Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bump In The Road or Here We Go Again?

I'm not quite sure how to feel after Gannon's 72-65 loss to IUP Saturday afternoon. Option A: Feel good that the Knights competed with the #22 team in the country despite not having injured Adam Blazek, arguably their best all-around player. Option B: Feel like a two-game home losing streak is the beginning of another right-around-.500 season.

The season certainly isn't lost, even though the Knights sit at 1-2 in the PSAC West, tied for last place with doormats Lock Haven and Clarion. The remaining four games on the 2012 Gannon schedule are all winnable even with Blazek sidelined: Notre Dame of Ohio (2-5), Virginia State (2-3) or West Virginia Wesleyan (4-2), at Millersville (3-0, 7-2 but with losses to teams Gannon has beaten), and at Shippensburg (0-3, 2-5). So GU could be 9-2 heading into the long Christmas break. 

Who wouldn't want an .818 winning percentage after 11 games? Maybe the answer to that question is longtime Gannon fans. The vibe I'm getting from the folks who still attend games (more on that next paragraph) is that they are starving for a 20-win season, not a fourth consecutive campaign with double-digit losses. The Knights are just 46-40 over the last three-plus seasons, winning just 10 of their last 19 games at the Hammermill. Gannon fans are used to two home losses in a season, not in the span of one week.

I think longtime fans are also down more than they should be because the atmosphere at the games has declined as well. Only about 1,000 fans attend each game, and they sit scattered throughout the Audi. It's a myth that every regular season Gannon game was sold out during the Chapman years, but more often than not you had to tuck your winter coat under your legs because most of the bleacher seats around you were taken. I used to feel sorry for the Metro League players and fans who played in a gym with the bleachers 75% empty. Now I'm feeling sorry for myself.

Let's hope the Knights can sweep the rest of 2012 and beat some quality teams in January. That's my wish not just because I want the team to do well. I'd also like the Knights to bring the Hammermill back to life.

Other thoughts after the IUP/Gannon game:
* What could give Gannon fans hope for a better tomorrow is that Robert Wilson -- who torched the Knights during his days at Urbana -- hasn't hit his offensive stride yet.Wilson is just 4-for-17 on threes this year and looked visibly frustrated/disgusted/angry Saturday afternoon. The Knights will need Wilson more than ever with Blazek on the sidelines for an expected 4-6 weeks.

* You have to tip your fedora to Indiana coach Joe Lombardi who has turned the Crimson Hawks into a perennial national contender. Organization is a big part of that. For the game, he had a team manager sit directly behind him with a dry erase board. Each full time out, the manager's job was to move the coach's chair to the center of the huddle and hand him the dry erase board. A second manager tended to the needs of the players, who sat in order on the IUP bench.

* IUP's Blake Vedder was listed at 7-foot-3 in the program and that was no exaggeration. He stood head, shoulders, and armpits above everyone else on the court. Vedder's appearance brought up the name of another 7-foot-3 Gannon opponent, St. Michael's Michel Bonebo. Bonebo and guard George Daway make the Purple Knights a force in the MECC in the mid-1980s. They still rank as two of my favorite Golden Knight opponents.

* Members of Oscar Macias' family attended the Gannon/East Stroudsburg game and unfortunately saw him go scoreless against the Warriors. Imagine his phone call home to them after his 17-point outing (15 in the first half) against IUP. They'd either beam with pride or call him a fibber. It was fun to see Macais play with so much confidence and energy against the Crimson Hawks.

* On a couple possessions vs. IUP, Gannon didn't play man defense. I don't think I've seen John Reilly do that in several seasons. One possession appeared to be a standard 1-2-2 while another possession appeared to be an "upside-down" 1-3-1 with Darrell Blanton at the top and diminutive Brandon Emmitt under the basket. The Knights also ran a couple new offensive sets, showing that Reilly is willing to tweak his standard game plan. I know the anti-Reilly faction who follows this site will say, "Yeah, but they still lost," but you have to understand that losing doesn't mean you did everything wrong and winning doesn't mean you did everything right.

* Despite Gannon's loss to IUP, longtime GU supporter Chuck Campagne had a great week. Not only was he named a Gannon Athletics Hall of Famer, he won Saturday's Gannon Booster Club 50/50. I saw Chuck bring his winning ticket over the to scorer's table and tell the booster who tried award him the prize, "Keep it." Well played, Mr. Campagne.

* I'm not hopeful for a large crowd at Friday's Porreco Cup opener vs. Notre Dame (Oh.) because the game will go head-to-head with Prep in the AAA state championship game. What could draw people to the game is that I'll be doing the game on the radio, so regular Gannon hoops listeners may head to the Hammermill just to avoid listening to me.

