They come from the two best mid-major conferences in the country. They received bids over schools from BCS conferences with arguably better resumes (Tennessee, Virginia). They have little-to-no recent NCAA tournament history. They both play four (sometimes even five) guards.
There's a lot of similarities between La Salle (21-9, 11-5 A-10) and Boise State (21-10, 9-7) ahead of their first-round/play-in game at 9:10 p.m. this evening in Dayton, Ohio (truTV). The winner becomes the 13-seed in the West Region, earning the right to likely get stomped by 4-seed Kansas State.
For La Salle, it's the program's first NCAA tourney appearance since 1992. The Explorers haven't won a tournament game since 1990. They haven't reached the Sweet 16 since 1955 — the year after their National Championship — when they beat West Virginia, Princeton, Canisius, and Iowa before falling to Bill Russell's San Francisco in the championship game.
Fast-forward 58 years and not a single player in the La Salle rotation was even born the last time the Explorers won a tournament game. Leading scorer Ramon Galloway (17 PPG) was 13 months old in March of '92.
So — how do the Explorers actually match up against Boise State? Can they win a tournament game for the first time in 23 years? Here's the upshot:
The two keys to this one for La Salle: Keep pace with Boise State from
beyond the arc and protect the defensive glass. Boise State shoots the
12th-best percentage in the country from three and, according to KenPom,
is the third-best offensive rebounding team in the country, grabbing
24.6 percent of its own misses. The Explorers would like to have Steve
Zack (ankle) back as soon as possible and could certainly use him
against Boise State, even if it's just to stand in the defensive paint
and be tall (Update: He isn't playing).
This one comes down to which team is making its
threes and which does a better job boarding the long rebounds on the
treys that don't go. Whichever does that gets 4th-seeded Kansas State on
Head on over to CSNPhilly for the full scouting report. If you'd like to do a bit of looking ahead to Friday, you can check out Temple's matchup N.C. State here and Villanova's matchup with North Carolina here.
This video is worth watching again:
Who ya got tonight? Any of you La Salle fans getting rowdy? Been a while. Enjoy yourselves.