2013-2014 Overall Rank: #89
Conference Rank: #1 Mid-American
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The power in the MAC is not switching to the West Division, but with the help of Toledo, the often overshadowed and overpowered division will push the East for dominance. The young Rockets had nothing to play for in 2012-2013 thanks to low APR scores that left them ineligible for postseason play. Coach Tod Kowalczyk held his team together through tough, and unsuccessful, road trips early in the year to rebound by the time MAC play came around. The Rockets ended with a 10-6 mark in conference play, tying with Western Michigan atop their division.
2012-13 Record: 15-13, 10-6
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Tod Kowalczyk
Coach Record: 38-58 at Toledo, 174-170 overall
Dominique Buckley spent his senior season knocking down a team high two three-pointers per contest. He was mostly a shooter, but Buckley was a solid defender and a decent passer. The only other senior on last year’s roster was little used Brendon Schwiebert. But there are a couple of others leaving the team. Reese Holliday had a very productive junior season as the Rockets sixth man, averaging 7.8 points and 4.6 rebounds. Big man Richard Wonnell only averaged 12.4 minutes per contest, yet Toledo could have used his size and strength off of the bench.
If Toledo is going to make a title run, the newcomers have to be productive. A handful of transfers will make it so the freshmen do not feel too much pressure. Justin Drummond spent two years with Loyola (MD) where he earned plenty of accolades. As a freshman he averaged 9.8 points per contest and he boosted that number to 10.7 in 2011-2012. If he is not starting, Drummond will be on the floor at the end of games. J.D. Weatherspoon saw very limited action during two seasons with Ohio State. He is a superb athlete who can finish above the rim and sky for rebounds. If his shooting improves and he can play decent defense, Weatherspoon will make the big impact in the MAC that he never could in the Big Ten. Wing Angel Aparicio will likely miss his sophomore season with an injury. Redshirt freshman Aubrey Williams dropped some weight during his time on the sidelines, yet strength will still need to be added before the 6-7 forward makes a big impact. Even with that experience coming in, the talented trio of incoming freshmen will compete for playing time. Combo guard Jonathan Williams is a tough driver who can knock down the long ball. Jordan Lauf is a big guard who can make noise right away as a defender. Usually freshmen big men need time to toughen up, but Zach Garber is already tough. The 6-10, 235 pounder should get plenty of playing time as a freshman and has the ability to score inside and out.
Who to Watch:
There are five major contributors who are returning and they would make a very good starting five. Julius Brown runs the show. He is a superb passer who dished out six assists per game last season. It is Brown who can make things happen for the Rockets. Brown will do plenty of scoring; he averaged 13.1 points as a sophomore. If he can start shooting more consistently from long range, he will virtually be unstoppable. Rian Pearson is the other major scoring threat on the perimeter. He led the squad with 17.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals. Pearson rarely even tries to hit the long ball and he is smart enough not to force it, but he is an outside shot away from becoming the best player in the MAC. Sophomore Josh Lemons could join Brown and Pearson in the starting lineup. He is an amazing defender, yet his lack of offensive prowess could keep him out of the starting five. Matt Smith is really a small forward, yet he will again spend some time at the four spot. He is a great outside shooter and connected on 44.4 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. If Smith becomes more assertive, he can be a great player primed for a breakout campaign. Nathan Boothe has the big frame in the paint, although he has a nice shooting stroke as well. Boothe averaged 8.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while starting every game as a freshman. He is only getting better.
Toledo has a roster full of talent. There are quite a few newcomers who will need some time to adjust to their roles and young players who need to take that next step, but it is not impossible for this to happen. Coach Kowalczyk even has enough options to spend the non-conference portion of the schedule sorting out his rotation before the more important games in January, February and, of course, March.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Julius Brown, Junior, Guard, 13.1 points per game
Justin Drummond, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Rian Pearson, Senior, Guard, 17.9 points per game
Matt Smith, Senior, Forward, 9.8 points per game
Nathan Boothe, Sophomore, Center, 8.3 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.9 (138th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.3 (216, 10)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.9 (190, 6)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.0 (135, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.9 (189, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.5 (190, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 76.1 (8, 1)
Rebound Margin: -3.4 (285, 10)
Assists Per Game: 13.0 (144, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.0 (67, 1)