Tuesday, March 4, 2014

From One NCAA Play-In Game To Another?

I don't want to look past Tuesday night's thrilling 73-69 PSAC quarterfinal double overtime win over Slippery Rock, but let's talk about Saturday afternoon's upcoming game vs. West Chester at East Stroudsburg. Like now.

The Rams won their quarterfinal game over Bloomsburg, 99-89, setting up a PSAC semifinal featuring two teams sure expected to be ranked when the regional standings are announced Wednesday. Both clubs are now 19-8 overall and in the region, but on paper the Knights have the edge being in the PSAC West. Yes, the West includes patsies Clarion (3-13 PSAC, 5-20) and Edinboro (3-13 PSAC, 10-16), but that's nothing compared to the East's damp, moldy basement. The East features a pair of 3-23 teams in Cheyney and Shippensburg plus Mansfield (8-18 overall, 2-8 outside the East) and Kutztown (10-17, 2-9 outside the East). Incidentally, the four Mansfield and Kutztown wins outside the East this year came against non-powerhouses 10-16 Goldey-Beacom, 4-21 Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Clarion twice. Barf.

Again, I still think Gannon is likely to get in because the Mountain East teams will hurt each other in their league tourney, but if the Knights lose to West Chester, the Rams will almost certainly maybe end up seeded higher than Gannon because they would be 2-0 head-to-head vs. the Knights. And if Mercyhurst, who shocked pretty much everyone with their 67-56 win at Indiana (Pa.) tonight, could keep working their magic and steal the automatic bid, the Knights could be left out in the cold. Let's take a closer look at the Atlantic Region from an NCAA standpoint (with projections based upon my opinion):

LOCKS (4): West Liberty, East Stroudsburg, IUP, Livingstone (CIAA champ)
NEXT THREE IN AS OF NOW (3): Charleston, Gannon, West Chester
FIGHTING FOR THE FINAL SPOT (3): Shepherd, Glenville, Fairmont
HOPING TO MAKE A RUN AND STEAL THE FINAL SPOT (2): West Va. Wesleyan, Mercyhurst

[Side note: West Va. Wesleyan's season almost imploded tonight in their Mountain East first round playoff game, hitting two free throws with :01 on the clock to beat now 0-27 Urbana, 79-77]

So you can see how Gannon could possibly get squeezed out -- lose to West Chester, Fairmont wins its quarterfinal then shocks West Liberty in the semifinal, Charleston wins its quarterfinal, and the Glenville/Shepherd winner gets past Charleston to the Mountain East championship. That means the 8 spots could go to WLU, ESU, IUP, Livingstone, Charleston, WCU, Fairmont, and either Glenville or Shepherd. Again, if Mercyhurst steals the PSAC ... okay, I don't even want to think about that happening by itself, let alone keeping Gannon out of the NCAAs.

Wow, I've written 400 words and almost none of them have been about the most exciting and most important game of the year. Do I praise Adam Blazek's clutch 3 and team-high 25 points? Do I pull my hair out over Gannon's 3-for-12 three-point shooting chart or getting annihilated on the boards, 48-29? Do I praise the team for committing only 9 turnovers in 50 minutes of play? Hail Brandon Emmitt for saving the season (and his collegiate career) with his perfect free throw chart in the second OT?

Why don't you take it from here. I'm still a combination of stressed out and overjoyed because Gannon turned the tables this year, advancing in the PSAC tourney and ending Slippery Rock's season.

UPDATED 3/5/14: The Atlantic Region rankings were released this afternoon. Here's the list (team, overall record, region record) followed by some snap analysis. The records do not include Tuesday night's games.

