First Four preview: Boise State vs. La Salle prediction, TV info
Two unheralded mid-majors will each look to prove to the country that they belong in the NCAA tournament when Boise State and La Salle meet in Wednesday's First Four. The winner will face Kansas State on Friday.
Game time: Wednesday, 9:15 p.m. ET (TruTV)
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Why we're watching: With the majority of its games tipping off past 10 p.m. on the East Coast, Boise State is one of the best-kept secrets in the field. The Broncos have victories over UNLV, San Diego State and Creighton, as well as an overtime defeat to New Mexico and a narrow road loss at Michigan State. Creighton forward Doug McDermott had 21 points in the 83-70 defeat but had to work hard to receive clean looks on the majority of his 11 field-goal attempts. La Salle also enters the field under the radar despite wins against VCU, Butler and Villanova. Both teams have the capability to upset Kansas State in the Round of 64 if the Wildcats look too far ahead to a potential matchup against Wisconsin or Ole Miss. La Salle is making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 1992. The Broncos are making only their second trip to the Big Dance since 1994.
Players to watch: Derrick Marks, the Broncos’ high-octane point guard, has the ability to take over a game. Marks constantly blew by the Bluejays’ defense on dribble drives in late November, finishing with a career-high 35 points. The 6-3, 206-pound sophomore from Chicago surpassed the total earlier month, when he torched Colorado State for 38 on 13-of-18 shooting. He is complemented by Anthony Drmic, a sharpshooter from Australia who is shooting above 45 percent from the field this season. La Salle guards Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland account for more than 62 percent of the Explorers’ scoring. Galloway, the team's versatile floor leader, has team highs in points (17.0), assists (3.8) and steals (2.0) per game.
Key to the game: Boise State coach Leon Rice, a Mark Few disciple, combines an up-tempo, fast-paced offense with a relentless, high-pressured system on defense. The Broncos held Kendall Williams of New Mexico, Anthony Bennett of UNLV and Colton Iverson of Colorado State to under 12 points during Mountain West play. The blueprint on defeating La Salle might have been laid out by Saint Louis on March 9, when the Billikens limited Galloway to 3-of-12 from the floor in a 78-54 win. La Salle, which ranks 49th in Division I in steals per game (8.1), will look to force turnovers on defense and look to take care of the ball on the other end. John Giannini’s team is 21st in the nation in turnover margin (3.2) and 37th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.23).
Prediction: Boise State 74, La Salle 69.
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