When the high school season officially tips off Thursday and Friday, there will be a question left to be answered. Which Lincoln boys team will win the city race and crack a shot at a state tournament bid?
From what I've seen in the previews, it could be a long year for many teams, while others have a chance to build on what they accomplished a year ago.
The rebuilding process started right after Lincoln Southeast was defeated by Omaha Westside in the first round of the Class A tournament last March. Head Coach Jeff Smith, the dean of LPS coaches, began the task of replacing 12 seniors and is in search of finding the right nucleus for his team to be competitive.
The Knights aren't the only ones likely to go through growing pains. Lincoln Southwest will be in year two of their rebuilding phase under 10-year head coach Duane Baack. Traditionally, these two schools have relied on athleticism for their basketball success. That may not be enough.
Lincoln East, under second-year head coach Jeff Campbell, had a great start to the season a year ago, but didn't pan out the rest of the way. The Spartans, though, do have athleticism from carryovers in football. The Metcalf brothers look to be a tough guard tandem, but replacing power forward Bryce Reimers will be the issue East will have to figure out before the season picks up full steam after the holidays.
Lincoln North Star looks to senior Alex Stodgill and junior Triston Simpson to be the guys to help the Navigators be successful this season. North Star loses key players like Connor Musiel, Nate Tederman and Brook Bolles due to graduation. Head Coach Tony Quattrocchi will be entering his 12th year as the Gators' general.
After an eight-year drought from the state tournament, Lincoln Northeast made a return trip last March, after a gutty trip to win districts. The Rockets finished last season with a sub .500 record and with some returning players like Ryan Garver and Tyson Shadegg, there's hope from the Rocket faithful that it could be a decent year. But the road won't be easy for Northeast, like the rest of the Lincoln schools.
On paper, Lincoln High seems to be the favorite in the city race but it all depends on which team shows up. Could it be a team that plays a full 32 minutes or one that starts out hot and quickly cools off?
Head Coach Dan Noble returns a talented and athletic group of players that provide some good chemistry. All city selections Jason Towery and KeShawn Wilson look to be the leaders on the court, while Jamie Davis and Jaden Jilg-Brown could offer a physical aspect close to the basket.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: NORTHEAST AND PIUS X COULD BE LINCOLN'S BEST
Lincoln Northeast and Lincoln Pius X could be the capital city teams likely to be playing in March at the Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Rockets, who finished 4th in the Class A tournament, return Tantashea Giger, Jamie Holscher and Shaneequah Watkins as their starters. The key for Northeast is finding someone to fill Toni Tupper's shoes in the post. No starter will be above 5-8 in height and the tallest player on the team is 5-10 (junior Stephanie Baars).
Pius X returns four of the five starters from last season's Class B runner-up team, including Nebraska recruit Maddie Simon. The 6-2 senior will likely be the main ballhandler, along with playing a little bit inside. Head Coach Bill Rice returns a team who could make a big run in Class B this season.
Lincoln Southeast will have athleticism and good long-range shooting to rely on this year. The Knights have Reanne May at guard, Tyra Douglas in the post and Emma McKillip as a power forward, but head coach Kara Graham said in her season outlook that guarding the post and rebounding is going to be key, in order for them to be competitive.
We are planning to cover several games this season on LincolnPrepSports.com, with the occasional simulcast feed from radio. One of those games will be Thursday night, as Omaha Westside plays at Northeast. Our broadcast schedule will not necessarily coincide with any broadcasts on KFOR or KLMS, but if we experience any personnel matters (no one available to broadcast originated games), we may resort to simulcasting more games.