The Lincoln boys graduated nine seniors from last year's 17-5 team, including seven who saw significant playing time, meaning the Patriots are going to be a relative unknown on the Class AA basketball scene this year.
With that said, you won't find coach Jeff Halseth complaining about being under the radar to start the season.
"I don't look at this as a rebuilding year," he said. "I've got some great athletes coming in."
Of those athletes shifting into larger roles, senior guards Nermin Krdzalic and Adam Jaros are facing the largest expectations as the only returners with quality varsity minutes.
Krdzalic, a 6-foot-2 point guard, averaged two points over five minutes per game, while the 6-0 Jaros posted three points over 6.5 minutes per game. The duo will also be responsible for the Pats' zone press as well as keying the transition game.
"These guys love to get down the court," said Halseth. "They love to move, and I'm not going to stop them if they can keep it under control."
However, junior swingman Caleb Rector could be the most versatile player in a Patriots jersey this season. The 6-2 guard/forward can score inside with penetration as well as hit from 3-point range, but Halseth is equally excited about Rector's versatility on the defensive end with his ability to guard a variety of positions.
Given that the Pats' new group has limited varsity experience and even less experience playing together, the Lincoln coach has focused even more on establishing a strong defensive mindset.
"We have a bunch of guys who haven't played together, so the best way for me to approach this team is to get them on the same page defensively," said Halseth. "That's the mindset we're trying to get them to buy into, and they're on the verge of buying into it. We're not a defense that is going to get a lot of steals, but we're going to be a team that dictates the tempo."
Meanwhile, 6-4 Roosevelt transfer Calvin Krause has more experience than any of the returning Pats, and 6-5 sophomore forward Addison Park rounds out the starting five with Connor Burchill, Sean Ladd, Luke Meyers, Zac Campbell and Cayden Ransom each expected to see minutes.
Meyers' ability to be in the right place at the right time in terms of offensive rebounding last season could be a big advantage this season as Lincoln will trot out plenty of guys capable of creating their own shot.
"Jaros can score. Nermin can score. Caleb Rector can score. Calvin Krause can score. It's just finding a way to get the ball to the right guy at the right time," said Halseth. "Right now I don't know if I have enough basketballs for all those guys."