Introducing Cinderella: Meet the Lafayette Leopards

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Conference: Patriot League

Coach: Fran O’Hanlon

Record: 20-12 (9-9)

Ratings and rankings:

Kenpom: 197
RPI (per NCAA): 126
AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding: Look for the Leopards to land on the 16-line come Selection Sunday.

Names you need to know: Dan Trist (17.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Seth Hinrichs (13.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.5 apg), Nick Lindner (12.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 5.4 apg), Joey Ptasinski (9.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg)

Stats you need to know: The Leopards will be one of the better offensive teams in the field, as they entered Wednesday averaging 74.5 points per game and shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 41.0 percent from beyond the arc. The Leopards are also one of the best foul shooting teams in the country, as they’re making 76.5 percent of those attempts. The defensive end is where the concerns lie however, as they ranked in the bottom half of the Patriot League in many of the major statistical categories.

Tendencies: Lafayette scores more than 32 percent of its points by way of the three-point shot, and despite their performance from the foul line only 17.6 percent of the Leopards’ points have been scored from the charity stripe. They take care of the basketball (1.47 assist-to-turnover ratio as a team; seventh nationally), and nearly 60 percent of their field goals have been assisted. Defensively the Leopards have looked to use both man and zone looks, but as noted above that end of the floor is where they’ve had trouble.

Big wins, bad losses: Lafayette opened the season with a 77-50 win over Robert Morris, which will represent the Northeast Conference in the NCAA tournament, and they also had a non-conference win over Princeton. In conference play the Leopards beat regular season champ Bucknell twice, the second of which coming in the Patriot League semis, and they also picked up a win over Colgate. As for dubious losses, the Leopards did go 9-9 in league play and losses include Navy, Holy Cross and Boston University.

How’d they get here?: Lafayette has won four straight games since losing to Colgate February 25, with the final three wins coming in the Patriot League tournament. The biggest win came against Bucknell, as Nick Lindner scored 23 points and Dan Trist added 21. Lindner scored 25 and dished out four assists in the title game victory over American, at one point going shot for shot with American’s Darius “Pee Wee” Gardner during the second half. Lindner’s been outstanding of late for Lafayette, as he’s scored 23 points or more in each of the last three games.

Outlook: Lafayette is unlikely to knock off a one-seed (no 16 ever has), but getting to the tournament is quite the achievement for seniors Hinrichs, Trist and Joey Ptasinski (Lindner’s a sophomore). If they wind up making the trek to Dayton this is a team that can win, especially given their efficiency on the offensive end.

How do I know you?: Lafayette last reached the NCAA tournament in 2000, when they fell to Temple in the first round.  That was the second of two straight NCAA appearances the Leopards made under O’Hanlon, who played his college basketball at Villanova (1967-70). Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon attended Lafayette during the 1970s, and coaches such as Dr. Tom Davis, Butch van Breda Kolff and Gary Williams all spent time working at Lafayette during their respective coaching careers.