Southview finished tied for second place last year in the Northern Lakes League and hopes to move up a spot this season with, from left, Josh Craig, Tim Hausfeld and Shaun Joplin.
Southview is the team to beat in the Northern Lakes League boys basketball race.
Southview coach Marc Jump, who begins his 15th season overseeing the Cougars, understands the position his talented group is in.
"We better line up and play all 14 [league games] and we better not have any no-shows," said Jump. "I'm kind of an old school talk-is-cheap kind of guy.
"The last couple of years the team that was picked to win this didn't win it."
The Cougars would prefer not to follow that trend.
With three returning starters, including the playmaking backcourt of juniors Tim Hausfeld and Shaun Joplin, Southview appears to have what it will take to rise above the rest.
Joplin and Hausfeld give the Cougars two go-to players. Hausfeld, who averaged 16 points a year ago, is a long-range shooting threat while Joplin, who averaged eight points last season, is versatile enough to play around the basket.
"The league will be very balanced," Rossford coach Brian Vorst said. "The league champion may have four or five losses. I think everybody will be competitive with each other."
Bowling Green and defending champion Perrysburg figure to be the most significant other contenders. Anthony Wayne, led by 6-foot-7 senior post player, Kyle Jazwiecki, could also compete.
Perrysburg coach Dave Boyce expects another competitive NLL season.
"I think the top half of the league is pretty strong and pretty deep and I think Southview is above everyone else," Boyce said.
Southview, which lost to Libbey in a district semifinal last year, enters twith a confidence they lacked before the start of last season.
"Getting into the district semifinals last year was a big step ," Jump said. "It raised their expectations. Maybe if finishing tied for second [in the NLL] didn't convince them, getting into the districts did."
Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
Coach: Marc Jump, 15th year
Last season: 14-9, 10-4 NLL
Top players: Seniors Josh Craig, 6-1, F; Jordan Scott, 6-3, F; Griff Whalen, G, 5-11; Alex Renner, 6-2, F; Araya Berhane, 6-3, F. Juniors Tim Hausfeld, 5-6, G; Shaun Joplin, 6-1, G; Devin Simon, 5-11, G.
Outlook: The Cougars are one of the NLL's most experienced teams. With three returning starters - Hausfeld (16.0 points), Joplin (8.0 points) and Craig - Southview sits in the driver's seat.
The Cougars' success will also rely on other key role players, including Scott, Berhane and Simon. Establishing good team chemistry and a steady playing rotation will also loom significant.
Coach: Von Graffin, sixth year
Last season: 14-8, 10-4
Top players: Seniors Matt Vannett, 6-3, F; Conner Kilpatrick, 6-5, F. Juniors Patrick Graham, 6-5, G. Sophomore Tony Dible, 6-1, G.
Outlook: The Bobcats are among the teams in the league looking to rebuild due to the loss of several key players to graduation.
Graham, who averaged eight points as a sophomore, is capable of putting up even bigger numbers. Vannett and Kilpatrick are expected to play lead roles on possibly the most inexperienced group Graffin has worked with since taking over.
"We're a lot like Southview was two years ago when Southview played Hausfeld and Joplin as freshmen," Graffin said.
Dible is projected to see plenty of time in BG's backcourt.
Coach: Dave Boyce, seventh year
Last season: 16-6, 11-3
Top players: Seniors David Boyce, 6-0, G; Thomas Salmon, 6-0, G; Neal Linthicum, 5-10, G; Allen Falls, 5-9, G. Junior David Hieber, 6-5, F. Sophomore Charlie Hughes, 6-4, C.
Outlook: The Yellow Jackets are facing a rebuilding scenario with only two starters back. Yet, they have a knack for reloading during Boyce's tenure. This season may end up no different for a program that has won at least a share of the title five of the past seven years.
Leadership on the floor will come from David Boyce, the coach's son, who averaged 7.8 points, 6.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds last season. Linthicum, the other returning starter, was one of the top scorers in the NLL when he provided 11.1 points per game.
Falls, Hieber and Hughes will also be asked to step right in and contribute.
Coach: Scott Riley, sixth year
Last season: 12-9, 8-6
Top players: Seniors Kyle Jazwiecki, 6-7, F/C; Tyler Launder, 6-2, G; Anthony Roveris, 5-9, G. Juniors Cam Walton, 6-1, G; Mike Mangotic, 5-10, G.
Outlook: The Generals enter the season with the luxury of having the best big man in the league. Jazwiecki is coming off of a junior season in which he averaged 15.7 points and a league-leading 8.1 rebounds. His presence will make AW a concern for opponents.
Walton, Launder, Mangotic and Roveris will be key players in providing Jazwiecki perimeter support. Several others, who have little or no varsity experience, will be called upon to contribute.
"How quickly [the underclassmen] gain confidence and how good we can get the ball inside to Jazwiecki will be important," Riley said.
Coach: Brian Vorst, third year
Last season: 11-10, 6-8
Top players: Seniors Jordan Nichols, 6-4, F; Dustin Sattler, 5-11, G; Kevin Mermin, 6-6, C. Junior Tom Kralovic, 5-10, G.
Outlook: The Bulldogs are coming off a season in which they were competitive most nights in the NLL. They're looking to continue that play.
Kralovic, who averaged 10.8 points, is the leader. Nichols, Sattler and Mermin were also contributors.
The Bulldogs look to employ more of an up-tempo game strategy this season. They're also looking to play plenty of full-court man-to-man and zone defenses.
"I think we're going to be guard-oriented and we'll try to shoot well from the perimeter," Vorst said. "Our offense will have to come from our defense."
Coach: Gary Raber, second year
Last season: 1-19, 0-14
Top players: Seniors Coty DiSalle, 5-10, G; Tig Dybala, 6-1, G/F. Junior Ryan Williams, 6-4, C.
Outlook: The Panthers hope to change their fortunes from a year ago. Making progress from a one-win season is the primary plan for a team that will lean on the skills of Dybala, who was one of the league's top scorers and rebounders last season.
Dybala, who averaged 13 points and seven boards, figures as one of the league's top all-around players. He gives Maumee a player capable of making a difference on any given night. Finding support may make all the difference this season.
Coach: Tim Reiser, 21st year
Last season: 5-15, 2-12 NLL
Top players: Seniors Jason Stender, 6-2, F; Austin Koback, 6-3, F; Ricardo Chea, 6-1, F.
Outlook: The Blue Devils are looking to rebound from a disappointing campaign a year ago. But the challenge appears tough since they're facing a rebuilding situation.
Stender, Koback and Chea represent the top returners. They're approaching the campaign with a goal of trying to improve upon last season's showing.
Finding players among the underclassmen will prove key in a quest to turn things around.
Coach: Dennis Shoemaker, 14th year
Last season: 14-9, 9-5 NLL
Top players: Seniors Mike Schaffer, 6-0, G. Juniors Ryan Yockey, 5-11, F; Stephan Vizina, 6-3, C. Sophomore Jarred Bowens, 5-6, G.
Outlook: The Wildcats are practically starting from scratch a year after having a senior-dominated team.
Northview lost its entire starting lineup to graduation and returns only one player with varsity experience in Schaffer, who is the team's only senior. The Wildcats are the least experienced team in the league nd will be faced with plenty of players learning the ropes on the spot.
"We have to get experience quick," Shoemaker said. "We'll have to grow up quickly."
Yockey, Vizina and Bowens will be thrown right into the mix for a team in which establishing chemistry and confidence early in the season will be key.