1. West Liberty (22-2, 21-2): W vs. Notre Dame Oh., Sat. vs. #6 Fairmont
2. East Stroudsburg (24-1, 24-1): W vs. Millersville, Sat. vs. Mercyhurst
3. Indiana Pa. (23-3 23-3): L vs. Mercyhurst
4. Charleston W.V. (18-8, 18-8): W vs. Wheeling Jesuit, Sat. vs. #8 Glenville
5. Gannon (18-8, 18-8): W vs. Slippery Rock, Sat. vs. West Chester
6. Fairmont State (17-9, 17-9): W vs. #9 West Va. Wesleyan, Sat. vs. #1 West Liberty
7. Shepherd (19-9, 19-9): W vs. Concord, L vs. #8 Glenville State
8. Glenville State (17-9, 17-9): W vs. #7 Shepherd, Sat. vs. #4 Charleston
9. West Virginia Wesleyan (17-11, 17-11): W vs. Urbana, L vs. #6 Fairmont
10. Livingstone (19-7, 19-6): CIAA tournament champions 
Dropped out: West Chester (18-9, 18-9)

First, it's great to see Gannon move up a spot and Shepherd drop only two spots to 7th after their two losses last week. That makes me think the gap between the Knights and the teams ranked 8-10 is fairly wide. The part of the poll that completely perplexes me is West Chester falling from 7th to 11th at best after a narrow loss to #2 Stroud. That's pretty unforgiving.

I talked about Gannon/West Chester possibly being a play-in game, but that's almost certainly the case for Saturday's Shepherd/Glenville State game. Livingstone won the CIAA tournament, so you have to be 7th in the final poll to make the NCAA's. The Shepherd/Glenville loser will be out for sure.

The most losses Gannon will end up with before the NCAA's is 9. The four Mountain East teams behind them in the poll all have at least 9 losses, and three of them will pick up at least one more L in their conference tournament. Two of them won't make it past Friday's quarterfinals because they play each other head-to-head in that round.


  1. The first few minutes of each game tonight will be telling. Not really clear on how the teams will react to the long layoff. My feeling is that it will affect the men more negatively than the women because (1) Blazek was on an incredible roll and (2) the women seemed to be a bit banged up, so the layoff may hurt timing, but it will help them. The men never seem to get tired.

    Last time SRU handled us on the boards, but Gannon won the turnover battle, which proved to be the difference. If GU can rebound a bit better and take care of the ball, we should be fine.

    On this blog, we've been having the online conversation on whether or not GU would make the NCAA's despite losing this game. Let's hope that conversation remains hypothetical for all time.

  2. Lets be real if you are playing a 0-26 team saying that is a problem is nuts. My point is we are playing two teams that are not that bad. One is a third and the other a fourth seed and they both have good talent and give us trouble every year. I am not saying we will lose but I would not give any points on a bet.

  3. Gannon women survive and advance, 62-57. Cal came out wanting a physical game, and boy, did they ever get one. Gannon was out of synch and lacked concentration for much of the game. Cal was relentless on defense, all night long. As I've been known to criticize officials on occasion, the crew tonight set the profession back eons. They were horrendous on both sides, inconsistent and out of position much of the game. Congratulations for the win tonight, play at Boro Saturday at one.

    1. Agree that the officiating was horrible on both sides. Several head-scratching calls and then a few make-up calls.

      Nice to come away with the win. We do not match up well with teams like Cal. We may see them again later this month.

  4. One of the best postseason game in the history of the Hammermill Center. Fifty draining minutes of basketball.

    Adam Blazek proved why he should be the PSAC player of the year. 25 points on 9/19 shooting, including the three that gave GU the lead for good. Oh yes, he played all FIFTY minutes.

    A lot went wrong tonight ... Outrebounded 48-29 ... SRU seemed to get every key rebound. Someone else can look this up, but not sure if I ever saw a John Reilly team get outrebounded by 19, including some of the sub-.500 teams. GU also shot uncharacteristically poorly from the free-throw line (67%, but it was at 55% in the first OT). At times in the first half, GU looked like a team that hadn't played in 10 days.

    But the worst thing that happened that made the game even more crucial was Mercyhurst's stunning win at IUP. If we can't win the PSAC, it is in our best interests to have IUP or East Stroudsburg take the PSAC. A GU loss today coupled with a SRU or (gulp) Mercyhurst PSAC championship could have left us on the outside looking in.

    Positives -- 10/12 FTs in OT, only nine turnovers in 50 minutes, RTE, Porter, Livramento came up big all at different times.

