Men’s basketball earns No. 5 seed in NCAA Tournament, will face Murray State

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Men’s basketball earns No. 5 seed in NCAA Tournament, will face Murray State

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

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For the second time in the nearly five-year Steve Wojciechowski era, Marquette men’s basketball will play in March Madness.

The Golden Eagles are a No. 5 seed in the West region of the NCAA Tournament and will play Murray State in the first round Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Central Standard Time. MU would play the winner of the game between No. 4 Florida State and No. 13 Vermont with a first-round win.

“To be honest, I don’t care where they put us on the bracket,” redshirt junior Ed Morrow said. “I’m just glad to be in this position, still playing in March.”

Murray State’s offense revolves around sophomore guard Ja Morant, who leads the NCAA with 10 assists per game. He also averages 24.6 points per game.

“We heard about Ja Morant. You see him all over social media,” Morrow said. “We’re going to learn a lot more (Monday) … We’re going to prepare well for him.”

Morant will likely go up against Marquette guard Markus Howard, who has been battling a wrist injury. He dismissed the idea that his wrist is bothering him. He shot 1 for 15 against Seton Hall Friday night. The BIG EAST leading scorer usually shoots 42.4 percent from the field.

“My wrist is fine. My wrist is fine,” Howard said. “I’m ready to go. I’m ready to play.”

The bid comes after Wojciechowski’s most successful regular season at Marquette. The team came one game short of a BIG EAST regular-season title. Howard ended the regular season as conference player of the year, marking the first time a MU player won the award since Jae Crowder in 2012.

“Our kids have had a great year,” Wojciechowski said. “When you look at it on paper, you say, ‘Gosh, that’s worthy of a No. 5 seed.'”

It’s Marquette’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2017 and third postseason trip in the last six years. The only scholarship players still on the team that played in the 2017 NCAA appearance are Howard, fellow junior Sam Hauser and senior Matt Heldt.

“(The 2017 run) went very quickly, so I want to try to just enjoy every moment,” Howard said. “It doesn’t really happen that often.”

Wojciechowski said he hopes last year’s National Invitational Tournament appearance helped prepare the team for March Madness.

“We were a really, really young team last year,” Wojciechowski said. “Our guys got experience playing in March, where it’s one-and-done.”

He doesn’t necessarily view the NCAA Tournament as a pressure-filled environment.

“It’s great. Pressure is when you’re sitting on your couch and you know your name isn’t going to be called,” Wojciechowski said. “That stings. This is awesome. Are you kidding me? We’re getting to play in the NCAA Tournament.”

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