After defeating Liberty at home on Tuesday night Iona has a quick turnaround for its game against La Salle on Thursday. The Gaels will be traveling to Philadelphia to take on the Explorers who are 6-2. The losses are to Central Connecticut and Bucknell. This will be a tricky one for Iona because of the quick turnaround, but it also potentially marks the beginning of David Laury’s time with the Gaels.
City of Basketball Love does a great job covering everything Philadelphia basketball. I think the site’s owner Josh Verlin must’ve found a way to cram a few extra hours into the day between Law School and running the site. It also helps that he’s got a bunch of writers like Andrew Albert, who was nice enough to answer my questions about La Salle.
Four Key Questions:
1) I knew nothing about La Salle before I clicked on the Explorers’ KenPom page. What’s the most important thing to know? Where can I read more?
AA: There is a lot to know about the Explorers. First of all, they have great guards. Tyreek Duren is one of the best in the A-10 if not the country, and he has two game winning/go ahead baskets this season already. Sam Mills is a glue guy. He might not score as much as a traditional two guard, but he plays the most minutes on the team and barely turns the ball over. Ramon Galloway is an explosive player. He is a good shooter from 3-point range (as they all are), but sometimes he rushes shots and takes bad shots. As of December 15th, La Salle has the services of Tyrone Garland, a Virginia Tech transfer. He is lightning quick, but his impact is still yet to be seen.
2) The offense looks impressive according to KenPom. What makes it tick? Are we looking at a shootout?
AA: They are impressive offensively when they can get things going, especially from beyond the arc. When they are making their three’s, they are hard to stop. Last year they shot over 40% as a team, but this season they haven’t been as effective other than in the Penn State game, which they won by 25. If Galloway and Mills are making their shots, it opens up the lane for Duren (PG) to get inside and create for the forwards Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack. It all depends on that early in the game if it is going to be a shootout. They only scored 66 points in their past two games, an overtime win at Northeastern and a loss at Bucknell.
3) Opponents score a LOT of their points inside the paint against the Explorers. Why is that?
AA: Foul trouble. Plain and simple. Last year, Wright was in foul trouble all the time. He only played about 20 minutes a game because he was in foul trouble, and Zack did not play much. This year, they have been staying out of foul trouble for the most past. But, they are hesitant to step up on guys that get by the guards out front. La Salle’s guards play a pressure defense, so eventually quick guards will get by them and the bigs will have to step up.
4) The A-10 is loaded, but where do you see LaSalle finishing? Can they shake off a loss to Central Connecticut and make the NCAA Tournament?
AA: I see the Explorers finishing around 4th or 5th this season in the A-10. I think they will do fine against most of the league, but the Butlers, Saint Joseph’s, Temples of the world will give them a lot of trouble. Yet, it depends how much impact Tyrone Garland has on the team. If he can be what everyone thinks he can (he scored over 2,000 points in high school), then they will have success. If they make a run to the A-10 championship game at the Barclays Center in March, they have a shot at making the NCAA. They have a lot of learning and growing to do in the meantime.
Three Key Stats:
- Iona’s points in the paint – 65% of opponent points against the Explorers have come on twos. That’s the highest percentage in the country and shows the Explorers’ vulnerability inside of the paint. Of course Iona has scored just 46% of their points inside the arc. In fact, it’s going to be fascinating to see if the Gaels attempt to attack from three, which is how they’ve had success this season, or push the ball inside.
- La Salle’s turnover rate - The thing the Explorers do best on offense is protect the ball. The only thing Iona does passably well on defense is force turnovers. Obviously something is going to have give in that department.
- Bench and pace - Iona wants to play faster than La Salle and the Gaels go much deeper into their bench. Can Iona make this an up-and-down game? It might for Dr. John Giannini to go deeper into his bench than he’d like.
Two Key Players:
- Ramon Galloway, G, La Salle - Plays 80% of the team’s minutes, uses 29% of the possessions while on the court. He’s the guy you have to contain to beat La Salle.
- David Laury, F, Iona - We’ll see how many minutes he plays against the Explorers, but his inside presence could be really helpful.
One Pomeroy Prediction: 81-73 victory for La Salle (75% chance of winning)