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April 11, 2024

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OPINION: The first season of the Simon era should not be viewed as anything but a success

Cleveland%2C+OH+-+Falcons+Head+Coach+Todd+Simon+coaching+in+first+MAC+Tournament+game+in+the+MAC+at+Rocket+Mortgage+FieldHouse+in+Cleveland%2C+Ohio
Drake Harlett
Cleveland, OH – Falcons Head Coach Todd Simon coaching in first MAC Tournament game in the MAC at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio

Now that the dust has settled, we can finally view the Bowling Green men’s basketball team’s 2023-2024 season in its entirety and come to a verdict on the first season of the Todd Simon era.  

While the season ended with back-to-back losses to Kent State in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament and Purdue Fort Wayne in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, the Orange and Brown’s most recent campaign should not be viewed or judged as anything but a success.  

To fully understand this, we first need to remember the state of the program before Simon took the reins.  

In the final two seasons under Michael Huger, the Falcons went just 24-38 overall and 5-13 in conference play, missing the MAC Tournament both years.   

BG also lost 10 of the last 11 games of the Huger era, which included a nine-game losing streak down the stretch, their longest since the 1971-1972 season.  

On top of that, the team’s roster nearly completely reset, with just four players who represented under 20% of the minutes played by the Falcons during the 2022-2023 season, deciding to stay at Bowling Green after Huger’s firing.  

However, Simon took it as a challenge, having earned his respect in the coaching world by rebuilding programs from the ground.  

The former Southern Utah head coach overhauled nearly the entire staff and added 10 new players to the roster through recruiting and the transfer portal. However, Simon also set out to establish a new culture within the program and reenergize the community around the team.  

“I think our biggest problem was our culture, and he’s really here to instill a new culture here and bring a winning attitude to the new Bowling Green,” senior forward Sam Towns said before the season. “We’re creating a whole new program here; it’s a new face, a new era.”   

The results showed immediately, as the Falcons won their first two games of the season, defeating Chicago State and Arkansas State. This marked the first time BG started with two straight wins in back-to-back seasons since the 1983-1984 and 1984-1985 campaigns.  

Although they lost the next three games, Bowling Green caught fire, winning eight straight games and entering conference play atop the MAC standings.  

However, the Falcons struggled with injuries and depth for much of conference play, losing eight of 11 games from Jan. 23 through March 1 

Nevertheless, with their backs against the wall, BG won the final two games of the regular season, clinching a MAC Tournament berth in the first season under Simon.  

For the cherry on top, the Falcons defeated Central Michigan in the first round of the MAC Tournament, marking their first conference tournament victory since 2019.  

On top of the team’s success, multiple players had breakout seasons.  

Junior guard Marcus Hill, named to the All-MAC First Team, earned four MAC Player of the Week awards throughout the season.  

The Rockford, Illinois, native dominated in his first season at the Division I level, scoring 698 points, leading the MAC and ranking as the fifth-most in a single season in program history. 

Meanwhile, senior forward Rashaun Agee, named to the All-MAC Second Team, tallied 17 double-doubles, the second-most in the MAC and tied for 11th-most in the nation.  

Along with leading the MAC with 126 offensive rebounds and ranking second in the conference with a 57% field goal percentage, Agee grabbed 327 rebounds, the second-most in the MAC and eighth-most in a single season in program history.  

Some people may not view this season as a success, possibly judging it as a failure, as the Falcons struggled down the stretch, failed to reach the conference championship and did not break their March Madness drought, which dates back to 1968, tied for the third longest in the nation.  

But that take is shortsighted.   

While every team wants to win their conference championship and go dancing in March, that was not the primary goal for the Falcons; the goal, and benchmark of success, was to return to the MAC Tournament.  

“I think making the MAC Tournament needs to be something we do every year in, year out, and this team certainly has that expectation,” Simon said before the season 

However, making the conference tournament is only part of the complete list of accomplishments for the Falcons this past season.  

Ultimately, Bowling Green finished the season with a 20-14 overall and 10-8 conference record.  

The 20 wins are tied for the ninth-most in program history during the MAC era. Simon also tallied the second-most victories by a first-year head coach in BGSU history.  

In the first season of the Simon era, Bowling Green became just one of 10 teams in the country to go from 20 losses in the 2022-2023 season to 20 wins in the 2023-2024 campaign.  

Along with all the on-court success, Simon established a new culture within the program that has created a new energy throughout the team and community, which is obvious if you watched any game or talked to anyone who has been around the team the past few years. 

“Last year at this time, me and the staff were held up in a rental while our families were away, and we were just working 24 hours a day and trying to sell the vision of Bowling Green basketball. When you’re trying to sell something that maybe hasn’t happened yet, that’s a little difficult,” Simon said after their season-ending loss against Purdue Fort Wayne. “Now, we’ve got something to say. We’re a successful program, we won 20 games, you can play in front of a lot of fans. So, we have something now that’s more tangible, and the returns on that are already being seen…I think we checked a lot of boxes this year in terms of building an expectation, an expectation to win, an expectation in the classroom, an expectation in the weight room, an expectation off the floor and community service.”   

Considering all the accomplishments in the first year of a complete rebuild and the state of the program 365 days ago, the first season of the Simon era in Bowling Green should not and cannot be judged as anything but a complete success.

For more stories related to BGSU Athletics, follow Falcon Media Sports Network on X (@bg_fmsn).

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