Just wanted to update this with my thoughts on Lafayette, after seeing them in their opener …
Leopards started off very slow, and trailed for first 10 minutes, then made a run, teams were tight at half, then Leopards made early 2nd half run and led most of 2nd half. Nova turned it on a bit in last 4 minutes, and ran away with a win, although game much tighter than final score.
When considering Lafayette, my biggest issue was who is going to replace Tony Johnson and play the PG position, as Johnson was so effective the last couple of seasons. Well, that question was answered quickly, as Lafayette starts a freshman PG, Nick Lindner, out of Doylestown. The kid is a real quality player. Solid, not spectacular, but does the things you want a PG to do. Great handle, good defender, solid penetrator and can dish the ball. Not a tremendous outside shooter, but a solid FT shooter. He is a really nice addition to Lafayette, and he runs the point well. So, he fills the big need. He totally outplayed Ryan Arcidiacono, who was a heralded freshman for Nova last year, all night.
The rest of the lineup remains basically the same. You have Trist in the center, who is a solid player, tough around the rim. He was limited by foul trouble in the Nova game. Then you have their shooters, Seth Hinrichs, Bryce Scott, and Joey Ptasinski (off the bench). This 5 is going to get the bulk of the minutes all season for Leopards, and it is a good group. One thing I will say about Lafayette is they are not athletic at all. In fact, very unathletic as a group, but very solid, nothing fancy. Hinrichs, Scott and Ptasinski all can catch and shoot. Ptasinski has excellent range, and was their best player against Nova. He hit a lot of big shots, with hands in his face. He got injured mid way through 2nd half (took at hard foul inside) and was never the same down the stretch. As he cooled off, so did Leopards. Nobody on this squad is going to beat you off the dribble, but they can shoot it, from midrange and from deep. Their bench is soft, and nobody who comes off, and their 5th started Flannigan (if I recall) are much of a threat. All role players.
Fran O’Hanlon, we know, is an excellent X’s and O’s guy. It was a homecoming for him as he played at Nova, and he had the home team and crowd quite worried for 37 minutes in this one. He played about a 50/50 mix of man and zone. They ran a base 2-3 zone, which Villanova struggled against. This is not a vintage Villanova squad, and they struggled offensively all night. Lafayette gave up some uncontested 3’s, but Villanova couldn’t knock much down. Outside of James Bell, who shot it well, not much fell from the outside for Nova. JayVaughn Pinkston, who at 6’7″ is an excellent post presence for Nova, really turned it on down the stretch and Lafayette could not handle him at all inside. He is quick and athletic and tenacious, and he had a big night for Nova inside. Outside of Trist, Leopards are very soft inside. O’Hanlon did a nice job of mixing defenses, and frustrated Villanova most of the night.
So, overall, I would say Lafayette is a quality PL team. Strengths would be they are a solid team, who can shoot the ball well from many spots. Weaknesses are no premium athletes and an overall unathletic team, have to work hard for every look, and are not deep off of the bench. Coaching is a big plus. Can they win the PL? I would say no. This team will live and die from the perimeter, and it is hard to be consistent night in and night out that way. Trist is the key for me, can be be a consistent post presence and score easy baskets. Also can Hinrichs get some inside points, or will he rely on the jumper. Ptasinski is going to be one of most improved players in league, and Lindner will be one of the best newcomers. He is going to get 25-30 minutes a night for them. I think they are top half of PL for sure, maybe top 3. They look to make their run next season, when everybody is back again.
Final note, I did not remember to look out for Lehigh offer Monty Boykins. Not sure if still injured, but I don’t believe he played, and I didn’t see him on bench, but I wasn’t really looking for him, so he could have been there. If I recall, he had an injury last season, and maybe he is still out. No other Leopard freshman look to make impact from what I saw.