Friday, November 27, 2015

First-Month Checkup Shows Knights' Needs

Bob Dukiet had the simplest and most accurate head-to-toe analysis of a player's abilities I've seen in my four-and-a-half decades following Gannon hoops. He could critique players using a drawing of a stick figure and judging them in three areas:
  • Head: Basketball IQ
  • Heart: Desire to play, desire to win
  • Legs: Physical ability

I recall one time he assessed each player on our team in front of everyone else in the lockerroom, and this was my quick diagnosis: "Jimmy, you've got the head, and you've really got the heart. But the legs?," he said through an exaggerated wince. "If only you had the legs!"

Since we're through the first month of play this Gannon season, including this weekend's split in the Gary Miller Classic (a win vs. Le Moyne, 58-56, and a loss in Saturday's title game to Ashland, 75-59), let's analyze the 2015-16 Golden Knights through that same lens.
  • Head (IQ): For the returning players, the basketball IQ is sky high on defense. They clearly know the rotations and frequently force opponents into contested shots. The newcomers are better than I expected defensively, but they have allowed more easy baskets and offensive rebounds than John Reilly is comfortable with. The defense is clearly ahead of the offense. Despite making nearly 53% of their field goals vs. Ashland, GU is shooting just 38% on the season through 5 games. And they turn it over a worst-in-the-PSAC 18.2 times a game, including some inexplicable point-to-wing miscues against a 2-3 zone. My biggest concern is that opponents have already figured out Gannon's offensive sets which is leading to forced passes and frustration. When Reilly calls in a play from the sideline, I often hear opposing coaches shouting what move is coming next like, "It's the double-screen!" or "Switch in the post!" If just one time the Knights would call "Shuffle" and run "Box" instead, they would blow the other team's mind. To me it's like how football teams disguise formations and play calls. If the defense knows the quarterback is going to pass to his left, the play's not going to work against a decent club.
  • Heart (desire): Just when we thought last year's team set an unattainable bar for effort and camaraderie, this year's team matches that standard. At some point during every conversation I have with a Gannon fan about this year's team, the fan says, "they play hard." Crazy hard. Kudos to the players, but major kudos to Coach Reilly for setting the tone every year. Win or lose, he's building young men by pushing them to achieve max effort.
  • Legs (physical): My biggest concern here is that the Knights appear to have many good players but no great ones. Last year's team had guys who weren't perfect but they were among the league's best in their specialties: A'Darius Porter (post defense, rebounding), Raphell Thomas-Edwards (post offense with either hand, rebounding), Girbran Smith (athleticism, outside shooting) and Adam Blazek (ballhandling, outside shooting, off-ball defense, on-ball defense). So far we've seen Kevin Kuteyi (9-for-18 on threes, Gary Miller Classic all-tourney team) emerge as an outside shooter and Isaiah Eisendorf muscle his way into a quality post player, but beyond that who's been outstanding in your eyes? Ian Gardener is crazy athletic, but he'll need time to develop his ball skills and college-level basketball IQ to make a major impact. I'm not saying this team is devoid of talent, but to have a winning season, players with extra-special skills will need to emerge.
And let's hope they emerge by Tuesday. I'm sure IUP won't need any extra motivation coming back to the Hammermill Center where Gannon denied them the PSAC crown in March.


  1. Nice win ... A little too suspenseful at the end, but this young team will take it. Will be a tough one tonight ... My only prediction is that there will be the usual outrage over the all-tournament team.

  2. After just watching the majority of AB's game vs LeMoyne, I'm going to say Gannon won't be in a position to blow a 19-point lead against Ashland.

    Side note - Byrd has boot on his foot in sweats. Any idea how long he's out?

  3. Well to me the biggest thing is this team needs to learn to play the full 40 mins. They play alright or good the first half and then seem to fizzle throughout second. They made a good run at it to cut it to 5 and that was about it. Young team, for most part, experience will teach.

