Toledo (0-0) at Loyola-Chicago (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gentile Arena (4,486) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Toledo 0-0, Loyola 0-0. Away Record: Toledo 0-0, Loyola 0-0. Neutral Record: Toledo 0-0, Loyola 0-0. Conference Record: Toledo 0-0, Loyola 0-0. Series Record: Toledo leads, 16-13.
GAME NOTES: The Toledo Rockets are set to open up their 2012-2013 campaign as they visit the Gentile Arena for a non-conference bout with the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.
The Rockets begin their quest for back-to-back postseason berths under coach Tod Kowalczyk. Toledo had not played after the MAC Tournament since its 2006-2007 conference title. The Rockets played in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament last season and finished with a 19-17 overall record for the second-best win improvement in the nation.
Porter Moser has a lot of room for improvement after his team finished 7-23 overall and 1-17 in Horizon League action in his first year at the helm of the Loyola-Chicago program. The Ramblers finished last season on a four-game losing streak. This will be the first of three opponents from the MAC for Loyola.
This will the 30th meeting between these programs on the hardwood. Toledo holds a 16-13 lead in the all-time series, but the Ramblers produced a 57-55 win at Savage Hall last December.
Toledo returns 83.3 percent of its points, 89.5 of its assists, and 82.0 percent of its rebounds from last season's successful squad. The Rockets are led by junior guard Rian Pearson, who finished third in the voting for MAC Player of the Year. Pearson was the only player to rank in the MAC's Top 10 in points (16.4), rebounds (8.3), and steals (1.6). Pearson is joined in the backcourt by reigning MAC Freshman of the Year, Julius Brown. The sophomore is a great distributor as a rookie, dishing out seven or more assists on 14 different occasions. Dominique Buckley is a threat from deep on the other wing as he ranked 12th in the league with 1.7 made three-point shots last season. Kowalczyk is going with Nathan Boothe at center. The 6-9, 250-pound freshman is expected to provide a much-needed physical presence in the paint. Junior forward Matt Smith is an experienced post player with range on his shot.
The season opener may be even more memorable for Ramblers' forward Ben Averkamp. The senior needs just 11 points to notch his 1,000th career point. Averkamp averaged 15.4 ppg last season while Loyola ranked 330 out of 338 NCAA Division I teams with a team average of 57.2 ppg. The team's second leading scorer Walt Gibler graduated, but Moser is excited about the development of sophomores Christian Thomas and Joe Crisman. Thomas is a very athletic forward while Crisman netted 8.5 ppg as a rookie last season. Loyola has some experience in its lineup with Jordan Hicks and Cully Payne in the backcourt. Hicks averaged 10.8 ppg on 45 percent shooting over the final 13 games of last season. Payne last played at Iowa were he was co-captain of the Big Ten program.
The Ramblers certainly appear to be headed in the right direction. Toledo is the better team and should be out to avenge last season's loss at home to Loyola.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 68, Loyola-Chicago 64
11/09 10:37:25 ET