MILWAUKEE — For the second time under coach Steve Wojciechowski, the Marquette men's basketball team will compete in the NCAA Tournament. However, their competition Thursday afternoon will not be easy.
Marquette received a No. 5 seed, despite losing five of its last six games and finishing runner-up to Villanova in the Big East. That No. 5 seed sets up the Golden Eagles to compete against projected top-5 NBA draft pick Ja Morant and the No. 12 seed Murray State Racers.
For many college basketball experts, this game is expected to be one of the best in the first round and perhaps in the entire tournament. All eyes will be on the two stars: Markus Howard and Morant.
Howard and Morant are two of the best scorers in college basketball. If you combine stats, the two have 16 30-plus-point performances this season. That includes four combined 40-plus-point performances.
Comparing the two, Howard is a much better shooter from deep, but Morant is ahead of him when it comes to facilitating. Part of what makes Morant so dangerous is his ability to find open shooters at any time. He's averaging 10 assists per game.
These two will determine the outcome of the game, but that doesn't mean Marquette's supporting cast doesn't play a vital role.
With four starters shooting better than 40 percent from three-point range, the Golden Eagles have the ability to bury any team in the first five minutes of the game.
Theo John is going to have his hands full with 295-pound Darnell Cowart. Cowart's size and strength hits Marquette where it hurts: offensive and defensive rebounding.
John lead the Big East in blocks but tended to find himself in foul trouble often. That could change, with Big East officials out of the picture, but Morant's ruthless ability to penetrate the paint will be a handful for John.
A former AP Top 10 team, a prolific scorer and Big East Player of the Year versus a future NBA lottery pick and a red-hot team. You won't want to miss this one.
The game is set to tip off at 3:30 p.m. on TBS.