Explorers itching to finally return to the Big Dance

La Salle lost in the first round of last season’s NIT to an upstart Minnesota program. But the Explorers were winners just by making it that far.

It was the first time that La Salle reached the postseason since 1991-92, when it was eliminated in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

La Salle wound up 21-13 last season. It was only the fourth winning record in the past 20 years at 20th and Olney. With much of the core group returning, there are many reasons to be optimistic.

“I think the strength of our team is that we have a group of guards as good as any team in the country,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “You could argue that there are kids better here or there, but nobody has a better group.”

The backcourt is expected to be very strong with Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills. Don’t forget about Ty Garland, who transferred from Virginia Tech and will be eligible after the fall semester.

Galloway developed into a true leader and averaged 14.1 points per game. La Salle also features forward Jerrell Wright and ever-improving big man Steve Zack.

If the Explorers can get some early-season confidence (like their 73-66 win opening win over Delaware) with this deep group, good things could be waiting in March. The ideal goal would be a trip back to the NCAAs.

Players to watch

G Ramon Galloway, 6-foot-3

Our take: Shot 44 percent from beyond arc last year. He also made big shots at key times, the mark of a leader and a clutch player.

G Tyreek Duren, 6-foot

Our take: Averaged 13.2 points, 4.0 assists a season ago and got better every day. He could be ready for a breakout season.

G Ty Garland, 6-foot-1

Our take: Garland is third in Philadelphia Public League history with 2,198 career points. He can clearly score, but can he fit in right away?

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