Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reality Check

One of my earliest Hammermill Center memories is a non-basketball one. Back in 1984, Jesse Jackson campaigned in Erie as he traveled America hoping to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. I distinctly recall Jackson speaking at a podium on the north end of the Audi. The floor, plush seats, and bleachers were filled with spectators. I can't remember exactly what Jackson said, but I do recall him being interrupted by a man with a deep, booming voice: "Are you for real? Are you for real?"

Wednesday night, after Gannon's third straight convincing victory, a 75-62 thumping of Lock Haven, I thought about interrupting John Reilly's post game interview at the north end of the Audi to ask him if the Knights are for real. They certainly are playing better -- nobody can argue that -- responding to a three-game home losing streak with a trio of double-digit wins over Barton (81-58) in the Porreco consolation and this week vs. Mansfield (83-57) and a respectable LHU squad.

But we could debate all night long if the Golden Knights are a legitimate threat to compete for the PSAC West crown and earn an NCAA bid. The combined records of GU's opponents during this stretch is 9-19, and I guarantee you won't see any of these teams still suiting up when we flip the calendar to March.

So I ask again: is this Gannon team, averaging 79.7 ppg and outrebounding opponents an incredible 117-68 (39-22 avg) during this streak, a quality basketball team or not? I think we'll have our answer before the holiday break with GU traveling to Bloomsburg Saturday.

The Huskies were 6-1 on Monday before they traveled to Erie County and fell victim to both Edinboro (70-61) and Mercyhurst (66-62). BU leads the PSAC East with a 4-0 mark (tied with East Stroudsburg), but what's their best win this season? Millersville is 2-6, Cheyney's 2-8, Shippensburg is 1-7, and Lock Haven is 4-4. Their out of conference loss is to 2-8 Chestnut Hill, notable for being the only team Ship has beaten this season. One independent win is over Penn State-Hazelton; I'm not going to even look up their win-loss record because all the PSU branch campuses (except Behrend) are rinky-dink programs.

Okay I lied. PSU Hazelton is 2-10 on the season, currently mired in a six-game losing streak to Indiana University East, Penn State-DuBois, Penn State-York, Penn State-Mont Alto, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, and Penn State-Worthington Scranton. Their two wins this season are both against Luzerne County Community College. How bad must LCCC be? No, I'm not going to look that up -- we're supposed to be talking Gannon basketball!

Okay I lied again. Luzerne is already 0-14 this season, allowing over 100 points in 9 of those contests. How would you like season tickets for that club? Sorry for the digression ...
Bloom's only quality win came at home over a month ago in double OT against now 7-2 Lincoln (Pa.). What do good teams do against clubs that have played a weak schedule, have lost to mediocre DII clubs, and have just one decent win all season long? They handle 'em -- by double figures -- like Gannon has done twice this week.

I know John Reilly will have his team ready to play. He doesn't just coach every possession like it's his last, he coaches every second of every possession as if it's do-or-die. This team was struggling just days ago but Reilly refused to let them show a losing attitude. He keeps the team so busy and focused, they don't even consider sulking. Conversely, Mansfield unraveled quickly on Tuesday and stopped fighting through screens during the second half. On Wednesday, Lock Haven wilted over the final 10 minutes, succumbing to Gannon's relentless, thousand-screen offense and harassing defense.

If Gannon executes Saturday and handles Bloomsburg on the road, I'll be a believer this team can win a ton of games this season. For real.


  1. If Reilly and his crew don't come up with 2 big wins over the next 2 games he should be sent packing. Mansfield is 1-7 and Lock Haven is 3-3.

    1. OK, they had '2 big wins'...Can you make some positive comments now.

  2. While I agree they should win both, I don't agree that if they don't win both it's all on the coaches.
    Also, Mansfield might be 1-7 but look at their schedule
    L 71-74 vs. #24 Franklin Pierce (11-1)
    L 69-81 @ LeMoyne (5-3; GU lost by 3 at home)
    W 103-60 vs. Pennsylvania College of Technology (not even looking into their record)
    L 65-88 @ #12 East Stroudsburg (8-0)
    L 92-103 vs. West Chester (6-2)
    L 52-73 @ Lincoln University (7-1; among others receiving votes)
    L 74-85 vs. Kutztown (2-4)
    L 65-70 @ Cheyney (2-6)

    So they have a few blowout losses, but competed in most of the games (esp. against #24 ranked). As it is the same with Gannon, a few different bounces and Mansfield could be 4-4. I would say Lock Haven should be the "easier" of the two. LHU barely beat NYACK, loss to Davis & Elkins by 2, #12 ESU by 15, and by 5 to Bloomsburg (who is among others receiving votes). They also have a 30+ win against one of the D3 PSU affiliates.

