Another tight race is expected to develop in the Northern Lakes League, with Southview predicted to finish first in the balanced conference.
The Cougars have four of five starters back, and all are seniors. Southview (15-9 overall, 10-4 NLL) earned six of eight first-place votes and is predicted to win the school's second title in the past four years.
Seven of the eight teams in the NLL have claimed a conference championship in the past seven years.
Perrysburg (15-7, 12-2), which split the NLL title with Anthony Wayne last season, received the other two first-place votes and should give the Cougars the biggest test. Anthony Wayne (16-6, 12-2) is picked to finish third, followed by Northview.
First-year Southview coach Stan Joplin, who previously coached at the University of Toledo and at Springfield, has an experienced and offensively balanced team.
“It is humbling that we are thought of as the preseason favorites,” Joplin said. “We let our players know we need to work harder than ever before because every time we step in the gym, we will get every team’s best.”
Southview's Ryan Fries shoots a 3 during a game vs. Anthony Wayne last year. Fries scored 16.7 points per game last year and was a first-team All-NLL choice.
Southview senior guard Ryan Fries scored 16.7 points per game and shot 44 percent from the field to earn All-NLL first-team honors. Senior 6-foot-7 center Christian Wagenhauser missed 14 games last season with a broken leg. Junior guards Tyson King and Tehree Horn also return, along with senior forward Zech Miller and senior guard Jason Johnson.
“One of our biggest strengths will be our experience as we bring back five seniors, three of which are returning starters,” Joplin said. “We are a more balanced team offensively and should have multiple ways of scoring.
“I’m sure most teams would rank a league title at the top of the list of goals. We’re no different. This season has the potential to be very special for us because of the talent and experience. Similar to last season, the league will be competitive, and there should be a tight race at the end of the season.”
Perrysburg veteran coach Dave Boyce has three letter winners returning. He said the Yellow Jackets' strengths will be veteran leadership, overall size, and athleticism.
“I like our mix of talent and experience,” Boyce said.
Senior guards Zach Pohlman (6-6) and Seth Morgan (6-1) averaged around 6.0 points per game. Boyce, who also led Perrysburg to a co-championship in 2013-14, expects another battle for the title
“I think the league has very solid depth at the top and we hope to be in the mix,” Boyce said.
At Anthony Wayne, first-year coach Josh Arthur inherits two starters. But the Generals will have good depth overall with solid ball-handling skills and consistent outside shooting led by senior guards Andrew Murphy, Josh Boyer, and Elijah Lomax.
“With only two returning starters we must grow every day in practice to learn what it takes to become a varsity basketball player,” Arthur said. “There is not one team in the NLL that we can take lightly. Each team will be well prepared and have players that work very hard.”
Northview (16-8, 9-5) won the title in 2015-16, and coach Jeremy McDonald has three returning starters back among eight returning letter winners. Junior point guard Alek West (6-3) scored 11.3 points and pulled down 6.5 rebounds per game, while senior center Colton Snow and junior guard Sam Clear also played key roles.
“Our guys have a positive mindset and winning attitude,” McDonald said. “We feel good about the growth we made this off-season. We will be very competitive.”
Here's a look at the NLL in predicted order of finish:
Coach: Stan Joplin, first season
Last season: 15-9 overall, 10-4 NLL
Top players: Seniors Ryan Fries, 5-11, G; Christian Wagenhauser, 6-7, C; Zech Miller, 6-2, F; Jason Johnson, 6-0, G. Juniors Tyson King, 5-9, G; Tehree Horn, 6-1, G.
Outlook: Joplin takes over for fellow veteran coach Bruce Smith, who posted a 70-26 record in four seasons. Joplin inherits an experienced and talented bunch that should be able to knock down shots from the outside and handle the ball well.
Fries, who shot 85 percent from the line, finished fifth in the league in scoring (16.7 points per game). The Cougars are expected to get a big lift from Wagenhauser (3.3 points), who missed more than half of last season with an injury.
