Team preview: Toledo

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 20, 2004, 5:31 PM ET
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Not since 1979, when Stan Joplin stroked a 20-foot jumper to upset Iowa, 74-72, in the second round, has Toledo won a game in the NCAA Tournament.

His memorable shot lifted the Rockets to the Sweet 16, and although Notre Dame eliminated Toledo in the regional semifinal, Joplin's place in UT history was secure.

The Rockets' fourth all-time assist leader, Joplin has dreamed of a return to glory for his alma mater since taking charge in 1996-97. Coming off a 20-win season and returning five starters, led by conference preseason player-of-the-year Keith Triplett, a 6-3 senior, Toledo is favored to win its first MAC title since 1981 and make its first NCAA trip since 1980. The Rockets are 137-99 (.581) with three NIT postings in Joplin's eight seasons.

"They're susceptible to getting big-headed with people putting them in a comfort zone by telling them how good they are," Joplin said when asked how the preseason hype would affect his team. "But that doesn't make any difference because we still have to go out and play the games."

In a conference bursting at the seams with quality guards, Triplett is the best.

A former Toledo Bowsher High star, Triplett was runner-up for 2004 MAC Player of the Year when he averaged 19.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins calls him "the most dangerous one-on-one player in the MAC."