Getting to know: Toledo basketball
Toledo will enter Tuesday night’s game against second-ranked Kansas with back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Cornell.
In both games, the Rockets (3-2) gave up big runs with poor shooting stretches. But usually shooting is their strength with three players averaging more than 15 points per game leading into their matchup at Allen Fieldhouse (7 p.m., Jayhawk TV/ESPN 3).
In the preseason poll, Toledo was picked to finish fifth in the MAC with two returning starters. Transfer Tre’Shaun Fletcher has emerged as the team’s top scorer and rebounder through the first five games.
More than 42 percent of Toledo’s shots come from behind the 3-point line, where the team is shooting 37.5 percent.
Fun fact: Toledo sophomore point guard Justin Roberts is the son of Kansas assistant coach Norm Roberts. His brother Niko was a walk-on at KU. Justin, who averages 7.5 minutes per game, was the all-time leading scorer at Lawrence High School.
Series history: Kansas leads 2-0. In 2013, the last time the two schools met, the Jayhawks won 93-83. Perry Ellis, Andrew Wiggins and Naadir Tharpe all scored at least 20 points.
BREAKING DOWN TOLEDO
No. 4 — G/F Tre’Shaun Fletcher | 6-7, 205, sr.
A transfer from Colorado, Fletcher is averaging a team-best 19.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game after sitting out the 2016-17 season. He’s shooting 37.5 percent from the 3-point line and has grabbed 16 offensive boards, nearly double any other Toledo player.
Fletcher, according to hoop-math.com, is taking nearly 40 percent of his shots at the rim and he leads the Rockets in free throw attempts, highlighting his abilities on driving through the paint. In his final season at Colorado, he averaged 7.1 points and 2.4 rebounds.
The only scholarship senior on Toledo’s roster, Fletcher has recorded three double-doubles and is third in the MAC in scoring.
- “I try to have the guys hear my voice as much as possible when I’m on the court,” Fletcher said. “Naturally I’m kind of a quiet guy, so I don’t really do too much talking off the court. But on the court, I’m trying to always talk and get guys playing harder.”
No. 13 — G Jaelan Sanford | 6-4, 195, jr.
Sanford opened the season with a career-high 31-point outburst in a victory over St. Joseph’s. He’s averaging 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists through five games on 31 percent shooting from the 3-point line.
Sanford, from Evansville, Ind., has shot a combined 6 for 18 in the last two games, both losses, primarily firing from the 3-point line.
No. 35 — F Nate Navigato | 6-8, 215, jr.
The Rockets’ top 3-point shooter, Navigato, is making 40.5 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. In fact, he’s only taken 20 two-point shots compared to 42 threes.
Along with his shooting, Navigato is averaging 5.2 rebounds and ranks second on the team with four steals.
ONE THING TOLEDO DOES WELL
The Rockets have several strong free throw shooters and they are good at finding their way to the charity stripe. As a team, Toledo is shooting 77 percent from the free-throw line — ranking 35th in the country — in 106 attempts. That’s averaging more than 21 attempts per game.
ONE AREA TOLEDO STRUGGLES
Through the first five games of the season, Toledo has allowed 60 offensive rebounds to opponents. Cornell is the only team that hasn’t secured at least 10 offensive boards against the Rockets, but it shot 56 percent from the floor.
MEET THE COACH
Tod Kowalczyk is in his eighth year at Toledo, leading the Rockets to the CBI Tournament last season. They’ve earned trips to postseason tournaments in three of the last six seasons.
Before his time at Toledo, Kowalczyk coached for eight seasons at Green Bay. He was previously an assistant at Marquette and Rutgers.
Kansas by 25.5. The Rockets don’t have the best transition defense and probably don’t have the offense to keep up with the Jayhawks. Toledo has thrived at the free-throw line, but KU doesn’t foul much, especially because of its depth.
My prediction: Kansas 95, Toledo 68. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 2-2.