DAYTON, Ohio – Guard Tyreek Duren walked into his business finance class on Monday, expecting to slide unobtrusively into his usual seat.
Uh-uh. Not a chance.
La Salle received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament on Sunday, a breakthrough for a school that’s been through an entire generation of players and one major scandal since the last time it could celebrate. It was still a big thing on the Philadelphia campus a day later.
“When I walked in class, they gave me a standing ovation,” Duren said. “My teacher was happy. Every class I went to they were saying how excited they were to finally have La Salle back in the tournament.”
The First Four is a place to celebrate those long-awaited breakthroughs. The Explorers (21-9) made it for the first time in 21 years, getting a chance to play Boise State (21-10) in the wrap-up of the First Four tonight.
The Broncos are celebrating their first at-large bid in school history, a sign that their program is getting noticed on its own. Boise State’s five previous NCAA appearances came from automatic bids by winning the Big Sky and Western Athletic Conference tournaments. This one came solely on merit.
While defending champion Kentucky from the Bluegrass state missed out, the small school with the blue fake-grass football field made it.
“It’s a big deal,” guard Derrick Marks said. “It’s the first time in school history that it’s happened. It’s something special we’ve got going on.”
The 21-year gap for La Salle included a very painful interlude. Three players were charged with rape in 2004, and both the men’s and women’s basketball coaches were fired. John Giannini is digging the men’s program out of its scandal and years of losing.
“It’s been a big thing, especially because it’s been so long since we’ve been to the tournament,” Duren said. “As a far as the La Salle community, I think it’s very big for them since they finally get to see La Salle back in the tournament.”
• James Madison ready without Goins: James Madison is making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament in 19 years. Leading scorer and rebounder Rayshawn Goins won’t make his first appearance until the second half tonight.
Goins was suspended by Dukes coach Matt Brady for the first 20 minutes of the First Four game against LIU Brooklyn (20-13). Goins was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing justice – hours before James Madison (20-14) found out who and where it was playing in the NCAA tournament.