The big story coming into this season was the additions of Butler and VCU to the Atlantic 10 conference. Jumping out to hot starts that earned the two national rankings – Butler at No.9, VCU No.19 — the new kids on the block proved quite worthy of the attention.
This weekend the La Salle Explorers took that attention and used it to their benefit.
The Explorers pulled off wins against the two ranked A-10 newbies, first in a home win — although not an official upset, La Salle was favored to win the game — against Butler as Ramon Galloway drove the distance of the court for the game winner with just three seconds to play, followed by a road upset of double-digit favorite VCU, a game Galloway dominated from start to finish, posting a career high 31 points in the 69-61 victory.
But don’t call it an upset, at least not to the players and coaches in the blue and gold.
“We don’t want to be known as the new people on the block”, La Salle guard Tyreek Duran told media after the VCU win. “This isn’t an upset, this is a win for us.”
“We had a lot of succes last year”, Explores head coach Dr. John Giannini added after the VCU win.
The Explorers went 9-7 in conference last season before taking their 21 wins to the first round of the NIT where they fell to Minnesota in the first round.
La Salle lost starter Earl Pettis, but returned the bulk of an experienced team this season, yet were picked to finish seventh in the A-10, one spot behind Butler and four behind the VCU team they just upset in Richmond.
“Listen, we won 21 games last year…in the Atlantic 10”, Giannini said.
“Rankings are perception…VCU is a great team, Butler’s a great team, but so is St. Louis, so is Temple, so is St. Joe’s…so is Dayton, so is Richmond…If you’re new to this league, they’re all good, just so you know”.
And just so YOU know, La Salle is darn good as well.
Of their remaining ten conference games, six are against teams who are either sub .500 on the season, or one game above — the Explorers play George Washington (10-9) twice.
Two of the remaining four are either home or neutral games, the first coming this Wednseday against UMass in Philly, the second a neutral site battle against St. Joseph’s at the storied Pelestra.
The Explorers have a long road ahead, but clearly possess the talent to discover some new territory come March: an Atlantic 10 title.