Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tons Of Answers, Still Some Questions

Gannon outlasted a talented Northern Michigan team tonight, 79-68, to win the Gary Miller Classic. Entering the weekend I had a million questions including basics such as, "Which guy in the layup line is Kelvin Agee?" With two impressive wins (and a combined 163 points in 80 minutes of play), we had many of our questions answered. But I still have a few:

Did you honestly think with so many high-scoring guards now on the roster that Danard Crouch (17 points tonight) would lead the Knights in scoring? Crouch, who at times last year played like the Tazmanian Devil hepped up on a 5-hour energy drink, was completely under control when he had the basketball tonight. With the Knights up by just 3 with under 10 minutes to play, Crouch doubled the lead with a nothing-but-net trey. Northern never got any closer the rest of the night.

Do you recall a year ago on Day 2 of the Miller Classic when Crouch went to the line with GU up 2 with less than a minute to play vs. Northern Kentucky? Crouch tossed a rock that nearly bent the rim. Tonight, he made 5-of-6 foul shots, hit 5 of his 9 field goal attempts, and dished out 4 assists.

Do you recall the final score of that GU/NKU classic a year ago? It was a mind-numbing 40-38. The two teams tonight combined for more points by halftime (44-35 Gannon).

How good was NMU big man Jared Benson tonight? He poured in a career-high 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field. Tanner Furno was so ineffective again Benson that John Reilly kept his super sophomore on the bench for the stretch run.

Will Reilly rotate 10 players this season like he did tonight?
Unlikely if you heard his post-game radio interview with Jim LeCorchick. Reilly said he likes everyone who played, but he needs to establish a more consistent rotation. You know how it goes -- if you split time among 8 guys, the few who stay on the bench are unhappy. If you split time among 10, then nobody's happy.

Could Reilly rotate 10 players if he wanted to? Yes. This team doesn't have a superstar on it (though Agee looks spectacular in bursts) and is as deep as I've seen a Gannon team in many years. Even if a Knight or two gets injured, there are capable reserves to pick up the slack.

Can this team win on the road? We'll find out Saturday at Urbana. The 1-6 Blue Knights have had an equally depressing and interesting season. On Dec. 2 they will make their home debut against Mercyhurst. Their early season road games have taken them to North Carolina (vs. Pfeiffer and Catawba), Kentucky (for the Ky. Wesleyan tournament), Cleveland State, and Kent State. Their only win is against the Univ. of Indianapolis.

Indy must stink, right? Not so fast. On Nov. 8, Indianapolis won at nationally-ranked Division I Tennessee, 79-64. Twelve days later they lose at home to Urbana by 11 points. Meanwhile, Tennessee is beating #7 Villanova by 10 to win the preseason NIT. No wonder coaches go insane.


  1. So of course I praise Rumph out of the 3 newcomers that didn't play last night and he's the one not to come in. I'm starting to doubt my own credibility!!

  2. Like the fact they didn't fold after the half... I really thought that the last posession of the first half could have lead to disaster...

    Interesting mix of contributors... wonder where it will lead

    PROBLEM! when I got home I checked the rebounding stats...Steve... really? Our leading rebounder... not good, I know those guys are big, but come on now...

  3. Cory Knight and Joe Lindsey led team in rebounding several games. As long as someone from GU is rebounding, I don't care who it is! Also, it's better than watching Furno and Brannen tip it to the other team every time.

    Little disappointed with all-tourney team voting. Agee and Crouch definitely were deserving, a bunch of us just felt in the opposite order. Agee was big last night and came to earth tonight while still doing well. Crouch, however, came up big when they needed someone the most both game and more than just offensively. Rebounds, assists, setting up the play, defense, etc. Oh well, a little disagreement isn't going to ruin the win for me.

    Still can't figure out why Rumph isn't playing at all... Definitely not conditioning because the kid played a full 20 minute scrimmage with no sub and no signs of slowing. I can only think of doghouse, not enough effort at practice or maybe everyone else is just that much better than him all-around. Would be nice to have the extra height in there once a while, but "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

    Great start and Go Knights!!

