PantherU

A Jerk’s Guide to the Cleveland State Vikings

PantherU has decided to forego the usual ho-hum season previews of basketball teams in the Horizon League, instead…well…we’re just gonna trash your team in the style of Deadspin (yeah, we’re not even covering up that we’re ripping them off). For years, PantherU has been second only to the Horizon League office in pissing off Horizon League hoops fans, and it’s high time we embraced the villain. It’s all in good fun, so don’t take it seriously and be ready to enjoy the previews. If you are a fan of a Horizon League team and you want to be a part of trashing your own team, feel free to send all to jimmy@pantheru.com.

The team: Cleveland State Vikings

2014 record: 21-12 (12-4 Horizon League)

The coach: Gary Waters, by far the whiniest coach in the Horizon League. Which turns out to not matter much, since he’s also the most consistent and successful coach in the conference. After a successful run at Kent State that included building a team that had an Elite Eight appearance the year after he left – also, thanks for Antonio Gates on my fantasy team – Waters went to Rutgers, where he got all Rutgers’d out and has been in the Horizon League since 2006. He hasn’t been bad, not bad at all. The Vikings have been consistently good under Waters, with the occasional rough year – the 2012-13 Vikings went 14-18 when their inside presence, Anton Grady, went out with a knee injury for the year.

At the end of the day, it makes Waters’ whining that much more infuriating. He’s Harry Potter’s fat cousin who bitches because he only got 36 presents for his birthday after topping out at 37 the year before. Yes, Aaron Pogue committed a stupid foul. Get over it. I realize there are times when the coach has to argue just for the sake of arguing, but no referee has ever changed a call because you gave him a look like he beat your youngest child with a shovel while you were handcuffed to the register…sorry. I watch a lot of Law and Order.

The star: We could be giving this role to scoring guard Trey Lewis, but that would be doing a disservice to Anton Grady. As the team’s best post presence since J’Nathan Bullock, Grady is everything for the Vikings. When he’s in for most of the season: 21-12. When he’s out for most of the season: 14-18. The Vikings are just a better team with him on the court. It’s impressive that he’s been able to put up the stat line he has, considering they really have no one to take the pressure off him down low. But he’s got to stay healthy. If he’s hurt for any extended period, the Vikings just become a bunch of chuckers and slashers, and teams will be able to run 3-2 zones and kill them. He should stay healthy though. It’s not like big men ever have knee problems.

Could be worse: Bryn Forbes and Sebastian Douglas are both gone. Forbes transferred to Michigan State, joining Tom Izzo and an increasingly slimy program. Douglas suffered a third knee injury, ending his career. That just sucks. What would the Vikings do if Grady or Lewis also left the program? Holy crap, it would be rough. But they didn’t, and the Vikings return a solid nucleus that features spark plug point guard Charlie Lee.

Speaking of Charlie Lee, the Panthers didn’t get the Milwaukee product and have been buried by him several times. As he gets to his senior season, that’s a continued storyline to look out for when the Vikings come to town.

You could also have zero fans, but the five or six that are not related to players or coaches are die hard fans. What would we do without the Twitter stylings of @pronkville08, who favorites everything and has about 150 Horizon League tweets daily. One of those fans is Mr. X, one of the most dastardly message board trolls in the Horizon League. There could be a little-watched but very fun documentary with Jon Durda (that’s Pronk) and Phil Daniels going all Inspector Morse (my mom watched Inspector Morse) on the Cleveland area as they try and discover the true identity of Mr. X. My money is it’s the same guy who does the @CommishLeCrone twitter account.

This is the worst: Ron Hunter, now head coach at Georgia State, has been leading the charge for Samaritan’s Feet, an organization that raises money for sneakers for kids in Africa. We can all agree that’s a noble endeavor. To raise awareness, coaches across the country will take the same Saturday every season to coach barefoot or in their socks. Back in 2009, with CSU just a couple months from their first NCAA Tournament in decades, Waters declined to go barefoot in their game at the Arena in Milwaukee. Rob Jeter and his staff went barefoot, but Waters kept his shoes on. Why? His feet were cold. I think that’s kind of the point, coach.

Look forward to: Waters crying like a little girl when a foul gets called on Cleveland State with 45 seconds left in the game and them up 24. It’s going to happen, you know it’s going to happen, but still irks everyone in the crowd. Waters coaches a complete game, which I suppose is what we all want to see, but does he have to be such an insufferable child about it? Have some fun and laugh off some of these calls, Coach. You’re going to give yourself a coronary.

Hey, how about that: The Vikings spent last season as the team with the best scoring differential this side of Green Bay, scoring exactly seven points more than their opponents per game. That could change, as Douglas was a defensive stopper and Forbes led the team in scoring. They also lost Jon Harris, who scored 10 a game. But programs don’t change. The Vikings, like Valparaiso, are consistent in their play year to year. As long as Grady

I sincerely apologize for not being funny on this one. Just not a whole lot to make fun of. Okay, let’s keep going to try and come up with more:

The tiny fan base looks like it has divided into two factions, with Durda and Phil in one corner and pretty much everyone else in the other corner.

What CSU fans have to say:

Bob:

Cleveland State’s biggest problem isn’t that the Vikings lost their best scorer (Bryn Forbes) or their best defender (Sebastian Douglas), or the added pressure put on preseason All-Horizon League first teamer Trey Lewis. It’s not even that Cleveland State will probably finish second in the conference and once again end up in the NIT or something worse.
No, the problem is that CSU hasn’t found a way to cater to their top two target audiences: Children under 12 and seniors over 65. Clearly heads are going to roll if somebody can’t secure that ever-elusive corporate partnership with Denny’s by the end of the season.
Jon:

Where to even start with Cleveland State?  How about the Wolstein center itself.  The Wolstein center always looks packed; that is if the empty green seats really are fans dressed in disguise.  Actually, a Cleveland State basketball game can be confused for a Senior’s group night out.  Finding a fan attending a game under the age of 50 is like finding a party on the CSU campus on a Friday or Saturday night: very rare.  And speaking of the students, what other school in the Horizon League treats their own team like it doesn’t exist?  The CSU student body excuses themselves from attending basketball games because they have to follow a school that sits over 2 hours Southwest of the corner of Euclid and East 21st street.  Heck, the Cleveland State athletic department even tried selling $2 beer to boost attendance to no avail.  CHEAP BEER can’t even get people to watch CSU!

Then there is the media (non?) coverage.  The biggest newspaper in town tosses CSU aside like a dirty oil rag after changing a car’s oil.  The radio station the team’s games are aired on makes local evangelist Ernest Angley’s weekly TV show on some no name TV station look like ESPN.  High school volleyball, soccer and band competitions get more in the sports sections than CSU’s two sentence back page mention.  Then again, when a team’s head coach can’t remember the names of players he recruits, what else is to be expected.

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