The preseason prognostications are starting to roll in for the upcoming 2013-14 men’s basketball season, and Toledo has been predicted to represent the Mid-American Conference in the NCAA Tournament by a second publication. USA Today’s Scott Gleeson has selected the Rockets to win the league tournament for the first time since 1980.Toledo is ranked No. 58 in USA Today’s field of 68 and is projected to be a No. 14 seed.
The previous teams tabbed for the 2014 NCAA Tournament were No. 59 Manhattan (Metro Atlantic Athletic), No. 60 Elon (Southern), No. 61 Texas Southern (Southwestern Athletic), No. 62 Vermont (America East), No. 63 Boston University (Patriot), No. 64 Georgia State (Sun Belt), No. 65 Norfolk State (Mid-Eastern Athletic), No. 66 Northwestern State (Southland), No. 67 Charleston Southern (Big South) and No. 68 Robert Morris (Northeast).
The seeds for the past five MAC Champions have been No. 12 Akron (2013), No. 13 Ohio (2012), No. 15 Akron (2011), No. 14 Ohio (2010) and No. 13 Akron (2009).
UT returns four starters from last year’s 15-13 squad that tied Western Michigan for first place in the MAC’s West Division. A pair of all-conference guards, senior Rian Pearson (17.9 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game) and junior Julius Brown (13.1 points per game, 6.0 assists per game), are back to team with 2012-13 All-MAC Freshman Team center Nathan Boothe (8.3 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game) and senior forward Matt Smith (9.8 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game).
The Rockets also are gaining the services of a pair of junior transfers, guard Justin Drummond and forward J.D. Weatherspoon, as well as the freshman trio of center Zach Garber, guard Jordan Lauf and guard Jonathan Williams.
Below are some Gleeson’s thoughts on the Rockets’ program:
Gleeson’s thoughts on the Rockets’ program: “The First Word: The road to the top is never easy, and that’s especially the case when you inherit a program that lived in the basement of the Mid-American Conference with three consecutive losing seasons. Factor in scholarship reductions in 2010-11 and 2011-12, and a postseason ban last season, and you’ve got the hole that Coach Tod Kowalczyk has been digging out of since his arrival in Toledo in 2010.
“Now, daylight has arrived.
“Following three years of NCAA punishment for poor Academic Progress Rate figures, Toledo finally has a clear-cut path to success, and Kowalczyk plans to take full advantage of it as he welcomes key transfers Justin Drummond (Loyola-MD), J.D. Weatherspoon (Ohio State) to a potent roster returning four starters.
“Path to the Dance: Winning the MAC Tournament for an auto-bid. The Rockets will have to go through defending champion Akron, which still remains a fully loaded, well-coached team. Ohio, a Sweet 16 finisher in 2012, is another stalwart not to sleep on with more talent available this upcoming season. And Western Michigan will be a serious challenger in Toledo’s West Division of the MAC.”