Saturday, January 14, 2012

Where Has All The Offense Gone?

The engine that powered the Knights' high-octane offense in the first 12 games of the season is now sputtering. In Saturday's 65-59 loss at California (Pa.), GU scored a season-low 59 points, 27 below their average. They shot just 22-of-53 from the field (41%) and 5-of-18 on threes (28%). Combine that with Gannon's 27-for-70 field goal chart (38%) vs. Edinboro, and you can see that Gannon's offense needs a tune-up. It's interesting to see how this team's personality has flip-flopped like a politician. At the start of the season, they handled the ball confidently and scored easily but allowed nearly as many points. Now they've tightened up the defense but stopped making shots.

So where has all the offense gone? Nobody can say for sure, put I'm speculating some Gannon fans will say it's John Reilly's fault for running the team too hard in practice. I think it's probably more of what Tom Chapman taught his players at Gannon: the first half of the season, you'll score on your first option. Then, after teams have you scouted, you'll need to score on your second or third option. GU's first option has been transition basketball -- score quickly before the opponent gets set. Now that teams are making Gannon swing the ball and score in half court, the offensive productivity has waned.

The Knights need to make some adjustments or this will end up another season described as "disappointing" and "mediocre." Gannon fans expect the NCAA playoffs every year. They don't have a second option.

Knight Knotes:
* I felt bad about Gannon's loss but what made me feel worse was Reilly saying after the game, "Steve (Piotrowicz) probably won't be back" after missing Saturday's game due to injury. Piotrowicz, who has battled a hip injury for months, is a heart-and-soul kind of player the Knights will miss in practices and games. And beyond the intangibles, he's the only other PG the Knights have besides Adam Blazek. Piotrowicz's absence will hurt Gannon's offense for sure.

* The Knights are now a 8-6 overall. I checked out the rest of the region, and 14 teams have better records than Gannon. I didn't research their in-region and vs. Division II opponents records which carry the weight in the regional ranking, but here's where those 14 teams currently stand overall:
-- The PSAC boasts 7 teams with more stellar records: IUP (12-2), Bloomsburg (12-3), Clarion (11-5), Edinboro (9-5), Mercyhurst (9-5), Slippery Rock (9-5), and Kutztown (9-5).
-- In the WVIAC, 4 schools have better marks than GU: West Liberty (14-1), Alderson-Broaddus (12-2), Charleston (12-4), and Wheeling Jesuit (9-5).
-- The CIAA seems to be having a down season, but Shaw (12-2), Winston-Salem (11-2), Bowie State (10-3) still have better records than our Knights.
Even if the Knights catch fire these next 2 weeks, don't anticipate them being ranked in the region when the first Atlantic rankings are released later this month. There are several teams in GU's way before they break into the region's upper echelon.

* Interesting that Cal spent $59 million for their new 6,000-seat convocation center but drew only 257 for Saturday's game.


  1. It's 12 minutes into the game, and both Gannon and Cal are 4-for-17 from the field. And I thought it was cold outside!

  2. And the Knights drop to a pedestrian 8-6. Losses have been by 1, 2, 2, 4, 4, and 6. What a disappointing season. I thought this team had a shot to contend for the PSAC and an NCAA bid.

    At least if we were Mercyhurst, the game on Wednesday would be our playoff game.

  3. Even though I have talked negatively abuout some of the players I must say my jaw just dropped when I read Steve may be done for season... :-(

    He was a great 6th man and made it even better at times when it was him blazek and macias/belt on floor.

    If he's done, I really think this season is wrapped up... Hopefully he'll be there for senior night because I'll be the first one choking on my words and giving him a standing ovation.

  4. I just received a heads up from Gannon SID Dan Teliski that the first regional rankings won't be released until Feb. 15. Is that about the dumbest thing you ever heard? The rankings always helped generate awareness for schools in the region and increased attention to individual basketball programs. We'll just have to guess at the regional rankings until then, I guess.

    Maybe we should develop our own unofficial regional rankings. Let's see ... my computer puts Gannon at #1 and Mercyhurst at #48. Maybe I'm factoring my personal feelings into the selections a little too much.

  5. There is apparetnly no limit to the NCAA's dumbness. Judging from your regional report, our Golden Ones the regional rankings will as relevant to them as a comb is to Bruce Willis. Hard to understand how this team rolls over Bloomsburg and Mansfield and then turns right around and loses to Edinboro and Cal, a team that had dropped 7 of 10 going in. How does that happen?

    Barring an increasingly unlikely late season run Gannon is making a B line for another 15 win season. Remember when it was the other schools that had programs where no one expected a conference tournament bid or an NCAA tournament spot, players didn't graduate and the bleachers were a nice little refuge to get some alone time?


  6. My observations-

    Lots of close losses usually indicate a lack of the capability to make big plays at the end when needed. Sounds like Blanton is trying to be a go-to guy, but he isn't getting calls, probably due to his height (officals often assume a bigger guy was able to block a smaller guy's shot without fouling). Less than 15 FT's each of the last 2 games indicate that either GU isn't going inside enough or they aren't getting the calls (someone I know who watched the game online said it was clearly the latter on Saturday, particularly at the end and I thought that was the case vs Edinboro). The loss of Battle hurts badly in this area. He was capable of getting his own shot when it was necessary and getting to the line in the process.

    I agree that it looks like the wheels are coming off. Hard to believe that a team that looks like it is losing its legs (and its top players)is going to magically turn it around. Disappointing is a good word.

