I had the opportunity to watch Miami once in person this year (at the Nutter Center in Fairborn, Ohio against Wright State), and several times online during the MAC slate of games. What I saw from this RedHawks team in 2014-2015 was a squad that performed beyond its own talent for a good portion of the season but obviously struggled immensely because a lack of talent on the sizable side. Coach John Cooper had his work cut out for his in this season, but he was definitely able to do some good with the cast of players on his team.
For a team that did not feature a frontcourt player that could even put up 5 points per game (or five rebounds a game) this team remarkably fought tooth-and-nail with some of the big dawgs in the Mid-American Conference. Maybe credit it to the sheer insane parity that existed in a conference with no dominant team, but this team seemingly had no business winning five games over a six-game stretch at the end of the conference slate when teams were scratching for a higher seed in the conference tourney.
In this time, Miami took care of business against the likes of Ohio (77-66), Bowling Green (67-56), Akron (57-52), Kent State (86-81), lost to BG the second time around (62-57), then bounced back with another win over Akron 70-63. All this before faltering against an Ohio buzz saw on senior day in Athens and failing to extend its season after losing to Eastern Michigan in the first round of the MAC tourney in OT (62-61).
Through this stretch, the 'Hawks reached a total of 30+ free throws in a game multiple times. The team seemed to have found its strategy of running hard at the hoop and trying to draw contact. Call me old-fashioned, but automatic points for teams that can shoot the freebies, you gotta take that as a Miami fan, no matter how ugly it may seem on the court. Those dubs don't earn themselves.
Eric Washington - Cooper's primetime player many times this season was Eric Washington, who played in his first season with Miami after spending his freshman and sophomore seasons at Presbyterian. Washington was a welcome addition into a strong backcourt that was the backbone of this team. The quick 5'10" guard led the squad in points per game (14.2), assists (176 which was WAY more than anyone else on the team), and free throws though he wasn't first in percentage (155-195). Washington was the only 'Hawk to garner All-MAC recognition with second-team honors from the conference. He also earned Hustle Belt second-team honors as well.
Will Sullivan - A lot was asked of Will Sullivan in the guard's senior season, and more often than not, he came through for the school where he holds the record for most games played in (124). Sullivan stroked it from the outside per usual, and hit 44 percent of his threes, that's 68 on 153 tries. The 6'3" 190 lb. guard led the team that lacked a strong frontcourt in rebounds with 155.
Geovonie McKnight - McKnight lived around the basket in 2014-2015, and will have to extend his game a bit next season, but with Washington and Willie Moore coming back next season, the 'Hawks once again shape up to have a strong backcourt. McKnight put up 10.5 points per game and was one of the guys who got to the free throw line frequently at the end of the season.
2014-2015 Western Michigan Broncos men's basketball season in review
Western Michigan's men's basketball team reached the 20 win total for the second year in a row, but failed to defend its MAC title.
Well, as previously mentioned, this team has no frontcourt to speak of. It has to be frustrating as a coaching staff (and for the fan base) knowing that there isn't someone to just throw the ball to inside when you really need an easy basket late. And if you're guards aren't feeling it on a particular day, there are no easy baskets. I mean, this team went 8-10 in MAC play and that was easily seen as exceeding expectations. Getting drubbed by Ohio State in Columbus by 38? I mean goodness.
And when you look to the bigguns, the Jaryd Eustace's (who is listed as a guard on the roster by the way), the Chris Bryant's, and the Kalif Wright's of this squad, it's understandable to cringe. This isn't to say there isn't talent in the backcourt, but it sure hasn't been seen in live game action. If I'm a solid recruit who can play center or forward, I'm looking at Miami because I know I can get immediate minutes.
The Things To Be Excited About
So the backcourt, yes? Sullivan may not be back, but with Moore, Washington, and hopefully a vastly-improved Geo McKnight back, fans in Oxford have reason to think that Miami can swing a winning record in 2014-2015. That's the upside at least. More consistent play from Eustace and another year of practice could result in the emergence of a strong post player. That's the hope anyway right? Or maybe Coach Cooper has to wait for a newbie to come onto the scene strong from an upcoming recruiting class. I have faith he'll make something work. I like the guy from the limited interaction I had with him and the body of work his team displayed this season. For an OU guy, I can surely appreciate this 'Hawks team.