When a basketball team returns five starters from the previous season, it is in good shape to succeed.
So, theoretically, how would a team do if they had six starters coming back? Or even seven, eight who have started 16 or more games in their career?
This isn't a complex mathematics problem, but the state of the UC Santa Cruz men's team.
In addition to the most-often used five-man rotation from 2016-17, the Slugs have Will Crain, who missed a third of the season but still came back and performed well enough to make the Association of Division III Independents Second Team.
Without Crain, the front court of Kyle Creighton and Tre Weston still performed spectacularly. Creighton led the team in scoring with 10.8 points while adding 5.9 rebounds. Weston shot 49.5% from the field and had a team-high 9.5 rebounds, including a school-record 19 in the Dec. 19 win over Pacific Lutheran.
In addition, the Slugs return forward Sam Gabbard this season after missing all of last season. His sophomore year he averaged 11.7 points and 7.8 rebounds and started 24 games.
The backcourt features point-guard Adam Marlow (9.2 points, 5.2 assists, 1.8 steals), Corey Cilia (10.5 points, with a team-high 81.7% free-throws) plus wings Ben Dorfman (7.9 points, 37.5% three-point percentage) and Andrew Jones (16 career starts, 5.7 points, 38.5% three-point percentage).
The Slugs also return senior wing Matthew Nerland (37 career games played) , junior forward Tyler Klingenbeck (29 career games played) and sophomore guards Vinay Narayanam (25 career games played) and Joshua Green. Newcomers to the Slugs this season will be junior wing Russell Taylor, freshman point guard Patrick Ramos and freshman forward Haakon Ullrich.
With so much experience at every position, depth and maturity won't be in short supply for UCSC this season.
After opening with exhibitions at Division I Sacramento State and Fresno State, the Banana Slugs open the regular season at home against Whittier and Pomona-Pitzer in the Mission Inn Tipoff Classic.
The Slugs don't play at home in December, a long roadtrip that includes the Lee Fulmer Classic in Redlands, NCAA participant Claremont-Mudd, and the Hoops in Hawaii Classic against intersectional opponents Principia and Messiah.