The MAC is a 12-team, one-division conference this season. Miami was picked to finish ninth in a preseason poll of conference coaches. The top four teams in the poll are Bowling Green, Ohio, Akron and Buffalo – all former East Division teams.
The RedHawks are scheduled to play 25 regular-season games, including one at Wright State on Dec. 5. They are due to play 20 MAC game, starting with a home game against arch-rival Ohio on Dec. 29.
Game staff, media and players’ guests will be the only spectators allowed to attend.
Owens, 44-54 overall and 20-39 in the MAC in his first three years at Miami, likes having five seniors and five juniors on his roster. The RedHawks return 72 percent of their scoring and 66 percent of their rebounding from last season, led by 6-7 senior forward Dalonte Brown, who ranked second behind Sibande last season with averages of 9.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Also back is 6-2 sophomore guard Dae Dae Grant, who ranked third on the team with an average of 9.3 points per game on his way to being named to the MAC All-Freshman team, and 5-8 junior guard Mekhi Lairy, last season’s team leader with 88 assists.
Grant and Lairy are among five returning players who played in all 32 of Miami’s games last season.
“We have a lot of guys returning who have played a lot of games,” Owens said. “We’re hoping the chemistry will help from the standpoint of winning games. The COVID issue is what it is. Everybody’s dealing with it. We’re just happy to have the opportunity to compete and play against somebody else.”
Owens also was looking forward to seeing in action newcomers such as 6-4 freshman guard Bryson Tatum and 6-11 freshman center Jackson Ames, along with 6-8 redshirt freshman forward Javin Etzler, who was limited by injury to only two games last season. Etzler led Crestview to the 2019 Ohio Division IV state championship while being named first-team all-state and the Division IV Player of the Year.
“They’re a work in progress,” Owens said about Miami’s fresh faces. “Ames is a true center. He has his moments of being a player and his moments of being a freshman. Bryson’s playing behind some older guys. Javin is a guy who keeps getting better. We’re excited about him and his ability to shoot the basketball and what he can do for the team.”
Miami goes into the opener with projected starter Milos Jovic, a 6-4 fifth-year senior guard, and 6-6 fifth-year senior forward Precious Ayah expected to be sidelined with injuries.
“Milos is going to be out 3-4 weeks,” Owens said.