Turnarounds don’t happen overnight.
Jack Owens learned that when he took over a Miami RedHawks team that was a woeful 4-14 in MAC play in 2016-17. Owens managed to improve the roster via the recruiting trail as he picked a number of freshmen contributors to last season, including the MAC Freshman of the Year Nike Sibande. As a result of the changes in the program, Miami made some progress in the 2017-18 season as the team was .500 in non-conference action and went 8-10 in MAC contests, with notable wins over Akron (twice), Buffalo, and rival Ohio in the first round of the MAC Tournament. The season concluded in the postseason for the first time since 2011 as the ‘Hawks fell to Campbell 97-87 in the opening round of the College Basketball Invitational.
With the progress that was made last season, the expectations will be higher for the Red and White in 2018-19. The roster again has some freshmen that will compete for minutes in Mekhi Lairy, Elijah McNamara, and Myja White. This looks to be another season of young ‘Hawks learning the ropes in the college game as there are only three upperclassmen on the roster: senior transfer Aleks Abrams, junior Bam Bowman, and senior Abdoulaye Harouna.
Miami has plenty of notable games this season that will test the resolve of this young team. It opens the season at Butler on Nov. 10 and shortly after, it has road tests against local foes Xavier, Wright State, and Northern Kentucky. As far as the MAC schedule is concerned, the ‘Hawks have to play Toledo, who made the MAC championship game last season, and a good Ball State program twice. The MAC East will still be a gauntlet for the RedHawks with the end of the season being rather brutal as they have to play Ohio (twice), BSU, Akron, defending MAC champion Buffalo, and Kent State in the span of a month.
As far as predictions go, the non-conference slate can be a total dice-roll with such a young team but with Owens being in his second year at the helm, the team should be well-prepared for the early part of the season. With the schedule not featuring a team from a high-profile conference, it’s not unrealistic to expect to RedHawks to take the next step and surpass the .500 mark in non-conference play. In MAC play, the experience of the established powers in the MAC can be the difference in winning and losing early on, but as the season goes on I expect the team to be playing good basketball when it matters before conference tournament time. I think 8-8 with the experience that Miami has would be progress and would be another step towards making Miami a contender in the MAC again.