Yes, Morehead State returns six of its top seven players from an NCAA Tournament team.
Coach Donnie Tyndall still prides his program on rebounding and defending.
And, yes, it will take team effort to fulfill the promise of a squad that Ohio Valley Conference coaches tabbed a co-favorite (with Murray State).
Yet, the Eagles' season seems to rely greatly on one player: Kenneth Faried.
Athlon, Blue Ribbon Yearbook, Lindy's, Sporting News, Yahoo! and league coaches, agree that Faried is the OVC pre-season Player of the Year.
A 6-foot-8 junior from Newark, N.J., Faried ranked second in the country last season with 25 double-doubles and finished third in rebounds with 13.0 per game. He was the OVC Defensive Player of the Year and MVP of the league tournament.
He averaged 13.9 points, 1.9 blocks and 1.9 steals.
"His motor runs. He plays a high-intensity level," Tyndall said. "He's not the most skilled guy offensively, although he is certainly continuing to make progress. But he's a guy that plays extremely hard, has a passion to play and he's a great rebounder."
So how did a diamond in the rough from the inner city of Newark wind up in the mountains of Kentucky?
"Morehead was the school that stayed loyal to me by recruiting me, and they tapped me on the radar," Faried said. "So I stayed loyal to them."
He arrived at 17, a 6-7, 185-pounder who could bench press 205.
Two years later, he's added an inch, 41 pounds and 105 pounds on his bench press.
He has exceeded even Tyndall's expectations.
"We had no idea he'd be as tough and as receptive to coaching as he's been," Tyndall said. "Those are always the million-dollar questions ... so all the credit goes to Kenneth for working very hard, both on the floor and in the weight room, and he's developed into a great player."
Faried, who is on target to graduate with a degree in business management in the spring of 2011, has not let praise go to his head.
"As my coach always says, ... think H.A.T. — humble, appreciative and thankful," Faried said. "I've been that all my life, anything I do. So I just keep my head and keep focused."
Pre-season knee and shoulder injuries have put Faried's conditioning behind schedule. But now he's healthy and is putting in extra work. That includes post-practice work on free throws, hook shots and mid-range jumpers.
"I'm able to make more first shots than I was last year," he said. "Last year, I always struggled with making the first shot, but I was athletic enough to just go get it back and do it again. But this year I just want to make the first shot. And I'm stronger, so I'll be able to grab a lot more rebounds."
A huge test awaits in Friday's opener — at Kentucky.
"I'm excited to play against UK," Faried said. "It's a big school around here, even in Morehead ... (and) everybody that lives in Kentucky. So it'll be really interesting to see how we can do against a great school with great players."