I was going to hold off until next week to preview Gannon's opening set of games against Glenville State (Friday, Nov. 9) and Ohio Valley (Saturday, Nov. 10), but I couldn't wait because I'm already excited to learn about these teams. By the end of this post, we actually might know more about the opponents than Gannon, who added 7 players this off-season. By the end of next weekend, we'll have a really good gauge if the new Knights have a chance to be better than last year's 14-12 edition.
Let me look way ahead first -- 17 months in the the future. Gannon will host the 2014 Women's Division II Elite 8 at Erie Insurance Arena (aka Erie Civic Center or Tullio Arena). When I received the press release in my email inbox yesterday, I first thought the City of Erie was giving the Gannon women's team an award for their NCAA run last year. But then I read it more carefully and was pleasantly surprised to read "Gannon and City of Erie Awarded 2014 NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Elite Eight." We all remember when GU hosted the Atlantic Region in 2010 before a full house at the Hammermill. Can you imagine an NCAA championship game with 6,000 screaming fans on hand? However it turns out, that will be a fun week.
Now back to the present day. If the Knights don't come home next weekend with a pair of wins, several Gannon Hoops fans will hit the panic button. Out of 15 teams in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC), Glenville was 12th in the preseason poll while OVU was dead last. Glenville was 7-20 overall last year and 6-16 in the WVIAC. Ohio Valley (8-18, 8-14) is actually predicted to finish behind Bluefield State, a woeful 1-26, 0-22 last season.That's like asking a girl to the prom and her replying, "I'd actually prefer to go with that kid standing in the corner, eating his own boogers." It's like offering a recruit a full scholarship and he says, "No thanks. I think Lock Haven is a better situation."
Friday vs. Glenville State Pioneers
We can say with certainty that Gannon won't be the biggest game of the week for the Pioneers. On Tuesday, Glenville travels to West Virginia University to face coach Bobby Huggins, big man Deniz Kilicli, and the Mountaineers, who have made 5 consecutive NCAA tournaments. Glenville returns three starters from a season ago: junior G Kevin Gray (16.6 ppg, 79 threes), sophomore G Andy Dollman (8.9 ppg, 32 threes), and soph. G Jamel Morris (14.7 ppg, 68 threes).
Glenville might already lead all of Division II in turnovers. An incredible 12 new players, 8 of them freshmen, have been added to the Pioneer roster this year. Junior newcomers include 6-foot-7 F Lamar Mallory, who was first-team all-conference at Miami (Oh.) Middletown community college, Lamont Cole, a 6-foot-1 guard who averaged 12 ppg at Edison Community College, and J.J. Vasquez. The only info I could find on Vasquez is that he's 6-foot-5 and from Boston. I also found this J.J. Vasquez online, but I don't think he's the right guy.
Saturday at Ohio Valley Fighting Scots
I'm not sure about the quality of the OVU roster, but the quantity is overwhelming. I had to count twice to make sure I was right -- 21 players in all, only 2 of them seniors. OVU lost its top 6 scorers who generated 92% of the team's offense a season ago. The current roster accounts for only 2 of the team's 181 three-pointers from last season.
The most productive returnee is 6-foot-7 Lithuanian soph. F Osvaldas Gaizauskas (4.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg), who only played 12 games last season and is sure to cause Gannon radio man Sean Amicucci fits. Evan Jamison (2.8, 1.5), a 6-foot-6, 230-pound sophomore, averaged 10 minutes a game in 24 contests as a freshman. A 6-foot-7 senior from Canada, Mustafa Helal (2.6, 1.3) played in 24 games last year for the Scots.
Expected to lead the backcourt will be 5-foot-9 senior Ashton Brown, who left Division II Texas A&M Kingsville last season despite being the leading scorer (14.3 ppg) for the 12-16 Javelinas. Brown hit 38% of his threes (43-for-113) and an amazing 96% of his free throws (124-for-129), which led all DII players last season. I couldn't find why Brown, a native of Randolph, NY, left Texas after one successful season, so I'm left scratching my head. Also helping will be G Chris Baker, 5-foot-10 transfer from DII Missouri Southern State. Baker, who did not play at MSSU last season, averaged 1.6 ppg in 7 games for the Lions in 2010-11, who finished 26-3. (Side note: Brown's bio and Baker's bio on the OVU site have room for improvement.)