NCAA La Salle Basketball

Geography aside, La Salle understands challenge Wichita State presents (VIDEO)

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Tournament play usually results in teams unfamiliar with each other having to figure out over a couple of days how to defeat an opponent they have little (or no) knowledge of before studying game film.

That’s certainly the case for West Region 13-seed La Salle, which will play in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1955 when they take on 9-seed Wichita State tonight in Los Angeles.

Where is Wichita State located? During the team’s media availability period on Wednesday s couple of Dr. John Giannini’s players seemed to have a tough time answering the question.

Ramon Galloway: “No, I don’t know.”

Tyrone Garland: “No, I never been to Wichita … I saw a store down here called Which Which.”

Galloway: “That’s a sandwich place.”

Garland, smiling: “Oh.”

This isn’t an occurrence that should be seen as disrespectful; when it comes to pre-game preparation where the opposing school is located doesn’t rank as high on the list of priorities as figuring out their personnel and how to attack them.

And that’s the key for the Explorers, who received an important boost in the form of 6-11 center Steve Zack being cleared to play. Zack has missed the last six games due to sprained ligaments in his left foot, and his return gives La Sale some much-needed size to go along with forward Jerrell Wright.

Wichita State, which boasts front court players Ron Baker, Cleanthony Early, Carl Hall and Ehimen Orukpe, ranks among the best offensive rebounding teams in the country as they manage to rebound nearly 38% of their missed shots.

La Salle managed to beat Kansas State and Ole Miss in Kansas City last weekend despite both the Wildcats (40.5% offensive rebounding percentage) and Rebels (46.2%) doing a good job on the offensive glass.

The return of Zack (6.4 rebounds per game) will help matters, but if the Explorers are to advance to the Elite 8 all players in their rotation will need to chip in on the defensive glass.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”