#4 Villanova Wildcats vs. Lafayette Leopards
When: Friday, November 11, 2016, at 6:30 PM
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 2
Lafayette’s Previous Season Record: 6-24
Key Players for Lafayette: #11 Nick Lindner (5-11, 166) Sr., PG; #13 Matt Klinewski (6-8, 232) Jr., F; #32 Monty Boykins (6-5, 192) Jr., SG
Scouting Report: Lafayette coming off a dismal 2015-16 campaign in which it finished 6-24 overall, and it looks to be more of the same for them come Friday night. Some of the Leopards’ losses can just be chalked up to misfortune, 15 of their 24 losses were by 10 or fewer points. The only notable change going into this season is replacement of the graduated Bryce Scott, with incoming freshman forward Myles Cherry (Australia/Choate Roasemary Hall, Conn.) At 6-8, 232 pounds, Cherry brings some much needed size to the Leopards. Leading the way is Matt Klinewski, who had a team-high 13.3 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Lafayette loves to shoot it from beyond the arc and shot 36.5 percent from the 3-point line from last season, good for 81st in the nation. However, Lafayette’s two best shooters from downtown, Scott (43.7 percent) and Zach Rufer (38.6 percent), graduated last spring, bringing the current returning roster’s 3-point percentage down to just 32.8 percent.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for Lafayette. The team is led by senior point guard Nick Lindner, who was a starter on the Lafayette team that lost to Villanova in the Round of 64 two years ago. Lindner, who used to be solely known for his ability to set up his teammates, came into his own as a scorer last season. As a junior, he averaged 13.3 points and 4.0 assists. Lindner is likely to be one of the primary options offensively. He and Klinewski will have to get off to a fast and hot start, it they want to help lead their team to pull the improbable upset. As for Cherry, he’s a wildcard in this game, having only been in the states for about a year and almost immediately committing to Lafayette.
Cherry is unusually agile for a player with a 6-8 frame, with the hybrid forward showing a versatile game and a soft touch around the rim. He can beat defenders off the dribble but also has a bigger frame that will give guards a tough time on defense. It will be interesting to see how longtime Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon, a Villanova alumni himself, is willing to give a lot of minutes to a lanky true freshman against the defending champs. Sophomore tweener Paulius Zalys is expected to get the start, but the amount of playing time he gets depends almost entirely on the score early. If the Leopards hang close, expect Cherry to see the bench for most of the game. If the Wildcats pull away, the Aussie may see a decent share of the action on Friday.
Outlook: While Lafayette is certainly looking to improve on their poor showing last year, that change is doubtful to happen on Friday night. Expect Lafayette to try to outrun the Wildcats, which will play right into their hands. Lafayette’s weaknesses on the boards and in the paint could lead for a field day for the Wildcats. Look for AP Preseason All-American Josh Hart and Darryl Reynolds to have great games inside. If Lindner has a good game from beyond the arc, Lafayette may stay competitive in the first half, but Villanova is likely to cruise to an easy win in their first game under the new banners at the Pavilion.