We like to complain on this blog when Gannon's offense is sluggish or why some talented players aren't seeing more action. How would you react when your team doesn't get out of the 40s against Gannon, Slippery Rock, and Mercyhurst? And think if your head would still be on your shoulders Gannon lost its season/home opener to non-scholarship Thiel and followed that up losing at home to non-scholarship LaRoche? As far as the players, we all saw the Golden Eagles for 40 minutes yesterday. Some Gannon Hoops fans who made the trip to Clarion have seen them in two games vs. the Knights. Do you see any players on that team you'd complain should be on the floor more? Do you see one player on that team who would even start for Gannon? The nicest thing you could say about CU's best players would be, "He's decent."
I was thinking if I ran a blog for Clarion this year what some of the headlines would be:
* Augh! We Lost To A Division III Team!
* Gaaaaaa! We Lost To A DIII Team Again!
* We're Still Better Than Lock Haven -- Barely
* Thank God Central Penn Is Still On The Schedule
* Dr. Righter Making Me Sick
* We Have The Most Boring Team In America
* I'm Going To Start Blogging About Curling Instead Of Clarion Basketball
Enough about the Golden Eagles -- let's turn to the Golden Knights, who cracked the 20-win plateau for the first time in 4 seasons. Gannon's defense pressured and suffocated Clarion from the outset, limiting the Eagles to 11 points in the first 14+ minutes of the game. It was interesting to see John Reilly's adjustments on defense for this game. Instead of pickup up at midcourt, the Knights often showed full-court pressure, sometimes denying the inbound pass. Instead of "showing and recovering" on ball screens, Gannon frequently double-teamed the ballhandler. And Gannon doubled its average blocked shots for a game, swatting away 5 Clarion attempts. I was thrilled that GU jumped on a team that had shocked Mercyhurst three days earlier. Reilly's strategy and the team's execution squelched any upset bid early on.
* BIG thanks to everyone who donated their time and money to Saturday's Pink Zone event. My Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer book signing event was a success, raising $135 for the Pink Zone charity and giving me the chance to chat with many Gannon Hoops fans in the Hammermill lobby. Thanks for your support!
* I'm not sure about C.J. Oldham running the point, which we saw a lot of yesterday. On one hand, having a 6-foot-8 forward handle the ball allows Oldham to see over defenses and dribble against a slower defender who is less likely to bollix up the offense with pressure D. On the other hand, Oldham committed 5 turnovers yesterday and isn't an outside threat. Not sure if this was a temporary experiment or if Reilly just found out there's a trophy for Tallest Division II Point Guard that he wants to get his hands on.
* Not sure how this happens, but it did. In one 4-day span, Mercyhurst gets shellacked at Clarion by 27 and shocks nationally ranked IUP, 57-48. As Golden89 says in the comments below, I'm not sure how the tie-breakers work, but Gannon has a legit shot at finishing the season with the same record as the PSAC West-leading Crimson Hawks. But from a big picture standpoint -- i.e. making the NCAA tournament -- I still think Gannon needs to win out and get to the PSAC finals to feel comfortable about an NCAA bid with a 25-6 record. Anything less than that could leave us out in the cold come Selection Sunday.
* Saturday's Millersville/Kutztown game was postponed until Monday for a reason I'd never seen before: As this press release says, "Illness and injuries left KU without enough healthy players." The wacky PSAC East gets even more bizarre.
* Friendly reminder: The first Atlantic Region rankings are due out Wed., Feb. 20. If Gannon had whipped Edinboro at the Audi, I'd be really pumped to see where the Knights stand. Now I'm hoping they'll be top 8 material. Expect in the mix these dozen clubs -- from the WVIAC: West Liberty (24-1), Fairmont State (18-6), Alderson-Broaddus (16-7), and Charleston (16-7); from the CIAA: Winston-Salem (19-4), Livingstone (18-5), and Johnson C. Smith (16-8); and from the PSAC: East Stroudsburg (20-3), IUP (19-4), Slippery Rock (17-6), Gannon (20-5), and West Chester (17-6).