    Records can't always be the basis for predicting a game; Gannon could go into IUP and beat them by 20+ points and with a 4-4 record (or whatever it may be at that time) IUP would've never expected that. Gannon is probably one of the best .500 teams in the country. Really with the exception of the Shepherd game, a few different bounces they could be 7-1.

    1. Ask former head coach of the Houston Texans Gary Kubiak about this. It is the coach that is ultimately responsible.

    2. Rather than issue some type of threats against the coaching staff on an "if/then" basis, let's just try to get a win tonight. Whatever happens, we can all expect the same: pure hustle, strong defense, and, hopefully, some added offensive spark that began to show over the weekend.

      Re: Gary Kubiak: I don't think he will be unemployed very long. He may very well end up on a staff within 120 miles of here very soon.

      Nice analysis above, Corey!

    3. can't compare pros to college..

      Some players have no trade clauses as well as some players it would cost the team millions to "buy them out" or release them. What's the most viable option? Try to release a few problem players that could cost you tens of millions... or fire a coach and pay him $2-3m for his buyout or whatever? Additionally, think if the Texans benched Andre Johnson... fans and the city would want the heads of each and every one of the people in management. In the Pros, it will always be on the coach regardless of the situation. Kubiak WAS NOT the reason Texans are awful this year clearly proven by the fact that Phillips has not done anything in his absence. When a team is down, people want change.. and in the pros the easiest change is to drop a coach.

      Coach Reilly has made changes. Dogan comes off the bench (when he plays), Tee is starting and is making strides, rather than starting Emmitt at point in Jabs' absence (and make the lineup even smaller), Blazek moved to the 1 and they inserted Raph, whom may not have done anything tremendous to date but is at least solid and helping the team more than hurting. (and none of that is against Brandon Emmitt... i honestly think Brandon is the best point guard on the team, however, his shot is inconsistent and I feel Jabs is a stronger defender, so better to just move Blazek and add a big guy in). Also, Roger is getting more PT and contributing. So Coach Reilly has made several changes, it's up to the players to get the job done on the court.

    4. Yes - I agree the coaching staff has made adjustments. I especially like the way our guy now can shut teams down with the 2-3 zone. Wait.... never mind!

    5. How would switching to a 2-3 zone make a difference when it's the offensive side that Gannon has struggled?

  3. Let's hope that we're again discussing the timing of Coach Reilly's emptying bench in the second half of a blowout win.

    These games are indeed huge opportunities -- hate to say "must win," but it's probably the truth. Three difficult road games follow the two home contests. Going on the road with a 5-5 record will probably force us to run the table to get an at-large NCAA bid. Our margin of error is already razor-thin. Neither team is very strong; losing at home to either Mansfield or Lock Haven would be a dagger in the season -- and it's not even Christmas.

    It's also a nice opportunity to get the offense going. The PSAC east teams are not the greatest defensive sides -- putting 70+ on the board against them would give the offense some needed confidence.

    1. One thing about these games we're forgetting - they only count as in region, since they no longer affect PSAC division ranking. Welcome to the new and overcrowded PSAC.

  4. Golden, I like your breakdown of the situation until the "get an at-large NCAA bid." I hope for the best for this team, but it should be, in order: make the PSAC playoffs, advance at least to the championship game, THEN hope for an at-large bid. We all, me included, have been treated to a tremendous run the past couple of decades and that has led us to raise the bar.
    Do the next five games hold tremendous meaning for possible post-season play? You betcha. Will we all be disappointed if said post-season play does not materialize? Ditto. Let's see if things start to trend upward and enjoy the increased offense. Have a blessed Christmas and wonderful New Year.

  5. Boze: I think that we're on the same page, actually. I look at goals the opposite way. When you can't get the loftiest goal, you go for the next loftiest -- If I'm golfing, I try to shoot in the 80's. If I can't then, I hope for a 90, then 95, then hope to break 100. If I shoot a 61 on the front nine, then I just look to survive the rest of the round. To me, an NCAA bid is reasonable given the fact that we were one OT loss away from an NCAA bid last year. So I lay out my team's goals this way:

    Goal #1: Host the regional. (that's probably done). Goal #2: Finish high enough in the region to get an at-large NCAA bid (in peril). Goal #3: Win the PSAC West: (still a shot). Goal #4: Finish second to get a home quarterfinal and first-round bye (still in play). Goal #5: Finish in the top four to get a home quarterfinal (very much in play). Goal #6: Finish in the top six to make the PSAC playoffs (We should do this at the very worst). Goal #7: Don't come in last (This may wind up being Mansfield's goal come February).

