It's hard to believe that the last time the Miami RedHawks had a winning record was the 2008-2009 season. That season was the sixth straight winning season and things were looking up for the perennial MAC East contenders.
Then the losing started.
Three straight losing seasons finished out Charlie Coles' coaching career and it ultimately bottomed out with a 9-21 season in 2011-2012. John Cooper was hired out of Tennessee State to bring the program back to what it once was in the late nineties. Cooper has done a fairly good job so far with what he's had to work with, but it's worth mentioning his career record at Miami is just 22-40 going into his third year on the sidelines.
This season Miami is facing a bit of a crossroads. Do they stay around the .500 mark? Or will Cooper be able to develop his impressive backcourt into one of the best in the conference? The pieces are starting to fall into place in Oxford and Cooper seems to be a good enough coach to get them where they need to go. But, with a history of winning within the program, can the supporters tolerate more average years? This year could be one of improvement and progress. It also could be more of what happened last year.
The RedHawks return just 56% of their scoring and 54% of the rebounding numbers from last year. Although leading scorer and do-everything forward Will Felder graduated, there are still some solid players still on the roster. Three 6-foot-3 guards lead the way, as Willie Moore, Geovonie McKnight and Will Sullivan all averaged around nine points per game last year. They'll be counted on this year as the leaders of this team and will need to look to score more to make up for the loss of Felder.
The frontcourt is a different story, as Miami returns just three players 6-foot-7 or taller. Two of them hail from Australia and brought a foreign flair to the normally rigid and rough MAC style of play. Joshua Oswald and Jaryd Eustace averaged five and six points respectively last year and will be asked to do much more this season. What really needs to improve out of them are their rebounding numbers: the two combined for just five and a half boards last year. While their games aren't necessarily post-driven, they'll need to be more effective on the defensive glass. John Hawkins is a seven-footer but wasn't able to find many scoring opportunities.
Miami has had to deal with a lot of turnover the past few years with a number of players transferring out. Cooper welcomes seven newcomers to the roster this year, including three freshmen and three junior college players. The newcomer who may end up having the biggest impact may be Presbyterian transfer Eric Washington. The 5-foot-10 junior will take the reigns of the offense from Quinten Rollins, who used up his basketball eligibility last season and is currently starring on the Miami football team. Washington averaged eight and a half points per game during his last season at Presbyterian and was fifteenth in the nation averaging six and a half assists per game.
Other fresh faces that will likely make an impact are Leonard Livingston and Kalif Wright, who both came out of the JUCO ranks. Both come to Oxford battling for starting spots on the RedHawk frontcourt, which is thin. Zach McCormick, a freshman guard, brings in a pretty impressive high school resume. McCormick, who hails from nearby Cincinnati, could be a year away though with the logjam in the backcourt.
The schedule sets up well for a team both trying to pick up wins and wanting to play teams that will better prepare them for conference play. The cupcakes are bad (Southern Utah, Liberty and Longwood) but solid mid-majors are also present. Evansville, Elon, Wright State and IPFW are all good and should prove to be mirror images of teams the RedHawks will face in MAC play. Miami gets two Big Ten opponents in Northwestern and Ohio State and also gets Dayton at home.
For Miami to be successful this year they'll need to be able to have a strong season from their backcourt and find a couple contributors in the frontcourt. Willie Moore and Geovonie McKnight have all-MAC potential but will need some help along the way. The schedule isn't impossible but there are a good amount of challenging games.
The RedHawks are likely a year away from seriously competing but have the firepower to spring a few upsets. A .500 record will probably be where Miami finds itself at the end of the year, which isn't all that bad. If Cooper is able to develop a few of the newcomers though, the RedHawks could make some more noise than expected.