As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats through Monday, March 16.
Record: 20-12, 9-9 Patriot League
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 110.4 (41st)/113.1 (337th)
Seed: No. 16 in East
Impact player: Dan Trist, senior, forward, 17.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 111.9 offensive rating.
The Case For: Lafayette wins with offense. It is the country’s second-best three point shooting team, hitting 41.4% from outside and scoring roughly one-third of its points that way. The Leopards also boast the nation’s seventh-best effective field goal percentage on the strength of excellent jump shooting from Trist and forward Seth Hinrichs, as well as 5'11" sophomore Nick Lindner, and they are 11th nationally in free-throw percentage (76.5%). If Villanova gives up defensive space in the half-court set and allows for shooting windows and driving lanes, watch out.
The Case Against: Lafayette's defense is as weak as its offense is strong. It is 311th in effective field goal percentage defense, 312th in three-point percentage defense, 296th in turnover percentage and 316th in percentage of offensive rebounds allowed. In its two games against top 25 foes—West Virginia and Kansas—the Leopards lost by 27 both times. They lost to Yale by 22 points and as recently as a month ago were held to 43 points in a 19-point loss to a Loyola (Md.) squad that finished 11-19. Its matchup zone defense can be easily exposed by opposing scorers looking to penetrate and draw fouls, and if Lafayette tries to respond to Villanova’s easy baskets by racing down court and making quick shots of its own it could get into trouble. The Leopards' average possession length and adjusted tempo were both average at best. When their defense does hold up, good things have happened. Lafayette is 14-1 when holding its opponents to 73 points or less during games, but just 6-11 when it hasn’t. The Wildcats' season average? A Big East-best 76.3 points per game.
SI prediction: Lose to Villanova in Round of 64