Don’t Sleep on Toledo

There have been many supposed Cinderella runs in the NCAA college basketball tournament, but some of them should not have been given the Cinderella label. Instead, they were the result of an underrated, underappreciated team finally getting a shot at the spotlight and owning it. One of those teams this season could very well be the University of Toledo.

This is a team that hasn’t competed in the NCAA tournament since 1980 and is hungrier than ever for a chance this season. Its offense has guided the team to a solid 17-2 record as of January 27th and a first-place position in the West division of the Mid-American Conference. All of Toledo’s starters average double figures in scoring; their well-balanced attack is vital if they want to compete in March. Its offense has racked up a stellar 83.2 points per game, which ranks them 13th in the nation in points per game. The Rockets also average a stellar 15.9 assists per game, good for 25th in the country, highlighting its scoring and ball distribution. Its clean and efficient offense makes it tough for opposing defenses to exploit any weaknesses. Toledo ranks 13th in the nation in fewest total turnovers.

Unfortunately, the Rockets’ defense is another story. The team allows an ugly 74.6 points per game and brings down a mere 36.6 boards per game, which is currently ranked at 119th in the nation. If Toledo cannot control the glass nor the paint, it will be tough for the team to make a deep run in March, particularly if they are matched up with a major conference team.

Another obstacle for Toledo is its schedule and conference. The team must win the conference in order to be assured a spot in the tournament via an automatic bid. The team’s schedule hasn’t provided enough cushion for them to prove their worth to many analysts and may hurt the team’s positioning should it make the tournament regardless. Despite a narrow loss at Kansas, which raised many eyebrows toward their future potential, the Rockets have not played another ranked opponent. Its win at Boston College was a solid one and a great test against an ACC opponent, but Boston College is currently suffering through a 5-14 record this season.

Throughout the rest of the season, they play only MAC opponents, none of which will even smell the Top 25 rankings by the end of the season. Their competition in the conference, Akron and Ohio, have records of 13-6 and14-5 respectively. With stellar play to the end of the year, the Rockets can possibly secure a number one seed in the MAC tournament, but they would need to run the table to guarantee a berth in the NCAA tournament. Toledo has tremendous potential offensively and can dance all the way to the Sweet Sixteen in March, but its strength of schedule and its consistently poor defense may prevent the team from earning that spotlight. If they can keep winning however, we might be seeing a new Cinderella this March.

Contact Matt Washuta at [email protected]