By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For the first time since 1992, La Salle will be playing basketball past their conference tournament.
Their season was extended on Sunday with word that the Explorers had earned a berth in the NIT. They will open the tournament up on Wednesday night at Gola Arena against Minnesota out of the Big 10.
Explorers head coach Dr. John Giannini was thrilled with word that they would keep playing.
“We talk about ‘Selection Sunday’ a lot in our program. We just think its a day where the best programs in the country get their names called and I include the NIT in that. There are so many good teams in college basketball, VCU proved that last year. They were one of the last teams in the NCAA Tournament, yet they go to the Final Four and there’s a lot of NCAA Tournament quality teams right here in the NIT. So we are in with good company.”
Minnesota is 19-14. They lost in overtime to Michigan last time out in the quarterfinals of the Big 10 Tournament. Giannini says they are a tough team from a tough conference.
“They are talented. And they are especially just strong and very tough and good defensively and good in terms of rebounding the ball. They have good size. They lost (forward) Trevor Mbakwe early in the year and he was a great player, one of the best players in the Big 10. He tore his ACL or else they were certainly be a high level NCAA tournament team.”
Giannini is happy the Explorers return to tournament play will happen at home.
“It’s a great game to play in Gola Arena. Scheduling is difficult and it’s hard to get Big Ten-type teams to come play you at your place. So it’s just a great opportunity and it should be a great atmosphere.”
La Salle and Minnesota will tip-off at 7:00pm on Wednesday. The winner of this game plays the winner of Miami/Valparaiso.
Listen to KYW’s Matt Leon’s interview with Dr. John Giannini:
Listen to KYW’s Matt Leon’s interview with Kale Beers: