BOWLING GREEN - A team with fourth-place talent, maybe even fifth-place talent, capped a remarkable regular season yesterday at Anderson Arena as Bowling Green's Falcons pulled away down the stretch for a 79-64 victory over Ohio University.
BG's women, who clinched the Mid-American Conference's East Division championship several moons ago amidst a
25-game winning streak, won the outright, overall regular-season title, which gives them the No. 1 seed for the upcoming conference tournament, and bumped their record to 26-3.
Not bad for fourth-place, maybe fifth-place talent.
Now, settle down, Falcon fans. Don't race to the nearest computer to fire off venomous e-mails. That's not my assessment. It was the assessment of BG coach Curt Miller after yesterday's win.
"I still say we have fourth or fifth-place talent on this team, but we found a way to win, which is a credit to these kids," Miller said.
Pardon? Is he basing that on a comparison with past BG teams - the Falcons now have won five straight regular-season and/or tournament titles - or solely on this season?
"This season," he said. "Look, I know you won't believe me. Nobody ever does when I say that. But you watch. There are teams that legitimately nominate [for all-conference] and have a chance to get three, four, maybe five players included among the top 20 in the league. There will be multiple teams that will have more players recognized as all-conference than Bowling Green will have.
"That's why today's game is a dream ending to an unbelievably surprising season. Honestly, we did not expect to be this good."
That part I believe. And I'll buy that Miller may well have breathed a sigh of relief when his team's long winning streak came to a close last Wednesday at Miami.
For a few weeks, as the streak grew into the 20s, Miller often was asked if he might not prefer a loss somewhere along the way before tournament time if for no other reason than to deflate the pressure that grew with every win. He always seemed a bit conflicted. Coaches don't like to lose, but
"Without question, in sports, coaches seem to get [players'] attention after a loss even more so than after an ugly win," Miller said. "I was able to go to practice and get after some of our star players and leaders in a way you can't normally get away with. We haven't been [winning] because we're out-talenting anyone. We're out-working teams. So if it took a loss to regain some intensity and focus, then it will have been worthwhile."
Still, Miller expects this week's MAC Tournament to be fraught with perils.
"There's no dominant team," Miller said. "So many teams could get hot and win this thing."
That surely would include the Falcons, who were hotter than most and more dominant than any even on those lukewarm nights during the regular
season. But you get the impression that a tournament title would be yet another surprise for the BG coach.
Maybe he'll like his team's chances better next year. Lindsey Goldsberry, the winningest basketball player, male or female, in MAC history with 111 victories in 129 games, to date, is the only senior.
Four starters, including likely league MVP Lauren Prochaska, four much-used subs, two talented transfers, and a well-regarded recruiting class should all be in place for the 2009-10 campaign.
Sounds like at least third-place talent. Maybe a sixth straight title, too.