Friday, December 12, 2014

La Salle University - Pregame

The La Salle Explorers are going to charter a bus with a driver familiar with the Philadelphia area in order to help them find the DAC on Saturday.  Once they leave the DAC, they may have an idea where they, and the Dragons, are going.

On its face, the Explorers walk in the better team, sitting 4-4 to the Dragons 2-4.  Take a step back though, and you see a lot of similarities:  Neither of these teams has beaten anyone worth talking about, and neither team has taken the embarrassing loss.*  Much like all of the other teams in Philly proper that don't play home games at the Palestra, we don't know where these teams are going yet.  Both are young and figuring themselves out, and whoever leaves this game a winner will have a new best win of the season.  With La Salle coming in on a 4 game losing streak and the Dragons coming off of the D-II embarrassment, this can be a jumping off point for two teams that badly need to rally.

La Salle plays with a roster type that Drexel should be familiar with, with long guards on the perimeter who have really struggled shooting and very little interior depth.  They will run a short bench if they can which creates a double edged sword from the referees.  The Explorers need to get points on the foul line, but if the game becomes a foul fest then they their interior depth issues will quickly be exploited.  On Drexel's end that makes the play a simple one: pass up the contested three and drive for contact.  Jerrell Wright and Steve Zach are shot blockers, so this isn't the game for Rashann London's floaters, its a game to be aggressive and force the contact.  Be certain that when the referees are making calls, its on the interior of the explorers defense.

Shot selection will be critical for the Dragons since teams will be frustrated all day long by La Salle's length at all positions.  The three point attempts that teams have seemed to have been begging the Dragons to take all year may not be there this game.  Trading in three point attempts for midrange jumpers is not a trade that Drexel will win.  If the only guys who showed up in the Game We Will Not Speak Of were big men, lets all hope the guards remember who almost bailed them out.  The guards still need to launch the shots when they get the looks from deep, but this game will be all about taking the smart shot.  And that will generally mean playing in the paint.

On the defensive side of the ball, there's just not a ton of threats to deal with.  Obviously with a team that is struggling from three a zone would be ideal, but back here on Earth DU fans know its a man to man game.  In what should be a low scoring affair, keeping the Explorers off of the foul line can't be underlined enough, it's absolutely crucial not to give away free points or help out an offense that is quite frankly not very good.

Senior Steve Zach hasn't been a legit threat since Sophomore year.  DJ Peterson wants to sit behind the three point line or pass making him a non-factor in a man to man game, Georgia Southern transfer Cleon Roberts wants to have a game like Damion Lee's, but as of now he couldn't tie Damion's shoes for him.  Delaware transfer Khalid Lewis was something of a joke at UD (O-Rating 84.7, in 56 minutes vs DU that year he had 8 points and 6 fouls) and has shown few signs of growth in his two seasons in Olney.

It'll be Auburn transfer Jordan Price and rare non-transfer Jerrell Wright that Bruiser Flint will look to concentrate on defensively.  Price has shot poorly to start the season but showed a good stroke in his freshman season down south.  He's taking over a third of his team's shots when he is on the floor and will use all three options when he has the ball, pass, drive or shoot.  Keeping him quiet will slow down, if not shut down, the Explorers offense.

The best man on the floor for La Salle is Wright, the 6'8" 245 lb senior averaging 12.5 ppg.  He'll look to back the Dragons smaller bigs down and get deep in the paint.  The Dragons forwards should watch the tape of the adjustments that they made against Southern Mississippi's Norville Carey for a blueprint on how to play Wright.  Watch Wright off the ball and see how the Dragons forwards do at denying him space deeper in the paint, and how well they draw fouls on him at the other end of the court.  Wright's game, and the game, may well be determined by what happens when he doesn't have the ball.

These teams have combined to score more than 70 points twice this year (La Salle both times).  In a rockfight at the DAC, this game will be won by the team that gives away less points.  Turnovers and fouls are absolutely paramount.  With two weeks to prep, on a home court that La Salle hasn't played on since before their players were born, the smarter team needs to be in Drexel blue.

Prediction:  Drexel 58, La Salle 54
Vegas Line:  La Salle -3

Notes from Alan Boston:  La Salle has not bore the fruits of their NCAA run. The program has edged up a bit, but the almost expected home run, has not yet happened. I root for this team. I was horrified when they hired John Giannini 11 years ago. He did just a terrible job at Maine. The hire was a shock. I was wrong. Coach G has done a terrific job. He has recruited well. His teams play with at least a modicum of intelligence. I root for La Salle. Although point guard was a question mark at the start of this season, I thought La Salle would have a good year, at best an NCAA bid, at worst some lesser tournament. I am not quite sure where they stand. They began beating a very tough Colgate team then a very nice win at Quinnipiac. They then handily beat St Peter's & St Francis NY. They showed great resolve by making a huge run at a top 5 team in Virginia. The loss to Vandy was almost expected. They were never in the Villanova game but never let it get out of hand and finally in what is I think the most important game played in Philadelphia this year, La Salle & Temple played a riveting affair at THE PALESTRA. 

Yes, the greedy fucks who are focused on destroying college basketball for the sake of money, allowed a city game to be played where it should be, at The Palestra. College sports should not be about money or fame or highlights on ESPN, but college sports were played to packed gymnasiums with students on the floor, because of rivals, because of traditions. College was not a minor league for the NBA. It was not about coaches like the Coach K's of the world becoming CEO'S. It was about kids who went to college, who happened to enjoy playing basketball. Then ESPN was born. The Big East was created to be ESPN's cash cow. Then scumbag Rollie Massimino decided that Villanova was too good to play their games at the Palestra. It did not take long for others to follow. Phil Martelli held out as long as he could, insisting that all city games should be played there. I hope that tradition returns. I went to every Big 5 game when I attended Penn. There was nothing like half the tickets being sold by each school. The game were riveting. The crowds the same. Massimino and his ego are long gone. Philadelphia should return to its roots. So I am happy that at least one game stayed true, even if it may have been for the wrong reason. But I digress. La Salle is better than Drexel, but not by much. The game should go to the wire. Just to pick something, I shall take La Salle by 2 as I do think they have the better team. Either way, it should be a hell of a game. It would be even better if played at The Palestra. 

And no, I am not writing that as a Penn grad. I am writing that as a college basketball fan.

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