Send to KindleWe continue our flyover of the Atlantic 10 Conference with one blurb per team on what we’ll be watching. Previews are for another day… for now, some summer teasers on what could mean a couple more W’s for your program of choice.
It is amazing how one season can change both the perception and the expectations of a basketball program. Heading into the 2012 season La Salle was armed with a talented backcourt, moderate expectations and a recent history of coming up short in big games under head coach John Giannini.
March of 2013 changed all that.
(Credit: La Salle University Athletics/ Greg Carroccio, Sideline Photos)
After sneaking into the NCAA field, La Salle used a four guard lineup to terrorize their opponents (Boise State, Kansas State, Ole Miss) and make a run to the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual Final Four participant Wichita State in California. Departed senior Ramon Galloway became one of the most recognizable players in the Tournament (21 point avg. in La Salle’s three wins) and returning backcourt mates Tyreek Duren, Sam Mills and Tyrone Garland had coaches across the country talking about how much they feared a match-up with the A10 club.
Now, Galloway is gone, and back is 6-foot-11 center Steve Zack (6.4 points, 6.4 rebounds), whose knee injury forced Dr. Giannini’s club into that smaller lineup that ultimately led to historic success.
So how will Zack’s return, and La Salle’s return to a more traditional lineup, ultimately effect their success in terms of wins and losses?
Adding Zack gives the Explorer’s another rebounder (something they sorely need), but it should also help fellow big man Jerrell Wright offensively. With Zack opposite him, defenses will need to be mindful of two big men as opposed to just one. While their four guard lineup helped create floor spacing when shots were falling, it also hampered Wright when they weren’t. Zack’s adequate shooting touch outside of 10 feet could create some high-low opportunities for La Salle, something they couldn’t run without two big men. Additionally, Zack can set quality screens for guards running the baseline as well as for Wright on the opposite block on ball rotations.
On the defensive end of the floor, Zack’s return gives the club a shot-altering center (1.3 blocks) who, at the least, will make opposing guards think twice before driving into the paint. Wright should also be able to avoid defensive fouls to a degree with Zack able to guard the opposing teams’ more talented post player if needed. Finally, given La Salle’s lack of depth inside, Zack’s return is a critical element for a team which at times, was in dire need of additional physicality on the blocks. Take for example their A10 semifinal loss to Saint Louis, when forwards Dwyane Evans and Rob Loe combined to score 36 points on 14-26 shooting. In that contest, Giannini would have loved to grab Zack off the bench to help neutralize SLU’s pivot play.
It will be fascinating to see how the Explorers respond given heightened expectations and the return to a traditional three guard lineup in 2013-14.
That’s one thing we’ll be watching.
* * *
Other schools in the Series so far…
St. Bonaventure (7.26.13)
* * *
Related Posts:La Salle could go big in 2013-14What can be expected from La Salle’s Jerrell Wright?One thing to watch… St. BonaventureOne thing to watch… DuquesneLa Salle, Philadelphia’s best team