    What a fun night! Hope there are plenty more games left in this season!

  5. Very pleased with the win... well deserved hard-fought, emotional victory! Blazek was the catalyst as he normally is and Rog, RTE, Porter and CJ all had their fair share of important contributions on offense (CJ's more in the sense of good ball movement, crisp passes and just utilizing his high basketball IQ in general.)

    However... I must ask Mr. Roddy, and the other few who said this game was a "lock", during the game did you feel so confident about your $1000 being on the line? Obviously hypothetically and unrealistically speaking (but for argument's sake), if SRU and Gannon played first round of NCAA playoffs at more than likely WLU or ESU... would you put $1000 on Gannon again?

    By no means did I think Gannon was going to lose the game, however, by absolutely no means would I have put money on the game whatsoever (unless i just put the same amount on both teams to salvage my money haha).

    A long time coach of mine always preached, "Have faith, respect the game and your opponent, believe in yourself and the team, go into every game expecting to win and playing to win, but NEVER believe you are going to win every game; this keeps the fire roaring for every second of the match."

  6. A critical point I witnessed was that SR made no effort to guard C.J. Whenever he had the ball, even as close as the foul line, they sagged into the paint and made it very difficult to operate there. A simple 10-15 foot jump shot would have forced one of the defenders out a bit and opened things up.

    1. this by no means is a knock against CJ, but I don't think he has confidence in his shot. He's shown that he can knock down the mid-range jumpers, along with having a decent 3 point shot too. He's hit mid rangers and 3's in games on a few occasions. He often looks rattled when he shoots though (almost like a fear of missing it and being yelled at... not saying the coaching staff does that, but as an example). This is common, however, in many sports. Some of the greatest players don't have the confidence that could make them that much better.

      Example - LeBron James. He admitted when he entered NBA he had very little confidence playing inside.. and the stats can show it as he's decreased his 3's and increased layups, jumpers, etc. When he got to Miami, Pat Riley flat out told him he was going to improve his inside game. He worked on it and developed the confidence... and look what's happened to him :)

  7. Rankings came out moments ago: We're number 5.

    1 West Liberty 22-2 21-2
    2 East Stroudsburg 24-1 24-1
    3 Indiana (Pa.) 23-3 23-3
    4 Charleston (W.V.) 18-8 18-8
    5 Gannon 18-8 18-8
    6 Fairmont State 17-9 17-9
    7 Shepherd 19-9 19-9
    8 Glenville State 17-9 17-9
    9 West Virginia Wesleyan 17-11 17-11
    10 Livingstone 19-7 19-6

    1. How does IUP remain #3 when they lost to a region team that's not in the top 10????? I really thought it was going to be
      1 WLU, 2 ESU, 3 Charleston, 4 GU and then so on.

      Well given that IUP is still 3, we need to pray that Gannon or ESU wins it all, because if they don't.. someone else is going to get a bid and could knock Gannon out of region. Ridiculous!

    2. These consider games through Monday, so last night's games are not factored in.

      Regardless, IUP has three (now four) losses; everyone has eight or more. What justification would you give for moving anyone ahead of IUP?

  8. Women are still #1. Cal dropped out and their season is likely over. Have to get past #4 on a neutual court and #3 to stay there.

    1 Gannon 23-2 25-2
    2 Glenville 24-3 24-3
    3 Edinboro 21-5 21-5
    4 Bloomsburg 23-3 23-3
    5 Virginia State 21-2 22-2
    6 Shaw 19-8 20-8
    7 West Liberty 17-9 17-9
    8 Fairmont State 16-9 16-9
    9 Fayetteville State 19-7 19-7
    10 Charleston (W.Va.) 19-7 19-7

  9. If Gannon beats Bloomsburg but were to lose in the Final (even if to Edinboro), if Glenville loses, I believe GU will remain atop and Edinboro and Glenville will just swap spots. That would put Gannon at 24-3 and Edinboro at 23-5... can't see that pushing Edinboro up past GU.

