October 30, 2014 at 5:09 pm #16346
Since we are only about 2 weeks from our first tip off of the season, I figure it is never too early to start discussing the opener. Let me preface my comments by noting that I am a season ticket holder to Villanova, but purely by default. It is a way for a Philly area resident, like myself, to see quality college basketball on a game to game basis. I am usually rooting against Nova, but I have a lot of respect for the program, its tradition, and Jay Wright. I see about 10 Nova home games a year, and probably 5-10 Lehigh games I really dislike college hoops in the Wells Fargo, so I usually limit myself to the Nova on campus games at the Pavilion, which has a much better college atmosphere, small venue, with a lot of students. Here are my thoughts on this game:
First off, Villanova is pretty darn solid. Coming off a 29-5 season, and 16-2 in the Big East. Big East was down last year, but Villanova was clearly the class of the conference. I think if they had not run into a hot UConn team in the tourney (recall they lost as a #2 seed to #7 seed and eventual champ UConn in second round game by 12), they could have been a factor in the NCAA Tournament last year (a Sweet 16 or Elite 8, no further). They are the clear favorites to win the Big East again this year. However, I do like the matchup for Lehigh for a number of reasons. I did see Nova play in the Pavilion last year early on vs. Lafayette, and they really struggled, with the Leopards down under 5 with about 4 minutes to go, in a really tight game. So, an upset here is possible. In my opinion, Villanova was a really soft Top 10 team last year, winning games against a really weak conference. If you recall, everybody in Big East was down Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette, Butler, Xavier, St. John’s, Georgetown DePaul were all down, and only Creighton played well with McDermott. Big East not great again this year, so Nova may again have a pumped up record. They aren’t known to challenge themselves out of conference, although they get tough games from the other Big 5 traditional rivals. Nova did have a couple of big OOC wins last year early beating Kansas and Iowa. Creighton blew them out twice and Syracuse killed them in the Dome.
Villanova lost its best player from last season in James Bell, their leading scorer, and the guy who always hit a big bucket for them, usually a 3, when they needed it. But, they return 4/5th of their starting lineup in PG Ryan Arcidiacono, wing Darrun Hilliard, and bigs JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu. Their 5th starter would look to be Josh Hart, who was solid off the bench last year. Nova brought in 2 Top 100 freshmen, but neither look to be immediate starters. On last years squad, you had a 3 pronged attack with Bell, Hilliard and Pinkston all averaging just under 15, Archidiacono 10, and Hart around 8 off bench. Ochefu not a big scorer, he is more of a 6/6 type guy. Hilliard and Pinkston are 1st team Big East in preseason.
Starting in the backcourt, with PG, Arcidiacono is a solid PG, nothing spectacular. He’s a pass first, run the team type of guy, who is very streaky with his jump shot. I have seen him go off from 3 when hot (score high 20’s or 30’s), but other games where he is an 0-8 non-factor. You have to respect him from distance, as he has a solid stroke. You cannot let him get off, so Lehigh is going to really need to guard the perimeter well, as Villanova is a good deep shooting team. It looks to be a tough matchup for Lehigh, particularly if an inexperienced KR is at the point. But, I think CS if he guards Arcidiacono can limit him. I saw Lindner from Lafayette play him even early in Lindner’s collegiate career. Arch is not going to blow by anybody with penetration, so basically is a one dimensional shooter.
Moving to the wing, Lehigh will get a tough test in the way of 6’6″ local product, Darrun Hilliard (Bethlehem Liberty), who is a really nice all around player. Good shooter from midrange and deep, and can put it on the deck and attack the rim. He averaged just under Bell last year at about 14 ppg. Again, Lehigh going to have to defend well on the perimeter to limit Hilliard’s open looks. If he or Arch goes off from 3, it is game over for Lehigh. This is going to be a tough cover for Lehigh, as he is too big for CS and AP, and too quick as well. Not sure who is going to guard him, but could be a long night. You are going to need somebody with a bit of length and quickness to guard him.
