Win the game Friday and that should do it. Get to the championship game and that almost has to do it. Win the championship and remove all doubt.
Unlike some other coaches who are not willing to say they look at the big picture, La Salle coach John Giannini has been forthright. He has been talking about the NCAA with his team all season. And he knows the landscape as we head into the final days before Selection Sunday.
"In the end, it all balances out and it's up to you," Giannini said. "One night, we won and Virginia and Villanova had big wins and we dropped. Then, the next night, we went back up because a lot of people lost. The people that you are on the bubble with, half of them are going to win and half of them are going to lose. It's up you to do your part. That's the lesson."
La Salle, Butler, Temple, Saint Louis and VCU separated from the A-10 pack. As it turned out, La Salle took the worst of the schedule, getting only Butler at home and the other three on the road. Temple, by contrast, had three at home and played at Butler. The Bulldogs also got the worst of, with road games at La Salle and VCU and a home and home with Saint Louis, the best team.
Hopefully, the Selection Committee will know all that so it can evaluate teams even inside the league. In addition to their overall résumé, La Salle has wins over lock NCAA teams Villanova, VCU and Iona. What the committee wants to know, more than anything, is if a team can compete with the type of team it is likely to play in the tournament. La Salle has proven it can do that.
"When you work for something so long and hard, you're going to worry about it," Giannini acknowledged. "I think every team that is on the bubble worries about it. But again, teams have success because they put that in the back of their mind. They focus on their next opponent more than anything else. You know you have to win and survive and give yourself the best chance."
But, if you are a La Salle fan, beyond rooting for your team to win games and secure one of those precious 37 at-large berths, feel free to root against the following teams in their respective conference tournaments - Boise State, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Baylor, Southern Mississippi, Alabama, Iowa and Arizona State. They are among the teams competing for the final at-large spots with La Salle.
Trying to make precise calculations about the at-large pool is difficult because it is a moving target. What La Salle fans do not want is some no-hope team winning a conference that already had locked up multiple bids, exactly like St. Bonaventure last year in the A-10. The Bonnies' title may have kept Drexel out of the tournament.
What will not help La Salle in Brooklyn is that backup big Steve Zack (sprained ligament in his left foot) is not likely to play. He missed the two games last week, a win over George Washington and a loss at Saint Louis. He will be re-evaluated Monday for what everybody at La Salle hopes is an NCAA game later in the week.
The lane points from the two games reflected what Zack's loss meant. The Explorers were outscored in the lane, 100-52, by GW and Saint Louis. La Salle's guards are really good, but those are scary numbers to overcome.
La Salle may be in the tournament at this moment, but you can actually be in and then be out, depending on other results. So, as coaches have been known to say, control what you can control. It won't be easy without Zack, but the games are there to be won. La Salle has enough firepower to win them. Now, it is time to start playing.