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Preview: Buffalo Bulls Men’s Basketball to open up MAC play against the Toledo Rockets

Tonight, Buffalo Bulls Men’s Basketball will begin their journey to defend their title as reigning MAC Champions. The Bulls will be taking a trip west to Toledo, Ohio to face the Rockets in hopes to start MAC play with a 1-0 record.

Toledo is lead by head coach Tod Kowalczyk. The Rockets have seen him at the helm for going on 7 years now and has had three strong years at Toledo with his best being in 2013-14—which saw Toledo go 27-7 overall. Still, Kowalczyk has never taken a team to the NCAA Tournament at either of his head coaching stops in his career and owns a 99-91 overall record coming into this season.

This season, the Rockets are out to a rocky 7-6 start after having one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the entire Mid-American Conference. Their best win comes against a quality Evansville team in double overtime. Speaking of overtime games, Toledo has been in an insane number of them. The Rockets already have five games that span past regulation and have a 3-2 record in them.

Bulls fans should keep an eye on Jonathan Williams, Steve Taylor Jr., and Jaelan Sanford. Williams currently leads all scoring on the team with 19.8 per game. Taylor is the best interior threat that the Rockets have as he currently averages a double-double with 15.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Finally, Sanford averages a clean 13.0 points per game to wrap up the Toledo players that score in double figures.

What to watch for

1. The turnover margin

In this regard, this is a very favorable matchup for Buffalo. Like the Bulls, Toledo has a bit of turnover problem this year and it’s part of the reason that let UNC Wilmington and Marshall score 100+ points on them. So this is good news for Buffalo but what’s even better is the Rockets are one of the worst teams in the nation at turning the ball over.

2. UB’s offense over a lackluster defense

Toledo has a very capable offense, but their defense is what’s losing them all of these games so far. Buffalo will have a good chance to get some fast break opportunities in this one as the Rockets give up extremely short possessions to their opponents with half the shot clock left on average.

3. The rebounding battle

Toledo is really good at pulling down the rebound on both ends of the floor. They’re currently the 13th best team in the nation at preventing the offensive rebound—something the Bulls have been struggling to get. In all six of their losses, Toledo won the rebounding battle and sometimes by an embarrassing amount.

4. Getting hot from beyond the arc

The Rockets are going to be pretty good at defending the perimeter and it will be a big statement for Buffalo if they can get a good three-point shooting game going. That’ll really stretch the floor and give the Bulls a better shot at winning this game.