I think you're conflating the decision to move away from guys like Smith, Cain and Eastern with a thought that Bowen was a likely, or even reasonably possible target. Nobody I have ever seen, from fans to site moderators to analysts to recruiting experts, has ever predicted that Bowen would come, or even that there was much of a shot that this would happen. Unless you think the staff is stupid, it is impossible to believe that they thought differently, especially given the fact that John Beilein, in particular, has had a tendency to move on from guys who aren't "busting down the door" to come to Michigan.
I think, instead, that circumstances had much more to do with the decisions than did waiting for Bowen (or Jackson or Wilkes). In Eastern's case, a combination of strong belief in Simpson and the difficulty of playing him and Eastern together, both with respect to the meshing of their games (need for the ball, questions about shooting) and the insistence that Eastern play exclusively at the point left him on the outside once Brooks fulfilled the need for another guy who could play point guard. In Smith's case, the staff saw him as a prime athlete without great shooting or ball skills and slotted him as an undersized 4 (ala GR III), and once Livers committed, he was out. Cain was a victim of the sudden Bamba interest, and the desire to hold a scholarship for him. Frankly, once Bamba entered the picture, I think anyone, including Bowen, was SOL in terms of a committable offer. Instead, they're going to hold a spot for him, and count on being able to get someone in the spring if needed, whether a guy like Douglas, or someone who comes to the fore.
In the end, I think the staff thought they had enough "legitimate B10 caliber" players,but not enough great players, and wanted to swing for difference makers, whether in this class (Bamba) or ones to come, rather than guys they regarded as good, but not great. Their evaluations, calculations, conclusions and future recruiting efforts can be second guessed now, and will be evaluated going forward. However, the notion that the staff turned away guys because they thought they were going to have a great (or even a serious) chance to get Bowen seems really misplaced to me.