The Big 5 is back in session tomorrow night when the Villanova Wildcats return to The Pavilion to host the La Salle Explorers. 'Nova is coming off a 106-70 shellacking of Monmouth while La Salle also sports a 1-0 record after a strong win over Lafayette.
Last season, Villanova got all they could handle on the road when a late Maalik Wayns layup was the final push they needed to escape with an 84-81 win. Things won't be any easier this year as La Salle returns many of the key performers from last season, including Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills.
If you're looking for star player Aaric Murray, he's sitting out this season after he announced he was leaving La Salle for West Virginia in the spring. By the way, read through Aaron Bracy's article there - Murray sounded like he couldn't wait to get out of La Salle, a place he thrived averaging over 13 points and 7 rebounds in 2 seasons. Odd to say the least.
Join me after The Jump for more on tomorrow night's game.
In their first game of the season, La Salle took out Lafayette 79-53 behind a strong performance from Tyreek Duren. The sophomore tallied 17 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. Quite the opening night performance and one that is sure to have La Salle supporters excited for this season and subsequent ones as well.
Earl Pettis also put in a strong opening game for the Explorers, as his 7-13 effort from the floor resulted in 16 points. 2 others also scored in double figures, with Taylor Dunn notching 12 and Sam Mills chipping in 10. Jerrell Wright is a strong looking freshman who was limited against Lafayette because of foul trouble.
Ramon Galloway will miss the game after sustaining a concussion in their opener. This is a particularly big loss, as Galloway is considered the best defensive player on the team.
The one thing La Salle lacks is size. They trotted out 4 guards in the starting lineup against Lafayette, with Pettis being the tallest at 6'5". Jerrell Wright was the lone forward, and he stands just 6'8". Devon White provides some height off the bench, but he is also just 6'8" - though he is a very strong player who should have no problem bodying up the Villanova bigs. Steve Zack and Matt Lopez are bigger, but judging by their PT during the first game, they won't feature too often against Villanova.
Maalik Wayns and James Bell will likely split duties trying to slow down Duren, who looks like the go-to guy for La Salle. Bell is without a doubt the best defender on the team, and provides the length and quickness to pose Duren some problems.
For 'Nova, it will be interesting to see how they respond to an opponent who is a load better than Monmouth. La Salle may not be an NCAA tournament team this year, but they've got some solid players and this is a rivalry game that the Philadelphia players take very seriously.
With so many fresh faces, it was good for many players to get their feet wet at home against Monmouth, but this will be a huge step up in competition. While Villanova is the more talented team, most of the La Salle group has been together since last year, which gives them the edge in chemistry, though 'Nova may have more overall talent.
Will Dom be able to light it up again? Will Mouph take advantage of an undersized frontline? What are you looking for when the 'Cats take the floor on Tuesday at 7 p.m.?
Prediction: Villanova wins 79-71
La Salle pojected starting lineup:
G Tyreek Duren
G Sam Mills
G Taylor Dunn
G Earl Pettis
F Jerrell Wright
La Salle Bench:
F Devon White
C Steve Zack
C Matt Lopez
Villanova projected starting lineup:
G Maalik Wayns
G James Bell
C Mouphtaou Yaoru
G Tyrone Johnson
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