#142 Toledo Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Toledo Rockets
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #142
Conference Rank: #5 Mid-American
Toledo had an up and down 2015-2016 campaign. Coach Tod Kowalczyk’s team ended on a down note though, losing six of their last seven games, including an opening round loss to Eastern Michigan in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. The Rockets have a little rebuilding to do, but there are some nice pieces to build around, including senior leader Jonathan Williams. Williams averaged 17.6 points per game and knocked down 70 three-pointers on the year. He will again be Toledo’s top perimeter threat and should emerge as the team’s leader on the floor as well.
2015-16 Record: 17-15, 8-10
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Tod Kowalczyk
Coach Record: 136-112 at Toledo, 238-205 overall
Who’s Out:
Williams is a great piece to build around, but the Rockets have a couple key pieces to replace. Nathan Boothe was a dominating big man. During his senior season he averaged 19.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists. The offense always worked through Boothe and it will be quite different without Boothe on the floor. His ability to pass the ball was huge for the offense. Speaking of very good passers, also gone is Stuckey Mosley, who led the squad with 4.0 assists per game. He also added 10.2 points per contest during his sophomore season before opting to transfer to James Madison. The other departure is Nick Rogers, who averaged 9.1 minutes per game during his freshman season. Rogers is a promising point guard and losing him and Mosley leaves quite a bit of inexperience at the point.
Who’s In:
The point guard position will be helped by the addition of junior college transfer Lucas Antunez and incoming freshman Justin Roberts. Those two should handle the majority of the minutes running the point. Antunez is not going to score a lot of points, but he does have the experience to effectively and efficiently run the offense. Roberts has more of a scoring mentality, but he is just a freshman. As long as his defense is up to Coach Kowalczyk’s standards, Roberts should be able to provide a decent offensive spark to the point guard position off of the bench. Daniel Dzierzawski could run the point too, but the junior college transfer is better suited to play off of the ball. He can score from anywhere on the floor and has the experience to play a big role for Toledo right away. The backcourt also adds incoming wing James Gordon. The frontcourt has a couple impact newcomers too. Luke Knapke redshirted last season and got bigger and tougher during his time off. At 6-11 and 235 pounds, Knapke will provide some much needed muscle in the paint. Steve Taylor is the frontcourt newcomer with more experience. Two years ago at Marquette, Taylor averaged 5.9 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Who to Watch:
With Williams and the newcomers, Toledo could have a decent backcourt. Fortunately, there are more options. Jaelan Sanford started all 32 games as a freshman last year, averaging 8.2 points and 1.8 assists. Sanford is an option to run the point in a crunch, but he is better off concentrating on shooting the ball. Nate Navigato is another prolific shooter. He is mostly a shooter, but does it extremely well. He connected on 38.4 percent of his 159 three-point attempts. Jordan Lauf is not much of a scorer, but he is a big guard who provides versatility and another rebounding threat on the perimeter. Most of the rebounding will come from the newcomers and Zach Garber and Taylor Adway. Garber, a 6-10 center, averaged 6.0 points and 4.8 rebounds last season and should team up nicely with Taylor and Knapke.
Final Projection:
This is an interesting Toledo team. They return enough talent to be competitive in the MAC, but this group could take a big step up if the newcomers can live up to their potential. The key positions are at the point and in the paint where the Rockets do have options. However, not many of them are particularly proven. Losing Mosley and Nathan Boothe is tough, but this team will be more athletic in the frontcourt and have more efficient scorers on the wing. As long as Antunez and Roberts can get those guys the ball without committing too many turnovers, Toledo will stay in the hunt for a MAC title.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Lucas Antunez, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Jaelan Sanford, Sophomore, Guard, 8.2 points per game
Jonathan Williams, Senior, Guard, 17.6 points per game
Steve Taylor, Senior, Forward, DNP last season
Zach Garber, Senior, Center, 6.0 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 77.6 (65th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 71.4 (161, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.0 (66, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.5 (174, 9)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.2 (69, 5)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.4 (85, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.7 (27, 2)
Rebound Margin: 3.0 (78, 3)
Assists Per Game: 16.5 (23, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.7 (77, 3)