Preview: Lafayette Leopards

Lafayette Leopards

2012-13: 19-15 (10-4 Patriot League)
In-conference offense: 1.08 points per possession (1st)
In-conference defense: 0.99 points allowed per possession (3rd)

Fran O'Hanlon's 2012-13 Lafayette team was his most successful since 2000, falling just one game short of an NCAA tournament berth. The Leopards excelled on the offensive end, shooting so accurately and turning the ball over so infrequently that their poor rebounding didn't hurt them much.

Projected starting lineup

This season's squad returns several key players, including offensive linchpin Seth Hinrichs. The 6-foot-7 junior exploded last season, blossoming into one of the conference's most potent weapons from inside and outside. Hinrichs was somewhat overshadowed last season by Bucknell center Mike Muscala and the Lehigh post combo of Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner, but now he's unquestionably one of the league's top offensive performers. His partner in the post will be Dan Trist, a 6-9 junior who turned into a go-to option last season. Note, however, that the Leopards will miss the defense of forward Levi Giese, whom they'll try to replace with 6-10 sophomore Nathaniel Musters.

Lafayette's one true area of worry is at point guard, where incoming freshman Nick Lindner, sophomore Zach Rufer and junior Les Smith will likely all see minutes. The other guard spots are more settled, with efficient scorers Joey Ptasinski and Bryce Scott reprising their roles as 3-point marksmen. If O'Hanlon needs more size and less scoring, he can opt for junior Alan Flannigan, an offensive non-factor who crashes the boards hard from the wing.

If Hinrichs continues to develop into a well-rounded offensive star, if Trist succeeds as his role grows, and if Ptasinski and Scott keep hitting about 40 percent of their 3s, the Leopards could overcome their inexperience at the point guard position. In a conference where the top two teams just lost stars to the NBA (Muscala at Bucknell, and C.J. McCollum at Lehigh), things could be worse for Lafayette.

Projected 2013-14 conference finish: 3rd