A couple of at-large bids admitted to the 2013 NCAA Tournament take part in the first round on Wednesday night, as the Boise State Broncos lock up with the La Salle Explorers in West Region action at University of Dayton Arena.
Boise State, which like La Salle is considered a 13-seed in the region, hails from the Mountain West Conference these days where it finished in a tie for fourth place in the standings with San Diego State at 9-7. The Broncos, coached by Leon Rice who is in his third year with the program, survived one serious rough patch during January when they dropped four of five conference outings in order to finish with an overall mark of 21-10 and a strong enough resume' to even be considered for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Part of the reason why Boise State was added to the party was because for the most part, the MWC was highly competitive this season, so much so that there are four other league members (New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State and Colorado State) which have also made the cut for the tournament.
As for the Explorers, they represent the Atlantic 10 Conference where they set a program record for league victories with 11, dropping just five decisions. Under the direction of Dr. John Giannini who is in his ninth season with the program, the Explorers logged their second straight 20-win campaign with a total of 21 victories, marking the first time the team has put such efforts together in back-to-back campaigns in more than two decades.
La Salle's all-time winningest coach in A-10 play, Dr. Giannini led the Explorers to the NIT last year, the first postseason appearance for the team in 20 years.
This marks the sixth all-time appearance in the tournament for the Broncos, but they have yet to win a single game. On the other hand, La Salle not only has a winning record after 11 trips to the event (11-10), it also has a national championship to its credit, albeit from 1954 in a lopsided 94-76 final versus Bradley in Kansas City on this very same date.
The winner of this first-ever meeting, recognized as the 13th seed, advances to the second round of the tournament to tangle with the fourth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats on Friday.
Winners of five of their final six regular-season outings, the Broncos have recently been riding the strong scoring of Anthony Drmic who has put up at least 20 points in six of the last seven contests. On the season Drmic, the only player to have started all 31 games for BSU, is tops on the scoring list with 17.3 ppg thanks to his 38.7 percent accuracy behind the 3-point line. Not only did Drmic finish second on the unit with 75 3-pointers, he was also one of the better rebounders for the program with 4.6 rpg.
Derrick Marks (16.3 ppg) feasted at the free-throw line with 83.7 percent accuracy and was first for the Broncos in terms of assists (117) and steals (55), not to mention blocked shots (13) as he put forth a strong effort at both ends of the floor for a group that limited the competition to only 65.0 ppg. Thanks to Jeff Elorriaga (10.3 ppg) and his 82-of-182 (.451) shooting out on the perimeter, the Broncos as a whole knocked down close to 40 percent of their long-distance attempts.
Just the third player in program history to be named to the All-Atlantic 10 First Team, Ramon Galloway joined that elite list this season for the Explorers as he placed first on the club and seventh in the league in scoring with 17.0 ppg. But more than just putting points on the boards, Galloway is also recognized as one of the most well-rounded performers in the A-10 with his 4.6 rpg and 3.8 apg, the second of those stats placing him in the top-10 in the conference.
Tyreek Duren checks in with 15.0 ppg and was also a top passer in the league for the Explorers with close to three and a half assists per outing, more than enough to earn him a spot on the All-Atlantic 10 Second Team. Between Duren and Galloway, they combined for 126 of the unit's 228 3-point baskets this season, a key factor in the team's success since the competition was held to a grand total of only 122 triples on 29.9 percent accuracy. Jerrell Wright (10.3 ppg) might be only a 62.0 percent shooter at the free-throw line, but his presence in the paint (6.9 rpg) is still crucial.