The 30 Most Influential NCAA MBB Teams of SLAM’s 30 Years: 2019 Murray State

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To celebrate SLAM’s 30th anniversary, we’re spotlighting the 30 most influential men’s college teams from our past 30 years. Stats, records and chips aren’t the main factor here, it’s all about their contribution to the game’s cultural fabric.

For the next 30 days—Monday through Friday— we’ll be unveiling the full list here. We’ve also got an exclusive retro collegiate collection, out now, that pays homage to each squad’s threads. Shop here.


“Swagger” may be an overused term, but there isn’t a more perfect way to describe the style of play that encapsulated the 2018-19 Murray State Racers. Mid-major program? Who gave a damn. 

Led by head honcho Matt McMahon, the leaders of the Ohio Valley Conference sent a message to America with every dub: “we’ll see y’all in March.” 

A big reason why was because of a tatted standout with freeform dreads, a taper fade and had an unrelenting athletic ability. Ja Morant was simply “The One” down in Calloway County. As a sophomore, he had one of the greatest individual seasons in program history. But it was the national stage where Morant’s legend grew. 

He was the first player to average 20 points and 10 assists in the modern era, dropping 24.5 points and 10 dimes a night. He racked up the sixth-most assists in NCAA history for a single season. He recorded the ninth-ever triple-double in NCAA Tournament history. He had 14 contests with 20 and 10, with a career-high 18 dots in a win over UT Martin. The man was straight filthy–Xxplosive like Dr. Dre’s cut off The Chronic

Behind the back snatch then reassess. In-and-out cross into a hanging lay while drawing the contact. And-one. Cradle the baby. Flying to the rim as fast as he flew off of it. Hard to predict, nearly impossible to contain. Lobs came from anywhere and everywhere; halfcourt, baseline out of bounds, in the fastbreak. Backscratchers, reverse alleys and tomahawk posters galore, with air guitar cellys following suit. Opponents spent more time looking up at the rafters than they did tracking the midsection of their opponents’ threads. 

But then came Morant’s single-handed demolition of UT Martin. After hitting a back-door cut from the baseline, Morant received the ball, and without taking a dribble, immediately rose up over a defender—who attempted a wildly ill-advised charge on the bounciest player in the world—and slammed it home while nearly clearing the defender with his legs spread like MJ. The highlight would introduce millions upon millions to the name of Temetrius “Ja” Morant and the high-flying Murray State Racers. 

“Downtown” Tevin Brown lit up Racer Arena with nearly three trey balls a game while Leroy Buchanon cemented the Racer’s otherworldly backcourt. In the paint, Darnell Cowert resided with sheer force. The former JUCO product quickly found his footing in the OVC, utilizing his graceful footwork to dance around defenders for 10.3 points and 6.5 boards a game. 

Two non-conference losses left the Racers with an early indication of their postseason success, with respective games against Alabama and No. 7 Auburn providing down-to-the-wire tests in late November and December. The Racers would sprint their way through the OVC, collecting a 16-2 conference record on the way to their second-straight conference championship and NCAA Tournament berth.

After cementing their staying power in a 20-point beatdown over Marquette, the Racers fell in the Round of 32 to No. 10 Florida State, but not before enacting enough jaw-dropping displays to craft their own “One Shining Moments” reel. The Racers weren’t just the Cinderella team of the 2019 tournament, they recaptured the magic that’s cooked up in mid-major programs across the country. 


Photos via Getty Images.





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