Culbreath: Overview of MAC Basketball PreseasonWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Admittedly, basketball isn’t really my bag. I’m a football and hockey kinda guy. When it comes to roundball, I prefer to watch it on campus rather than in the pros, and of course that means I prefer Midnight Blue and Gold basketball over everything else.
But an interesting thing happened this week when the Mid-American Conference preseason basketball polls came out this week. Something we haven’t seen in a while: the women’s team was picked to finish lower than the men’s team. The men were picked to win the MAC West (much like they did last year, tying with Western Michigan, despite the conference’s insistence that they were ineligible), while the women were picked third in the MAC West.
Yes, it would be awesome if both teams were picked to win the West at the same time. But, the statement alone is a great testament to both the success that Coach Tricia Cullop has had the past few years with the women, but also to the turnaround that Coach Tod Kowalcyk has managed for the guys.
Coach Cullop’s team falls a little bit in the eyes of the media voters for one reason and one reason only: losing that unbelievable class of seniors. Led by Naama Shafir, they graduated as the winningest class in Toledo history. They really were that good. But don’t let that missing group of ladies fool you, this team still has talent. 7 returning letterwinners, in fact, led by senior Andola Dortch and junior Inma Zanougera. Both Dortch and Zanougera were named to the Preseason All-MAC squad. They’re joined by seniors Briana Jones and Janelle Reed-Lewis, junior Stephanie Recker, and sophomore Ana Capotosto. 5 freshman also join the team, and should get time as the season goes on. I’ll admit, I think that pick to finish third is a little bit of an insult, and expect the women’s team to jam that pick down the writers’ throats.
On the men’s side of the ball, those brutal 4-win seasons seem a long time ago. Nearly unanimously picked to win the MAC West (which one of you voted for Eastern Michigan?), and led by senior Rian Pearson and junior Julius Brown (both named to the Preseason All-MAC team), along with other familiar names like Matt Smith and Nathan Boothe. But there are more than a few names being added to the team this year: transfers JD Weatherspoon (from Ohio State) and Justin Drummond (from Loyola) are now eligible to play and are chomping at the bit to get it going. And let’s not forget the 4 freshman who join the team this year, just as hungry to help the team win. While they weren’t picked to win it all (Akron got that nod), this is definitely a team built to compete hard, and for once we may have some parity between the MAC East and West.
The regular season starts for both of these programs next Saturday at Savage Arena: the Women will play Drexel in the Glass City Tournament at around 2:30, followed by the Men’s squad hosting Northwestern Ohio at about 7. I expect nothing but great things for both teams. I also expect nothing but great support for the community all year long. If you thought the past couple of years of Rockets basketball have been pretty good, the good stuff has just begun at Savage Arena.
Tags: Andola Dortch, Coach Cullop, Drexel, Eastern Michigan, Glass City Tournament, Inma Zanougera, JD Weatherspoon (from Ohio State) and Justin Drummond (from Loyola), MAC West, Mid-American Conference (MAC), Naama Shafir, Preseason All-MAC squad, Savage Arena, senior Rian Pearson and junior Julius Brown, Toledo Rockets, Western Michigan