The Toledo Rockets entered the 2013-2014 season with high expectations. It's safe to say while the Rockets' season was overall a success, many of those expectations ended unfulfilled, and should make this team even hungrier next season.
The Rockets came into the season as the eyes-on favorites to win the MAC, and represent it in the NCAA Tournament. The Rockets started the season a perfect 12-1 in non conference play, with the only loss coming on the road to a ranked Kansas squad. While it was an easy schedule it proved that the Rockets were every bit worth the preseason hype being given to them. They were a perfect 15-0 on their home court and also shared a regular season MAC championship with the Western Michigan Broncos. Toledo also finished with the most overall wins in the MAC, 27, and a top-40 RPI.
The Rockets were provided with ample opportunities to set themselves apart from the rest of the conference. Often times the best team on paper ends up not playing to its potential, and the Rockets were no exception. UT started MAC play off with an uninspired performance. WMU trounced Toledo by 11 in a game that was more one-sided than the final score admits.
The Rockets MAC season ended with an even more troubling performance against WMU in the MAC Tournament Championship game, losing to the Broncos by 21 points, 98-77.
Toledo had another chance to prove they it was every bit capable as the fans, players, and coaches felt it was in a game against the Southern Missouri Golden Eagles in the 2014 NIT. The Rockets trailed by 15 points at half, and despite an impressive showing in the second half, still fell to So. Miss by seven. The loss left Toledo's promised season empty handed, with only a co-MAC West Division championship to hang on to.
The Rockets do not lose a significant number of players. In fact they only lose one player from the starting rotation and that is Rian Pearson. Pearson averaged 14.6 Points per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds per game, and 1.7 steals per game. Pearson was a leader, and one of those get-it-done type players who could do a bit of everything for the Rockets. Other players leaving are seniors Donald Beatty and Matt Smith
The Rockets return a very deep rotation, and once again should open the 2014-2015 season as the team to beat in the MAC. Julius Brown (14.9 PPG, 6.0 APG), Justin Drummond (14.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG), J.D. Witherspoon (10.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG) and Nathan Booth (9.2 PPG, 1.1 BPG) should shoulder the load and provide leadership for another deep run into the MAC Championship. If the Rockets can find consistency in 2014-2015 they have the potential to make a deep run.
Final Season Grade: B+
The Rockets took care of business at home, had the best overall record in the conference, and tied for the best conference record, but you can't help but feel as though this season is incomplete. The Rockets did what they were supposed to do for the majority of the season. But UT struggled to hang with WMU, and didn't win the games that mattered the most. This season left a lot of unanswered questions for the Rockets, but with some small adjustments will look to release their frustrations on the rest of the MAC next season.