26 comments:

  1. Big early season test for the Golden Knights. Can't measure the effect of Blazek's injury. He will definitely be missed. Need the bench to step up.

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  2. Once again Jim you get robbed of being on the list of latest inductees into the Gannon Athletics Hall of Fame.

    http://gannonsports.com/news/2012/12/7/GEN_1207123149.aspx

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    1. Totally robbed. Thanks for recognizing. In the 1989-90 season, when Gannon finished 24-8 and advanced to the Elite 8, I led the country in field goal percentage (1.000, 1-for-1 in a 38-point win vs. Elmira) and Gannon easily won every game I played in. In fact, when I received playing time for Gannon during my four-year career, we were 27-1. If that's not a Hall of Fame resume, I don't know what is.

      Seriously, congratulations to Troy Nesmith and Chuck Campagne on their selections. Troy was certainly one of the best -- if not the best -- two-year players in Gannon history. And Chuck Campagne has been a great supporter of the Knights for decades. Nice to see them recognized for all they've done for GU.

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  3. I hope that I'm wrong but Blazek's injury pretty much sends this season down the tubes.

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  4. The women won without Jen Papich. Hope that's a sign the guys will win without Blazek.

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  5. Well the loss wasn't from a lack of trying. The awful start didn't help, but they got to the point that they had the lead briefly in the 2nd half. Just were not able to make a couple of key shots to make this win happen. Just annoying at the moment. Not sure if we had Adam how much it changes or not.

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  6. Tough loss ... the reality of not having Blazek set in, especially on the defensive end midway through the second half ... IUP got way too many easy baskets. The offensive effort was encouraging, especially after the first 10 minutes. I'll take my chances scoring 65 points in every game.

    The schedule doesn't get any easier. After losing to Indiana, then we have to play Notre Dame. And longtime fans say that we don't bring any good teams to the Hammermill.

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  7. Wouldn't it be possibly 9-2 if they were to sweep the next 4 games? Which would be a very good start for the season if it were to happen.

    When it comes to the atmosphere comment, it feels like it has been slipping from even 3-4 years ago. It felt like the place was more into the Women's game than they were in the Guys game to be quite honest. Just felt kinda blah overall in the 'Mill.

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    1. You're right -- 9-2. Correction made. Thanks.

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  8. Congratulations to the Lady Knights who found a way to win without one of their best players. Good teams know how to handle adversity. When a team mate goes down, someone else steps up. That's what seperates mediocre teams from good teams.

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  9. att for men's games
    07/08 = 1575
    08/09 = 1754
    09/10 = 1035
    10/11 = 1091
    11/12 = 1282
    12/13 = 996
    best att in recent time 98/99 = 2063

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  10. I love your attitude Jeremy. Is your motto in life to give up on everything at the first sign of adversity?

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  11. Don't know about anyone else but I'm starting to become concerned about the lack of an outside game
    Can't doubt the intensity though.

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  12. Agreed...gotta have the outside game to open up the inside...I have never been a fan of the McDowell offense they are running.....and haven't seen anything to change that. It's the "never take a shot" offense. Maybe its my imagination but I've seen several open shots passed up to make a few more passes and then have to force a shot or a move to the basket.

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  13. One good thing I noticed: Macias played his best game in a Gannon uniform Saturday.

    He is more verbal, both on the court and on the bench....I'm thinking he is ready to shoulder the load, and, carry the team in Blazek's absence.

    His defense is spectacular, and, when he trusts his shot and simply lets it flow, he is fine.

    I think Wilson has to do the same: let it flow and trust his ability.

    All-in-all, a tough loss. But, I see what may turn out to be a big positive going foreward: the maturation and development of Oscar Macias.

    Long season. Rightly or wrongly, color me as optimistic on a solid season as ever.

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  14. Still feels strange to say that the Porreco Cup is in four days. If that's the case, I should be unwrapping my Christmas presents.

    Which brings me to my point ... I will not say that I understand the money or politics behind it, but can we please get rid of the Porreco Cup? It's final exams week for the players, then our undermanned squad has to play four games in six days, including two on the road. All because we have to force the Porreco Cup into the only place that it can fit.

    We would be soooo much better off playing one game on Saturday and then an indy game at another point in the schedule. The attendance will be poor ... December attendance usually is (and it's worse just before Christmas). The attendance figures are a little skewed because 2012/13 includes December only -- attendance is better after Christmas.

    Let's hope that the 2012 Porreco Cup is the last one. I'm ready for to move on.

