Time and Date: Saturday, November 10 @ 7 p.m. ET
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse — Indianapolis, Indiana
Records: Butler (0-0) | Miami OH (0-0)
Rankings: Butler (#29 KenPom) | Miami OH (#180 KenPom)
TV Channel: FSN (check local listings)
Stream: FOX Sports Go (where available)
Butler basketball is back! On Saturday, the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks will travel to Hinkle Fieldhouse where both teams will kick off the new season. Butler has won six straight season debuts going back to 2012, and the Bulldogs will look to continue the streak against Miami. Miami has been largely irrelevant in the college basketball landscape since a successful run in the late 90’s, but the RedHawks were decent last year and have an outside chance at winning the MAC this year.
The primary reason Miami has higher aspirations this year is its formidable backcourt. Nike Sibande is an explosive scoring guard who was MAC Freshman of the Year last season; meanwhile, point guard Darrian Ringo led the MAC in steals and was one of the nation’s top assist-men last year. If Sibande plays on Saturday (he did not play for an unknown reason in Miami’s Nov. 5 exhibition against Taylor), Aaron Thompson and Kamar Baldwin will have their hands full.
LaVall Jordan will be itching to see how Thompson and Baldwin perform against Sibande and Ringo since Butler will rely heavily on the two of them (and Paul Jorgensen) this season. Butler’s formula for success this year, as always, includes tough defense and taking care of the ball; Miami’s guards will make both of those tasks difficult.
On the other bench at Hinkle, Miami head coach Jack Owens will be seeking revenge. Owens is familiar with Butler, having coached as an assistant and associate head coach at Purdue from 2008-2017. The Boilermakers played Butler three times during his tenure, losing all three contests.
Owens’ star guards may keep the score close for awhile, but Miami will likely fail to match Butler’s length and athleticism over the full 40 minutes. Still, this should be a valuable game for both teams. Jordan will see how his team manages defensively against two premier guards. He will also see if his team is able to generate points without Kelan Martin and if Joey Brunk and Nate Fowler are ready to step into the void left in the paint by Tyler Wideman. Meanwhile, Owens will be able to gauge his squad against a perennial NCAA Tournament team.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Take care of the ball
As mentioned above, Darrian Ringo is a defensive pest; he had five steals in just 19 minutes in Miami’s most recent exhibition. If Ringo is able to force turnovers and create transition opportunities, Butler will struggle to assert its physical advantage. However, if Butler can keep Miami to a half-court offense, the Bulldogs will more easily contain Sibande and wear down the RedHawks.
Miami (OHIO): Make Butler’s guards uncomfortable
Kamar Baldwin will be the best player on the floor on Saturday. For Miami to win, it needs to neutralize Baldwin’s impact. Defensively, Ringo and Sibande need to harass Baldwin and force him to turn the ball over. Baldwin’s decision-making has been suspect at times but if the RedHawks let him get into a rhythm, he will light up the scoreboard.
Offensively, the Miami guards need to take advantage of Butler’s aggression and attack Thompson, Baldwin, and Jorgensen. All three are susceptible to frequent fouling, and if the RedHawks can get any of them off the floor for an extended amount of time, this game could end up being competitive.