#11 Villanova Wildcats vs. Farleigh Dickinson Knights
When: Friday, November 13, 2015, at 7 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Fairleigh Dickinson’s Previous Season Record: 8-21
Key Players for Fairleigh Dickinson: #2 Darian Anderson (6-1, 170) So., PG; #25 Mike Holloway (6-7, 245) Fr., C; #5 Earl Potts Jr. (6-6, 200) So., F
Scouting Report: Coming off an 8-21 season, Fairleigh Dickinson will make the trip down from Teaneck, N.J. to play the Wildcats this Friday. The Knights do not boast an impressive resume. The team lost five of its nine rotation players from last year (including leading scorer Mustafaa Jones), and will dress six freshman this upcoming year. They shot a dismal 41.1% from the field a year ago, good enough for 284th amongst Division-I teams. While one might think this may be the result of taking too many three pointers, the Knights only took 37.9% of their shots from beyond the arc (compare that to ‘Nova who shot threes on 42.9% of all field goal attempts). The real drivers behind FDU’s lackluster shooting performances are poor shot selection and stagnant ball movement. This is a team that does not move the ball quickly, and rarely moves without the ball. Additionally, the Knight’s guards struggle to get into the paint and are forced to move laterally rather than vertically, ending a lot of possessions in contested jump shots. Most of the ball movement that you will see from this team on Friday night will be about 24 feet from the basket and going side to side with a lot of handoffs and short dump passes. The Knights do not do themselves any favors either, recording an uninspiring .87 assist to turnover ratio during the 2014-15 campaign. Perhaps the biggest weakness for this FDU team is on the glass. The team ranked 334th (out of 351) in rebounding last year. It doesn’t help that last season’s two top rebounders, Xavier Harris (5.0 rpg) and Matt MacDonald (4.0 rpg), were lost to graduation and a transfer to UPenn, respectively.
Despite their shortcomings, there are a few things that the Knights can count on. The first is their perimeter defense. FDU ranked 10th in the nation in steals last season. The team’s trio of guards Darian Anderson, Marques Townes, and Earl Potts Jr. combined for an impressive 3.9 steals per game last year. FDU applied a full court scheme that ranked right up there with pressure powerhouses VCU (who the ‘Cats got a taste of last season) and Georgia State. Look for them to try to establish that identity this year as well. The second piece of good news for FDU comes in the form of 6-foot-7 freshman Mike Holloway. At 245 pounds, the newcomer has a body that can contribute immediately at the D-I level. He can grab offensive rebounds, has a polished post game, and runs the floor better than you might think. He has a chance to be an effective player for FDU. Keep an eye on him if head coach Greg Herenda decides to put him in the rotation.
On offense, expect point guard Darian Anderson to shoulder the load. He could cause some havoc in the Villanova backcourt. His stats don’t jump off the page at you (he had a Fg%/Ft%/3p% line of 39%/69%/35%), but his speed and quickness does. He is a ball-hawking defender who plays just a little bit too fast for himself on the offensive end (2.6 TOPG). While the VCU press didn’t affect the play of Ryan Arcidiacono, who had 9 assists and 0 turnovers in that game, it will be interesting to see how freshman Jalen Brunson handles such an aggressive defender in his first official collegiate tilt. Anderson is the top returning scorer, and was the only other player outside of Jones to average double digits.
Outlook: This game should not be too much trouble for Villanova. Although FDU will apply stifling pressure when possible, their opportunities to do so will be limited. A press is usually only applied after a made basket, and this FDU team is a very bad shot making team. In addition to that, once the Knights’ full court attack is broken they do not pose much of a threat on the defensive end. The team averaged just 3.2 blocks per game. Facing a team whose tallest returning player is 6’6″, Daniel Ochefu should be primed for a big night. The combination of FDU being the fourth worst team on the defensive glass last year and Ochefu’s abilities on the offensive boards should be a concern for the Knights. The Chef’s Special calls for a double-double on opening night. With Ochefu getting his way in the post, he would create ample drive opportunities for Arcidiacono, Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, and Phil Booth. Despite being a pretty average rebounding team last season, the Wildcats should be able to corral a lot of misses for offensive boards and put backs. All eyes will be on five-star recruit Jalen Brunson, and rightfully so; but don’t forget about Divincenzo, a freshman guard who possesses unique combination of size, skill, and athleticism. Barring a Herculean effort from FDU, I would expect a similar result to the Pace exhibition game for Villanova.