Poor John Giannini.
Since La Salle’s amazing sweet 16 run, which included winning 3 games in 5 days in 2 cities, the program has struggled. What should have been a foundation for future success, has become a positive blip, in a graph that is headed the wrong way. It is not surprising, given they are an underfunded program in a city full of excellent division one hoops programs. La Salle struggles to get first dibs. Given a choice, they are not winning many recruiting battles, even within the city.
It appeared that La Salle was on the rise last year. They got off to an excellent start, then disaster struck when point guard Pookie Powell got hurt and both he and the team were lost for the year. So with Pookie back along with three other starters from last years team, there was hope that 2017 could be the Explorer’s return to relevance in the very tough Atlantic 10. Thus far, that does not appear to be in the cards.
They began the season with a blowout win over an inexperienced St Peter’s bunch, were fortunate to get by UPenn in a riveting big 5 battle and then ran out to a big lead versus Southern Alabama and coasted home. They arrived at the beautiful Mohegan Sun Casino for the Hall of Fame Tip Off Tournament with a record of 3-0. After being blown out by both Northwestern and somehow, Boston College, the hopes of an upper tier Atlantic 10 finish, seemed rather bleak.
However, this is college basketball and the Explorers followed that debacle by giving top 10 Miami (FL) a tough test and then beating NCAA bound Temple in yet another terrific Big 5 game. Then they went on to Belfast, Maine.
La Salle went to Belfast Northern Ireland to play a couple of basketball games.
Honestly, is the NCAA serious? What the fuck are four college basketball teams doing in Northern Ireland, a week before final exams? Actually, why would they ever be there?
Do they want to market the brand to potential new fans? Is there a Division I hoops team nearby and if so, are they looking to join the WAC? The NCAA purports to care about the student athlete, when in fact all that matters is the almighty dollar. I am sick of games on boats, games in Cancun, in China and on and on. I am sick of the hypocrisy, where they can rule that Oakland University’s, Jaylen Hayes be suspended for 4 games for reasons that are entirely false, while North Carolina, who gets caught red handed having their athletes take phony courses, gets off with no sanctions.
If anyone cares, La Salle is now 1 and 1 in overseas games.
Will they go 3 and 0 in city games? I guess the answer is, not tonight. Drexel does not seem to count, when it comes to city standings. Not sure why. I am also not sure why they even talk of the Big 5 any more. Rollie Massimino threw that tradition away years ago when he felt his program was far too important to continue with a Philly tradition.
In some ways, though, Rollie was ahead of his time. No one gives a shit about rivalries or traditions or what the game was built upon. Look at the CAA. ODU and VCU has no juice anymore and most students from the oldest CAA rivalry, Drexel and Delaware, couldn’t name a single player on the opposing schools team. It’s where the NCAA cash grab has taken us, and it is causing a total collapse of interest in the mid major level. Of course, the Big 5 games should all be played at The Palestra! Of course it should be the big 6! Last time I checked Drexel was a division one school that happens to be in Philadelphia. Rollie knew that if there was money at the end of the season one can not risk those NCAA tournament dollars by sacrificing a home game just to stick with some stupid, long standing tradition, that all would agree is good for the game and good for the city. Rollie was prescient. He knew that money trumped all, before the rest of the athletic directors followed suit.
He won, but college basketball in the city of Philadelphia lost. Maybe college basketball nationally is now losing.
Getting back to tonight, Drexel does indeed go crosstown to play Lasalle. If La Salle watched film on Drexel, instead of the scheduled in flight movie, they will land utterly confused. They will watch a beat up Drexel bunch, fresh off a blow out loss to NJIT and miracle win over a weak Lafayette team have little trouble with red hot Rider. More film will show Drexel beating a Houston University team that just slaughtered Arkansas.
If the Explorers are not jet lagged or confused by the erratic nature of their opponent, they will find that Drexel could not handle either zone that Fran O’Hanlon threw their way. They will also notice that Rider failed to use much zone. I am sure Giannini will take note. Drexel should expect to see zone. I am also sure that he will put heat on Sophomore point guard Kurk Lee, who has been as up and down as his team’s results. One thing La Salle can do is defend. They were tied at 19 all at the half vs top 10 Miami. Drexel has had their moments thus far. If they ever get healthy, I am sure there are many more to come. However, tonight is not one of them. La Salle did not play well while on their glorified vacations. They should be very focused tonight. Drexel does not run great offense and La Salle does play great defense. Still, it is with much trepidation that I give you:
Lasalle 76 Drexel 59