Busting Brackets

La Salle Explorers Basketball Season Preview


The college hoops season is right around the corner, and Busting Brackets is here to whet your basketball-starved appetite. Over the next five weeks, we are publishing season previews team by team, conference by conference, to offer a glimpse into the upcoming season. Busting Brackets is giving you the lowdown on the biggest storylines, offseason changes and x-factors for each team and each league as we roll into the 2012-13 season. Our complete season preview archive can be accessed here. Buckle up, peeps.

  La Salle Explorers

Last Season21-13 (9-7 A-10)
Lost to Saint Louis in quarterfinals of A-10 tournament
Lost to Minnesota in NIT first round
Key Returning Players:Ramon Galloway, G
Tyreek Duren, G
Sam Mills, G
Jerrell Wright, F
D.J. Peterson, G
Key Additions:Tyrone Garland, G (Virginia Tech Transfer, Eligible in Dec.)
Rohan Brown, F (Redshirt Freshman)
Jermaine Davis, C (Garfield Heights HS)
Garvin Hunt, C (UPenn Transfer, hasn’t played in three years)
Key Losses:Earl Pettis, G
Devon White, F (Transferred to Niagra)
Matt Lopez, C (Transferred to Utah State)
Top Non-Conference Games:Nov. 25 @ Villanova
Dec. 5 vs. Penn State (The Palestra)
Dec. 15 @ Bucknell
Dec. 20 vs. Iona
Jan. 2 @ Miami (FL)
Jan. 5 vs. Penn
Top Conference Games:Jan. 23 vs. Butler
Jan. 26 @ VCU
Jan. 30 vs. UMass
Feb. 16 vs. Saint Joseph’s (The Palestra)
Feb. 21 @ Temple
Mar. 9 @ Saint Louis
Breakout Player:Jerrell Wright. The sophomore forward posted a very impressive freshman season in 2011-12, leading the team in rebounding, field goal percentage and points per 40 minutes (19.8). In an expanded role this season—he only averaged 19.8 minutes per game as a freshman—Wright seems poised to burst onto the scene during his second rodeo with the Explorers. The Philly native will unquestionably be La Salle’s most important player next season, thin frontcourt and all. He’ll have the bulk of that frontcourt all to himself with Devon White leaving for Niagra and sophomore center Matt Lopez, initially expected to factor into next season’s center rotation, transferring to Utah State.
X-Factor:Frontcourt Play. There’s no shortage of talent or depth in La Salle’s backcourt heading into the season. Shooting won’t be a problem either. The Explorers shot a blistering 40.4-percent from downtown last season, good for seventh best in the nation. Depth, experience and overall productivity in the frontcourt, however, is of concern, and will ultimately make or break the team’s season. White and Lopez are gone, and La Salle must lean heavily on its star returning freshman to shoulder the loud inside. The Explorers will ask redshirt freshman Rohan Brown, a natural swingman, to give meaningful minutes at the 3 and out of position at the 4 next season to compensate for the lack of front court depth. La Salle may also turn to Penn transfer Garvin Hunt, a once prized big man prospect from the Bahamas who spent the last three years away from basketball, for major contributions. An aspiring architect who quit basketball three years ago to pursue his lifelong dream, Hunt’s play on the court could determine whether the Explorers have a working blueprint in 2012-13.
Best Case:Jerrell Wright emerges as a star in the A-10 after having a second-team all-conference caliber season. The redshirt freshman Brown fills in at the 3 and 4 admirably, offering 15-20 meaningful minutes per game in a hybrid role. Hunt is the architect of the paint for La Salle, reminding fans from afar why he was once a coveted recruit tabbed with untapped potential. Despite the loss of Earl Pettis, the team’s leading scorer last season, the Explorers backcourt remains one of the top in the A-10. With an army of capable guards and a blend of youth and experience, La Salle gets top-flight production out of its backcourt. Virginia Tech transfer Tyrone Garland, who becomes eligible to play in December, is an impact player in this, his junior season. D.J. Petersen continues his hot hand, serving as one of the elite 3-point shooters off the bench in all of college basketball. Tyreek Duran, one of the nation’s underrated point guards, has a breakout junior campaign. The defense, which ranked second in the conference in adjusted defensive efficiency, continues to stifle opposing offenses. Saint Louis cruises to a top-four finish in the A-10, turning heads across the country in pursuit of the school’s first NCAA tournament berth in more than two decades.
Worst Case:The Explorers cannot replicate their shooting barrage from last season and slack on the perimeter. Minus Pettis, the backcourt, tabbed as the strength of the team, disappoints. The overall volume of youth of the roster—experienced youth, mind you—catches up with the team and the Explorers become prone to youthful mistakes. Outside of Galloway and the senior transfer Hunt, who hasn’t played in three years, the Explorers have little experience to turn to in times of adversity. The defense, which was elite last season, cannot match its success in 2011-12. Overcome by his newly expanded role and the pressure of being the go-to guy down low, Wright has a sophomore slump. Hunt leaves the team to design buildings. The talent and upside once evident in his game years ago is untraceable anymore. The Explorers fall into the middle of the pack in the A-10, all the while dropping three of four games to fellow Big Five rivals. Immediate success by newcomers VCU and Butler cast doubt as to whether La Salle is a viable long-term player in the changing league.
Projected Finish:19-10 (10-6 Atlantic-10)
Lose in quarterfinals of A-10 tournament
Firmly on bubble, miss out on NCAA at-large berth