Dave D’Amore

When you step onto campus in Oxford, it doesn’t take long to figure out that Miami University is full of sports fans.

You can see it every single day. Walking to class, one can see a collection of random sports merchandise. Cincinnati Bengals jerseys, Cleveland Indians hats and other items of the sort are worn on a daily basis.

Oxford seems to come to a halt every Saturday whenever Ohio State University plays so that fans can root for the Buckeyes. Even among the conversations walking to, before, and after class revolve around sports.

However, despite this sports mania, most fans only have one RedHawk passion: hockey.

Miami fans pack the Goggin every home weekend to support the hockey brotherhood. We’ve been known to wait in lines for hours and scream our lungs out for a hard-fought victory. We make signs, start chants and cheer like crazy at every opportunity. We also never forget to remind the opposing goalie that he is, in fact, a sieve. This enthusiasm is without question warranted. Consistent national rankings in the top 10 and a legitimate chance to make the NCAA tournament for a fourth consecutive year give fans a reason to be excited.

It’s very clear that students here care about sports. So, as winter approaches, I think it’s time for Miami fans to spread some of the love and passion to the basketball program. Whenever a Miami sport other than hockey is brought up, I often hear the same chorus: “We’re not any good!”

In football, unfortunately, it’s tough to argue against this. Despite a few bright moments this season, it has been difficult to watch Miami football. I have sincere hope that the football program can start building toward success next season. However, for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, this is next year. Both programs have a very real chance of being successful this year.

The men’s basketball team has a winning combination of senior leadership and young talent heading into the season. Seniors Kenny Hayes, Tyler Dierkers and Eric Pollitz are poised to propel Miami to another successful regular season. Senior forward Michael Bramos is ready to lead the squad once again, as he was one of five players voted to the MAC preseason All-East Division team. Behind these upperclassmen, sophomore forward Nick Winbush and freshman forward Julian Mavunga are looking to step up and make solid contributions with their minutes on the floor.

On the women’s team, the RedHawks are looking to repeat as Mid-American Conference tournament champions. Led by senior point guard Jenna Schone and senior center Stephanie Ford, Miami has their eyes set on another triumphant season. Like Bramos, Schone also received preseason honors, being named to the preseason All-MAC team. Averaging more than 13 points and five assists last season and being named to the 2008 All-MAC second team, Schone looks to guide the RedHawks’ flight back to the postseason.

If you don’t believe that Miami basketball is going to be competitive this year, you don’t have to take my word for it. Both the men’s and women’s teams were predicted to finish in second place in their respective divisions by league coaches and MAC media members. While it’s obvious that both teams are looking to prove they deserve to finish in first, these actions do not take place on paper. They take place on the court.

The underlying point here is that both Miami basketball teams have a legitimate chance to make it to the Big Dance this season. As a sports-crazed campus, the students should be behind these teams in every way. The first step students can take is to attend Miami Madness, held at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10 at Millett Hall. This event is similar to other school’s “midnight madness” activities, and will feature both teams’ players on showcase, free giveaways for those in attendance and speeches from the head coaches. It is a perfect way to get excited and kick off the basketball season.

The next thing you can do is attend the games. The men’s team plays its first regular season home game against Northwestern State University at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, while the women take on Indiana University-Purdue Fort Wayne (IPFW) for their regular season home opener at noon Saturday, Nov. 22. So, this winter, bottle up the same enthusiasm used at the Goggin and bring it to Millett to help the Miami basketball teams have successful seasons and make their runs at the NCAA Tournament.