La Salle coach John Giannini has always said that any team can beat another in the Atlantic Ten.

"For some reason, people don't want to believe me when I say this, but every game in our league is a 50-50 game," Giannini said. "Everyone has good players, good coaches. Sure, some teams have won more games than others, but there are no sure wins or losses in this league, ever."

The ninth-seeded Explorers (16-15, 8-10) will have the opportunity to begin proving their coach's theory Thursday at noon at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn when they open play in the A-10 tournament against No. 8 seed UMass (17-14, 10-8).

The top eight teams in the conference finished within four games of one another. The Explorers finished the regular season with a victory over No. 2 seed Dayton, the fifth team among the conference's top five that the Explorers have beaten.

However, after a good stretch late in the season the Explorers lost four in a row and five of their last six before beating Dayton, 55-53, on Saturday.

The Minutemen won both of their meetings with La Salle this season, defeating the Explorers by 71-65 at Tom Gola Arena and by 66-59 in Amherst.

The Explorers' leading scorer is Jordan Price (17.3 ppg.), who scored 30 points when they fell at UMass on Feb. 8.

Like La Salle, the Minutemen struggled down the stretch. George Washington beat them by 22 in the regular-season finale, and they lost five of their final six games by an average of 11.6 points. Maxie Esho leads UMass in scoring at 11.5 points per game.

"There's an opportunity here for us," Giannini said. "We've felt that way mentally all season long."

jmitchell@philly.com

@JmitchInquirer