In the preview for St. Mary's against Middle Tennessee State, I covered how I feel about the First Four, so in this case let's just get right to it.
Boise State (13) vs La Salle (13)
The St. Mary's v MTSU featured two teams who were under-seeded, and this one features two that are just about right. Boise State is No. 49 at kenpom.com, and La Salle is No. 57.
How they got here: Boise State had a great start and at one point were 6-1 with a win over Creighton and their only loss to Michigan State. Then things began to go sideways. They lost at Utah and then launched into Mountain West play 4-6. Down the stretch, though, they were great, going 5-1 with wins against Colorado State and San Diego State. The conference tourney was one-and-done, however, which left them sweating out the bubble. La Salle had a more consistent season, never going too high, and never sinking too low. They mixed in a late 7-1 streak in the A-10 before back-to-back losses against St. Louis and Butler.
Statistical footprint: These are two really well matched teams. Boise State has the No. 30 offense in the nation (adjusted offensive efficiency) while La Salle is at No. 43. Boise State's defense is 83rd and La Salle's is 86th.
That's not all. Even if you drill down, the similarities keep popping up. Boise State scores 31.7% of their points from beyond the arc (60th) and La Salle scores 31.5% (64th). Boise State is the 23rd best FT shooting team in the nation, and La Salle is the 40th best.
So where do they differ? The primary defense is that La Salle doesn't put anyone on the line. They are 29th in the country at limiting free throw attempts. Boise State is 307th. That's not huge, but it is something to keep an eye on.
Famous alumni: Joe "Jellybean" Bryant – Kobe's dad – played for La Salle. Porn star Tera Patrick has a biology degree from Boise State.
Boise State players to watch:
Anthony Drmic, 6-6 sophomore
Matthew Dellavedova from the other First Four game isn't the only Boomer in Dayton. Drmic was invited to try out for the Australian Olympic team as well, but underwent an appendectomy and missed his chance. He bounced back to become a 2nd Team All Conference player and led the team at 17.3 points per game. He can stretch the defense and takes half his shots from beyond the arc, making 39%. He also makes 52% of his 2s.
Derrick Marks, 6-3 sophomore
Marks, a Chicago native, joined Drmic on the All Conference 2nd Team. He had the 3rd best assist rate in the conference, though he can get a little careless at times. He doesn't take many 3s, but makes 42% of his attempts, and instead relies on slashing and getting to the line. He drew 6.1 fouls per 40, good for 3rd in the MWC, and makes 84% of his free throws.
La Salle players to watch:
Ramon Galloway, 6-3 senior
The Explorers have a deep back court, and are led by Galloway who can be an explosive scorer. He was named 1st Team All Conference after averaging 17.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 3.8 apg. He was only held to single digits in five games, though two of those were the last two of the season. The South Carolina transfer needs to get back in the groove if La Salle is to advance. In the previous two games he averaged 26 points and made 7-14 3s. Galloway also forces a steal on 3.6% of opponent possessions, which was 6th in the A10.
Tyreek Duren, 6-0 junior
Durden, a local Philly kid, has spent three years learning how to control his turnover issues, and in that time he's gone from very prone to pretty steady. This allows him to play to his strength, which is scoring the basketball. He makes 40% of his 3s, 50% of his 2s, and was named 2nd Team All Conference after scoring 15.0 points per game.
The verdict: Pomeroy and Vegas both have the Broncos as a 1-pt favorite, but I'm going the other way and taking La Salle. The guard play for the Explorers will give Boise State all they can handle, and it is awfully rare for Galloway to have three bad games in a row.