La Salle soaks up NCAA tournament excitement

The Explorers, practicing at Dayton Arena, are guarding against the distraction of being at the dance.
The Explorers, practicing at Dayton Arena, are guarding against the distraction of being at the dance. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: March 21, 2013

DAYTON, Ohio - The game may be played the same as others, but things are clearly different as La Salle prepares for Wednesday's 9:10 p.m. NCAA tournament first-round game against Boise State at the University of Dayton Arena.

During the season, La Salle didn't conduct public practices before big games. Nor did coach John Giannini or the players do a pregame news conference a day before a game.

But that's all part of being in the NCAA tournament. And despite all the congratulatory wishes the team received in Philadelphia since earning its first bid since 1992, it is different now that the Explorers are here.

"It's more exciting now that you are here," point guard Tyreek Duren said before La Salle's public practice at the arena. "Back at school you knew you were in the tournament. But now you really know we are here, and it definitely makes it a much bigger feeling."

And that comes from a player who said he received a standing ovation in several classes.

So while it has been an extremely big deal at La Salle, the players realized the true magnitude while at the arena, seeing the NCAA signs, the TV cameras and reporters from all over the country.

Giannini labeled it exciting but also distracting.

"There is 20 times the media attention you wouldn't have even at a big A-10 game," Giannini said before putting his team through its public workout. "It takes away from preparation time. But the excitement is also there, so [you have] the good and challenging parts of it."

One player who is unflappable is junior guard Tyrone Garland, who has averaged 12.9 points off the bench. Garland has the type of personality and game to instantly ignite an offense.

Even Garland was taken aback by all the attention paid to La Salle in Dayton.

"I am really surprised. I didn't know when we walked in we would see a lot of cameras and people," he said. "I thought we would just walk in and practice."

So the task for La Salle (21-9) is to keep its emotions in check and concentrate on the task at hand. This is all so new to the Explorers.

Boise State (21-10) last appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2008, but none of the current players has experienced March Madness.

Both teams play similar styles, frequently employing four guards and thriving in transition. The difference in this game may be how each team handles its frazzled nerves.

As La Salle saw first-hand the day before its first NCAA game in more than two decades, this is a big deal.

John Giannini and the La Salle players take in the tourney environment.

On the Web:

Twitter: @sjnard


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