TALENT DIP: Almost every team in the area lost its top scorer from what proved to be a senior-dominated season. Even Richmond Academy, which returns four starters, needs to replace its top player from a year ago (Ricardo Glenn).
NEW FACES: Butler, Josey and Cross Creek will all have new coaches after an off-season of turnover in Richmond County. Former Josey coach Emmett Rouse, most recently of South Gwinnett, takes over a Bulldogs team with size and talent. Jabari Levi, at Josey, and Carlos Carter, at Cross Creek, are also new.
MUSKETEERS' MUSCLE: Richmond Academy blitzed through most of the area last season on its way to a Final Four berth. Expectations are again high for a team that returns four starters but has no player taller than 6-foot-4.
MARSHALL REMEMBERED: Former Greenbrier star Eric Marshall was slated to join the Wolfpack as an assistant coach this season. The former Wofford College player collapsed playing basketball this summer and died. Greenbrier will retire his jersey and honor his memory Tuesday before its game with Grovetown.
RISE OF THE BEARS: Burke County returns four starters from a Sweet 16 team, including Winthrop recruit Martaveous Smith. If all-region point guard Bobby Burum can be replaced, this team could be very dangerous in Class AAA and could be one of the best teams in the area. Defense and inside size are strengths.
COMPETITIVE REGION 3-AAAA: Richmond County schools Hephzibah, Butler and Glenn Hills should dominate the region title race. Star players lead all three teams. Lakeside is a potential dark horse.
REPEAT PERFORMANCE: Both Strom Thurmond and Silver Bluff advanced to the Class AA state semifinals last season and finished among the best teams in the area. Both teams have pieces to fill -- Strom Thurmond lost area South Carolina player of the year Courtney Mealing -- but should at least return to the playoffs.
CAN LANEY KEEP IT UP? The Wildcats lost their three top players from last year's 25-win team, including Virginia Tech recruit Taylor Ayers. Enough talent remains for Laney to remain one of the area's best.
TALENT SPLURGE : The area is in the midst of a talent spike. Four players have signed or committed to Division I schools all the way from Central Florida (Hephzibah's Aarika Judge) to Arizona (Warren County's Candice Warthen).
GYM SHUFFLE : Girls -- and boys -- teams at Hephzibah, Butler and Westside won't play at home this season because of renovations. Their home games will be divided among other county gyms, which should be an interesting dynamic this season.