What's better than a little Monday night MACtion? Pretty much anything really unless you mean those defenseless scorefests the football teams play, but when you're talking Toledo basketball you might as well be discussing the finer points of the cover 2 zone blitz eagle zipper hero because these guys are terrible. Really terrible. Last season was the first time in four years they hit double digits for victories. The last time they made the NCAA Tournament was 1980, although they did win a game in the CIT last year over McNeese State.
Not only have they generally been awful, but because of poor academic performance Toledo is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament (same deal that happened to UCONN). And, because the MAC is a one-bid league, they aren't eligible for the MAC Tournament either because if they won the MAC would end up with zero teams in the dance (unless Ohio has a crazy good season - always possible with D.J. Cooper involved). Somewhat surprisingly, only one player transferred after the news of the academic sanctions broke (third leading scorer Curtis Dennis) so Toledo ends up having nearly the entire team back from last year's surprisingly adequate squad, although their RPI of 241 wasn't exactly a resume booster.
The Rockets are very perimeter oriented with three pretty good guards (the top three returning scorers) highlighted by Rian Pearson, who at just 6-4 is actually the leading returning scorer and rebounder in the conference (averaged 16.4 pts and 8.5 rebounds). It's good that he's such a good rebounder for a guard because he can't shoot for ****, so expect him to drive the lane all the time and stuff.
Basically this is a pretty terrible team. They suck defensive, are below average offensively, don't rebound well, and just lost by double digits to Loyola-Chicago in their opener. The only thing that makes them remotely dangerous is they are overall a pretty good 3-point shooting team (36.8% last season) and they have a bunch of different guys who can hit them so if they get hot they could make this interesting, but there's no way they'll be able to stick with the Gophers. The main key to watch in this game is Trevor Mbakwe, because I'm starting to suspect perhaps he's not as close to 100% as I had hoped. He's got time because although the next two games (Tennessee State and Richmond) are against ok teams the Gophers should be able to handle them with or without Mbakwe. The next game, vs. Duke, on the otherhand? Get well, Trevor, get well.
Minnesota 77, Toledo 54.
Around the Conference/Country:
A few games of note took place this weekend, with problem no result more interesting than Purdue's loss to Bucknell 70-65. The result actually isn't nearly as surprising as you might think at first glace because Bucknell is a pretty good, experienced team who will actually have an outside shot at an at large bid and Purdue is not only sort of identity-less early this season but were also without Terone Johnson who led them in scoring in the exhibition season. The Boilers bounced back and crushed Hofstra, but getting so thoroughly outplayed by Bucknell probably signals this is going to be a long year.
Also worth talking about were Michigan State's loss to UCONN, simply because it seems like the Big Ten starts every year well-ranked and then they lose all these early season big-time games, and Florida State getting knocked off by South Alabama. Florida State, of course, is the Gophers opponent in the Big 10/ACC Challenge so it sucks to see this possibility that FSU may not end up being a quality opponent. South Alabama has a chance to be a pretty good team and could be tops in the Sun Belt (although my money is on North Texas) but I'd just rather have FSU be undefeated, or close to it, by the time the Gophers play them.