  10. Women's All-West: Papich, Blake 1st Team, Sundberg 2nd Team. Boro/McLane Val Majewski 1st tteam and Athlete of the Year, IUP/Mercyhurst Prep Stamp 1st team. Boro Jackson and Lindsay 2nd team. Congratulations to all.

  11. Almost forgot...Stan Swank West Coach of the Year. Congrats to him, as well.

  12. What a silly way for Jerry Slocum's season to end. And to Greg Kampe. And it made the cover page of Yahoo!


  13. Great news in the regional rankings. The GU Men SHOULD make the NCAA's now, they are in very good shape. The Women right now have control of their own destiny. Win the PSACs and they will host for sure. Glenville losing would also help ensure of this as well.

  14. I just added some regional ranking analysis and the upcoming schedule to the post if you're interested in that. If you're not, you're probably on the wrong website.

  15. A response to Corey:

    Just to clarify, I never said this game was a lock -- I must not have communicated my point effectively. What I was trying to say is if you had $1000 and had to bet it on one team or the other for their third match-up of the season, it's a way safer bet to pick the team that's 2-0 vs. 0-2.

    That point was proved in spades Tuesday night by both Gannon teams, the Edinboro women, the Stroudsburg men, the Bloomsburg women, and the West Chester women. The only 0-2 team that won was Mercyhurst vs. IUP. In total, the 2-0 teams were 6-1 in the third matchup of the season.

  16. Tremendous game! Entire team stepped-up to get the task at hand done. Fantastic to see big shots made by Blazek. "Hustle play" by Porter shown in this morning's paper has been what this team is all about the entire season.

    The only thing disappointing about last evening was the crowd size. Like I've stated before, if 6,450 fans can show up at an essentially irrelevant Bayhawks game, I would have figured a larger crowd for last night. Student support is essentially non-existent. Kind of embarrassing to have more SRU students in the stands than Gannon students.. Oh well, like we have discussed here before, times, are indeed different. With four juniors on the court for most of the game, next season appears to be promising as well. Hopefully, student support will follow suit.

    No matter.......onto PSAC Final Four. The tremendous run continues!!!

    1. I told you going in that the students are on spring break.

    2. That photo of Porter diving is tremendous. I'm cutting it out and saving it for my daughter and other kids I coach -- extra effort does the job.

  17. So, how do I claim this $1000?
    Looking at the women's regional rankings...this weekend could be epic! The Bloom women are as hot as anyone, Gannon gritted out a tough one against a terrific Cal team, Boro has 2 wins over the top ranked team in the region. Here's a thought: if either Gannon, Boro or Bloom win the PSAC, it could be a problem for Glenville. All 3 PSAC clubs have very recent experience HOSTING either Regionals or PSAC's. Glenville? Well, their fans are boorish, but I'm not sure the area is conducive to hosting, i.e. hotel rooms, available practice facilities, civility. In other words, anywhere but Glenville!
    See everyone out at McComb. And be sure to stay for the second game; it's economically prudent and just plain good sense.

  18. 453, 2 points:
    1. If you subtract the number of free tickets, a few less folks at the Bayhawks;
    2. The Gannon students are on break. Not saying if they were in session there would be a large throng, but not being in session didn't help. That said, it would be interesting to know if SRU provided the buses or if some student organizations got 'em together. Would also like to hear from some of the GU fans who travel: what's the makeup of the crowds at some of the other schools?

    1. Break or no break, my guestimate of students at the game had an over/under of perhaps 35. Many of the students on break are Erie students. Their school is in a make-or-break playoff game. One would think..........

      Free tickets or not, all us fans can agree that last evening's game was sort of important, no? We all have discussed the attendance angle. I simply thought more folks would attend.

      No matter. Our crowd indeed got energized at the right times during the game, and, the team did feed off it!!

      Any Kevin Reynolds items from those who were near him?? Indeed, he seems to have his moments. I have never seen a coach at any level go out of his designated area as much as he does. I wonder if any of the officiating crew gave him some type of warning.

      "Golden": Just when one thinks he's seen it all in hoops, lo and behold, technology today allows us to see the end of Youngstown's game last night. I still don't believe what happened.

