Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
The intimidating A'uston Calhoun, bantamweight Jordon Crawford and promising Cameron Black lead a team that has been perpetually stuck in the middle of MAC standings for a few years.
Still a great video:
If you're not smiling every time you watch that, you don't know how to smile or perhaps you're not a Bowling Green basketball fan. You should become one! We need more people like you.
The Stroh Center's debut year, I think, has to be billed a success. The architecture from the outside gives way to what I can only describe as a hollowed-out ziggurat. If the Babylonians invented basketball, that's what the first arena would look like. At worst, it's not Anderson Arena. At best it's a sign that the Falcons have the arena they need to be a MAC champion; they just need the team to go with it.
They played 12-4 basketball at the Stroh. They beat Temple, Ohio and Kent State. Those were all quality wins. Three losses were understandable too: George Washington, Buffalo, and Akron. The fourth loss, though, made no sense: Central Michigan, the 12-seed in the first round of the MAC men's basketball tournament. CMU, a floundering team who, despite the win, pulled the Zeigler Family Linchpin from the program, emptying much of its roster into the depths of academia. I didn't understand it then and still don't. They were given a second chance: a berth in the CIT against Oakland, and they were Reggie Hamilton'd to death. Then it was finally over.
But if we're speaking of the Stroh Center as an extension of the program, then the season really ended a few days later, only they didn't play in it. BGSU hosted a first-round sectional of the NCAA women's basketball tournament, accented by Baylor and Brittney Griner, who had no trouble with their competition. She remains the best basketball player to grace that floor.
That championship atmosphere, and subsequently that type of player (only male) is what BGSU wants. Will they ever get it? They'll settle for a hot streak through the MAC championship, I'd reckon.
At this point, that seems to be what they need. Contending for the MAC East, at this point, is possible if not probable. They look better than Miami on paper and that's it. Maybe they're on par with Buffalo and perhaps a rebuilding Kent State team. But if they can finish with a 5- or 6-seed, not unlike last year, that puts them in a realistically favorable position. (Just win that blasted first-round game.) If they can steal a 4-seed — Toledo's postseason ban helps — then all the better.
Now, who's going to get them there? They're losing three seniors, each highly different in their skill set: Scott Thomas, a do-it-all player. He scored, passed, rebounded and defended well, especially on the full-court press. Dee Brown was a reliable free-throw shooter as well as a starter who could knock down shots anywhere on the court. Torian Oglesby brought some thunder off the bench, one of the most exciting players around the rim on both ends of the court. Everybody loses seniors. It's the nature of college. Good luck to all y'all.
That does leave two or three starters, depending on your optimism on Cameron Black's injury: One you know in A'uston Calhoun. He's a menacing post player with a desire if not terrific ability to shoot jumpers, but his spot on the All-MAC East preseason team is wholly deserving. Jordon Crawford is the other one; and if you can't find him, just look down. He's still listed generously at 5'6" / 150 pounds, and if the exhibition game is any indicator, they're going to lean on him to shoot more as well as run the point position. I then look at Cam Black, a man with great size and ability, to try and stay on the court more than 20 minutes a game, and usually this is limited by foul trouble. Otherwise his rejection of shots on the defensive end could spark many a run.
That leaves two (or three) new starters: if the exhibition game is any indication, Luke Kraus, Chauncey Orr and Craig Sealey will be candidates. I'll start with, oh I don't know, Sealey, I guess? His greatest strength is on the defensive side, and hopefully he develops into a guy that can create points around the rim on the other side. A mini-Oglesby, if you will. For aesthetic purposes, he'll be one of the receivers on Crawford's alley-oops, even if he's no Oglesby. Kraus has recovered from a broken foot which kept him out of half the season, and this team can only hope the senior knocks down some shots in the mold of Dee Brown.
Which brings us to the sophomores who will get more playing time: Jehvon Clarke played over 12 minutes per game last year and may see even more time to give Crawford a breather. Chauncey Orr is an interesting player, I'm not entirely sure how he'll fit into the rotation but they list him as a guard/forward and had moderate success shooting the three in a very limited sample size. I can see the coach's son getting a chance to see what he can bring to the table early in the OOC schedule. Senior James Erger will also get some good bench minutes. Anthony Henderson may get some minutes at guard, which leaves two redshirt freshmen, both tall kids: Desmond Rorie and Damarkeo Lyshe. I'm not sure how much playing time either will get, actually.
The schedule is an interesting journey: they'll play in the Preseason NIT, starting off with Cleveland State in Ann Arbor and possibly matching up with Michigan. It'll likely end there. Then there will be FIVE straight home games, capped off with an excellent visit by Michigan State - the first time the Spartans have played in Bowling Green since Jud Heathcote quipped "I think you've just seen the last time you'll ever see a Michigan State team in a MAC gymnasium" after an MSU loss in Anderson. They'll also get some tough shots at South Florida and Temple to end-cap the out-of-conference slate. They're also playing D-I independent New Orleans on February 17, right before the BracketBusters. No other MAC team has an OOC game nearly that late. The world may never know why.
In terms of their OOC schedule, a .500 record would be swell. In fact, .500 is looking like the target point for the team yet again; 9-7 or better is a success, and 7-9 or worse is a letdown. That's all I'll say. The specter of 1968 still looms over the program, and one of these years they're going to get back to that NCAA tournament. It could be this year! But an auxiliary postseason tournament is looking more likely for this team this year. Their arena, however, remains as a beacon for what they'd like to become: a championship contender.