Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Elite 8: Ashland 74, Gannon 63

Advancing this far into the postseason has its obvious ups, but the downs hurt like a high-speed car accident. Gannon's season came to a close tonight in the Division II Elite 8 at the hands of #2 Ashland, 74-63. Once the pain goes away, I hope we can all cherish a 31-5 season fueled by nearly all underclassmen. Tremendous season Lady Knights! All of Erie is already looking forward to next year!

I'll let the commenters carry the day on the Gannon women in the postseason because you've watched them closer than I have this season. If you still want to follow the DII women's tournament, click here for live stats and links to the NCAA's official Division II women's Elite 8 headquarters.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Atlantic Region Champs! #1 Gannon 50, #7 Cal 47

I'm sure this wasn't how Cleve Wright and the Lady Knights drew it up, but they are going to the Elite 8 after winning the Atlantic Region championship tonight over California (Pa.), 50-47. Gannon survived a shooting chart of 15-for-53 (28%) and 2-of-13 on threes (15%) plus a trio of Cal three-point attempts as time wound down to secure their trip to San Antonio.

As gut-wrenching as the game felt to the Gannon team and fans -- my brother texted me the word "exhale" soon after the game ended -- this should be a confidence-builder for the Lady Knights. They didn't play their optimal game in the Sweet 16 but still advanced. Every team that wins a championship has a game like this. Monday night I watched the ESPN "30 For 30" documentary "Survive And Advance" about the 1983 NC State national championship men's team, and they played at least a half dozen games in which they were left for dead. Gannon survived and advanced, earning their berth in San Antonio.

The Lady Knights next opponent is a familiar one. Ashland (34-1) is a former GLIAC foe who defeated Gannon back on Nov. 10 at the Disney Classic, 70-59. The Eagles held off Wayne State tonight, 72-63, to capture the Midwest Region. They were #2 in the final regular season Division II USA Today top 25 coaches poll while the Lady Knights were #7.

For the next week or so, forget about the phrase "Don't Mess With Texas." We're replacing it with the Gannon Hoops motto: We Believe In Cleve! BIG THANKS to the Gannon fan who made this sign for tonight's game. I wonder if we can get Gannon to change its motto from "Believe In The Possibilities" to "We Believe In Cleve!" until the end of Gannon's run this year.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Women's NCAA 2nd Round: #1 Gannon 64, #4 IUP 46

Gannon is in the Sweet 16 after smothering Indiana (Pa.) Saturday night, 64-46, setting up a regional final vs. PSAC West rival California who is seeded #7. The Vulcans have won their two regional games by a combined 10 points while GU has outscored its opponents by 44 points. You have to like how the Lady Knights are cruising at this point, but don't make your Elite 8 plans yet for San Antonio. As Tom Chapman used to say, March is all about "survive and advance" which is what Cal has managed to do this weekend.

The PSAC West has been stellar this weekend. The men's squads are 2-0 after IUP and Slippery Rock won their first round games while the women are 5-2, the only losses coming at the hands of fellow PSAC West opponents (IUP to Gannon, Edinboro to Cal).

I'll let the commenters carry the day on the Gannon women in the postseason because you've watched them closer than I have this season. Click here for Gannon's Atlantic Regional Web Headquarters, powered by the Gannon Sports Information Department. And remember the Gannon Hoops motto: We Believe In Cleve!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Women's NCAA First Round: #1 Gannon 66, #8 Fairmont State 40

The Lady Knights dominated tonight on their way to a 66-40 thumping of WVIAC tournament champ Fairmont State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. With #2 Edinboro and #3 Shaw upset earlier this afternoon, Gannon could actually get to the Elite 8 by beating only #5, #6, and #8 seeds. I'm sure Coach Wright isn't looking past Saturday, but you have to like Gannon's chances even more this weekend at this point.

I'll let the commenters carry the day on the Gannon women in the postseason because you've watched them closer than I have this season. Click here for Gannon's Atlantic Regional Web Headquarters, powered by the Gannon Sports Information Department. And remember: We Believe In Cleve!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bust Out Your Brackets

You can watch the Division II tournament selection shows, both men's and women's, live online tonight starting at 10 PM. Just go to this NCAA web page and click on the link you want. Not that predictions mean anything, but I expect the Gannon women will host the Atlantic Regional and this is what I think the men's bracket will look like:

#1 West Liberty vs. #8 Bowie State
#2 Winston Salem vs. #7 East Stroudsburg
#3 IUP vs. #6 Slippery Rock
#4 Fairmont State vs. #5 Livingstone

I think Alderson-Broaddus might sneak into the #7 slot ahead of East Stroudsburg who hasn't beaten a team with a winning record since March 6 (vs. 14-12 Cheyney). The Warriors are 2-4 in their last 6 games with their only Ws at home vs. 8-19 Bloom and 10-18 Mansfield.

When the men's and women's brackets are official, I'll post them here. Go Knights!