    Heard Piotrowicz got hurt in a lengthy practice session as the coaches were pushing the players very hard in reaction to the 'Boro loss. Still don't understand the thinking that killing the players in practice the day after a hard effort (or every day, marathon practice after marathon practice, for that matter) is helping anything. When players are tired, injuries happen(and this is clearly a tired team-already. Watch their feet on D and look at the shooting stats). Now, GU has lost 3 of their top 10 players for extended periods. I know that several other kids are playing hurt. How many more man-games will they lose? Can't anybody on the staff notice a trend here? Running the players into the ground ain't working, IMO. Remember Buckner and Demski? Now, it looks like we have a premature end to the season of another valuable player. And when will Bubby and Battle be back, if at all?

  7. The injuries that the Gannon players are sustaining are the chronic-type from wear and tear. Piotrowiczs hip, Battles knee, (and Demski's back). I don't think these type of injuries are as common among college players. Instead, you usually see a team lose a guy to a sudden injury, like Leao from Mercyhurst with his knee and shoulder. To me, this trends towards overuse.
    Losing as many games as they have down the stretch means the guys arent overmatched; if talent or work ethic was the problem, theyd be blown out by double digits each game. Experience of course plays a factor. But you'd have to be blind to not even consider that coaching plays a role in this too. Poor player management, play calling, and overcoaching affect the outcomes as well. This isnt a new trend; we've seen it for many years. Besides, if anyone should know how to recognize a weakness and make necessary changes, shouldn't it be the coaches? 100% of the blame doesn't go to the coaches but neither does 0%, and it sure would be nice to see the coaching staff wake up to realize that.

  8. Jeremy & Observor: I always appreciate your interest in Gannon Hoops and that you take the time to comment. You really help make the site what it is. The site just went over the 125,000 page view mark mainly because folks want to read the comments from fans like yourself. But I have to take issue with your inference/speculation/accusation that the coaches are to blame for Steve's injury. To accuse someone of causing injury to someone else without having all the facts (which we fans don't) is reckless.

    Go ahead and take the coaching staff to task for trying to chuck the ball full court hoping to score with 2 seconds left in a tie game against Seton Hill; that's fair. But no human being deserves to be blamed for causing a player's injury, unless they pushed the guy down a flight of stairs or something like that.

    You take issue with a tough practice after the Edinboro loss in which GU gave up 46 points in the second half. What were they supposed to do -- give the guys the day off? Just have walkthrough and talk about how to defend?

    Maybe we’re not on the same page because we have different perspectives. Maybe you’ve seen college kids repeatedly break down when they work out intensely. My perspective is that Bob Dukiet worked us well beyond what is now the NCAA limit for workouts in a week. Not only did we go 7 days a week most weeks, we regularly practiced 2x a day even when school was in session. We’d have what was supposed to be shooting practice from 6AM to right before the start of our 8AM classes (but Duke would get worked up and run us full court) and then we’d get back together to go from 3PM until just before the cafeteria closed at 6. I recall Todd Stablein saying in the lockerroom one time, “It seems like we’re ALWAYS tying our sneakers.”

    Did those teams have a rash of injuries? No, but we did have the typical aches, pains, bruises, and spasms that all college teams feel. Did those teams win games? Yes – 2 of those 3 seasons produced 20+ wins. We won in large part because we were the better conditioned team. We would laugh that game days felt like off days because practices were so arduous.

    I say all that not to start a fight or try to put you down, but to share my perspective and to make sure we don’t make speculative accusations. I’d sure hate to be on the receiving end of them.

  9. Jim,
    Never said that Reilly is a bad guy who purposely wants to hurt his players. It's just that when you see multiple players breaking down, you have to wonder if overuse is at least a factor in the injuries. They are taking a chronic beating and it has to come from somewhere, and it cant be from sitting in class or playing Playstation. (And there are multiple players, not just Piotrowicz, that have gone down.)

    Just look at the facts; players tired down the stretch, missing short shots, making poor decisions, not shuffling their feet on defense, added to a slew of injuries, one has to question what’s going on during conditioning and if its really helping or hindering the team.

    With regards to Dukiet's conditioning expectations; what worked for Dukiet’s teams might not always work for other teams.

  10. I concur with Jeremy-Not specifically blaming Coach Reilly for intentionally causing ANYONE'S injuries. But I do think that, based on what I have been told, that the Knights have been practicing harder, longer, and more often than they have done in the past, which many considered extensive even then. There have been way too many wear and tear type injuries amongst GU players to not at least consider the possibility that the amount and intensity of practice is a contributing factor, no matter what happened back in the 80's and 90's (with all due respect, Jim). Additionally, at least some of the Knights' recent and end-of-game troubles and offensive and defensive woes may be attributable to fatigue, as shooting percentages are dropping and lateral movement on D seems to have slowed somewhat.

    Lastly, I'd have to think that having gone this hard since October 1, the GU players are already very well conditioned, and it's unlikely that they will lose that conditioning if practices were reduced say, 20-30 minutes per day at this point in the season. Most great coaches (including Knight, Krzyszewski, Wooden, and Dean Smith-all of whom I have either heard say or read in their books that it is their belief that the length and intensity of practices need to be adjusted downward as the season progresses, particularly if their teams are exhibiting signs of tired legs) believe that working their players less later in the year is something they believe in.

    By the way, citing Bob Dukiet as an example of normal, typical behavior may not be the best idea. Although he was a good coach and a great and interesting guy, he was anything but normal or typical. No offense.