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Joe Boozell | | March 9, 2019

Murray State earns first NCAA tournament automatic bid

Murray State defeated Belmont by a score of 77-65 in Saturday's OVC title game. The Racers earned the automatic NCAA tournament berth as a result to become the first team in the 2019 NCAA tournament field.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's game.

Murray State's Ja Morant deserves all of the hype he gets

Morant gets a ton of publicity these days, and Saturday night showed why. The explosive Murray State point guard finished with 36 points on 13-of-25 shooting and had seven rebounds to go with two blocks.

He was really all the Racers (27-4) had offensively. No other teammate scored more than 12 points, and Morant was creating shots for himself and teammates all night. Belmont is a good defensive team, but there's hardly anyone in college basketball who can stay in front of Morant one-on-one. Saturday night served as further proof.

He was absolutely lethal in both isolations and pick-and-roll settings. Side note: it's going to be a heck of a lot of fun to see Morant dancing. Both of these teams are dangerous, but you just love to see the star power of Morant in March Madness. Murray State games will be appointment television.

Both of these teams are good enough to play in the NCAA tournament

Murray State knows it's making the Big Dance, and Belmont's status is in doubt. But both of these teams are really, really good.

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Belmont and Murray State both went 16-2 in regular season league play and looked like fine-tuned machines at various points in the season. The Racers have Morant, capable pieces around him, and a solid defense. Rick Byrd is one of the better coaches in college hoops for Belmont, and the Bruins rarely beat themselves. It's fitting that these two went down to the wire on Saturday.

Dylan Windler is a stud, and we'll get to him soon. The Bruins had a cold 3-point shooting night on Saturday but are generally dangerous from out there. Nobody is going to want to face either of these teams at the most important stages of the season.

Windler is one of the most unique players in college basketball

Windler may have come up on the losing end of this one, and he'll be overshadowed by Morant. But the 6-8 wing scored 17 points on Saturday, and coming into the game he was averaging 21.5 points and 10.7 rebounds. The rebounding mark is especially impressive. He's only listed at 200 pounds, and Windler's ability to play bigger than his listed size does wonders for Belmont's versatility.

He can legitimately play all five positions. Sure, Belmont would rather not use him at point guard or center. But Windler could hang there if necessary. Murray State may have prevailed, but it struggled to handle Windler.

Here's a news flash: so does just about everyone.

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