In an Atlantic 10 game not featuring Butler and St. Joseph’s, fans at the Dale F. Halton Center on the campus of UNC-Charlotte should see a great game between the 10-3 LaSalle Explorers and the hometown 49ers. There isn’t nearly as much hype surrounding this game as the Butler-St. Joseph’s game, but it will serve as a barometer for both teams to see where they stand in the A-10.
LaSalle was picked seventh in the preseason coaches’ poll after a 21-12 (9-7 A-10) record and a 5th place finish in the conference a year ago. The 49ers aren’t typically a basketball power, as was evident by their 13-17 record (5-11 A-10) but have already put together almost as many wins as a year ago.
LaSalle is led by senior guard Ramon Galloway‘s 17+ points per game. Galloway is in his second season in Philadelphia after transferring from South Carolina for the 2011-12 season. He’s scored in double-figures in every game this season except the opener against Delaware and is clearly the main scoring threat. He’s not the only one, however, as junior guard Tyreek Duren is averaging over 15 per game. Let’s not forget about transfer Tyrone Garland who’s only played six games and is averaging over 14 points per game. LaSalle has a formidable three-headed scoring monster that should keep them in the hunt all season and head coach John Giannini certainly isn’t losing sleep over this.
Nothing Charlotte does jumps off the stat sheet yet they’ve found a way to a 12-2 mark. Their big wins have been over Davidson and Northeastern though calling these wins big is a stretch. Their offense is spread out evenly, with seven players averaging at least five points per game. They’re a scrappy team who gets after it on every possession and is aggressive on the glass, averaging over 39 boards a game.
LaSalle is the road favorite in this one, but if Charlotte wants to stay in it they’ll need to win the battle on the boards and contain Galloway, Duren and/or Garland. If this trio of scorers for the Explorers get open looks all night, it’ll be a blowout win. Charlotte isn’t accustom to playing, let alone winning, big games. And that’s what this is–a big game. For both sides. Charlotte needs to prove their 12-2 start is no fluke while LaSalle is looking to build off a successful 2011-12 campaign where they earned a trip to the NIT (read: make the NCAA Tournament).
Or maybe this is just a battle of pretenders. A team like LaSalle, with three legitimate scoring options, will drive people crazy. Remember, it’s only been six games with Garland in the lineup so the Explorers are still are experimenting with the chemistry of the offense. They’re a team we’ll hear from down the road and is certainly headed in right direction. Charlotte? This game is their measuring stick to see how far they’ve come and/or how far they still need to go in order to be a real contender for the Atlantic 10 Conference championship. And let’s not forget, with the addition of Butler and VCU to the conference, the A-10 just got a little more real.