KANSAS CITY, Mo. — La Salle just played a difficult game, jumped on a plane at 1:30 Thursday morning and arrived in Kansas City just before 5 a.m.
So what did Explorers coach John Giannini say his team would do for its live practice Thursday at the Sprint Center?
“We’ve already walked through in our hotel lobby what Kansas State is going to do, but there will be no dunking or running around,” he said. “We need to save our energy and emotion for Kansas State. If we take it easy, we won’t be tired.”
The No. 4-seed Wildcats open the NCAA tournament Friday at 2:10 against La Salle, which defeated Boise State on Wednesday night in a first-round play-in game in Dayton, Ohio.
Despite the late travel and the quick turnaround for the 13-seed Explorers (22-9), Giannini said his team wasn’t focusing on the logistics of the trip, but trying to keep in mind the opportunity at hand.
“We feel blessed, we fell like we’re on top of the world,” he said. “We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves at all. We just have to be careful with our energy levels being that no one else had to play. These teams also didn’t have the travel like we did.”
The Explorers are attacking teams with a four-guard set, and one forward in 6-foot-8 Jerrell Wright. La Salle lost center Steve Zack to injury, which forced the Explorers to go with a smaller lineup. It’s seemed to work in their favor.
La Salle knocked down 11 shots from behind the arc Wednesday night to get past Boise State.
Giannini said the challenge in preparing for K-State (27-7) is that the Wildcats are very balanced in everything they do.
“There’s not one particular thing that they’re off-the-charts on,” he said. “They’re not the best 3-point shooting team. They’re not the biggest team and they’re not the best defensive team you’ve ever seen. But they’re good at everything. I think they’re veteran, strong, battle-tested.”
No player might be more familiar with the Wildcats than guard Tyrone Garland, who played against K-State his freshman season at Virginia Tech. He said he learned enough in that game to know what to expect.
“I just know they’re a very tough team and they’re going to try to bully you on offense and defense,” he said. “We have to come in and be ready for that. I think we will.”