USA TODAY Sports
In a tough, top-heavy mid- to high-major conference, La Salle finished a respectable fifth and fell in the first round of the conference tourney. Sounds familiar? Dayton's first four saved the best for last in this match-up of under-respected teams.
I really wanted La Salle out, I really did. That being said, you can't justify La Salle being out and Boise State being in. The conferences are similar (though top to bottom, the MWC is better), their play-makers are eerily similar; really, the only thing holding the Explorers back on advancing is their tendency to lose games they should easily win. We're not talking Nevada or Utah here, we're talking Central Connecticut State (and Richmond, though the Spiders aren't a bad team).
So let's break this game down:
Do the Explorers have an answer for Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks? You bet they do: the dynamic duo of Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Duren who have a combined PPG of 32.0. Let's go even further down the chart where Tyrone Garland and Jerrell Wright contribute another 23.2 PPG, and the rest of the bench contributes less significantly. On the Broncos side, you can never forget about Jeff Elorriaga as a deep threat, and after that, Ryan Watkins and Mikey Thompson can get hot when needed.
La Salle went 11-5 in conference, surprisingly to the "middle of the pack" teams (and Saint Louis). Boise State went 9-7, which yes, the record is worse, however that's against arguably the best conference in the nation. You can not tell me that Liacouras Center rocks harder than Viejas, the T&M or the Pit. Need I remind you that the Broncos were picked to finish 8th of 9.
La Salle has made two final fours in history, winning a national championship in 1954. However, they haven't made the Dance since 1992. Boise State just earned their first at-large bid...ever, and it's their first time dancing since 2008. National Titles take the cake here, but what would the story be if BSU's basketball won a DI national championship before their football won and FBS national championship?
Advantage: La Salle
La Salle has an awesome logo and mascot. Boise State has Nike and a possible blackout. Philidelphia is historical, while Boise is beautiful. La Salle was ranked the 71st greatest basketball program by ESPN.
Advantage: La Salle
While John Giannini has done great things for La Salle so far, what Leon Rice has done is damn near Chris Petersen-like, and I like the Broncos to earn their first-ever NCAA tournament win.
Boise State 82, La Salle 76