      Coach Slocum just might be on his motorcycle riding to the North Pole after last evening...........

      I sincerely feel his pain.

  19. ANOTHER losing season for Slocum, 15-17. That's his 7th losing season in his 9th year at Youngstown. His career record there is 106-168. Cleve Wright's Miami of Ohio team is 7-21 with one game left, and has lost their last 8.

  20. PSAC Att 2013/14
    From official team stats
    1 Indiana 31,353 15 2,090
    2 Gannon 15,408 16 963
    3 E Stroudsburg 12,640 14 903
    4 West Chester 7,907 13 608
    5 Slippery Rock 10,461 16 654
    6 Lock Haven 8,264 14 597
    7 Cheyney 5,933 13 456
    8 Mercyhurst 5,544 13 426
    9 Mansfield 5,920 13 455
    10 Kutztown 5,483 14 392
    11 Millersville 5,141 12 428
    12 California 4,773 13 367
    13 Edinboro 4,947 14 353
    14 Bloomsburg 5,186 15 346
    15 Clarion 3,826 14 273
    16 Seton Hill 3,280 13 252
    17 Shippensburg 2,775 13 213
    18 UPJ 2,406 12 201

    1 Indiana 9,542 14 682
    2 Gannon 8,390 13 659
    3 Slippery Rock 4,859 12 405
    4 Edinboro 5,382 15 359
    5 Mercyhurst 4,221 13 325
    6 E Stroudsburg 3,990 14 285
    7 Bloomsburg 3,989 14 285
    8 Lock Haven 3,172 12 264
    9 West Chester 3,585 14 256
    10 Kutztown 2,938 12 249
    11 Millersville 3,212 13 247
    12 Shippensburg 2,602 15 240
    13 Mansfield 2,853 13 219
    14 Seton Hill 2,460 12 205
    15 Cheyney 2,210 12 184
    16 California 2,366 13 182
    17 Clarion 2,327 13 179
    18 UPJ 1,250 10 120

  21. Breaking: Coach John Reilly PSAC (West) Coach of the Year!! (BACK-TO-BACK)

    Well deserved!!!

  22. Breaking (Part 2): Gannon's Adam Blazek PSAC (West) player of the Year!!

    Fantastic news!!

  23. Here's the press release confirming that news. Those guys certainly didn't take the easy road to these awards!

    Gannon's Blazek, Oldham and Reilly Earn Major PSAC Men's Basketball Postseason Awards

    ERIE, Pa. - It was almost a clean sweep of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division major postseason awards for the Gannon men's basketball team. The Golden Knights captured three of the four major awards while landing two student-athletes on the all-conference teams.

    Adam Blazek (Erie, Pa./Cathedral Prep), C.J. Oldham (Solon, Ohio/Solon) and John T. Reilly have been named PSAC Western Division Athlete of the Year, Defensive Athlete of the Year and Coach of the Year. In addition, Blazek landed a spot on the All-PSAC West first team while Raphell Thomas-Edwards (Leicester, England/The Gateway School) was named to the second team. The PSAC announced its all-conference and major postseason awards Thursday afternoon.

    Blazek is the first Golden Knight to be named PSAC Western Division Athlete of the Year since Gannon joined the conference in 2008-09. The junior guard also earned All-PSAC West first-team honors for the first time. He was named PSAC Western Division Freshman of the Year and landed a spot on the second team in 2011-12.

    The Erie, Pa. native is averaging 16.1 points, four rebounds, three assists and 2.1 steals through 27 games. He also owns a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. Blazek has reached double digits in scoring 19 times during the last 20 games, including each of the last 12. He has hit the 20-point plateau nine times this season and 18 times during his career.

    Blazek leads the PSAC in free throw percentage (86.8) and minutes played per game (37:55). He ranks second in steals per game, fourth in three-point field goals per game (2.42), eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio and 13th in points per game. Blazek sits fourth among all NCAA Division II players in minutes per game, 27th in steals per game and 42nd in free throw percentage.

