La Salle sneaks in as 13 seed, faces Boise St. in Dayton Wednesday

Posted: March 18, 2013

Fittingly, things went down to the wire for La Salle on Selection Sunday. The tension was more than any Atlantic Ten game.

Finally, with the CBS NCAA tournament selection show announcing the final teams in the final region, La Salle heard its name called for the first time in 21 years. The Explorers (21-9) will compete in a first-round game Wednesday at 9:10 p.m. in Dayton against Boise State (21-10) for the right to earn the No. 13 seed.

The winner meets No. 4-seeded Kansas State (27-7) on Friday in Kansas City in a West Regional matchup.

The Explorers are dancing in March, going to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1992.

And naturally the players and coaches, who were watching the show with the media in a room inside Tom Gola Arena, exploded when they saw their name on television listed in the bracket.

"It was such a relief," said point guard Tyreek Duren, who averages 15 points per game. "I saw all the cameras and started sweating and got the biggest headache of my life - that is how nervous I was, because I didn't know if they would call our name."

Mike Bobinski, the AD at Xavier and the chair of the Division I men's basketball committee, had high praise for La Salle.

"What we liked about La Salle is they won four games against the tournament, were 8-6 on the road, had a nice win against VCU, beat Butler and Villanova and have done some nice things during the course of the year," Bobinski said on Sunday night during a conference call with reporters. "They had six top 100 wins and a pretty good performance."

Bobinski said he was impressed with the makeup of the team.

"They are a veteran team with strong guard play and they will be a legitimate team," he said. "Their win at VCU was really big, a Top 25 road win, something a lot of teams don't have."

La Salle had lost its final two games by a combined 35 points, including Friday's 69-58 defeat to Butler in an A-10 quarterfinal at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

At that point a lot needed to go the Explorers' way.

With fellow bubble teams such as Maryland, Alabama, Southern Mississippi and Massachusetts losing in conference tournaments on Saturday, it opened the door for La Salle. None of those four made the tournament.

The Explorers were the second-to-last team to earn a bid, with Middle Tennessee State earning the final spot.

"We have had so much pressure trying to make the tournament that I think we can go out and play," said La Salle coach John Giannini, in his ninth season at the school.

Giannini emphasized that the team won't be complacent.

"By no means are we just happy to be there," he said. "Our kids work too hard and are too competitive to have a mentality like that."

Boise State finished 21-10 and was tied for fourth in the Mountain West Conference with a 9-7 record. The Broncos are making their sixth NCAA appearance. They lost to San Diego State, 73-67, in the first round of the Mountain West tournament.

"La Salle comes from a terrific basketball league," said Boise State coach Leon Rice in an e-mail. "We know they're well-coached and they've had some great wins this year. As expected, we're going to have to play a really good basketball team."

While the players have to quickly move on and attend to the business of trying to win a game, hearing La Salle announced will always be a special memory.

"Throughout the entire show I was biting my teeth - and as soon as they called our name, I was so hyped and know as a team how hard we worked," said guard Sam Mills, among the team's defensive standouts. "It showed that all the hard work paid off and it was a great feeling,"


Contact Marc Narducci at  mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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