Tod Kowalczyk, Toledo Rockets

In his 14th year at the helm of the Toledo Rockets, Tod Kowalczyk hopes to improve his defense enough to finally go to the Big Dance.


As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.

The Toledo Rockets have consistently dominated the MAC in the regular season. They boast a 48-9 conference record over the previous three seasons. However, they have fallen short of a tournament bid each time. The Rockets once again have a capable enough roster to break their decades long tournament drought but need to finally come through in key games.

The 2023-24 season does bring one additional challenge for Toledo: the loss of RayJ Dennis. The team’s superstar and 19.5 point per game scorer has transferred up to Baylor. It is hard to imagine anyone in particular fills that role but time will tell whether Dennis’ production can be replaced in the aggregate.

Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.

Head coach: Tod Kowalczyk (16th season, 14th at Toledo)

2022-23 record: 27-8 (16-2)

2023 postseason finish: Lost in the NIT first round to Michigan

Notable departures: RayJ Dennis (Transfer to Baylor), JT Shumate (Graduated), Setric Millner Jr. (Graduated)

Notable non-conference games: at West Virginia (Dec. 23)

Projected Rotation

PG: Tyler Cochran (6-2, 220, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 9.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.9 APG

SG: Dante Maddox (6-2, 195, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 11.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.9 APG

SF: Ra’Heim Moss (6-4, 205, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 8.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.4 APG

PF: Andre Lorentsson (6-8, 205, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 2.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.4 APG

C: Ben Wight (6-9, 205, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 10.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0.9 APG (Transfer from William & Mary)

6: Sonny Wilson (6-0, 175, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #159 overall ranked recruit

7: Javan Simmons (6-6, 210, Fr,)

247Sports Composite 3-star recruit

Toledo Rockets MVP: Dante Maddox

As the team’s only returning double digit scorer last season, Maddox will have a much bigger weight on his shoulders. Expect him to have more significant ball-handling role compared to the previous season.

Also, expect Maddox to heavily increase his volume of three-point shots taken. He shot 45.3% last season, but in just 4.0 attempts per game.

There is little doubt that Maddox will be able to handle this role though. He was efficient last season at all three levels, especially off the dribble. Maddox was just overshadowed by a plethora of other premier scorers, especially Dennis. In 2023-24, the Rockets will ride or die on Maddox’s shoulders.

Toledo Rockets make-or-break player: Sonny Wilson

It is difficult to attribute a true freshman to this kind of role but Toledo’s success can vastly be determined by how ready Wilson is to contribute immediately.

The good news is that the background is very much there. Wilson is Toledo’s highest rated all-time recruit by a decent margin. He was dominant at the high school ranks in Michigan for all four of his years, winning Gatorade Player of the Year in his season season.

The concern with Wilson is his size and strength at the Division 1 level but he appears to have put on some muscle in the recent months. If he does reach his ceiling, Toledo will have one of the more treacherous backcourts in mid-major basketball. If he struggles to crack the rotation, depth becomes a serious concern for the Rockets.

Key analytic: Team offensive efficiency vs. defensive efficiency

It would be foolish to ignore the high tempo Kowalczyk prefers to play at but Toledo’s adjusted point per possession metrics are still alarming. In 2022-23, they ranked 5th nationally offensively…and 294th on the defensive end, per Torvik. This discrepancy was the highest among all 363 Division 1 basketball teams.

While Toledo will always be an offense-first program, it is fair to say that this trend may not be as drastic this coming season. The Rockets do not have the same quantity of scorers and their backcourt is plenty capable of forcing turnovers. The question is whether they can stop teams with bigger back-to-the-basket bigs or with coaches that run a lot of off-ball action. That will ultimately determine their fate in the 2023-24 season.

Projected conference finish: 2nd in MAC

Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Round of 32

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