Best of the West? the item’s Gonzaga

The West stands out largely for one reason: Gonzaga is actually the only No. 1 seed that will does not come by the A.C.C. The Bulldogs’ high-powered offense may have to pass some interesting tests if Gonzaga is actually to return to the Final Four for the second time in three seasons: Syracuse’s idiosyncratic matchup zone inside the second round; Florida State’s imposing frontcourt; along with No. 3 Texas Tech or second-seeded Michigan, which are the top-rated teams inside the country in defensive efficiency. If there is actually something comforting for the Bulldogs, the item’s that will their journey to the Final Four will start where the item did two years ago: Salt Lake City.

  • 1. Gonzaga (30-3) vs. 16. F. Dickinson/Prairie View A&M

  • 8. Syracuse (20-13) vs. 9. Baylor (19-13)

  • 5. Marquette (24-9) vs. 12. Murray State (27-4)

  • 4. Florida State (27-7) vs. 13. Vermont (27-6)

  • 3. Texas Tech (26-6) vs. 14. Northern Kentucky (26-8)

  • 6. Buffalo (31-3) vs. 11. Arizona State/St. John’s

  • 7. Nevada (29-4) vs. 10. Florida (19-15)

  • 2. Michigan (28-6) vs. 15. Montana (26-8)

James Kane was working as an assistant at Murray State in July 2016 when he turned up at a tournament in Spartanburg, S.C. Hungry, he headed to the concession stand.

While he waited for his food, Kane heard some balls bouncing in a nearby auxiliary gym. Taking a peek, he was immediately drawn to a young prospect who was playing a game of 3-on-3. Kane asked around, learned that will the young man’s name was Ja Morant along with soon began talking with Morant’s father, Tee. Tee Morant told Kane that will his son could be playing a full 5-on-5 game the next day for an A.A.U. squad called Team South Carolina.

Intrigued, Kane called Murray State’s coach, Matt McMahon, who was in Georgia on his own recruiting trip, along with told him he wanted to stay another day to see to Morant compete against another player Murray State was recruiting. When Morant scored 29 points in that will game, Kane placed another call to McMahon.

He told him to drop whatever he was doing along with come to South Carolina.

This kind of kid’s going to be a pro,” Kane, right now an assistant at Iowa State, told McMahon. “His name is actually Ja Morant. You need to come up here.”

McMahon hopped in his car. The next day, he offered the 6-foot-3 Morant a scholarship on the spot.

“He offered Ja inside the parking lot after seeing him play,” Tee Morant said in a telephone interview.

In an era of scouting combines along with recruiting newsletters along with YouTube clips, when the item is actually almost impossible for an elite recruit to escape the eyes of recruiting analysts, top college coaches along with even curious fans, the story of how Ja Murray ended up at Murray State might be the story of the season.

A guard who combines stunning scoring ability with tremendous court vision, Murray is actually averaging 24.6 points, 10.0 assists along with 5.5 rebounds for a Racers team that will won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. He went for 36 points, 7 rebounds along with 3 assists in a 77-65 win over Belmont inside the tournament final on March 9.

“the item’s crazy because there are times when you are sure he’s not seeing you, although you know inside the back of your head that will he does along with the item’s coming, so be ready,” Murray State forward Darnell Cowart said of Morant’s passes. “He’s the best player that will I’ve ever played with.”

This kind of will be Morant’s second straight N.C.A.A. tournament appearance, although the first in which he is actually a household name. Once overlooked — he was an A.A.U. teammate of Zion Williamson’s as a high school sophomore — Murray is actually right now a projected top-three pick inside the N.B.A. draft. More than 100 scouts have made the journey to Murray, Ky., to see him play; even more have watched him on the road.

Tee Morant said he had not been too impressed by the N.B.A. interest in his son until the Lakers president Magic Johnson walked into the arena for the Friday of the O.V.C. tournament.

“I was like, wow,” he said.

the item was not initially someone had said that will around Ja Morant This kind of year. ADAM ZAGORIA

Nevada was kicking itself on its way out of the tournament last March, when the item blew an early 12-point lead along with lost to Loyola-Chicago inside the round of 16. This kind of season, the Wolf Pack, who were ranked as high as No. 6, shared the Mountain West title with Utah State along with were knocked out of the conference tournament inside the semifinals. that has a starting lineup featuring several fifth-year seniors, including the brothers Caleb along with Cody Martin, they may be tired of unhappy endings. BILLY WITZ

Sixth-seeded Buffalo features a chance to further assert its dominance over the state of Arizona. The Bulls routed fourth-seeded Arizona last season inside the first round along with right now may have a chance to play Arizona State — if the Sun Devils can get past St. John’s in an opening game. BILLY WITZ