    A three-year starter at Gannon, Blazek continues to climb several all-time charts as a Golden Knight. He ranks third in steals (163), eighth in three-pointers (129) and 23rd in points (1,068).

    Oldham picked up the PSAC Western Division Defensive Athlete of the Year honor, becoming the first Golden Knight to be chosen in the award's three-year history. The accolade was introduced in 2012. Generally assigned to the opposing team's top scorer, Oldham has been the leader of a Gannon defense that ranks second among PSAC teams and third nationally in scoring defense (59.8). The Golden Knights are second among conference teams in rebounding margin (10.1), third in field goal percentage defense (41.1) and fifth in fewest personal fouls per game (17.7). His defensive numbers include 19 steals and 10 blocks.

    Reilly was named PSAC Western Division Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season, becoming the first coach in program history to be named a conference coach of the year twice. In addition to his two PSAC awards, he was also named National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Atlantic Region Coach of the Year in 2009.

    Gannon has flourished under Reilly in 2013-14, turning around an opening 6-7 start with 13 victories during its last 14 games. The Golden Knights won their ninth consecutive game Tuesday night with a 73-69 double-overtime win against Slippery Rock in the PSAC Quarterfinals, moving into this weekend's PSAC Final Four for the first time since 2009. It represents the program's longest win streak since the 2008-09 Golden Knights rattled off 12 straight en route to an NCAA Division II Elite Eight appearance.

    Reilly's squad won the PSAC Western Division for the first time since 2009 with a 13-3 divisional record. The Golden Knights earned the top seed with a season sweep of nationally-ranked Indiana (Pa.), winning 67-61 in overtime at home and 67-62 on the road.

  24. Congrats to our BOR combo (Blazek, Oldham, Reilly). Great recognition for Oldham and what he does for the team. A little surprised that Reilly won only because I can't remember a time ever that a coach won coach of the year in back-to-back years. This is clearly a testament of how much he deserved the award. And if Blazek didn't win, an investigation should have been launched.

    Two months ago today ... Gannon fans were all in surly moods ... the Polar Vortex was here. The temperature was -10 with howling winds. Our Hammermill Center was damaged and we were getting ready to watch our 6-7 Knights play a "home" game at Penn State - Behrend.

    What a crazy, fantastic last two months that none of us saw coming. And now none of us want it to end.

  25. For some historical perspective, I looked up repeat coach of the year winners:

    NFL (happened once): Don Shula tied in 1967, won in 1968.
    NHL (1): Jacque Demers 1987-88
    NBA: Never
    MLB NL (1): Bobby Cox (2004-05)
    MLB AL: Never

    To get a college perspective since college conferences are smaller than pro sports leagues, I looked at the Big Ten men’s hoops coach of the year. It happened more than I thought:

    Bob Knight pulled of the feat twice: 1975-76 & 1980-81. Also, Randy Ayers (1991-92). Gene Keady pulled off a three-peat from 1994-96.

    So maybe I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was. Regardless, it’s still a well-deserved award for Coach Reilly.

    1. It's happened 4 other times in the PSAC in men's basketball in the last 25 years, it's happened 13 times in women's basketball in the last 25 years in the PSAC, it's happened 12 times in PSAC football in the last 25 years, it's not like this is some kind of once in a lifetime event.

  26. Nobody can ever see a 13-1 run coming, but, I've always thought that with the defense this team plays, that they are capable of beating anyone. Turnovers gradually have declined as well during this run, which has helped the cause greatly.

    Let's just keep it all going!

  27. Your Mountain East update (regional rankings)

    #4 Charleston 91, Wheeling Jesuit 85 (OT)

    #8 Glenville State 74, #7 Shepherd 72 -- The end for Shepherd?

    #1 West Liberty 107, Notre Dame OH 86

    1. Thanks for the update. I believe that does stick a fork in Shepherd. Glenville hit a 3 with 9 seconds left to take the lead. That's going to be a very long offseason for a team that looked so good back in December.

      At this moment, WV Wesleyan leads Fairmont at the half, 29-26.

    2. #9 WV Wesleyan is done as well, 70-62 losers to #6 Fairmont.