Basketball Scouting Report: Lafayette

The Army basketball team very nearly defeated Rutgers on Dec. 22, leading the Scarlet Knights for extended portions of the competition before losing by three, 75-72. The loss was painful, but the performance was encouraging. Will it (can it?) carry over into the Patriot League season opener?


Army's narrow loss to Rutgers marked one of the Black Knights' better performances of the season. Army has something to build on despite a 4-7 record in non-conference play. The beginning of the Patriot League season on Thursday night in Easton, Pa., gives this team a chance to make a fresh start.

It's worth noting that Army is beginning its pursuit of a Patriot League title in a newly configured conference. Plenty of familiar faces are back, but there are two new arrivals: Loyola (Maryland) from the Metro Atlantic (MAAC), and Boston University from the America East. It will be fascinating to see how the new-look Patriot League takes shape in 2014.

LAFAYETTE AT-A-GLANCE

The Leopards, coached by Fran O'Hanlon since 1995, last made the NCAA tournament in the year 2000. They have never won an NCAA tournament game. Like Army, Lafayette is 4-7 at this point in the season, hoping along with the Black Knights that conference play can create a forward progression.

However, hope doesn't mean much if your star player is shelved. Lafayette's leading scorer, guard Seth Hinrichs, has been sidelined with a knee injury. (Teammate Alan Flannigan has suffered the same fate.) Hinrichs averaged 20.2 points per game before suffering his injury. The inability to benefit from his scoring represents a massive blow to the Leopards. Guard Zach Rufer is the only member of the bench who has received an appreciable degree of playing time this season. Lafayette has just a six-man rotation at this point. If O'Hanlon wants to go deeper into his bench, he'll have to call upon completely unproven performers. Army is catching Lafayette at the right time.

Starting Lineup

Forward – Michael Hoffman –
Freshman, 6-7, 182; 2013-14: 3.2 points per game, 1.9 rebounds per game

Hoffman is replacing Flannigan in the Lafayette lineup. His paltry numbers and an average of only 11.2 minutes per game suggest that he will face a substantial uphill climb as this season continues. Hoffman has to know that things are likely to get worse for him before he gets better. That's not necessarily what life as a freshman is like; it's what life as an unproven freshman is like.

Forward – Dan Trist – Junior, 6-9, 246; 2013-14: 12 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.8 assists per game

Trist is Lafayette's best rebounder and a capable scorer. His muscular low-post presence will be sorely needed by O'Hanlon in this game and throughout the Patriot League campaign. Army has to be able to body him up and box him out.

Guard – Bryce Scott – Sophomore, 6-3, 188; 2013-14: 15.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.4 apg

Scott is now the best active scorer on the team, since Hinrichs is injured and unable to play for the time being. No perimeter player will command more attention from Army in this game.

Guard – Nick Lindner – Freshman, 5-10, 161; 2013-14: 10.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 4.1 apg

Lindner is small, but he is by far the best passer on this team, dropping roughly four dimes per game while no other Lafayette player averages anything more than 1.8 assists per contest.

Guard – Joey Ptasinski – Junior, 6-2, 174; 2013-14: 10.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.6 apg

You can see that Lafayette has four (active) starters who all average in double figures as scorers. This is a balanced team, with Ptasinski being one more cog in the machine. Hinrichs, of course, emerged from this group dynamic to become the alpha-dog at the offensive end of the floor. In Hinrichs' absence, it remains to be seen how well these other four players – Trist, Scott, Lindner, and Ptasinski – can perform on offense.

Keys to the Game

1) Wear down the Leopards.
Lafayette is a very thin team right now. If Army coach Zach Spiker can use his bench effectively, the Black Knights could be the fresher team in the final six to eight minutes of regulation.

2) Get into passing lanes on defense. Lafayette's balanced scoring gives the Leopards a path to victory even without Hinrichs. If Army can therefore make it tougher for Lafayette to share the ball in halfcourt sets, the Black Knights can make the Leopards a less effective offensive unit.

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