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2014-15 Preseason MAC Men’s Basketball: Bowling Green Falcons

A new coach has Falcons hopeful that program turnaround is imminent.

BGSU Athletics

The year was 1968. Gas was 34 cents a gallon. The first Big Mac went on sale at McDonalds.   Mao Tse-tung was the leader of China.  The Beatles released "Hey Jude."  "The Graduate" was the year's top movie.  And, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were both assassinated.

Also in 1968, first-year head coach Bill Fitch led the Bowling Green State University men's basketball team to the Mid-American Conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.  Some 48 years later, the Falcons are still waiting on their next invitation to the "Big Dance."

The last seven years have been particularly hard for the Falcon faithful.  Under the guidance of former head coach Louis Orr, the Falcon program has resembled the "walking dead" since the 2006-2007 season.  Orr compiled a 101-121 (45%) overall record and a 54-60 (47%) MAC record.  His teams finished either in last place or next to last in their MAC division every year except one.

So it was no surprise when Orr was handed his walking papers after this past season. Fact is, he probably would have been fired a couple of years earlier if he hadn't had a few years left on his contract.  The school elected to let him ride out the contract rather than buying him out early.

To make matters worse, there has been tremendous excitement in other areas of the men's basketball program that has made the results on the court even that much harder to take.  In 2011, the Falcons moved into the brand new Stroh Center on campus.  In addition, long-time fan and Falcon supporter, Bill Frack, made a $20 million gift to the men's basketball program.

This past March, Bowling Green athletic director Chris Kingston chose Wichita State associate head coach Chris Jans to lead the Falcon program into the future.  There is much optimism centered on the hiring of Jans because of his terrific coaching pedigree.

So the Falcons have a new facility, working capital to sustain and enhance the program, and a new coach to lead the way.  Everything seems to be in place to lead the program back to the prominence it had in the early-60's when Harold Anderson was coaching the likes of Nate Thurmond and Howard "Butch" Komives.   However, this rebuilding project will take some time and we may not see "significant progress" right away.

Here is a look at the 2014-15 Bowling Green Falcons men's basketball team:

Coaching
Well, Jans certainly knows what it's like to build a winning mid-major program and take a team to the NCAA Tournament consistently.  For the last seven years, Jans has been the right-hand man for Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall.  Jans has helped guide the Shockers to three straight NCAA appearances and national prominence, including a number two national ranking and a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament this past season.  Wichita State also became the first team in NCAA history to start the season with 35 consecutive victories and finished 35-1 last year.

Jans has a reputation as a defensive-minded coach and will bring some much needed toughness to the Falcons.  Look for Jans to also make an immediate impact in recruiting as he has already brought in five new players for the upcoming season, including three JUCO transfers.

Returning Players
The Falcon program is not devoid of talent, as three returning players (Richaun Holmes, Jehvon Clarke and Chauncey Orr) were recently named to 2014-15 Preseason Mid-American All-Conference Teams by CollegeSportsMadness.com.

Holmes, a 6-foot-8 senior, averaged thirteen points and eight rebounds a game last year.  He also recorded 88 blocked shots last season and became the school's all-time leader in that category.   Holmes provides a strong interior presence on both ends of the floor for the Falcons.

Playing both guard positions, Clarke, a 6-foot-1 senior, averaged twelve and a half points and five assists per game last year.  Clarke is the Falcons' most experienced player, leading both the team and MAC in minutes played at over 36 per game.

Joining them as returning starters for the Falcons are 6-foot-7 junior forward Spencer Parker and 6-foot-1 senior guard Anthony Henderson.  Parker is an all-around player that fills up the box score.  He averaged twelve and a half points and five rebounds last year, while recording 41 assists, 22 steals and 11 blocks on the season.  Henderson is a good combo guard and a superb defender who fits in with Jans' plans perfectly.  He averaged ten and a half points last year and led the team with 66 steals on the season.

Also returning for the Falcons in 2014-15 will be J.D. Tisdale, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who contributed significantly last year off the bench as a true freshman.  He played in all 32 games last year and even started in two of those games.  Zach Denny was another freshman who was expected to come in and make an impact last year, but it never panned out.  Denny, who has the reputation as a deadly outside shooter, played in only three games last year and missed most of the season with an injury.  It will be interesting to see how he develops under Jans now that he is healthy.

Orr, a junior and the son of the former head coach, returns after playing in only one game and taking a medical redshirt last year.  Orr averaged seven and a half points and four rebounds his last full season in 2012-2013.  Josh Gomez (6-10, Jr.) and Garrett Mayleben (6-9, Fr.) will provide depth inside for Bowling Green.  Gomez is transfer from Iona that played in 26 games off the bench last year for the Falcons.  Maybelen was recruited by Orr and sat out last year as a redshirt.  Again, it will be interesting to see how Jans can utilize his size.

New Players
Even though he got a late start on recruiting, Jans was able to land a couple of freshman recruits in forward Rasheed Worrell (6-7) and guard Matt Fox (6-4).  Worrell, from Coker, Alabama will add some much needed size and athleticism for the Falcons.  Fox is from nearby Anthony Wayne High School and will add depth at the two-guard spot.

The real impact Jans has made to the current roster has been by bringing in three JUCO transfers for the upcoming season.  Delvin Dickerson (6-7, Houston, Texas/Paris JC), David Joseph (6-1, Queens, New York/Howard College), and Jovan Austin (6-0, Grand Prairie, Texas/Paris JC) all come with two years of eligibility remaining.  Dickerson and Austin were teammates at Paris Junior College last season and led the Dragons to a regular season conference championship and a Region XIV tournament championship.  Adding transfers and JUCO players is nothing new at a program where there's a new coach coming in trying to upgrade a roster quickly.

Outlook
The infusion of new talent coupled with a new coaching regime has the Falcon fan base at least curious.  But who can blame them for having tempered enthusiasm after all they have been through the past decade.

I think you'll see this team play harder under Jans, in a better system and probably with more discipline than we saw under Orr.  The bigger question is will that translate immediately into more wins?  This program has struggled for so long that a quick fix probably isn't in the cards here.

But I do believe the Falcons have the right guy in Jans.  He's been part of a proven winner and he knows how to recruit.  I think Jans will be given the time needed to properly develop a winner at Bowling Green.   He may take his lumps initially, but in a couple of years he may very well have built a program that others in the MAC are going to have to deal with.

For the upcoming season he simply needs to right the ship and point them in the proper direction.  I think anything around .500 would be a win here.  But don't be surprised if Jans gets them over .500 this season.  If he does, look out.  The Falcons might eventually get to dance in March.