The Bowling Green Falcons suffered through the program's worst campaign in eight years during the 2013-2014 season. As a result, the contract of head coach Louis Orr, who had served for seven seasons, was not renewed. The Falcons turned up the heat with a flashy new hire, but will that be enough to stoke a fire in a program that hasn't owned a 20-win season in 12 years?
12-20 (6-12 MAC)
Bowling Green produced some nice individual moments and a pair of three-game winning streaks, but clearly, the season highlight for the Falcons were a pair of January road victories.
BGSU began their MAC schedule by winning just one of their first three games, all of which were at home. Their first road contests were at Western Michigan and Ohio, and it appeared that the Falcons were staring down a 1-4 start to league play. Instead, they won both games to earn a surprising 3-2 MAC record.
Against the Broncos, Anthony Henderson scored a career-high 27 points and drilled seven 3-pointers. His artistic performance from beyond the arc allowed BGSU to overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half for a 69-64 win. When Bowling Green traveled to Athens, they earned another comeback victory with a 58-56 decision over the Bobcats. Three players scored in double figures for the Falcons, and their stout defense forced 18 turnovers.
Those wins, over the eventual #1 and #5 seeds in the MAC Tournament, would easily be the most impressive of the season for the Falcons. They were rivaled only by the Falcons' home win over MAC East champion Buffalo that occurred in February.
There are three points here that really deserve equal mention. One was a season-long issue while the others were moments from the conference season.
Injuries hampered the Falcons' efforts all season long. Chauncey Orr, who was supposed to be one of the team's key starting contributors, played in only the season opener against Earlham. Zack Denny, who many hoped would be a key bench player as a freshman, dealt with health issues that began before the season even started and ultimately saw the court in only three contests. Once Orr went down, pressure to perform increased for other players, but then Craig Sealey also got hurt and was active for just half of the team's 32 games. Even when he played, Sealey averaged just 15 minutes and 3.8 points per game. That's 25 percent of BGSU's roster; it would be enormously difficult for any team to overcome that.
As for low points on the court, there are two that jump off the page. Bowling Green was near the bottom of the MAC in offense throughout the season, but their worst effort came during a 45-36 home loss to Northern Illinois in the second conference game. They made fewer than 30 percent of their shots and only nine of 21 free throws. In the second half, they were just 1-for-11 from the charity stripe.
Of course, Bowling Green recovered from that game to reach their high point, which we noted above. The Falcons' hopes took a much more serious blow with back-to-back losses to Akron and Kent State. BGSU lost on two straight last-second shots. Quincy Diggs nailed one for Akron to give the Zips a 65-63 win at the Stroh, then Devareaux Manley nailed a trey to hand BGSU a 62-61 loss from the Golden Flashes. The Falcons dropped to 4-7 in the MAC with those losses and won only twice more for the remainder of the season.
Bowling Green loses only two players: Cameron Black and Craig Sealey. As we mentioned above, Sealey played in only 16 games and averaged just 15 minutes in those contests. The loss of Black is much more significant. He started all 32 of BGSU's games and averaged 30 minutes per contest. He shot 50 percent from the floor and averaged 7.4 points per game, but he began to emerge more from a scoring standpoint late in the season. After putting up double digits in just six of the first 22 games, he posted six more double-digit performances in the final 10. Black also tied for the team lead with 7.7 rebounds per game and earned 53 blocks. His numbers will be difficult to replace.
Perhaps the biggest news for Bowling Green this spring, outside of their new head coach, was the announcement that Chauncey Orr would return for his senior season. He should be fully healthy when the 2014-2015 season begins, and he'll be one of the key players for next year's team. Remember that Orr started 31 games and was BGSU's third-leading scorer as a sophomore.
Richaun Holmes, Bowling Green's shot-blocker extraordinaire, will also return for his senior season. Holmes started 31 of the team's 32 games this season and led BGSU's primary starters with 13.3 points per game. He blocked 88 shots, tied for the team lead with 7.7 rebounds per game, and even created 36 steals. He shot 50.7 percent from the floor and also showed an ability to drill shots from behind the arc. He'll once again be the Falcons' key man inside the paint.
Three other players with significant starting experience this season will return for next year's squad. Spencer Parker started 30 of 32 games, while Jehvon Clarke began all 32. Both averaged 12.5 points per game. Henderson, who keyed the win over Western Michigan, will also be back after starting all 31 games in which he played. The top bench player, J.D. Tisdale also returns. The Falcons should also get bigger contributions from Denny, Josh Gomez and Damarkeo Lyshe.
The Louis Orr era ended meekly, but there was nothing meek about Bowling Green's approach to finding a new coach. Athletics director Chris Kingston immediately made contact with Wichita State associate head coach Chris Jans, and shortly after the Shockers exited the NCAA Tournament with their only loss of the season, Jans accepted an offer to become the Falcons' new head coach.
Jans brings head coaching experience and significant connection to the junior college ranks as well as an enormous run of success at the mid-major level with Wichita State as an assistant. He inherits a veteran roster that returns every significant player but one, which means that he has the pieces in place to immediately improve Bowling Green's fortunes. However, he needs to identify a replacement for Black and must find ways to improve BGSU's offense, which was among the nation's worst with just 62.7 points per game last season.
Even with the injuries and issues on offense, this year's squad was rarely out of games. With just a few different moments, their 12-20 record could have been several wins better. With a healthy Orr and a significant veteran presence, it would be reasonable to expect more wins next season. However, fans should not let expectations get out of hand. Jans' tenure at Wichita State did not include a quick fix, and one isn't likely to happen at BGSU, either.
Season Grade: C-
We gave Bowling Green a grade of C+ when they were 9-10 (3-3 MAC) at mid-season. They won only three more games in MAC play and bowed out in the first round of the MAC Tournament. Their play in the final 13 games of the season wasn't significantly worse than the first 19, but the difference in record does require a downgrade.