  4. Sidenote- GU, it's players coaches fans and everyone showed extreme class by letting John Eisenman accept the championship trophy and then having the whole team give their respect publicly to the family of Mr. Elwell.

    I heard someone say this when they did this and it hit me, but is also very true (thus far)...
    "what's the difference between last year and this year...? That...right there... is a TEAM!"

  5. To quote Jim, "Wow"! A couple of thoughts:

    1. When did NMU become GVSU? The 'Cats were more physically talented than any Northern team I can ever remember seeing. Mentally, not so much. When they made their run, the bench whooped it up over the two dunks but not the defensive stops. Ugh!

    2. The effort by the Knights was tremendous; 'nuff said.

    3. It was weird, but with the lead cut to 55-54, I never really felt like NMU would take the lead. Must've been the superb-as-always nachos (it's been almost a year).

    4. Jim, the names we were trying to think of were Kevin Coduti and Damian Matacz (the Wildcat bigs during the Cory Brathol era). You can sleep now.

  6. Anytime a point guard leads a team in defensive rebounding, it usually means that his teammates are all boxing out effectively, and that the point guard is aggressive going after the ball. If memory serves, Steve led Prep in boards in some games during his high school career, but it's usually a sign that the team is all doing their job.

  7. Two of my all-time favorite GMC not-on-the-court moments occurred last night:

    1. Kudos to Dan Ross, son of famed clock operator Darryl Ross. Dan was selling programs last night when the coach of another local college squad (rhymes with "Quakers")approached his stand. Without blinking, Dan informed him it would be two bucks. Despite a "don't-you-know-who-I-am" responding look, Dan held his ground and the incensed coach reluctantly peeled off a couple of bucks. Auburn-Alabama ain't got nothin' when it comes to rivalries!

    2. Over the years, I've gotten away from applauding at sporting events. Don't know why, but I have. Last night, when the Golden Knights, led by John Eisenman, took the championship trophy to the section where Bud Elwell's family and friends were gathered and presented it to them, I not only applauded but cheered loudly. Performances on the court make us fanatics; performances off the court make us proud!

  8. It's stories like those that make me even more proud to be a Gannon fan.

    Although, I must say, I'm a little miffed at the first story (about the program). Without blinking, Danny should've said "that's $5". (ha ha ha)

  9. Jim: Not sure Furno gets the total blame for Benson's success. If GU going to have Furno or whomever guard the post by 3/4ing over the top side, then weak side help is needed when the ball goes to the post. It wasn't there most of the time. In fact after Benson's drunk, Reilly was yelling not at Furno but #5 for no support on the weak side. I also wondered why coach didn't move Travis to guard Benson and had Furno guard NMU other big guy that was Furno's Ht and Wt, but I'm sure coach had his reasons. Against Cedarville Steve was getting toasted on the drive but again, weak side support was not there or late. I'm sure Gu's defensive will only get better as time goes on.

    I did like:
    - That we scored a whole bunch of points
    - That we won both games.
    - Unselfish play though Kareem(sp) looks to have the potential to be shot happy
    - Substitutions. Seemed to keep the pressure defense going and players fresh and much more.

    Now to have revenge on Urbana

  10. I agree about Kareem and I'm still wondering why he played as much as he did yesterday. My problem with him is that when I see him I immediately think of Vince Mosley. Mosley was a good player, but not a great team player and very shot happy most of the time. HOWEVER, I like that (so far at least) Brown has not been chucking up 15+ shots a game. Yes, he does throw up some bad looking shots (and more than necessary) but in the short run that NMU made yesterday, I liked that he wasn't trying to "take over". He let the whole team take over and he was a big part of it; defensively and offensively (with only scoring a few points). I do like his dedication and enthusiasm though... he works hard on defense and is always cheering for his teammates.

