Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Biggest Loser, Sports Edition

The sports teams I follow do little to elevate my self-esteem. I pledged allegiance to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they entered the NFL in 1976, and they promptly lost their first 26 games. For baseball, I fell in love with the Pirates in the late 70s, then they stayed below .500 for the next couple decades. At Sacred Heart grade school I was a starter on the basketball team for two seasons, stumbling to a 3-23 record in 8th grade which was actually an improvement over our 1-18 mark in 6th grade (in your face St. George!). The trend only got worse as I got older. Working in the PR department for the Erie Wave pro basketball team appeared to be my dream job especially when the team won its home opener before thousands of Erieites in May 1990. But the Wave left town -- and I lost my job -- after going 12-34, 18-33, then 12-16 before suspending operations.

The only team I've followed where I could claim consistent superiority has been Gannon basketball. The program has accomplished everything but a national championship -- wins over local rivals, regular season league championships, conference tournament titles, NCAA wins, regional crowns, and even being national runners up one year.

But the Knights dropped to a miserable 2-7 this season after being shredded Saturday afternoon by visiting Wheeling Jesuit, 89-60. I expect to see that record around week 10 of the NFL season, not when I'm leaving the Hammermill Center in mid-December. At least when the Buccaneers stink I can root for a higher draft pick. But when Gannon takes another step toward a .200 winning percentage, all I can do is grind my teeth a little more. If this keeps up, I'll be rubbing my gums together on Valentine's Day.

This Gannon team has appeared to be in scramble mode all season, and that was particularly evident today. WJU peppered the ball around the perimeter until they fired an open three or fooled the Knights with a back door cut. It was the fourth consecutive game Gannon allowed its opponent to shoot better than 50% from the floor. Another contrast was that Wheeling Jesuit has started the same 5 players in their 8 games this season. With junior transfer Emmanuel Matey opening at point guard today, Gannon has now started 10 different players this season. No, not 10 different lineups or combinations; 10 different players.

We even saw a new player activated today with McDowell grad Max Kerr dressing and playing for the first time. Kerr wowed the crowd with back-to-back threes in the first half, causing us at the scorer's table to debate during the next media timeout who was a greater all-time Golden Knight: Kerr or Adam Blazek. Kerr isn't the only roster change I understand. I've been told that Gabriel Adersteg left the team a little over a week ago and redshirt big man William Asplund quit more recently.

Most Gannon fans seem to have thrown in the towel as well. I picked up the Gannon Knight student newspaper during halftime, and the lead story by sports editor and longtime Gannon hoops fan Dominic Sansone detailed the men's basketball attendance decline. The Audi was pretty much empty at tip-off today (see accompanying photo) and the box score for today's game listed an official attendance of 481. When did we become Edinboro?

Speaking of the Scots, they sit atop the PSAC West at 5-1 and are the next opponents for last place Gannon, who is 1-5 in the West. For me, there's no better feeling than walking into McComb expecting to win and then drilling the Scots in front of their biggest crowd of the year. If Gannon wins Wednesday, I think it will surprise us all -- and give me a much-needed boost of sports self-esteem.

22 comments:

  1. Not too shabby. Gannon was outplayed in EVERY aspect of the game by a young Cardinal team (only two seniors, possibly rebuilding?). Wheeling Jesuit hit shots from inside and outside, rebounded, blocked shots, hustled, deflected passes, intercepted passes, stole the ball and sold popcorn. Gannon, well, Gannon didn't.

    There were five fans sitting in the bleachers in section D. Not too many more in the other bleacher sections. Gumby is long gone. Bring in Willy Loman.

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  2. Cheyney 53
    Viginia Union 74

    California 72
    Davis Elkins 83

    Edinboro 79
    Daemen 88

    IUP 72
    Fairmont 85

    Mercyhurst 66
    Notre Dame College 71

    What a power house league the PSAC is and the records of some of these teams leaves a little bit to be desired.

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    1. Like opening the pantry and finding it filled with cupcakes.

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  3. Not surprised by either departure. Considering guard Boykins has been the primary inside guy (whether starting or off the bench), doesn't give much hope to Adertseg to see his time increase or Asplund to see much next year.

    I watched the webcast and didn't see a 12 jersey on the bench... was Dogbo there?

    Was nice to see Kerr hit his first 2 career shots.

