Villanova Wildcats vs. Lehigh Mountain Hawks
When: Friday, November 14, 2014, at 7 p.m.
Where: PPL Center, Allentown, PA
Coverage: Fox Sports 2
Lehigh’s Previous Season Record: 14-18, Lost to Holy Cross in Opening Round of Patriot League Tournament
Key Players for Lehigh: #15 Corey Schaefer (6-1, 175) Sr., G; #32 Tim Kempton (6-10, 225) So., C/F; #1 Kahron Ross (5-11, 155) Fr., G
Scouting Report: There’s a lot more in common with these two teams than what meets the eye. Sure, they’re both from Pennsylvania; that’s obvious. One gets to enjoy success in one of the bigger NCAA basketball conferences, while the other receives their lumps and bruises in a smaller conference. What makes them the same is that they’re both just trying to figure it out. Villanova loses their top scorer in James Bell, while Lehigh loses a key piece in Mackey McKnight. With McKnight gone, the Mountain Hawks will look in other directions to fill in the scoring and assisting gaps. One way they will look to do so is through the big man up front. Tim Kempton returns from a successful freshman season that earned him conference rookie of the year honors. He was the second highest scorer last season, averaging 13.0 points per game. Kempton will continue to be a primary scoring option. Finishing around the basket is no problem for Kempton, who has also been working on his mid-range jumper during the offseason. He can also rebound well, averaging a team-high 7.1 boards per game. As a sophomore, he has tremendous upside and room to grow in Lehigh. At 6-10, 225, Kempton will look to challenge Villanova’s frontcourt. Assisting him down low, will be returning starter Jesse Chuku. The junior forward is is not as efficient of a scorer as Kempton, but he can knock down the three if given the opportunity. Chuku shot 35.3% from three-point range and just 37.8% overall. He was inconsistent at times, but when he found his rhythm, he was a problem for opposing teams. He has worked throughout the offseason to improve his offensive game in the post, to become more well rounded. There were times were he struggled to finish around the rim or driving inside. Also, keep an eye out for Corey Schaefer. Schaefer was the only player to start all 32 games for Lehigh last season. All those minutes on the court earned him a role as a captain of the team. Originally a point guard, he moved to shooting guard last season. He has good all-around skills and has a good grasp of the game. Schaefer is comfortable with scoring from anywhere. Three-pointers are no problem for him, but he can also drive if need be. He may not need to return to point guard duties if Kahron Ross pans out. Ross may follow in the footsteps of Kempton if he is able to transition with ease from high school stardom to success in college. While he is not very big, praise has been coming from Coach Brett Reed for the young guard. In an interview, Reed praised the freshman’s poise and feel for the game. On tape, he shows good court vision and athleticism. If things go as planned, he can have an immediate impact on this team. Sophomore Austin Price became an emerging presence from the wing last season, successfully knocking down perimeter shots when called upon. Lastly, watch out for juniors Justin Goldsborough and Khalid McCaskill. Last season, Goldsborough was a reliable bench option to add depth to the frontcourt. Although he was inconsistent at times, he also was able to prove that he belonged. McCaskill was a transfer from UCLA, where he was a preferred walk-on. Last season, he faced some trouble in staying healthy. Now that he has been in a better condition and has had his share of reps and practices, he is expected to be a valuable contributor on the court.
Outlook: It’s finally here. The title defense begins and the bullseye on the Wildcats only seems to be growing exponentially bigger. In recent history, Lehigh has always been one of those decent teams in a mediocre conference. Last season marked their first losing season in six years. The Mountain Hawks will surely provide a better challenge than NAIA Northwood or Division-II Nyack. The Wildcats have been posting wonderful rebounding numbers in their two preseason games, but it should be interesting to see if that will carry over to bigger competition. Villanova was literally head and shoulders above Nyack. The key to stopping Lehigh would be in cutting off their frontcourt. Kempton is going to get a lot of touches inside. Daniel Ochefu looked solid in defending the post last year and I’m sure that will carry over onto this year. He and JayVaughn Pinkston should be fine controlling the post. Villanova will win, and will do so comfortably. I see them winning by a double-digit margin and the reason being they have a number of scoring options. Darrun Hilliard can knock them down from long range or by attacking the basket. Dylan Ennis‘ presence in the starting lineup seems to be working out well so far. It’s exciting to see what he has to bring to the table and his athleticism has really come through in the two preseason games. It doesn’t seem to be putting Ryan Arcidiacono out of place. It’s interesting to see this new lineup and backcourt grow.