It seems Bill Self’s Jayhawks are far from done, however.
Kansas boat-raced No. 13 Northeastern 87-53 behind 25 and 11 rebounds from star freshman Dedric Lawson. Devon Dotson added 18 points of his own, and the Jayhawks shot 55.7% from the field and out-rebounded Northeastern 45-27. They made 11-12 free throws and shot 36 percent from 3. The young, resurgent Jayhawks take on No. 5 Auburn in the second round.
Wofford vs. Kentucky is going to be a game to watch
The No. 7 Wofford Terriers got their first NCAA Tournament win over No. 10 Seton Hall 84-68 in what was a close game until about three minutes left in the game. Guard Fletcher Magee had 24 points and set the all time NCAA record for career 3-pointers made in the process. Wofford shot well from the field, from 3, and from the free throw line. If New Mexico State taught us anything, its that teams that make free throws do well in the tournament.
Kentucky, No. 2 in the Midwest, pounded Abilene Christian 79-44, winning on the glass 44-17. The Wildcats shot 53 percent from the field, led by 25 points from Keldon Johnson. Reid Travis added 18 points and nine rebounds as well, dominating the paint the entire night. Kentucky squares off with Wofford on Saturday in what figures to be an exciting second round match-up.