Daniel Evans, Blake Hofstad and Davis Jones are previewing every game of the NCAA Tournament. Check out all of their previews here.
Daniel’s Take: If you had La Salle and Wichita State playing in your Sweet 16, you are one of three things. 1) A liar, 2) A non-basketball fan who loves the words “shocker” and “explorer” as mascot names, 3) The one person we all know who picks every single upset so he can run around and say he called this game–”HE CALLED IT!”.
Wichita State made three after three after three to race past Gonzaga and send Mark Few’s team home. Cleanthony Early went 4 of 7 from deep against the ‘Zags and scored 16 points to help Gregg Marshall’s team hold on for the tournament changing upset. La Salle has already won three games in this tournament. They dominated Boise State in the first four, upset Kansas State in the second round, and then shut up Mississippi’s Marshall Henderson by holding on against the Rebels. Here’s what scares me: This team made only four shots in the second half against the Wildcats and was trailing late against the Rebels before turning it on with some game changing threes. The Explorers were tired (rightfully so) and it showed in the second half of games, although when they needed to turn it on they did.
La Salle wins almost every category in the comparison below. but I’ll take the Shockers. Too many people will take La Salle because of what VCU was able to do from a First Four game a couple of years ago. If Marshall’s team can slow down Ramon Galloway, La Salle’s ability to hit from deep will be greatly diminished. I think they’ll make things difficult for Galloway, who has already scored 65 points in this tournament.
Blake’s Take: This will be the first time a 9 seed has ever played a 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and also marks the first time a Sweet 16 game has featured two teams with a combined seed of 22. Let’s start with Wichita State, who got here by dismantling Pittsburgh in the second round, then rode some hot perimeter shooting to upset top seed Gonzaga. After Kevin Pangos drilled a three ball to put the Zags up 7 with about 5 minutes to play, I thought the Bulldogs had enough left to avoid the upset. Pangos and Kelly Olynyk were clicking on the offensive end. But Wichita State went 5-5 from three point land down the stretch, and the Shockers shocked the world. Wichita State overcame 20 Gonzaga offensive rebounds by playing physical with Kelly Olynyk. The big Canadian had 26 points, but shot just 8-22 from the field. Cleanthony Early was knocking down shots early on, and Ron Baker took over late. The Shockers were 14-28 from deep, and several timely three pointers after Gonzaga appeared to pull away were enough to swing the momentum, and eventually the game, in favor of Gregg Marshall’s team.
I loved how La Salle won against Ole Miss; it was emblematic of the Explorer’s improbable run to the Sweet 16. Tyrone Garland, who had struggled to find his stroke all game long, drove into the lane, threw a layup high off the backboard, and gave his team a two point lead with 2 seconds to play. A halfcourt heave fell short, and the Explorers won. La Salle is now -21 on the glass in the NCAA Tournament, but they refuse to back down, and Garland’s decision to fearlessly drive the lane as opposed to settling for a long jump shot probably won his team the game. Ramon Galloway hit two more three pointers than Marshall Henderson on five fewer attempts, and the Explorers were able to win despite a big night from Murphy Holloway.
La Salle will once again be severely undersized against Wichita State. The Shockers should be able to find second chance opportunities. But I’m actually going with the lower seeded Explorers to move on to the Elite Eight in this one. La Salle’s four guard lineup has given teams fits. I like how Ramon Galloway leads this team. The Explorers play with a chip on their shoulders that I love. In his interview after hitting the game winner, Tyrone Garland stated “I’m not scared of anyone,” and the same is true of the rest of his teammates. I’m also not sure Wichita State can knock down as many threes as they did against Gonzaga. The Shockers were hitting everything. On the other hand, La Salle’s performances in the Tournament don’t seem like anomalies; they are playing incredibly solid basketball at a sustainable rate. Explorers to the Elite Eight.
Davis’s Take: (Coming Soon)