La Salle has to be one of the hardest teams to grade following non-conference play. Spirited performances were often proceeded by lackluster showings, and La Salle is a slippery fish heading into conference play. This team relies on its two stars — B.J. Johnson and Pookie Powell — but when either doesn’t have a good night, the Explorers are at risk of falling. La Salle certainly turned some heads in November and December, so let’s break down exactly how well the Explorers performed in non-conference play.
La Salle certainly had a few. Let’s start with a double-overtime win on the road against Penn. This was a Quakers team that went into Dayton and took down the Flyers. 4 different Explorers reached double figures in this big win. A home win over Temple was undoubtedly La Salle’s best win. The two stars mentioned in the first paragraph combined for 54 points in that game — scary stuff. Finally, a 10 point home win over Mercer was impressive. The Explorers were a 2 or 3 point favorite in that game and put up a whopping 95 points.
As a bonus, I’m throwing in here a loss to Villanova on the road. The Explorers were damn close to taking down the #1 team in the nation and certainly looked like a sleeper in the Atlantic 10 at that moment. Even though La Salle is 1-2 in its last 3 games, you have to like where your team is at if you’re an Explorers fan.
This section was almost blank until the Explorers dropped one at home to Drexel. Honestly, that’s the only thing preventing me from thinking this La Salle team will undoubtedly finish in the top 6 in the A-10 this year. La Salle looked really good throughout non-conference play, but this loss certainly raised eyebrows.
Again, the Explorers followed this loss up with probably the best loss in the A-10 thus far, that Villanova road loss, so hope is not lost. La Salle rebounded nicely and could take advantage of a weak A-10 this year.
Non-Conference Grade: B+
La Salle’s B+ will be the only B+ I’ll give a team that has a losing record heading into league play. The Explorers faced a tough schedule and came out in decent shape. If it hadn’t been for a loss to Drexel, this team would be without a horrible blemish on its record. The Explorers certainly missed out on some opportunities: Bucknell, Towson, Northwestern, and Miami FL all got away from La Salle. That said, you can’t expect the Explorers to win those games, and I think La Salle did a bit better in non-conference play than expected. I’m looking forward to watching Powell and Johnson play in the Atlantic 10 this season; the Explorers could be on the rise.