It didn't take long for La Salle coach John Giannini to come up with a good comparison for Boise State, the Explorers' first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament.
His own squad.
"It's shockingly similar," said Giannini, in his ninth season at the Philadelphia school. "It's stunning how similar it is. It truly, truly is."
The Explorers (21-9, 11-5 in theAtlantic 10) employ the same fourguard, one-big man lineup as the Broncos.
They have four players averaging between 17.0 and 12.9 points per game, a scoring balance that mimics Boise State's scoring with five players between 17.3 and 8.1 points per game.
They play in a conference, that while often called mid-major, is anything but. Both the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West are sending five teams to the NCAA Tournament.
And, like the Broncos, the Explorers had to sweat out Selection Sunday after losing in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament. La Salle lost its final two games, including a 69-58 loss to Butler in the A-10 tournament.
"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."
Now both teams face an extremely quick turnaround before Wednesday's game.
"I don't know how both of us are going to prepare," Giannini said.
The Explorers have a richer tournament history than Boise State. La Salle, making its 12th appearance, reached back-to-back Final Fours in 1954 and 1955, and won a national title in 1954. The Explorers made the field four times in five seasons from 1989 to 1992, but have not been back since.
But Giannini, who earned a doctorate in kinesiology with a specialization in sports psychology from Illinois, has been rebuilding the program slowly, including 21 wins and an appearance in the NIT last season.
Now the Explorers are back in the NCAA Tournament, and like Boise State, want to keep playing a little longer. "We had so much pressure trying to make the tournament that I think we can go out and play," Giannini said. "By no means are we just happy to be there."
LA SALLE NOTEBOOK
The Explorers have played the last two games without 6-foot-11 center Steve Zack, who suffered a sprained ligament in his left foot March 2. Zack is averaging 6.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He will be examined by doctors again Monday. ... The Explorers were the second-to-last team to earn a bid in the 68-team field, with Middle Tennessee State earning the final spot. "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.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444