    MVP is clearly 32 for Ashland (Wendell?). Id say Kutyei is Gannons lone rep on team, unless no one frim LeMoyne makes it then maybe Toupane will (but despite his first game, he was essentially non-existent second game... ashland took him out of game with great defense)

  4. Ashland was the best team GU has played all year. If GU and AU played ten times, the Knights win one, maybe two if we're being generous. Wendell Davis was by far the best player in the floor the entire evening.

    Gannon was handled, despite shooting over 50% from the floor, and a not-great, but not-horrible 16 turnovers. The difference was grabbing just three offensive rebounds and a total 30-23 rebound deficit. We were out-Gannoned. The other difference was that AU got to the line, making 23 of 31 free throws to GU's 9 of 13. Fouls were almost the same (24 to 23 ... yes, 47 fouls -- ugh), but AU's were mostly shooting fouls from dominating the inside game.

    All in all, not a horrible loss, given the quality of the opponent. IUP on Tuesday is important. We don't want to fall to 1-3 in the league, especially with three home games played to just one road game.

    1. Ashland may be one of the best teams gannon sees all season. That Wendell Davis was incredible. As much as I dont miss the GLIAC - I do miss seeing these freak players (I.e. - 6'9 230 shooting 48% from 3FG). Also Ashland only has one senior and he is really a non-factor (avgs 1.8 ppg). Team is primarily sophs and frosh.

      I agree with golden although disappointing and hard to watch at times - not a bad loss. And Gannon put forth a good effort. They just were not the better team.

      Was nice to see Kutyei have an outbreak in this tourney. Not sure what happened to dogan. After shooting 30+ shots in 2 games last weekend he couldn't have taken many more than 13 shots in this tourney (and 3 were because the shot clock was almost out).

      One thing we all have to keep in mind is that this is a young and inexperienced team. Not too many seniors playing.
      Toupane is only senior starter as Jones (r-so), Kutyei (jr), eisendorf (so) and dogan (jr) are all underclassmen - as is Byrd (fr) if/when he returns. Bench players have primarily been boykins (sr), matey (jr), Gardner (fr), Clark (fr), adersteg (r-fr). So there's definitely opportunity for growth considering seniors Bailey, Dogbo and Theiro really have yet to touch the floor (I think Theiro played a little early on - dont think Dogbo or bailey have played at all).

      Lastly, was very impressed by matey. First true PG I remember to create for himself and others since Lindsey played. Once he settles in I feel he'll be a huge asset.

    2. . Nothing more to add than what has been stated above. At first blush, Wendell Davis from Ashland has all the makings of a potential first team All-American.

      Some combinations on the floor for us during the tournament were as young and inexperienced as any 5 put on the floor during the entire coach Reilly era. Gardner shows fantastic potential.

      Kutyei/Matey are a combination of flash-in-the pan from yesteryear, Kelvin Agee.

      I'm thinking we give IUP everything they can handle Tuesday evening. Early losses like last night from very good teams, although unpleasant, will benefit Gannon down the road.

  5. I remember the days we'd make a list like this. Sigh.

    The 5 D2 Basketball Teams With the Best Home Court Advantage

    1. how did the Hurst's MAC not make this list?? *jaw dropped*

  6. John Reilly teams have always stressed defense and has never been known for their offensive sets. He has basically ran the same offense since he has been here. To be effective it needs good one on one players. We always said you only need to scout John's teams once and from then on just change the players names.

  7. wanted to make a note to add to last year's team's attributes (off the court)...

    Girbran Smith was at both tourney games and Saturday Raphell Thomas-Edwards, Adarius Porter and Rich Austin were also in attendance. They were standing up clapping/cheering just about as hard as they did when they were playing the past two years. Even when Gannon was down big early and then when it was quite clear that Ashland was going to win - these guys were rooting for Gannon. After the game they all went over and were talking to some players and a few minutes after the team went into the locker rooms - the four of them joined later.

    I'm not sure we'll see a team with as enthusiastic of players as these guys were. I know the bench always stands up and cheers hard for their teammates, but these guys were above and beyond the "teammate" level. You could tell that team was a family. And it's great to see them still around to cheer on this younger team.