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  12. Jim,
    As enjoyable as the first two games were, and though the Knights looked much better than last year's first week, I wouldn't go so far as to say we have tons of answers. I remind you of your post from Sunday, November 22, 2009 titled "It's only November." If its too early to panic in November, shouldn't it be too early to say we have tons of answers this early?

    How about whether Tanner will physically hold up for a full season at a high level? What if he doesn't? Does Jonathan Jones make a reappearance or does Mikael Ibanez-Lavassen still have eligibility? Will Brown become a bigger part of the offense? Will Brannen become a more consistent offensive weapon?

    As thrilled as I am to see the guys score over 80 points, I find it interesting that two days in a row they gave up over 60 points on defense. Reilly usually had a cow if they gave up more than 60. Is this a new Reilly approach? If so, I don't mind it at all because it's more fun to see a team shoot 50% from the floor instead of 30%. Just wondering if this is the start of something new and how that turns out.

    So before we get too excited, which after watching the athletic play of Battle, the shooting touch of Agee and the skilled point work of Piotrowicz it is understandable to be happy, I do have to say "It's Only November."

  13. I believe this is a new approach by Coach Reilly. When they had the article in the paper back in October (early to mid) about the recruits and how Gannon was projected to do, they had several interview excerpts from Coach Reilly. The one thing he said was that his focus is always defense but after last season he wanted to recruit and needed to get offensive players. He said defense was still his focus, but he was putting a lot more emphasis on the offensive side of the game. I don't see them averaging 80 points for the season, however, I do feel confident in saying that I think they'll still be atop the ranks in the PSAC for defense with the difference, this year, that I believe they will be in the upper group in regards to PSAC offense (compared to last year's miserable ranking).

    Tanner will physically hold up for the season... that's not even really a question. At a high level? Did he ever play at a "high level" last year? Not in my opinion.. he had a few great games and, yes, he was named PSAC Freshmen of the week several times and got those accolades, but I never felt he played at a "high level" last year. However, he doesn't need to. IMO, him and Brannen are the "X factors". They don't need to score 20 points a game and bruise people inside. They need to be consistent. Maybe avg. 8-10 points, 6-7 rebounds, minimal turnovers and less foul trouble. If they can do that, it will open the way for players like Kelvin, Danard, Steve, Stephen, etc. If Travis keeps taking charges like he has been, I have no concerns whatsoever as him as a liability of any sort.

    I really don't seem Kareem becoming a huge part of the offense. He led D1 Coppin State last year at 10 points per game (37% from the floor). Looking at his previous stats, he was never a "big scorer" nor did he attempt a lot of shots. One of his first college coaches said he's not a big scorer, he's a big-time scorer (referencing that he hit the shots when they needed to be hit). Regardless, I LOVE his defensive work ethic and enthusiasm.

    I know "it's only November", but we've now beat two solid programs (I think it took us 3 months last season to accomplish that feat). Cedarville, being they're NAIA, held their own with D2 NCAA Powerhouse Findlay and with D2 NAIA powers. That's not a bad resume, even if they did lose. Northern Michigan may not be the cream of the GLIAC crop, however, it's still the GLIAC and they still have to play the Findlay's, GVSU's, etc.

    I'm not anticipating a 39-0 national championship season right now, but I am MUCH MORE looking forward to the season getting into full throttle than I was after 2 games last year.

    Jeremy - Jim is correct though, they did answer a lot of questions that Jim had. His question wasn't "will they win the NCAA D2 National Championship". His questions were about the team, the leaders, the go-to players, etc. He didn't say he's expecting a 39-0 National Championship season either, he just said some of his questions were answered.

  14. that should say "if tanner keeps taking charges", not Travis.

  15. CC3 - Agree that Travis and Furno don't need to be superstars, just consistent with the apparent shooters we now have.

    On Tanner and the rest holding up physically, I don't know. I heard Furno dislocated his shoulder during the maroon/gold scrimmage and he did get ice taped to his shoulder, Steve ice to both knees, and Travis got a bag too. Hopefully they will heal up.

