By Brett Manney
1. Bellevue Wolverines (Bellevue, Washington): The dominant Metro league in Seattle usually produces the state champion, but if there is another team making a case it's Bellevue. The Kingco league school is very talented and hopes to change the tide of champions in the Evergreen state. After missing the 3A tournament with a 19-7 record from a year ago, they have too much talent to not be successful.
2. Chandler Wolves (Chandler, Arizona): Chandler looks for success in '09 after advancing to the state tournament round of eight just a season ago. They feature a mixture of seniors and juniors, but will rely on the younger juniors to carry the team. A vigorous offseason program could be what the Wolves need to be state champions in March.
3. Bingham Miners (South Jordan, Utah): The road to the state championship most likely will go through South Jordan. The Region 1 champs from a year ago look poised to make a run at the state title. Junior Ben Clifford will be a top scoring threat for a talented team that went 18-9 a year ago.
4. Regis Jesuit Raiders (Aurora, Colorado): The Raiders finished the '08 season at 19-8 overall, but really made a strong push in the state playoffs. Despite their 6-6 record in the league last year, the Raiders went to the state quarterfinals by upsetting top-seeded Poudre along the way. The late season surge showed the true potential of the team, which could surface in '08-'09.
5. Kentwood Conquerors (Covington, Washington): The Conks should be able to make waves this year after failing to qualify for the state tournament last season. After winning their league title then failing early in district play, expect an improvement over last year's 19-7 record. Josh Smith is their go to guy down low and should hover around 20 points a game again this season.
6. Roosevelt Roughriders (Portland, Oregon): Despite a 14-13 record last year, the Roughriders should be much improved this season. A few of those losses came against powerful Jefferson, and so Roosevelt could certainly sneak up anybody this time around with an improved team. Look for the Roughriders to become contenders and not pretenders this year.
7. Cheyenne Desert Shields (North Las Vegas, Nevada): The most talked about team in Nevada might be Findlay Prep, but once March rolls around, Cheyenne could join their counterpart's success. The Desert Shields finished the '08 season at 19-8, but the squad only lost each game by an average of four points. 6-4 guard Elijah Johnson is one of the state's best players and should lead his team far in the state tournament.
8. Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (New Hope, Minnesota): After advancing to the state semifinal last year, the Hawks could be the team to knock off Minnetonka in the state tournament in '09. Minnesota recruit Rodney Williams might be the best player in the state and may have to carry his team to the state championship. The Hawks will have to learn to win away from their friendly confines as all of their losses came away from their home court last season.
9. Sylmar Spartans (Sylmar, California): With a 17-9 record from a year ago, Sylmar looks to improve significantly on its winning ways. The Valley Mission league champions are lead by 6-8,180 lbs. small forward Tyler Honeycutt. Slymar also has added Malik Johnson at point guard who looked impressive in preseason workouts. The UCLA recruit will have to carry more of the load this year for the Spartans to exceed expectations in an ultra tough Los Angeles City Section.
10. West Valley High School (Cottonwood, California): This is one team that could sneak up on people this year, but one player certainly will not and that is 6-7 forward Joe Burton, an Oregon State recruit, who will look to beef up the inside for West Valley. The supporting cast does a solid job of distributing the ball inside to Burton, who has great vision for a big man. West Valley could make some noise this year behind their super talented forward.
To contact correspondent Brett Manney, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.