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  15. Golden 89...
    I'm not so sure Gannon would want to turn away one of Gannon Athletics most generous benefactors. The Cup is scheduled where it is because of the DII mandatory dead period.

    I agree the attendance will probably be poor but it has been poor for every home game, Christmas or no Christmas. Too many other distractions, but athletic and non-athletic, plus apathy with the men's program in general by many former fans. If the women continue to win then perhaps they will draw in more fans who might stay for the men's game. Otherwise, I'm afraid the men are locked in to the 700/1000 diehards.

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  16. Regarding the 2 tournaments (Miller Classic and Porreco Cup), why not alternate the title sponsor every year and hold it the first weekend of December?

    I think that that would give GU a little more scheduling elasticity, enabling them to spread out their indie games a little bit. That way, they could play an indie game somewhere around the week before and the weekend after Thanksgiving, then have the tourney, giving them adequate preparation for the crossover games. I'm sure they could work out the details with the PSAC if the whole thing was done far enough in advance.

    Just a thought.

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  17. I was rather pleased with Saturday's game. Ranked team, starter injured and we were right there with them, I like our odds the next time we play IUP. The problem I see is the lack of transition points and the plays seem mechanical for such athletic style players. Hopefully Oscar keeps his stride with the 3pt shot with R.Wilson 4/17 and Adam 7/25, nobody is consistent right now at a distance.
    As for attendance, I can name about 50 DII schools who would kill to have a measly 700-1000 fans.

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  18. Observor -- The first weekend in December is a mandaded PSAC crossover weekend. The only two open weekends are Thanksgiving (GM Classic) and this coming weekend.

    The PSAC does not have any games this weekend due to this week being final exam week. Therfore, the only time to squeeze in the Porreco Cup is during final exam week and two days before a crossover road trip. Benefactor, or no benefactor, scheduling a game on both Friday and Saturday is detrimental to the team's success.

    The best time for independent games are the Saturday before Thanksgiving, a Thanksgiving weekend tournament, and the week of extra PSAC west game (like the women did going to ND of OH).

    The largest piece of evidence that playing this weekend is a bad idea is this -- None of the other 15 PSAC men's basketball teams are in action either Friday OR Saturday. And we're playing BOTH days. Is the Gannon athletic department smarter than the other 15 PSAC athletic departments? Or are they playing this thing on Dec 14-15 because they have to?

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  19. I was just floating an idea out there. Eliminating one of the tournaments was the main concept. Working out when you'd play the other one by fitting it into the PSAC schedule is something that could be worked out, even if you played it the weekend after Thanksgiving.

    As long as you have to play so many league games, breaking up one of the tournaments into 2 indie games, whenever you want to play them, is the idea I was trying to suggest. I apologize for not being thoroughly knowledgable of the PSAC-mandated schedule requirements.

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  20. I may be way off base here but I think the GM & the PC are money makers due to the underwriting by GM & P. That besides the tradition of what? 25 or so yrs.

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  21. Observor -- I hope that I did not give you the impression that I was sniping or that you needed to apologize. I am sorry if you felt that way.

    Anyhow, your idea of "combining" or swapping the sponsorship is a good one. Our hand may be forced in that regard if we are required to play more league games in next year's super-size PSAC.

    GU Fanman -- perhaps others feel differently, but to me, the tradition of the Porreco Cup was taken away with the move to mid-December. The Porreco Cup was a Christmas / New Years season staple, along with family gatherings, bowl games, and a week off school & work. I will miss seeing some of my GU alumni friends who go to their only game of the year at the Cup as they come back to Erie for the holidays.

    Now it's stuck in the end of finals week, along with competing with shopping, Christmas preparation and high school football championship weekend. I can't recall a sold-out GU game, even in the "sellout" heyday, the weekend or two before Christmas.

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  22. When you have a chance, check out Coach Reilly's interview with Jim LeCorchick from this week on Sports Radio 1330 The Fan. Reilly is very candid about Blazek's injury, timetable to return, and player attitudes on the bench. Great stuff.

    http://www.gannonsports.com/news/2012/12/12/MBB_1212124730.aspx

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  23. Just a thought. Combine the GM & PC. Use the combined sponser $ and bring in a D1 tem or 2.
    Maybe a BGSU vs YSU and Gannon vs St Bonnie.
    In a good yr GU could make it interesting.
    Whaddya Think?

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  24. With the seven Catholic schools reportedly leaving the Big East, maybe it's time for fellow Catholic schools Gannon and Mercyhurst and maybe Seton Hill to leave the PSAC and join them ... our only chance at big-time Division I. :-)

    We could call the new league the Big Priest.

    (Can't take credit for that one ... heard it elsewhere, but it made me laugh)

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