Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The La Salle Explorers released their non-conference schedule on Monday, revealing the 13 games they’ll play before kicking off their Atlantic 10 slate.
A matchup with Pat Chambers and the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Palestra on Dec. 5 is one of a few highlights on the schedule, along with a trip to Atlantic Coast Conference’s Miami Hurricanes in January, a Tom Gola Arena visit by the Villanova Wildcats in November and a season-opening chance for revenge against the Delaware Blue Hens.
The Explorers’ non-conference strength of schedule was ranked 272nd in the country last season, according to basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy, but should be much higher this season with games against a number of high-major squads in addition to facing some of the country’s top mid-major programs over the last few seasons.
Bucknell and Iona, which La Salle play in a five-day stretch in December, have each won 25 games in each of the last two seasons. Bucknell made the NCAAs in 2011 and the NIT in 2012, while Iona qualified as an at-large bid for March Madness this season after coming in second in the 2011 CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
The other big mid-major name on the slate is Siena, who made three straight NCAA tournaments from 2008-10 but have struggled in the two seasons since head coach Fran McCaffery left for Iowa following the 2009-10 season.
Penn State has long been a basketball afterthought in the Big 10, but the Nittany Lions could be heading towards a resurgence under Chambers, a second-year head coach who was previously in charge at Boston University. Talented forward Brandon Taylor (Trenton Catholic) joins the team for his freshman season this year, the 6-8 big man with 3-point range should jump right in and contribute alongside Jermaine Marshall and Tim Frazier. Miami has been a much stronger program lately, winning 20 games in each of the past three seasons though they haven’t been to the NCAAs since a 23-win season back in 2007-08.
The season-opening matchup with Delaware has a few interesting storylines, including Khalid Lewis’ transfer from UDel to La Salle in the offseason–though the sophomore point guard won’t be eligible to play as he sits out the year due to NCAA transfer regulations. Instead, the Explorers will have to get their motivation from last season’s 70-66 defeat down in Delaware, La Salle’s only loss in a 12-game span that stretched from Nov. 25 to Jan. 14 last year.
Even with the departure of Lewis, the Blue Hens should still present a difficult matchup for an experienced Explorer team. UDel forwards Jamelle Hagins and Josh Brinkley form a difficult tandem up front while lead guard Devon Saddler is one of the more dangerous scorers in the country; helped out by guards Jarvis Threatt and Kyle Anderson, the Blue Hens are expected to challenge for a CAA title along with Drexel and George Mason.
Also of note is the addition of Ty Garland to the active roster at some point during the non-conference schedule; the Philadelphia native and former Virginia Tech Hokie transferred mid-season last year, making him eligible for the Explorers once La Salle’s first semester ends. According to La Salle’s website, their first semester exams take place from Dec. 11-14, which means he should be eligible for the Dec. 15 matchup against Bucknell.
Once the non-conference slate wraps up, the Explorers will begin their 16-game A-10 schedule, taking on George Washington as their only home-and-home matchup in the league’s first-ever 16-team season. La Salle will travel to Charlotte, Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU and Xavier this season while hosting Butler, Dayton, Duquesne, Fordham, Massachusetts, Richmond and Saint Joseph’s.
Last season, the Explorers went 21-13 (9-7 A-10), losing in the first round of the NIT to Minnesota in the program’s first postseason game (excluding conference tournaments) in over 20 years.
(Last year’s records in parenthesis, all home games at Tom Gola Arena unless otherwise noted; *=Atlantic 10 conference game)
Sat Nov. 10 vs. Delaware (18-14, 12-6 CAA), 3pm
Sun Nov. 18 vs. Central Connecticut (13-16, 10-8 NEC), TBA
Tue Nov. 20 @ Hartford (9-22, 7-9 America East), TBA
Sun Nov. 25 vs. Villanova (13-19, 5-13 Big East), TBA
Thu Nov. 29 @ Rider (13-19, 10-8 MAAC), TBA
Wed Dec. 5 vs. Penn State (12-20, 4-14 Big10), TBA (at the Palestra)
Sat Dec. 8 @ Northeastern (14-17, 9-9 CAA), TBA
Sat Dec. 15 @ Bucknell (25-20, 12-2 Patriot), TBA
Thu Dec. 20 vs. Iona (25-8, 15-3 MAAC), TBA
Sat Dec. 22 vs. Sacred Heart (14-18, 8-10 NEC), TBA
Sat Dec. 29 @ Siena (14-17, 8-10 MAAC), TBA
Wed Jan. 2 @ Miami (20-13, 9-7 ACC), TBA
Sat Jan 5 vs. Penn (20-13, 11-3 Ivy), TBA
*Wed Jan 9 @ Charlotte (13-17, 5-11 A10), TBA
*Sat Jan 12 vs. Richmond (16-16, 7-9 A10), TBA
*Wed Jan 16 vs. Dayton (20-12, 9-7 A10), TBA
*Sat Jan 19 @ Xavier (21-12, 10-6 A10), TBA
*Wed Jan 23 vs. Butler (22-15, 11-7 Horizon), TBA
*Sat Jan 26 @ Virginia Commonwealth (29-7, 15-3 CAA), 8pm
*Wed Jan 30 vs. Massachusetts (22-11, 9-7 A10), TBA
*Sat Feb 2 @ George Washington (10-21, 5-11 A10), TBA
*Sat Feb 9 vs. Fordham (10-19, 3-13 A10) TBA
*Wed Feb 13 @ St. Bonaventure (20-11, 10-6 A10), TBA
*Sat Feb 16 vs St. Joseph’s (20-13, 9-7 A10), 1pm (at the Palestra)
*Thu Feb 21 @ Temple (24-7, 13-3 A10), 7pm
*Sun Feb 24 @ Rhode Island (7-24, 4-12 A10), TBA
*Sat Mar 2 vs. Duquesne (16-15, 7-9 A10), TBA
*Wed Mar 6 vs. George Washington (10-21, 5-11 A10), TBA
*Sat Mar 9 @ St. Louis (25-7, 12-4 A10), 1:30pm