Moving to the frontcourt is why I give Lehigh a chance in this game. Unlike teams we have played in the past (OOC powers like Pitt, Baylor, etc), Nova is not big inside. Ochefu is 6’11” but thinner, not very tough, not much of an offensive game, and not a banger/rebounder. I think TK can handle him on the block, and Ochefu does not have a polished post game. He scores off of hustle on offensive glass and open layups where penetrators find him alone on the weak side. I like Lehigh’s matchup here, and think TK can get the better of it. Moving to the other forward spots, Nova features an undersized 4 in JayVaughn Pinkston, he is only about 6’5″ (listed 6’7″, but only in program) but super quick, big body and super skilled in the post. Guy can flat out score the ball in the post. Love his game, but he is undersized, but gets away with it due to his work rate inside. Think Charles Barkley. He also can shoot it a bit from outside, but his strength is in the paint. This looks to be the matchup for JC. Chuku will have length on him, and fairly equal strength, but he is going to have to really work to keep a body on Pinkston all night. Josh Hart, another 6’5″ guy, at the other wing spot, is a solid young player, solid shooter/slasher, but probably the 4th or 5th option. I don’t see him going off for a big game, but he is a capable scorer at times. He was All Rookie Big East last season, and versatile. He can play and guard multiple spots.
Why do I think Lehigh has a chance in this game? Villanova is not your typical power conference team who can throw 6 bigs at you. They are small, undersized major conference team. That gives me hope that Lehigh can hold their own on the defensive board, and not get eaten up like against larger past opponents. Key to beating Villanova is contesting all of their jump shots. Villanova is really a live by the jumper, die by the jumper type of team. They can get out a run a little bit, but are not crazy athletic where they will run Lehigh out of the gym.
If I was Reed, I would probably start these 5, and guard these guys:
KR – Arcidiacono (limit 3 balls, try to pressure ball as his handle is not the best)
CS – Hart (Corey going to struggle with his quickness)
TK – Ochefu (If you get him in foul trouble, Nova gets really small, like Patriot League sized)
JC – Pinkston (going to be a tough night on defensive end for Jesse, but hopefully he can match his output on the other end. I don’t think Pinkston would guard JC, as he is not a perimeter guy if JC chucking from deep)
AP – Hilliard (really tough matchup, but not a ton of options here). Maybe JRG is a better choice (unknown), maybe a guy like BA, but with the known quantities, you probably get AP here.
If Lehigh can control the glass to some extent, especially their defensive backboard, can limit turnovers, and shoot a decent percentage from the field, they will be in this game late. Villanova just lacks size and power to blow them out of the gym. Key is going to be can Lehigh find enough quicks on the wing, to defend Hilliard and Hart’s shooting and dribble penetration. Lehigh doesn’t look to have any shutdown wing defenders of the known variety, so this will be a test. I probably like Nova in a 12-15 point ballgame, but this is one where a really tight game or even an upset would not shock me.October 30, 2014 at 5:29 pm #16347
Thanks Lehigh90. Love the chatter. I watched quite a few Nova games last year, and I agree with everything you are saying.
The matchups that worry me the most are Hilliard and Hart, followed by Pinkston. Hilliard and Hart are bigger, stronger, and more athletic than our wings and just as skilled if not more. Pinkston is a horse underneath and I think JC could really struggle with him on the defensive end and the glass.
Unfortunately as well, Lehigh won’t have the benefit of experience a la the St. John’s game when they were able to hang with a very young team on opening night. It will be the first game, but Nova knows exactly who they are and what they want to do. Hilliard will probably be jacked up to be playing as a SR in the Lehigh Valley, especially after getting snubbed on the preaseason ALL-BE team. Not sure if that will hurt or help him.
Like most mid-major vs high major games, Lehigh is going to need to shoot the ball well from 3, keep Nova off the glass, and not turn the ball over. Beyond that, hope Nova is cold from the outside and maybe some foul trouble and hope for the best.
This is a tough first game, but I’m excited to see the development of the sophs/jrs as well as a first peek at the freshman. I still think this team is a year or two away from being really good but I’m looking forward to seeing what they have for this year.October 30, 2014 at 6:12 pm #16349
Wow, I didn’t realize Hilliard was snubbed for All Big East. I assumed he was in there from what I read, but I never saw the actual Media Day stuff. That is not that many great players in the Big East right now.October 30, 2014 at 6:26 pm #16350
He was voted onto the second team and was not happy about it in interviews. He wasn’t obnoxious, but he will definitely be using the snub as some fire this year.October 30, 2014 at 6:40 pm #16351
Great analysis Lehigh90…Thanks
I’m not sure we even have it in our arsenal, but I would love to see us play a match up zone against these guys. It tends to be a great equalizer especially when the opposition may be quicker than us.October 30, 2014 at 8:57 pm #16357
Thanks for the insight, 90! I’m ready for this game, and for the season to start. I’m not expecting a win, but giving them a run would be fun, and a great start to the year.
I’m really wondering what the crowd mix will be like. Based on 137s feedback, I hope ‘nova isn’t able to sell all of their allotment. Otherwise, this really might be a home game for them. Either way, the 14th can’t come soon enough, for me!
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