Updated 3/10/13 10:16 PM: The Hammermill will be rocking this weekend -- the Gannon women will host the Atlantic Region NCAA tournament. Here are the brackets:

#8 Fairmont State (23-9) at #1 Gannon (28-4)
#5 Bloomsburg (24-5) vs. #4 IUP (22-8)
#3 Shaw (25-4) vs. #6 Glenville State (26-3)
#2 Edinboro (22-6) vs. #7 California (20-8)

Updated 3/10/13 10:40 PM: Gannon's season is officially over. Despite a 22-7 record, the Knights were not selected for the NCAA tournament this season. Kind of makes you extra ill to see Franklin Pierce be the #1 seed in the East Region at 21-8 and the 18-11 Arkansas Tech Wonderboys get at at-large bid in the Central Region. Here is the bracket for the Atlantic Regional which will be held at West Liberty:

#8 Bowie State (16-13) at #1 West Liberty (30-1)
#5 Livingstone (22-6) vs. #4 Fairmont State (22-8)
#3 IUP (24-5) vs. #6 East Stroudsburg (22-6)
#2 Winston-Salem State (21-6) vs. #7 Slippery Rock (22-8)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

If You Can't Finish, You're Finished

Back in the days of telegrams, a St. Louis Cardinals scout once famously and succinctly rated a player "good field, no hit." If we had to summarize Gannon's 62-58 PSAC Quarterfinal overtime loss to Slippery Rock in four words, I'd suggest "great game, brutal loss." We're all devastated because what could have been a promising postseason run crashed back to earth in the first playoff game. But wow did we experience an epic slugfest in a raucous atmosphere. Here are some of my stream of consciousness thoughts on the game which you'll see are a mix of "wow" and "waaaah!"

* For a variety of reasons, I had a bad feeling about this game as early as the first media timeout: (1) defenses that sag off one player always mess things up, (2) the boisterous Slippery Rock fans dominated the audio portion of the game, (3) the home crowd seemed nervous, different from last week's SRU/GU game, (4) Slippery Rock showed more confidence vs. the Gannon defense, (5) the physicalness in the paint favored the Rock, and (6) Mark Weir was one of the referees. Nothing against him personally, but when he calls games something bad usually happens to the Knights.

* The game reminded me of the NCAA East Regional final on March 8, 1986 when Cheyney nipped Gannon 65-62 at the Audi. Similarities included loud opposing fans sitting in the bleachers behind the opponent's bench. I can still here the Wolves fans taunting the Gannon faithful in the closing seconds -- I'll say you sure are quiet! Oh boy -- you must be losing! You must be losing! Another similarity was the defense not guarding the Gannon point guard on the perimeter. Back then it was Juan Rodriquez. Some 27 years later it was C.J. Oldham, who also wears uniform #3.

* I'm trying to think how much you'd have to pay me to watch that game again on tape knowing the outcome. It had great moments, but it was exasperating how many chances Gannon had to put the game away. Blazek missed a bunny or two (or more) on his way to a 3-for-19 night. Robert Wilson had a wide open left corner three late that missed. With Gannon up 4 and their zillionth chance to seal the game, Gerald Brooks stole the ball from Brandon Emmmit. I thought Brooks whacked him and Emmitt should have been shooting free throws. I could go on and on -- many of the folks in the comment section have and will continue to do so -- but that's just basketball. The Knights played outstanding defense again, hurt SRU on the offensive boards, and deserved to win on those hustle aspects alone. But they didn't make shots all night (21-for-70, 4-for-20 on threes), especially when it counted the most. As I said in the headline, if you can't finish, you're finished.

* How about the stretch in the second half when Gannon corralled four consecutive offensive rebounds against the #1 rebounding team in all of college basketball before scoring ... and then took a charge seconds later on defense. Fans will criticize some of John Reilly's strategies, but you have to give the guy credit for molding a team who can do that. The Slippery Rock bench was stunned they could be pushed around.

* Speaking of questioning the coaches, I'd have yanked Oldham much sooner or shifted him to the 4 position to thrwart SRU's defensive scheme. Emmitt didn't enter the game until 8 minutes into the contest which opened up the post immediately. When Oldham was in, he couldn't throw a post entry pass because his man was sagging so far back he denied that option. That really hindered Gannon's best offensive option of getting the ball to Darrell Blanton in the post.

* The Jammermill is now closed. Blanton's career came to an end with a typical performance: 17 points and 12 rebounds with intensity and energy that could fuel a rocket ship trip to Saturn and back. I'm really going to miss that kid. I love guys who are unselfish and never take a possession off. And I'll miss his dunks, too.

* I know everyone wanted Algeron Torrence to get more minutes, but Slippery Rock immediately exploited his lack of foot speed when he checked into the game. Torrence is a banger, but he couldn't guard any of the Slippery Rock bigs who played in the second half. When Torrence checked in, the Slippery Rock bench immediately called for plays to isolate the multitalented Brooks and Torrence on the right wing. When Reilly saw that, he had to get Torrence out or an SRU run would have happened fast. I love the kid and hope he's back next year, but this wasn't a great matchup for him.

* The emotion of the game was incredible. I don't think I've seen Emmitt say two words all year, but man was he pumped up. He let our a primal scream when Tanner Furno took a charge midway through the second half. And I don't know what it means when he points to his head after making a jumper, but I hope to see a lot more of that next season.

* When the Rock fell at Gannon last week, Darious Clark was a woeful 3-for-14 from the field, and during regulation time Tuesday he didn't make a field goal despite playing for 20 minutes. Then he goes and hits a nothing-but-net go-ahead three with 30 seconds left in OT. That was one of many head-shaking events that happened in the game. I love basketball, I hate basketball. I love basketball, I hate basketball. 

I have more I can say, but I'm out of gas at this point. It usually takes a week or so for my post-Gannon basketball depression to sink it, but it's here already. I had ESPN on before I wrote this and saw a Georgetown player warming up before their game at Villanova. I thought, "This stinks. My team's season is over." It will take a while to get over this one. I guess that's okay. I have about eight months to get it together.

Updated 3/7/13: A longtime Gannon fan just stopped by my desk at work, and we realized that if Gannon had stopped Slippery Rock on their last possession in regulation and Edinboro had stopped IUP on their last possession in regulation, the PSAC finals would be at the Hammermill this weekend. The Knights were that close! I'm going to need all eight months to cope with this.