The Eighth Man

Will They or Won’t They: Bowling Green State University, #14

In addition to our preseason rankings, The Eighth Man staff will be releasing a series of articles focusing on the top 20 teams, counting down from 20 to one. Each article will be written by two members of the staff, one who believes the team will live up to or exceed expectations and one who thinks they will come up short. 


PROMISING SEASON AHEAD
By Devin Sandon

In looking at Bowling Green State University’s performance at the last World Cup, the vast consensus is that Bowling Green struggled, they were not on their game and they largely deviated from the play and demeanor which brought them to greatness at the Midwest Regional Championship and in the previous season.

Now, while it is true that Bowling Green may have been feeling considerable pressure, both to prove their own mettle and the strength of the Midwest, their outcomes demonstrate that they very much played their game.

I would argue that the analysts who saw Bowling Green as struggling simply do not fundamentally understand the game that Bowling Green plays. The big arguments that were made in favor of Bowling Green’s struggles were that they were unable to get out of snitch range against either University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in the Round of 32 or the University of Virginia in pool play, as well as the fact that they lost to Baylor University in the Sweet 16 out of snitch range. What this ignores is that Bowling Green has never been a team which blew out mid-tier opponents. Bowling Green’s Cinderella run at World Cup VI started with a 130* – 100 victory over 32-seed Tennessee Technological University.

Analysts see Bowling Green as being vulnerable because they are playing snitch-range games, but they ignore the fact that at championship tournaments in the last two years, Bowling Green is 13 out of 14 in SWIM situations. While some teams struggle under pressure, Bowling Green thrives.

After Bowling Green’s win over University of Kansas in the Midwest Regional Championship finals, Daniel Daugherty noted that the team has become much more comfortable being behind, because they have faith in Sam Roitblat to make the pulls, and that faith seems to be paying off in spades. Bowling Green plays close games because it is, by and large, safe for them to do so. They exert the energy necessary to stay in range and let Sunshine do his job. Consider the infamous Cinderella run:
(31) Bowling Green 130* – (32) Tennessee Tech 100
(31) Bowling Green 80* – (3) University of Miami 50
(31) Bowling Green 90* – (14) University of Maryland 60
(31) Bowling Green 230* – (6) Lost Boys 210
Bowling Green’s point differential was almost identical, regardless of the talent of the other team, and, frequently, Bowling Green would come from a deficit and even the score as the clock ticked down to the snitch’s return. Maryland for example was up 30 points at one point, before Bowling Green pulled itself back into the game.

As long as Bowling Green manages to stay in snitch range, they are, and will continue to be, one of the most dangerous teams in the game. This, of course, raises the question of whether or not they will be able to stay in snitch range, and I have to believe that the answer will remain a resounding yes.

While Bowling Green did lose some veteran role players, their top lines are untouched, and they can recruit and move up players from the Falcon Warriors to fill in the gaps. With Daugherty continuing to perform as one of the best distributors in the game, and a number of excellent targets for passes, Bowling Green will continue to be incredibly difficult to put out of range. In addition, given his play at Black Swamp Fantasy, I very much expect that Alex Closson will be something of a household name by the end of this season. In addition to his excellent play off ball, I expect Closson to develop as a player who can fundamentally change Bowling Green’s offense away from its reliance on one-pass offensive plays, which will give them the offensive diversity they need to continue to hold upper-tier teams in snitch range and put lower-tier and mid-tier teams out of range.

On the defensive side, with the return of a strong beater core and Daugherty’s excellent shot blocking, Bowling Green should continue to allow relatively few goals per game, and teams tempted to utilize aggressive beating to try to get to the hoops will quickly find their goals answered by Daugherty or Closson.

Bowling Green’s two regional finals appearances and two strong runs at World Cup in successive seasons were not a fluke, and counting the Falcons out this year would be a grave mistake.


THE RUN IS DONE
By Luke Changet

I have always been a huge fan of Bowling Green State University, but I have never been a true believer in their team, and there is a plethora of reasons. Firstly, their only true quaffle carrier is Dan Daugherty. Their female beaters have always been on the weaker side (though their female chasers are usually incredible), and their seeker is the most overrated seeker in the game.

But the problems only get bigger for Bowling Green this season. They are losing two of their best off-ball threats, Evan Adkins and Greg Smolkovich, who are also, incidentally, their best point defenders. They are losing their best female beater, Cara Leach, from a group that never had much depth to begin with. They are losing beater Joe Pavlik, who, while never their best beater, has always been a thorn in the side of opposing teams. Add to this the internal issues which may be driving Chad Brown, hands down their best beater, away from the team, and this Bowling Green team does not belong anywhere near the top 20, let alone at number 14.

If you watch the tape of Bowling Green’s historic Cinderella run at World Cup VI, you will notice that Team USA seeker Sam “Sunshine” Roitblat never makes a catch quickly, and, really, only ever tries two moves, one where he makes a slight juke to his right and dives left, and one where he gets tied up and goes between the legs. The sole reason that Sunshine was able to make the string of grabs was the phenomenal snitch beating of Brown. If Brown does not return to Bowling Green, they are in a world of trouble for SWIM situations.

Then again, Bowling Green might not have too many SWIM situations. Daugherty is a star. There is no denying that. He is incredibly elusive; has great vision and spot-on passing; and the ability to drive when necessary. But, Daugherty is losing his two favorite targets in Smolkovich and Adkins. He still has Meredith Taylor, a star in her own right, but by no means is this a pairing that will keep teams guessing. Daugherty will drive to a side and look for Taylor behind the hoops. If you can keep Daugherty at a distance and mark Taylor even remotely closely, this team’s offense is going nowhere.

Then we get to their defense. Daugherty needs to retire from chasing. His defense, on-ball, is atrocious. He does not wrap up or drive through. He does not put pressure on a ball-carrier. He does not force turnovers. Off-ball, he is passable, as he has great awareness and can take passes out of the air, but this is a role much more suited to a keeper. If Bowling Green can find some decent point defenders and put Daugherty at keeper where he may be able to eat up long shots and passes, their chaser defense could be OK. But, without Pavlik and Leach, and maybe without Brown, I do not see Bowling Green holding onto bludger control the way they are used to, which opens up a lot more room for opposing offenses. This defense, as it stands now, will not be able to stop a corpse.

So, even though I have doubted Bowling Green in the past and been proven wrong, this is beyond a doubt the year Bowling Green falls. If Brown returns, this team could still have a shot and could hang around the top 20. If Brown departs, this team has nothing left of the beater corps which held them together, and they will fall flat on their face.

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