Villanova alumnus and long-time Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon is returning to his old stomping grounds. O’Hanlon played at Villanova from 1967-70. Now, his Lafayette Leopards will have the task of being the first team to face the reigning national champions. For Villanova, this is the first step of its journey in defending the crown.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Game Time: Friday, November 11, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 2 (Brian Custer, Donny Marshall)
RADIO: 610 Sports WTEL-AM
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go (Where available)
Villanova is a 32-point favorite per OddsShark.
Villanova is 8-1 all-time against Lafayette. The Leopards won their very first meeting, in 1922, by forfeit. Since then, the Wildcats have won every single game. Jay Wright is 4-0 against Lafayette, most recently leading his team to a 93-52 win in the opening round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
What to Watch For
144 is a lot
For the first time since March 3, 2012, a regular season game will be played at the Pavilion without Ryan Arcidiacono. He repped the blue and white for a program-high 144 games and headlined the winningest class—along with Daniel Ochefu—in school history. He was able to spearhead the Wildcats’ revival, arriving at Villanova after a tumultuous 2011-12 season. Arcidiacono earned a penchant for making hustle plays and for sinking much-needed clutch shots.
Now, Villanova turns its eyes to Jalen Brunson. Brunson, who was a 5-star recruit out of Adlai E. Stevenson (Ill.), started alongside Arcidiacono last season. He was on a short leash, however, and will now should be able to have full creative freedom. Brunson had glimpses of greatness when given an opportunity to take over a game, earning a pair of 20-point games against Temple and Penn. He can shoot, dish out assists, and has a sneaky good euro step. Brunson will have to prove to Wildcat fans that he was worth the hype coming out of high school. Lafayette is his first chance to do that.
The absence of Omari Spellman definitely hurt Villanova’s plans going into this season. Now, he has Darryl Reynolds—who is a first time starter—Dylan Painter and Tim Delaney, who are about to make their official Villanova debuts. While the Wildcats love playing on the perimeter and being 3-point oriented, the trio of Reynolds, Painter, and Delaney have an opportunity to make an impact against a Lafayette team that doesn’t really rebound or play well inside.
In fact, the Leopards finished 307th in offensive rebounding percentage allowed, letting opponents grab the offensive board on 32.9 percent of opportunities. Lafayette has always been about its backcourt.
Better Than They Seem
The Leopards may have gone 6-24 last season, 15 of those losses were by 10 or fewer points. They were able to make the game competitive. Lafayette may have graduated some great shooters, but it still has many players from the Patriot League championship team from two years ago. Nick Lindner has been the Lafayette floor general since stepping onto the court as a freshman and has only improved since. He had a penchant for being a solid distributor, but came into his own as a scorer last year, averaging 13.3 points per game. Another key player is Matt Klinewski, a junior forward that thrived in a much bigger role, after spending his freshman season on the bench. He averaged a team-high 13.3 points and 4.9 rebounds. When the Leopards opened the 2013 season against the Wildcats, they were able to keep it close behind a hot shooting hand—all until Villanova was able to pull away towards the end of the game. If Lafayette wants any shot of making it competitive, it will have to get heat up early and fast. The Leopards are a bit challenged inside, but their backcourt will be boom or bust.