    Score was worse than expected but result was not given this teams only loss was a three point setback against the 8th ranked team in the country, Fairmont State (whose only loss was a 2 point defeat at the hands of undefeated nationally ranked #1 team West Liberty University).

    The defense is the killer this season. Players have not bought into it as players in past have, which is why we've seen 10 different starters.

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    1. Boykins is a senior and won't be here next year. So why would Asplund have no hope of seeing playing time next year because of Boykins? Dogbo was there.

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    2. The point was that Boykins is being played inside over bigger players like Adertseg, Theiro, Eisendorf, etc. Boykins plays GU style and I'm assuming these others do not in the eyes of the coaches.

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    3. Thanks for clearing that up. I agree.

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  4. Usually the mass player exodus doesn't begin until the season is over. Good job, Riles. Wishing all the best to Adersteg and Asplund.

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  5. Could always be worse... we could have to be fans of the 76ers...

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. We should be thankful that this isn't European club soccer because the bottom teams get relegated to a lower league.

      How bad are things right now? If Gannon loses on Wednesday, the Knights will have the same record (2-8) as the Salem International women's basketball team.

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  6. Dogbo was there but I didn't see Cheick Thiero

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  7. I'd love to go back and see how many times a John Reilly-coached Gannon team has held an opponent without a field goal for five, even ten minutes or more. I'd guess that last year's team alone had at least 10 five-minute stretches holding opponents without a field goal.

    That's why it's really strange seeing a Gannon team get dominated on defense, even by a quality team like Wheeling Jesuit. Usually, when a good team comes to the Hammermill Center, our defense makes them uncomfortable and holds them below their scoring average. Even in down seasons, GU will play them tough, and sometimes pull out an upset victory.

    Last Saturday was a disaster. It felt like GU played really well in the first half, only to be down by six at the break. Reality set in during the second half and WJU pulled away quickly once our offense went a little cold. Thankfully, our defense took some charges or the result would have been the worst home loss of the Reilly era (I am assuming the 30 point Urbana loss in the 09-10 season opener is the worst home loss).

    Another stat that illustrates the extent to which the Knights' defense is consistently struggling: Opposing teams have now shot 50% or better for nine consecutive halves. You have to go back to the first half against Ashland to find a GU opponent that has shot below 50% in a half.

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  8. To build on Bob's earlier post:

    The PSAC was 1-8 this weekend, including an 0-4 slate against the Mountain East. The west was 0-6. Thankfully, Kutztown squeaked by a 115-75 victory over Penn State-Berks to avert the shutout.

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    1. Good data. Or should I say "interesting data." Because those stats certainly aren't good for the PSAC.

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  9. An "official" attendance figure of 481 sure seems generous, doesn't it? Poor start to season or not, I think more folks would show up if Saturday games were at night. Many students now have part-time jobs. I feel more would show up if games were at night. How many more (especially with slow start to season) remains to be seen.

    Yup, this was a tough loss to a very good team that exposed Gannon in every area. The only ray of light was that it wasn't a league game. Those continue soon enough, starting Wednesday.

    Gut feeling: perhaps the league is not as tough as I believed. I'm surprised both Edinboro and Mercyhurst lost their independent games over the weekend.

    If this young team can just somehow begin to click, maybe things will start to turn. Due to past program success, every team has Gannon "circled" on their schedule. We get everyone's best shot. Edinboro will be no exception.

    Game at a time!

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    1. I don't think a Saturday night game would make a difference in terms of students (that's the beginning of their night!)

      I do think, however, it would make a difference in terms of families, grandparents, etc. as many kids have sports during the day Saturday and families are there watching them. At night (pending no conflicts with Otters, BayHawks or HS ball) I think more would be at Gannon.

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  10. It seems like we have a lot of 5 minute stretches in the second half that are just pitiful.

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    1. It's as if the opposing coach makes defensive adjustments and Gannon doesn't.

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  11. According to the Performance Indicators, Gannon is ranked 36th in the region (out of 43) and 259th in Division II play.

    http://www.d2messageboard.com/showthread.php?78977-Performance-Indicators-2015-16

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    1. Jim: I hope this posting isn't a precursor to a "HOW LOW CAN YOU GO, PART 2" heading after the next several (on paper, very tough) games!

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    2. So you're saying that we're probably not hosting the Atlantic Regional?

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