La Salle’s a team that made a significant stride last year, quietly. Going from 14th to 8th in league was a big deal for the Explorers. Also, let’s not forget that Giannini’s club started 5-1 in A-10 play, and that included a road win over Rhode Island. Is it possible that La Salle could be better this season? We’ll just have to see.
1. It’s B.J. Johnson, Pookie Powell, and who else?
When Matt Norlander ranked all 351 college basketball teams, he summed up La Salle pretty briefly. Most people know that it’s B.J. Johnson, Pookie Powell, and a lot of question marks. So who’s going to step up and make large jumps after the departures of Jordan Price, Cleon Roberts, and Demetrius Henry?
I think Amar Stukes is a prime candidate to have a big year for the Explorers. He went for 22 points on the road against Rhode Island last season, which was no joke. I’d also look to center Tony Washington to have an improved year in the post, and sophomores Isiah Deas and Saul Phiri shouldn’t be slept on either. My ultimate sleeper pick is freshman Jamir Moultrie who comes in as nearly a 4 star recruit according to 247 Sports.
2. Can La Salle handle a difficult non-conference schedule?
If we’re being honest, the Explorers aren’t exactly known historically for a beefy non-conference schedule. This year should be different. In addition to usual powerhouses like Villanova on the schedule, the Explorers add Miami (FL), Temple, Northwestern, and Boston College/Texas Tech. None of those games will be easy, and when conference play rolls around, it’s a sure thing that La Salle will have been adequately tested.
But can La Salle remain above .500 in the non-conference portion of its season? Kenpom projects the Explorers to go 5-6 in the listed games. This does not include TBD games against either Boston College or Texas Tech and Manhattan or Holy Cross. Winning games at home is going to be crucial. Notably, Drexel, Mercer, and Temple will all provide sufficient challenges, and if the Explorers want to get some momentum heading into league play, they’re going to have to defend home court. Also, look for a road games against Bucknell to be a very tricky challenge for this bunch.
3. Can La Salle’s backcourt compete with a guard-heavy Atlantic 10?
From Rhode Island to St. Bonaventure to Saint Joseph’s and further, the Atlantic 10 has a vicious group of guards. The question for La Salle is: can its backcourt compete? The Explorers certainly do not lack talent or depth at the 1 and 2. Amar Stukes is my sleeper pick to be La Salle’s 3rd best player, while I believe Jamir Moultrie will more than have earned a position in the starting lineup by the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Pookie Powell comes in as one of the most underrated players in the league, and he’ll have a chip on his shoulder with all of the preseason buzz surrounding E.C. Matthews and Jaylen Adams. Bottom line: I think the Explorers have one of the better backcourts in the league, even though no one’s talking about it. I think the Explorers can keep up, and like last year, they should give teams like Rhode Island a run for their money.