This is the time of year when most media outlets conduct a year in review of some sort. Seeing that Gannon was 10-15 during calendar year 2016, dropping to 5-5 this season after Friday's 64-57 loss at #21 Indiana (Pa.), I'd rather look ahead and on the bright side.
starters, at this juncture a year ago, Gannon was just 2-9 and had only
begun the PSAC West meat grinder. It appears the West is not the best
in 2017, so this more talented unit has a legit shot at not just making
the postseason but possibly hosting a conference playoff game. Giving me
the confidence to make that statement is what's ahead for Gannon in the
first three weeks of January:
Jan. 3 vs. California (3-9 overall, 0-6 PSAC):
Cal is the only winless team on both sides of the conference by virtue
of their Basement Bowl home loss Dec. 3 to Cheyney (1-9, 1-5). But don't
be fooled that the Vulcans will be a pushover. Their last four losses
have been by 4, 4, 6, and 5 points. That said, if the Knights fall at
home to Cal on Tuesday, there will be panic in the streets of downtown
Jan. 6 vs. Seton Hill (5-5, 2-4 PSAC): Seton
Hill has lost three in a row, all on their home floor. When looking at
SHU's stats, the most shocking is that opponents are shooting 44% from
three-point range. Zay Jackson might score 50 if the Griffins bring
that type of defense to the Hammermill.
Jan. 9 at Pitt-Johnstown (8-4, 3-3 PSAC):
After a slow start that included losses to Urbana and at home to
Mansfield, the Mountain Cats have won three in a row. Leading UPJ is
sharpshooter A.J. Leahey, who seems to be playing his 9th season at the
school. Leahey ranks in the PSAC top 7 in scoring (21.7 ppg), field goal
percentage, three-point percentage, and threes per game. This looks to
be the most difficult game on Gannon's early 2017 schedule.
note about Urbana: they had likely the strangest December schedule of
any Division II team in the country. They played three Division I
exhibitions at IUPUI (109-67), Wright State (85-34), and Ohio (77-50).
Their only games that counted were against teams that would likely
struggle to beat Strong Vincent this year. UU thumped Miami
University-Middletown (94-82) and Wright State University-Lake
(104-50). But before you think WSU-L is the worst team in America,
consider they demolished Kent State-Tuscarawas by 57, 122-65. My last
comment on this wild digression is that KS-T has the least intimidating team photo in the history of college basketball.
Jan. 11 at Edinboro (4-6, 2-4 PSAC):
While following daily scores this season, I've said to myself on more
than one occasion, "Edinboro must stink." After being shellacked at
Shippensburg, 105-73. Losing at home to Damen by double-digits, 90-79.
Following a home beatdown to East Stroudsburg, 107-70. When they gave up
102 points in a loss at Notre Dame (Oh.). The Scots have won two close
games in a row but only because Cheyney and Cal were on their schedule
... and because they have the always dangerous Jaymon Mason (22.8 ppg).
But, to be frank, they don't have much else.
Jan. 14 vs. Clarion (5-6, 3-3 PSAC): This
is a guaranteed win for the Knights. Why do I say that so confidently?
To date, Clarion is 5-0 at home and 0-5 in road games. The Eagles only
have themselves to blame because their lone exhibition game this year
was against alum John Calipari at Kentucky, 108-51. I wouldn't want to
leave the house let alone travel on the highway after that.
Seriously, if the Knights can jump on Clarion early, the Eagles haven't
proven to be a comeback team. Their six losses this year have all been
by double-digits, including Friday's 80-58 embarrassment at UPJ.
Jan. 18 at Mercyhurst (5-5, 3-3 PSAC):
Speaking of embarrassments, Mercyhurst has been red faced after their
past two games: a home loss to now 1-10 Roberts Wesleyan and a
double-digit defeat at now 2-4 PSAC Lock Haven Friday night, 71-56. Not
getting out of the 50s against that LHU club -- who Gannon handled, 81-70
-- isn't exactly confidence inspiring. DePaul transfer Durrell McDonald
was supposed to be all-world on the Division II level, but he's scoring
just 15.7 ppg on just 40.3% shooting from the field so far this season.
McDonald has attempted 134 field goals while the next most shot-happy
Laker has just 80 FGA.
So how do you feel looking
ahead at Gannon's next three weeks? Hoping for 6-0 for a .500 team is
too greedy, but I think 5-1 is a possibility and I'd probably be
disappointed if the Knights ended this stretch 4-2. But I'd be more
disappointed if I had to live 2016 over again.