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MAC Basketball 2016-2017 Preview: Toledo Rockets

Toledo has a deep roster, but also deep holes to fill.

NCAA Basketball: Toledo at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The Toledo Rockets look to improve on last year’s 17-15 (8-10 MAC) mark in the upcoming season, which saw Toledo finish penultimate in the MAC West.

The Rockets will be bolstered by a good mix of veterans and young talent to try and climb to the upper tier of the conference. The eat has been accomplished beore in recent years, but head coach Tod Kowalczyk will need a few players to step up to the challenge, which holds 11 contributors.

Roster

The good news is All-MAC Sr. guard Jonathan Williams and his 17.6 points per game are returning. Williams is a great piece to build around and will be the go to guy for buckets.

The bad news is Kowalczyk will need to someone to bear the load of replacing last years conference scoring leader, Nathan Boothe who graduated. The Rockets will need the front-court to offset the 19.3 PPG and 9.0 rebounds per game Boothe produced. If that wasn't enough, starting point guard Stuckey Mosely (10.2 ppg, 4 assists) transferred out of the program to James Madison.

Toledo will welcome two transfers that should help the program immediately in PG Lucas Antunez and forward Steve Taylor.

Antunez comes from North Idaho College and played high school ball at powerhouse Findlay Prep; he should have first crack at running point for the Rockets and has a reputation for being a facilitator.

Taylor (6-9, 240 lbs.) transferred in from Marquette, where he started 14 games and averaged 5.9 points and ranked second on team with 5 rebounds per game as a junior. He is a very physical player that will give the Rockets some muscle down low and will live at the free throw line.

Taylor and Zach Garber (6-10, 245 lbs.) will handle the business down low. If Garber can just improve slightly on his 6.0 ppg and 4.8 rpg then the Rockets should have enough fire power down low to be alright. Luke Knapke (6-11, 235 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman that will get some minutes at the center position too.

On the wing, Jaelan Sanford and Nate Navigato are two shooters that can really knock down the outside shot and will help spread the floor. Sanford (6-4, 190 lbs.) started 32 games as a freshman last year, while Navigato (6-8, 215 lbs.) average 8.4 points per game. Senior guard Jordan Lauf will provide minutes off the bench, along with junior Daniel Dzierzawski. Freshman Justin Roberts will run point and could be a surprise spark coming off the bench, scoring from the point position. This team should be more athletic, deeper and better defensively than last years squad.

Projected Starters

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

Outlook

The season will ride on replacing the two starters Toledo lost from last years team. While those positions are undeniably big holes to fill, the Rockets have options at both positions. If the newcomers can live up to and succeed expectations this team can be a surprise in the conference race.

This team will have scorers on the floor at all times which bodes well to improve on last year’s standings, but with many new moving parts will probably be and up and down season.

Best Case: Compete for MAC West title and 3-5 seed overall.

Worst Case: Bottom of West. 9-11 seed.

Most Likely: Middle of road in conference, towards top in West. 6-8 seed.