    Once you miss goal #2, then the only NCAA shot you have is to win the PSAC -- best shot is piling up home playoff games.

    I actually missed the game and am interested in hearing from others how it went.

  6. By the way, Lock Haven WON at Mercyhurst! Could be very interesting on Wednesday.

  7. When you click on the link that Jim provided to the LHU / Mercyhurst game, read the headline carefully. Either a Lock Haven education does not have a very good spelling program or they need to add some sugar to their nails to make them taste better.

  8. Although GU played well and won easily, I wasn't that impressed with Mansfield. They had one player that was hard to defend all over the court, another that could shoot 3's, but that was about it. They couldn't seem to defend well on the perimeter without holding. They weren't very deep, either, as their bench players did little to help.

    Heard a couple guys talking at lunch today about this subject: Is it a coincidence that GU's recent comparative offensive "explosion" has come at the same time as their starting PG's injury? Or is it because of a change in strategy by the coaching staff, with GU attacking more on offense and pushing the ball up court a lot more? Or is it because the players are just feeling more comfortable in the offense? Or is it because the insertion of Talley in the lineup as a more dangerous offensive player has opened things up? Hard to tell, but, IMO, it is more the change in philosophy than the absence of a player due to injury. But it IS an interesting coincidence.

    1. I've heard the same topic come up. I don't think it's due to an absence of a player, I really think it's because Talley has added another deep and versatile threat to their arsenal.

      Did anyone notice a stat that JUMPED off the screen at me last night when I was looking at Box Score?

      Brandon Emmitt 8 assists, 0 turnovers.... Like to see when the last time a Gannon player had that many assists with 0 turnovers. Impressive!

  9. Tee Talley's emergence has clearly helped the team offense. It seems he began to seem comfortable in his sets down at Slippery Rock. Let's hope it continues!

    As for Lock Haven: I think we will be amazed at how much better their overall talent has become since the days not too long ago when they resembled a fraternity intramural team.

    Game at a time!!

  10. Tee Talley was really nailing the wide open uncontested 3 ball against Mansfield. Whoever was guarding him was careful not to venture into the 814 area code. Tee was left alone more often than Cauley McCulkin at Christmas.

  11. I really think Blazek at 40% from field is Gannon's Mendoza line :-)

    1. every game they've won he's shot 40% or better.

  12. “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Michael Jordan

  13. It's rumored that Jabs may "be available" for Saturday's game at Bloomsburg; wasn't said if he'd be right back in lineup or off bench progressively. However, if he's not starting (or playing), interested to see if Raph gets the start again or if Emmitt starts at the point. Raph didn't start second half yesterday and I don't think he even played in the second half.

    Was nice to see Dogan get some huge production in his limited minutes; also nice to see Bailey being put in for more than end of game situations. Girbran is a shooter and if he can find the right touch (sometimes too hard and sometimes too soft), he could end up being deadly!

  14. Nice win over a LH squad that is not terrific, but not the historical pushover.

    The game had several key moments:

    Dogan's threes in the first half seemed to settle down an offense that was struggling at ths point.

    At about the 7:00 mark in the second half, Livramento made a 10-footer followed by a Talley three to push the lead back to 13. The offense struggled a little before and after that mini-run, but the two made shots kept the game from getting too exciting as LHU eventually cut the lead to six.

    At the 4:00 mark after trimming the lead to six, LHU got the ball after a missed free-throw, but fumbled the ball around and then the point guard took his time getting the ball up the floor for a 10-second violation. I'm sure it's happened before, but you don't see a 10-second violation off a missed free throw very often. Wound up being a big play as Lock Haven never had the chance to cut the lead to four or three.

  15. Nice job by everyone against a pretty decent LHU squad. I'm willing to bet that they will continue to set the table with some nice Philly area recruits.

    Indeed, Dogan's contribution was big!! We've enjoyed some excellent bench production all season.

    Pretty nice doubleheader shaping up at Bloomsburg Saturday!!

    (Seton Hill: 7-3 overall. No surprise, there)

  16. Don’t apologize for the mention Luzerne, er, Loser-n County Community College. They’re our new Salem International Women’s team. We need to follow them all year. They’re off until after Christmas, but they will hit it hard after the new year. Their schedule is interesting:

    They lost by 56 to “Philadelphia,” but it’s not Herb Magee’s Philly University Rams. Is it the Sixers?
    Their schedule is the only one I’ve ever seen that includes a meeting, the Region Seeding Meeting on February 20. The LCCC decision should be a quick one at the meeting. They’re the bottom seed.

    Can they run the table and go oh-for-the-season? How many times will they give up 100? How will they fare in the January 16 contest against Williamson Trade?