King (4.0 points, 3.3 assists), Miller (8.3 points, 5.0 rebounds), Johnson (6.0 points, 2.5 rebounds), and Horn (5.5 points) also were key contributors.
“We must play together and trust one another,” Joplin said. “Health can be a big factor. Last season we lost our starting big man [Wagenhauser] for eight weeks, two days before our season opener. Injuries are part of the game.”
But the possible trouble areas could be the team's ability to create pressure with good perimeter defense as well as overall depth.
“We plan on taking this season one game at a time and continuing to improve our game each week,” Joplin said.
Perrysburg's Zach Pohlman spins to juke Anthony Wayne's Josh Boyer during a game last season. Pohlman is one of the Yellow Jackets' leaders in 2017-18.
Coach: Dave Boyce, 18th season
Last season: 15-7, 12-2
Top players: Seniors Zach Pohlman, 6-6, G; Seth Morgan, 6-1, G; Cam Glowacki, 6-2, F. Juniors Ian Riddle, 6-0, G; Ben Boros, 6-2, F. Sophomores Jackson Sizemore 6-5, C; Drew Sims, 5-10, G; Harry Hosler, 6-0, F.
Outlook: Boyce, who has a record of 281-99, looks to reload with three returning letter winners.
Pohlman averaged 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Morgan (6.2 points) and Glowacki (4.3 points) also return. The key newcomers are Sizemore, Riddle, Sims, Boros, and Hosler.
The Yellow Jackets will feature good experience, overall size, and athleticism. However, potential weaknesses will include lack of overall physical strength and inconsistent shooting.
“We will be counting on Seth and Zach to use their experience to provide poise and leadership,” Boyce said.
Coach: Josh Arthur, first season
Last season: 16-6, 12-2
Top players: Seniors Andrew Murphy, 6-1, G; Josh Boyer, 6-1, G; Elijah Lomax, 5-11, G; Alex Ruhe, 6-9, P; Brock Nartker, 5-10, G. Juniors Max Denman, 6-4, G; Max Bradfield 6-3, F. Sophomore Kyle Ray, 5-11, G.
Outlook: Arthur takes over for Bryan Borcherdt, who led the Generals to an 85-51 record over six seasons. Arthur inherits two starters and four letter winners.
Murphy earned All-NLL second-team honors after averaging 14.3 points and 2.8 steals per game. Boyer tallied 5.0 points, grabbed 4.7 rebounds, and had 2.0 steals per game.
Arthur said the Generals feature good overall depth, solid ball-handling skills, and consistent perimeter shooting. However, lack of experience, rebounding ability, and overall size are potential areas of concern.
“As the year progresses, we will gain experience as a team,” Arthur said. “With only two returning starters we must grow every day in practice to learn what it takes to become a varsity basketball player.”
Northview's Alek West drives inside against Southview's Tyson King during a game last year. West averaged 11.3 points last season.
Coach: Jeremy McDonald, third season
Last season: 16-8, 9-5
Top players: Seniors Reece Lazar, 6-0, G; Colton Snow, 6-7, C; Joey Okeye, 5-10, G; Colin McIyntire, 6-4, C. Juniors Alek West, 6-3, PG; Sam Clear, 6-3, G; Jake Matuszewski, 6-0, G; Billy Biggs, 6-1, G; Luke Pawlak, 5-10, G. Sophomore Grant Hartnett, 5-9, G.
Outlook: McDonald, who has a record of 33-16, has three returning starters among eight letter winners.
West (11.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists) leads the way. Snow (11.6 points, 8 rebounds), Clear (9.4 points, 5.0 rebounds), and Lazar (1.6 points) also contributed.
McDonald cites perimeter shooting, post defense, overall depth, and post offense as team strengths. However, the Wildcats might struggle to create pressure with a lack of overall size and experience.
“We return three starters from a team that went 16-8 in spite of numerous injuries,” McDonald said. “We think that if our guys moving up from the junior varsity adjust well to varsity speed, we will be very competitive.”