    There is another "new" player that looks to be about 6-5 and fairly muscled up but didn't play either game ... he could be helpful as a sub for Travis or Furno.

  16. Boze: Great info on Coduti & Co. If you have a chance, check out this NMU/Hillsdale box score from Jan. 15, 2000 that I came across. All sorts of great names.

    Jeremy and Corey: As far as Gannon giving up more ppg this year that last, I think that's a function of three things. First is the inexperience -- now knowing Reilly's defensive scheme by heart. There's no Scandrett or Demski who could anticipate where they needed to be before the play happened. Right now guys are reacting and that's not good enough for this level. Second, Cedarville and Northern were two VERY good offensive teams -- better than most Gannon played last year. A third reason is the number of possessions per game will go up with a more up-tempo style of play, which will usually result in more points. If the Knights are scoring quickly on offense (instead of using 30 seconds on the shot clock and then committing a turnover like last year), the other team will have more opportunities to score.

    Also, Kelvin Agee was named PSAC Freshman of the Week today. Is it too early to crown him conference Freshman of the Year?

  17. Regarding "injuries"-

    If Furno dislocated his shoulder on November 16, there's no way he plays on November 26, so I doubt he dislocated it. More likely a bruise or a strain of some degree.

    Taping ice bags to knees, backs, shoulders and pretty much every part of the body is pretty much standard procedure these days. Back in 2008, I saw a picture of the USA Men's Basketball Team after a game, and Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Paul, Bosh, and several others all had icebags taped everywhere. It's done all the time to help the players recover after a game. It's not always for a specific injury. By the way, Saturday night, I was still there talking to some folks long after the players came out, and there were 3 other players besides the ones you mentioned wearing ice bags. Just part of the game these days.

    Regarding the team as a whole, there were plenty of good things, including improved shooting, lowered turnovers, and, most importantly, hugely-improved team chemistry. Still plenty of work to do on team defense, particularly with the weak side help and ability to double team a hot scorer, like the huge kid from NMU. It IS only November, but no one's predicting greatness yet. I just think many of us are just happy to see them playing together, getting along (doubt you'd have seen the tribute to the Elwell family under last year's player leadership) and shooting the ball better.

    By the way, what's going on with the women's team? Although they are 3-1, there are questions. Their only returning inside player averaging just 9 minutes a game? Averaging 23 turnovers a game as a team? That will cost them down the road if they don't get issues like this ironed out.

  18. Jim - Just to clarify I never said anything about the defense (besides that I still think they'll be atop the PSAC's best in it)... I said that Coach Reilly stated his focus is always defense, but that he was going to emphasize offense more.

    g74 - I agree.. what is going on with the Women? With the exception that no one has left the team, I feel like it's kind of similar to the guys last year. They've played 4 (?) games, and used at least 3 different lineups. Anyone know what's going on with Thompson? A rumor was that she had mono over the summer and is still in "recovery mode". That just seems like a LONG time to me (I know mono can knock you out for a while, but still that's a matter of 3-5 months). The turnovers are not too surprising, unfortunately. You had Tiffany Crocker for 4 years who played practically 40 minutes every game and now you bring in Dacek, who was a backup that rarely played, and she has to "take over" a brand new group of players. Obviously, we cannot compare them to the team last year (and we probably won't be able to compare any team for a long time to come, if ever, to that team), but this team sadly looks like they may not even be a PSAC contender if things don't get matted out. But who knows... Coach Wright is a tremendous coach and he could get it straightened out quickly!

    I guess the thing we all have to remember is that they are the coaches for a reason (and we are the couch coaches for a reason haha)

  19. Did anyone see that Jerrell Sanders took the #8 spot on ESPN's Top 10 Plays? He had a coast to coast dunk for Ferris State. So far this is the only vid I could find, the lighting at the end of the court where he dunks is horrible so you can't really see it. I'm trying to find ESPN's Top 10 vid because it was much better on TV.

  20. Thanks for the heads up. Here's the link to the ESPN Top 10 video: