Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ironmen Challenge

I'm not sure what to say after Gannon's 18-point drubbing of Clarion on Saturday, 81-63. Have you ever heard the saying, "Been down so long, don't know which way is up"? Because of Gannon's three consecutive torturous losses, I was in that state of mind even with a 20-point second-half lead vs. the Golden Eagles. When Clarion cut the margin to 15 on a three-pointer with 4 minutes to play, I have to admit I thought "here we go again."

But the Knights responded with an Oscar Macias layup off a perfect backdoor feed from Darrell Blanton to push the lead to 17. An Adam Blazek steal, his fourth of the afternoon to help his keep his PSAC lead in that statistic, helped melt 30 more seconds off the clock, and the Knights won going away. It was satisfying to see Gannon post a resounding win in a game they needed to have. Ordinary teams fold in this situation, but GU played with increased intensity.

There's been lots of talk on this website about the Knights being tired. Did you see any of that yesterday? I didn't, even though John Reilly opted to not substitute during the entire second half. In his radio interview with Jim LeCorchick after the game, Reilly made it clear the lack of subs wasn't an oversight. He said, "When you play with media timeouts every four minutes, to me, it's impossible to get tired. ... People think we practice too hard which is ludicrous. It's basketball -- we're trying to learn, we're trying to get better. We're not fools. All the coaches have played."

First, you have to love his conviction. Second, I have to agree with him. Remember what college basketball was like prior to media timeouts for all games? The regular season games breezed by with little interruption, and then when the NCAAs (and media timeouts) showed up, the game really dragged because of all the stoppages. Now we fans are accustomed to the media timeouts and think coaches still need to rest players just like the good ol' days -- even though they get 8 minutes of stopped time each half with official timeouts.

Here's my personal perspective on this topic and why I think resting players during games is fairly overrated (when your team doesn't full-court press):
* During offseason pickup games, there are no media timeouts or free throws, and winner stays on. We'd play first to 8 field goals, which is essentially a quarter of a typical basketball game. Nobody ever, ever asked for a sub, even if you were in your fourth consecutive game.
* A few years ago, I helped organize an AAU-type all-star team called the Erie Red Storm. For one Saturday, we had only five players and had to play three games. We must have lost all three games without subs, right? And the third game was probably a ragged affair because the players' legs were shot, right? Nope. It seemed like the club got better with each game and we won all three.
* When I played at Bethel Christian High School, we didn't have a JV team, so I was on the varsity all four years. In about 70 career games, I was on the bench for a total of eight minutes -- and most of that was the six minutes I sat during a blowout of Portersville Christan School. When you're in your teens or early 20s, you have energy to burn. (Side note: I may hold the Guinness World Record for biggest playing time differential between high school and college.)

All that said, if I was a college coach, I'd still rotate eight or maybe nine players just to keep guys happy and to be prepared when a starter gets hurt or picks up fouls. And I'd have a pre-stated rotation so the players didn't have to wonder how much PT they'd get going into a game. As I recall, that's how Tom Chapman worked his lineup. The rotation was set prior to the game and would only get altered if a player had a hot streak or picked up two fouls in the first half. Then Chappy would implement situational substitutions in the closing minutes of the game.

We can argue all we want about subs, but Reilly's plan -- which none of us would have endorsed prior to the Clarion game -- certainly worked.

Knight Knotes:
* I'd like to know the thoughts of Clarion coach Dr. Ron Righter when he looked at the stat sheet and saw T.J. Wilson's line: 20 points, 9 rebounds, 7-for-9 on field goals, and 6-for-10 on free throws. Wilson entered the game averaging 2.3 ppg and 1.9 rpg.

* How about Mercyhurst trouncing #10 IUP Saturday, 71-47? And Slippery Rock trashed visiting Edinboro, 85-57. Quite a wacky weekend in the PSAC West.

* For all Gannon Hoops followers experiencing difficulty viewing comments, the solution seems to be abandoning Internet Explorer and switching to the Firefox web browser. Click here for a free download of Firefox.

47 comments:

  1. For the love of mercy, I am not superstitious or anything, but I am wearing my Tom Brady jersey for good freaking luck. Can't take another close game

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  2. And I'll watch the game with my wife, who is a lot like Tom Brady's supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen. Does anybody have a friend named "Wes" they can bring to the game?

    Also ... the Gannon game notes have Stephen Battle back in the starting lineup for the Knights. That should bring us some luck.

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  3. Jim - think your basketball gods may have listened... Finally, Wilson is in lineup!!!! For the love of... Basketball...
    :-)

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  4. Nice performance. Our depth was key in the second half.

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  5. Give credit to Reilly for inserting T-Jam Wilson into the starting lineup. The levitating lefty responded with an energetic 20 point 9 rebound performance, capped off by a late emphatic two-hand power slam that had even Air Dar'El smiling. :) The Golden Ones shot lights out and played impassioned defense. The iron man starting five played the entire second half. Too soon to say if the Knights can crawl out of the near-basement but with IUP getting annihilated at the Hurst, apparently anything is possible in the PSAC wild wild West.

    This was a big and desperate win against a very good Clarion team. Winfield Willis might be the best freshman guard in the PSAC not named Blazek. Calvin Edwards is an entertaining hard nosed player who looks and plays a lot like ex-Seneca standout Matt Brozewicz.

    Was great to see one of my all-time favorites Willie Alford back at the Jammermill, along with the rest of the 1961-62 team that put Gannon on the hoops map. That club played just a hair before me seeing my first game, a 1963 contest my Dad took me to. By then Alford and the amazing Al Lawson were in the process of rewriting the Gannon record books. And was that one of our own blog contributors hitting a pair of buckets at half time? Congratulations. A fine way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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  6. Well that was what this team is capable of, played a complete game and the results showed that. If only they can continue that trend.

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  7. Am I reading this correctly...?

    "Lakers throttle PSAC power in Men's Basketball" ...
    Mercyhurst 71 - IUP 47

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  8. Ewensel: I have two requests of you. Please wear your Brady jersey during all GU games for the rest of the season. And work on your free throws. :)

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    1. If I can figure out a way to not get facepaint on the dang thing AFTER the game, I will. With how they played on Satujrday I don't have a choice. lol...And sorry, I went to the Shaq/Dwight Howard school of shooting.

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  9. I think the difference, at least, with this game, was threefold. First, although Clarion is talented, it almost seemed like they weren't ready to play coming out of the gate, almost like they started different players than they normally do and their chemistry was off. I find it difficult to believe that was their best effort, considering their record.

    Second, Clarion couldn't have been ready for the energy, mobility, and explosiveness that TJ Wilson brought to the GU lineup. Compared to Furno/Martynenko, a steady dose of TJ must've seemed like playing against the Energizer bunny. They certainly couldn't have been prepared for his tendencies. That makes a difference, like a second-string NFL QB that comes in when a starter gets hurt and plays lights out for the remainder of that game. The interesting part is how things pan out in the next game, when the opposition has a chance to see some film on what he can do.

    Third, and probably most important, was that Blazek spent 6 minutes or so sitting in the first half with foul trouble, and TJ spent even longer on the pine for the same reason. Made it easier to play the entire second half when you get an extended rest in the first.

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  10. Just got a great email about the issue of resting players. Here's an excerpt:
    "Basketball players do not get tired. It is about desire and their commitment to the team, school, and community. Reilly works the players hard, but so do the best teachers. The teachers get great students out of it and Reilly should get great basketball out of it."

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  11. I am trying to understand why Gannon fans are satisfied taking out the Goldcamp era ( A gift ) Gannon through the Clarion game is 58 wins and 65 loses. the worst four year record in over 50 years.

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  12. Reilly's quote that it is impossible to get tired is completely blind to reality. Blazek was tired at MC, thats why he missed the free throws and made a poor decision on the pass to Belt. Macias and Furno were dragging badly at the Seton Hall game. Martynenko has looked tired at times. Players DO get tired, I dont understand how anyone can buy into that blanket statement that proposes otherwise.

    But thats fine, drink the machismo KoolAid of this coaching staff, the same coaching staff that, as Bob points out, is 58 and 65 minus two good years.

    The last time I checked, there's a HUGE physical difference between a teacher pushing a student to expand their minds and a coach screaming at a player to keep diving on the floor and running windsprints until they fall over. That analogy is even beyond a comparison of apples and oranges.

    To TheObserver's points: Clarion was not that great of a team, not bad but nothing exceptional. AND, as he points out, Blazek and Wilson did NOT play the whole game, keeping them fresh enough for the key stretch.

    And Jim, those examples of pickup games and AAU play you recited do not include 2 a day practices and practice on the day of the game.

    Players are going to have more energy some days than others, just like we all do in life. Coaches have to recognize that and not just stick to their crazy mindset while thumping their chests that its "impossible" to get tired.

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  13. If it was impossible for players to get tired, no one in DI or the NBA would ever rest their starters, but they almost all do. NBA coaches typically have a preordained substitution pattern that they stick to in most every game to insure their players are not overextended.

    If you are going to practice that hard and that long, then play your players 40 minutes a game, players WILL wear down. Period.

    IMO, you cannot ignore signs like dropping field goal percentages, multiple missed free throws by high percentage FT shooters in end-game situations, numerous occasions of GU defenders seemingly glued to the floor as opponents beat them off the dribble, multiple wear and tear injuries, etc. Sounds to me like Coach Reilly is trying to talk his players into believing they can't get tired, but the unbiased can see that might not be the case most of the time.

    I don't think that all of a sudden GU players magically weren't tired when they clearly were in the Edinboro and Mercyhurst games. The difference I saw in the Clarion game was the questionable effort of the opponent and the forced bench time of 2 starters in the firsty half due to foul trouble.

    With all due respect, I also agree that the comparisons to pickup games, AAU games, Christian league high school games (sorry, Jim), and teacher-student interaction (really?)are not comparable to this case. The level of physical effort demanded by the GU staff far overwhelms that required in any of those other situations.

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  14. Next year it all changes with this physical team and adding the kid from Urbana, look out no more close losses for sure. That kid doesn't get tired. Don't they say a game is 90% mental anyway? These kids are in their 20's they can handle the practices, if not go to D3. Maybe as individuals they need to concentrate more on focused stretching, coach can't do everything for them.

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  15. I would add that any level of high school basketball is not comparable. I am not sure what "Christian League" means, other than a belittlement of the level of basketball that schools with "Christian" at the end of their name. I have seen many high school basketball players at all levels go the entire 32 minutes. And many "Christian league" teams are competitive in PIAA Class A, where they belong based on the size of the schools.

    Anyhow, I agree with the overall assertion that the practice of all starters playing 20 minutes in the second half is not sustainable. It won't work in most games. Most teams shorten the substitutions in the second half, but you still have to rest players for the stretch drive, a time where GU teams have struggled recently. And a convenient time is when you build a little bit of a lead.

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  16. These are not typical 18-22 year olds. These are top shelf athletes. I remember playing some pick up ball one day between classes with a few Knights many years ago. Oh my God, you can't appreciate how fast these guys are until you see the blur of a player flash past you. You don't realize how high they jump until you go up to contest a lay up and when you've risen as high as you can they are still going up and you suddenly remember they can dunk (in fact, they ARE dunking) and you can't (I swear I could read the sole of Harry McLaughlin's left Converse as I was looking UP). The whole experience was like getting run over by a herd of six and half feet tall cheetahs. It's not what it looks like from the bleachers.

    I don't know what my point is. It seemed relevant when I was typing it. Thanks everybody for posting such great stuff!

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  17. On a completely unrelated note my 2 month old son attended his first game with me, well actually the second half.

    The knights are undefeated with him in attendance.

    Coach Reilly, I'm listening to offers...

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  18. I just wanted to add this for a fun sidenote, got a special plan for the game tomorrow in the stands, should be fun. Thanks to Slippery Rock for the inspiration. And thefauves1, we need him at all the game now

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  19. The "Christian League" reference referred to several local teams that are from much smaller schools that have a quality of play that doesn't approach even the lowest level of PIAA play. Typically, much smaller (in numbers and in size) teams playing a less demanding style of play. Wasn't mean to belittle anyone, just meant to point out that it isn't really a comparable level of play to GU. Hey, I apologized to Jim in advance.

    There's no doubt that these players are talented as Walter's post described (I was dunked on by several GU players in my day there as well), but that isn't the issue either.

    Neither does the level of play (DI, DII, or DIII) make a difference. The length and ferocity of practice and a particular coach's substitution patterns can be the same at any of these levels.

    Stretching? Really? As do all players at this level, GU players stretch extensively before practice and games. That has nothing to do with this issue. (In best Allen Iverson voice)Stretching? We're talking about stretching? Not the games that I ...(oh, never mind)

    The age of the players isn't the issue either. At all levels, coaches rest their players regularly (often in the same pattern each game), read the signs of how they are holding up (shooting percentages, injuries, etc) and scale back and shorten practices as the season progresses (read or listen to Bobby Knight, for one, on the subject) to make sure their players are capable of playing all out to the peak of their abilities, not allowing them to falter because of fatigue. IMO, that isn't happening all the time at GU.

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  20. Interesting comments from Coach Reilly on his weekly radio show with Jim LeCorchick on Tuesday:
    * His opinion is that Stephen Battle will miss the rest of the year, and he can't redshirt because he's played too many games in 2011-12.
    * Steve Piotrowicz is "definitely" out for the year due to a concussion. Right now he can't even attend the games until his symptoms go away. Reilly added that Piotrowicz will finish his degree next year and will help coach the Knights.
    * Addressing the now lack of depth at PG, Reilly said about Adam Blazek, "I told him don't even look over at the bench. You're not coming out."
    * When talking about working the players hard, Reilly said, "We're not doing much in practice now -- mostly just fine-tuning."
    * He compared his Gannon team to the NY Giants: 7-7 at one point, hard nosed coach, hard working team, and they've used defense to make it to the Super Bowl.
    * He tal

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    1. I talked to Steph Tuesday, said he just got cleared.

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    2. good question, he said he was cleared to start practicing Tuesday.

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    3. Yeah same thing I heard, but I heard it was very limited and that it'd be a while
      For him to be cleared for full play

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  21. Yes, stretching. Proven to reduce injuries, and help performance when it is done on a consistent basis. I have watched too many practices and watched how many young athletes just go through the motions. Hence the comment "focused stretching". Just because you sit on the floor and put your head to your knee doesn't mean your stretching appropriately or for physical benefit.

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    1. not true, actually, most recent research has shown that pre-event cold stretching can help precipitate injury.

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    2. not doubting you, but can you present us a link with this research in writing? I'd like to read it. Being serious... I've said that same thing for the longest time and would like to have it in writing to show to others who have opposed the idea.

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    3. http://www.tothemaxfit.com/articles/pdf/FlexibilityInjuryReview.pdf

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/sports/playmagazine/112pewarm.html

      http://stronglifts.com/5-reasons-why-you-shouldnt-do-static-stretches/

      http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-241-287--7001-0,00.html

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    4. Thank you!! Love the third one!

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  22. Jim - last line * He tal...?

    Also, re: Battle. Shame! He was just starting to get his stuff together and start playing like the Battle we saw most of the season last year. Hopefully he'll be able to get back this season, just to somewhat salvage his sophomore season, however, don't want to see him rushed back and possibly ruin his career. Best wishes to both him and Steve (which is a huge loss).

    don't like the comment about Blazek not looking for a sub. Having Belt run point for a minute or 2 at a time is not going to be a huge downfall. I mean his TO's obviously show that he's not a PG, but just to give Blazek 5-6 minutes off a game would do them great. Tucker isn't really at the level of the rest of the team, but even inserting him for a minute or so just to give some breathers could help. Playing a whole half a game here or there doesn't hurt (like last game.. they were ready for it), however, I'd hate to see every starter play 38+ minutes every game. I don't think Oscar could if he tried. Love the kid, great player (don't think he's playing up to where he should/could be), but half the time he makes a few runs and is pulling at his jersey and waving at Coach Reilly for a sub.

    It'll be interesting, to say the least, to see how the rest of the season runs out.

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    1. maybe you shouldn't be so literal, Reilly's comment about Blazek was said sarcastically.

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    2. I understand that, however, look at his minutes. The 6 minutes he sat vs. Clarion was only the 2nd most of the season he's seen the bench. It was said in jest, but numbers say he more than likely will be playing 38 mins a game, if not more.

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  23. We're STILL talking about stretching? Please.

    OK, seriously this time.

    No question that stretching properly is important. GU players are doing and have been doing effective (not sure what qualifies as "focused" stretching) stretching (they don't have 30 minutes to spend on stretching, you know) throughout the Reilly era, as Coach Viscuso does a good job with that part of the game. That ISN'T the problem. Overextending players with long, overly combative (sometimes multiple per day) practices leading to physical and mental fatigue is the issue. All the stretching in the world wouldn't make a difference in this case.

    Battle not returning is surprising and unfortunate. He had told me himself that he was coming back in the first part of February, so I was surprised. His return was the boost I was hoping would propel GU to a strong 2nd half in the conference. It will be difficult now.

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    1. they practice no more or less than any other team in Division II.

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  24. My comments were no attempt to critique Coach Viscuso. I think he is a fantastic strength and conditioning coach and Gannon is lucky to have him. My point was towards individual efforts to maintain and progress their athleticism. If practices "lead to physical and mental fatigue" at the average age of 20 I hate to see how college athletes fair after graduation in the real work world. Seriously...you thought my opinion on stretching was off? Please.

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  25. Please read my posts more carefully. I said no such thing about your opinion on stretching. I posted, and I quote "No question that stretching properly is important". However, I then said that GU players do stretch but spending a half hour or more on stretching isn't feasible.

    Yes, no matter what their age, spending 5-6 hours a day practicing or playing (as GU has done on many, many occasions this year, combining twice-daily sessions whenever school is not in session or on game days with lengthy single sessions when it is), can lead to fatigue of the body and mind among the players.

    As for how college athletes "fair" (sic) in the real world, the emphasis there usually reverts to the mental side of things as opposed to the physical, and in a job situation, things are far different than when playing a game.

    I also disagree that GU practices "no more or less than any other team in Division II." I have some frame of reference from a friend that coached several AAU players that went on to play in college, and, based on what he told me, GU practices more often and for longer periods of time than other schools do.

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    1. I still don't understand why people are talking about long practices. I know they were a rare group and we cannot compare every team to them, but the Lindsey-Stosh-Pierre-KG group did the same thing. They were fine. No they weren't fine.. They were amazing! It's not like these long practices and multiple practices are a "new" thing. These recruits can go see practices and talk to players on the team and see what it's like. They can't say they didn't know about it coming in to Erie.

      The bottom line is that these teams, overall, aren't as talented as those teams were. Everyone wants Coach Reilly's backside on a silver platter, however, look at what he has done besides those 2 years. He's only had 2 losing seasons and he's made GLIAC and PSAC playoffs with teams that I'll bet (without looking at something) you couldn't name every player to record a minute those seasons. We remember the two years they made the runs, because they were fantastic.

      I'll admit... I've not been thoroughly on board with some game decisions that have been made by the coaching staff just as much as the next fan. I'm not saying I could have done better, but some of them had me saying "why that?" afterwards. But Coach Reilly has done more in his brief time at Gannon then probably 60% of all other college basketball coaches have or will have done in their careers. Conference Champions, Region Champions, Elite 8 Appearance, long stretch of being ranked nationally, having freshmen of the year 2 years back-to-back (and what could possibly be a 3rd), etc.

      We've lost our backup PG and possibly our starting SF; for many programs that would mean falling to the depths of the basement. Gannon is still in it. I'm not trying to sit here and strictly defend Coach Reilly, but you have to look at it all-around. We had 2 great years and we've had a few average years since. Some of those average years could be considered above-average given the personnel they had. It's not always JUST the coach that is the sour patch of the team...

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  26. Riley has "only" had two losing seasons? He's had THREE -- 12-15 in 2005-06, 9-17 in 2006-07, and 13-15 in 2009-10, and this could very well be his fourth. Only two other Gannon coaches since 1960 have had losing seasons, and they only had one each -- Dave Markey was 11-14 in 1970-71, and Bob Dukiet was 10-16 in 1995-96. Dukiet was fired after his losing season, despite having had winning seasons the prior six years, and a career record of 136-67. Riley is now 114-75.

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    1. I stand corrected, he has had 3 losing seasons, however, I'm not counting 09-10 as a losing season because they were 8-6 in conference and made PSAC's.

      2005-2006 12-15 6-11 no playoffs (losing season; not "his team" though)
      2006-2007 9-17 4-13 no playoffs (losing season as first season with "his team")
      2007-2008 26-5 16-1 lost in 2nd round of Great Lakes Region (winning season #1)
      2008-2009 30-4 12-2 lost in Elite 8 (winning season #2)
      2009-2010 13-15 8-6 lost in 1st round of PSACs (winning season #3; conference record is all that matters)
      2010-2011 15-11 6-8 no playoffs (losing season; overall record means nothing)

      6 seasons
      105-67 (.610WP%)
      52-41 (.559WP%)
      3 playoffs (1 GLIAC, 2 PSAC, 1 PSAC Champ, 1 Atlantic Region Champ, 1 Elite 8 Appearance)

      No those are not the most impressive statistics and yes he's had the most losing seasons of any Gannon coach. How many times did Slocum's teams make the NCAA tournament? How many times did Slocum's teams make a Sweet 16 appearance? elite 8? regional champs? GLIAC champs? His record is much better than Coach Reilly's, so he must have a lot of playoff wins, right? His teams must have always been in the NCAA tournament. His teams must have always won the GLIAC.

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  28. I think Slocum went to the NCAA tournament like 7 straight years.

    True he never won an NCAA playoff game.

    Although I believe the Great Lakes Region to be far superior to this region.

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    1. Slocum made it 6 straight years to NCAA playoffs, but never won an NCAA playoff game.

      Back then, yes, Great Lakes was tougher... not any more. Great Lakes has minimal representation at the top of the D2 Basketball world.

      But still my point was proven... Coach Reilly has more NCAA playoff wins than Coach Slocum does (at Gannon). Gannon beat Kutztown 3 TIMES the one season. Looking at when Gannon made the Great Lakes under Coach Slocum, there are a few years that Gannon played a team they easily handled in the regular season and then choked when it counted. Coach Reilly and his teams may not be consistently productive, like Coach Slocum's teams were, however, when it has counted Coach Reilly's teams have surpassed those teams. Look at (2 years ago?).. Gannon had no business even being in the PSAC playoffs and they were narrowly defeated AT IUP by a few baskets (and it was closer than that until Gannon started fouling to stop clock). That may have even been the year IUP went to the National Championship, but not sure. Also, look at the number of one or two possession games Gannon has won or lost under Coach Reilly. They are IN every game until the end. Yes, it's obviously an issue when they collapse at the end so many times, however, I'm quite sure that Coach Reilly isn't ignoring this issue. the players just need to respond.

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  29. Corey...you are so quick to defend Reilly when in fact, if you read my words their was no criticism of him.

    But if your point that you're making is that Reilly took the program higher (elite 8) while Slocum won more consistently then I agree.

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  30. My intention wasnt to criticize you. I was using your statement to further prove my initial point.

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    1. Sorry Fauves, I guess the fact that I replied rather than commented did make it look like I was directly speaking to you. Sorry about that, not my intent.

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