Coach: Kyle Linehan, third season
Last season: 3-20, 2-12
Top players: Senior Cameron Arce, 6-1, G/F. Juniors Terrel Bryant, 6-0, G; Tyler Dave, 6-1, G/F; Sev Durden, 6-0, G; Michael Key, 6-4, F; Denzel Prince, 6-2, G.
Outlook: Four of five starters are back as part of a group of six letterwinners.
Bryant is the top returning scorer after averaging 12.0 points per game. Arce (8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds), Dave (a transfer from Whitmer), Durden (4.1 points), Key (7.2 points, 7.2 rebounds), and Prince (6.7 points, 3.3 rebounds) are expected to contribute.
Linehan said the Blue Devils will be able to create pressure with good overall depth and sound perimeter defense. However, possible trouble areas include a lack of post offense and defense as well as overall size.
“Our key contributors from last year are back with a solid mix of newcomers,” Linehan said. “Our kids put in a lot of time this offseason to make themselves into bigger, stronger, and better players. We’ve got to use our depth and athleticism to push the pace of play, as well as pressure the basketball to make teams uncomfortable.”
Coach: Ryan Osier, first season
Last season: 7-16, 4-10
Top players: Seniors Ben Pacer, 5-11, PG; Colin McGann, 5-11, SG; Jacob Richardson, 6-1, F; Blake Hazard, 6-2, F; Luis Perez, 6-1, F. Juniors Sam LaChappell, 6-5, C; Jared Jensen, 6-2, SG. Sophomores Garret White, 6-8, C; David Walker, 5-10, PG.
Outlook: Osier takes over a program that has two returning starters and six returning letterwinners.
Pacer earned All-NLL honorable mention after leading the team in scoring with 10.8 points per game. Hazard also started last year, and LaChappell is athletic with good rebounding ability, according to Osier.
He said perimeter shooting, rebounding, scoring balance, and overall depth are the team's strengths. But Osier said offense in the post, the ability to create pressure, and overall experience are top concerns.
“Historically, Maumee has had some rough years lately. However, I believe this team will compete and have opportunities to win some games,” Osier said. “We are trying a build a program from the ground up, and I have a very talented team to start this out with.”
Coach: Marshal Headley, first season
Last season: 3-19, 2-12
Top players: Seniors Kaiden Robinson, 6-2, G/W; Kaleb Fair, 6-1, G/W; Christian Peek, 5-10, G. Juniors Isaac Elsasser, 6-4, W; Tucker Craft, 5-11, G; Spencer Rader, 6-1, P; Bryce Hoehner, 6-0, G; Jacob Konecny, 6-3, P.
Outlook: Headley inherits eight letterwinners, including three starters.
Elsasser averaged 13.7 points per game, while Craft (4.4 points), Robinson (2.5 points), Hoehner (5.1 points), and Rader (2.9 points) also contributed.
Headley said he likes his team's depth, perimeter shooting, experience, and ball-handling skills. However, a lack of size could create problems with post offense and rebounding.
“We have the potential to be a really consistent scoring team because we have several guys that can put the ball in the basket from long range and mid-range,” Headley said. “The key to our success will be playing solid defense, limiting second-chance opportunities, and being patient on offense.”
Coach: Joe Good, fifth season
Last season: 9-16, 5-9
Top players: Seniors Brennan Druhot, 6-0, G/F; Zak Towne, 5-10, G. Sophomore Landon Willeman, 5-10, G
Outlook: Good, who has a 51-46 record, has three returning starters among five letterwinners.
Willeman scored 7.0 points per game as a freshman, while Druhot averaged 4.0 points.
Good cited overall depth, scoring balance, experience, and perimeter defense as strengths.
But creating pressure, handling pressure, ball-handling skills, and perimeter shooting are chief concerns for Good.
“This year's team returns five letterwinners, but not a lot of scoring,” Good said. “We are going to look to our team defense to keep us in games and rely on offensive execution to win. This team has the potential to get better as the season progresses. We want to be playing our best basketball at tourney time.”