The next two weeks will go a long way toward deciding who is where in terms of area high school basketball.
Before the holiday break for conference schedules – which will see many teams taking part in league tournaments and shootouts around the state – there are plenty of big matchups in the ACAC, NHC and SAC in both boys and girls action.
Many coaches say the league title hunt does not begin to heat up until early January, but a misstep in these first few conference games can burn you later.
Here are five things to watch this weekend:
1. Snider or North Side for early SAC bragging rights?
The Redskins are the defending SAC champions, while the Panthers want that honor for themselves this season.
Both teams will be looking to jump-start their league title hopes in their league opener Friday night at North Side.
Put simply, the Redskins have been far from impressive so far this season despite a 2-0 mark. There seems to be no hunger or urgency with the play on the court, and coach Shabaz Khaliq expressed his displeasure candidly in an interview with The News-Sentinel after Friday's win over DeKalb.
Meanwhile, Snider has split a pair of games against North Central Conference opponents to open the year, a loss at the buzzer to Muncie Central and a rout of Anderson last Saturday.
The Panthers are extremely long and rangy, even in the backcourt with 6-foot-3 guard Stephen Halstead. The frontcourt with players such as 6-6 Devlyn Williams, 6-7 Logan Godfrey and 6-10 Malik Williams makes Snider up front one of the biggest in the area.
If North Side does not sleepwalk through another game, this will be a tight contest at By Hey Arena. If North Side does, look for Snider to roll.
2. How will Bishop Dwenger start the season?
The Saints had just one SAC victory a year ago, but expect that total to soar this season.
After a late start due to football season, coach Matt Kostoff and his team will begin their season Friday in “The Cage” at Concordia Lutheran.
The matchup with the Cadets, coupled with the home opener against Homestead on Saturday, will give a good indication of where the Saints are.
Not much should be taken out of these two games regarding the record, as Kostoff is working on limited time to integrate his half-dozen football players with their teammates. The big word for the Saints this weekend is potential.
With many key components back from a year ago, Bishop Dwenger's potential should be high, and we can begin to get a look at it this weekend.
3. Will Wayne continue its blowout streak?
No one will mistake the Generals' early-season schedule as a meat grinder, but coach Aaron Rehrer's team still deserves props for its 3-0 start that has included an average victory margin of more than 30 points per game.
Friday's game at Northrop will be a challenge in the sense that the Bruins (2-3) have played very solid defense thus far. Coach Barak Coolman's young squad has seen plenty of game action early in the year, exposing some weaknesses but showing off potential strengths.
One of those strengths has been on the defensive end, with Northrop so far surrendering almost 11 fewer points per game (48.4) than it did last season (59.2).
Wayne is scoring close to 88 points a game, so something has to give at Northrop.
4. South Side or Bishop Luers?
These two girls teams have combined to win the last three SAC championships. The victor from this Archers-Knights matchup gets the early jump on the other in the league title race.
South Side is just 3-2, but those defeats came to undefeated and sixth-ranked Penn and 5-2 South Bend Washington in overtime.
Bishop Luers (5-2) has also taken its lumps against a pair of undefeated squads – Heritage Christian and South Bend St. Joseph.
While the Archers are still forming an identity with some new players, the Knights are loaded with experience. However, expect a close game throughout.
5. Who can earn a big Class 3A victory?
While the majority of the attention in the NHC this season has gone to Homestead in terms of girls basketball, two other teams could also make some waves this year.
Those two teams collide Friday as Class 3A No. 4 Norwell (4-1) visits No. 15 Columbia City (6-1).
The Eagles have continued their momentum they gained from winning six of their final eight games last year by jumping off to their best start to a season since 2005-06. A victory over the Knights would be their first since 2005 and immediately legitimize the team as one of the best in the area.
This will be Norwell's first game since it fell hard to Homestead early last week, leading to the belief that the Knights will be ready to erase the bad taste of that game by beating a solid league foe on the road.