The Lafayette Leopards of the Patriot League have had a tough go of it so far – coming into Friday with an 0-3 record with losses to Syracuse, Cornell and most recently to Penn. Lafayette is shooting under 40% from the field so far this season and 33% from beyond the arc.
Lafayette was ranked 2nd in the Patriot in offensive efficiency last season (KenPom) due to a very impressive assist-turnover ratio but that has yet to materialize this season thus far. Fran O’Hanlon employs a 4-out, 1 in offensive strategy with good ball movement so his outside shooters can feast – unfortunately this year they’ve not shot the ball well. Lafayette’s motion offense is unselfish and usually spaces the floor well to get their shooters the best looks. Legit 7-footer Neal Quinn is a huge part of spacing the floor for the Leopards. Quinn has a plethora of post moves to finish over defenders but his ability to pass the ball to open shooters is key to getting their offense going. Quinn is an adept passer out of the post with good vision and decision making.
Senior guard Tyrone Perry leads the leopards in scoring at 14.7 per game. The leading rebounder is 7 foot junior Neal Quinn who pulls down 83 per game to go with his 11 points and 3.7 assists. The leading assist man for Lafayette is freshman CJ Fulton who dishes 4.3 assists per game to go along with his 4.7 rebounds.
On a roll at 4-0, the Blue Devils are building off of their performance against Kentucky and improving their offensive efficiency while defending at high level, especially on the perimeter. Through four games, Duke is holding opponents to just .374 from the field, .263 from three-point range and averaging 9.3 steals per game. Duke has forced opponents to 60 turnovers, and is more than doubling up the opponents in points-off-turnover scoring (76-33).
The Blue devils are led in scoring and rebounding by freshman Paolo Banchero who is averaging 17 points and 8.5 boards per game. Wendell Moore Jr. is the leading assist man so far for the Devils at 5.3 per game. Sophomore Mark Williams is averaging 2.8 blocked shots per game and 6 points.
Defensively the Leopards are a bit of a mess and since 2009 the Leopards have ranked inside KenPom’s top 300 of adjusted defensive efficiency just three times. If the Blue Devils are looking to string together back to back performances with better offensive execution then the Leopards are the team to play. The Leopards lack the athleticism to hang with Duke but Duke will still have to execute and be precise – it just means the margin for error is larger. Defensively Duke has been playing well on the perimeter, not so much in the pick and roll. I doubt we’ll see much P and R against Lafayette but playing against Neal Quinn will present a unique challenge for Duke’s front line. If Duke is able to guard the post without a double-team things should go swimmingly for the Blue Devils if not then the score could be closer than some would like. I don’t think the Blue Devils are in any danger however.