1. Portland: The Bulldogs have won two straight regional titles and have two returning starters – Joe Esposito and Amir Moss – from a team that lost to Hampden Academy in the Class A state championship game. Terion Moss, a sophomore, is a talented point guard, and Charlie Lyall is a 6-foot-4 center who improved as last season went along. Portland has several other talented players waiting for their chances to contribute. Coach Joe Russo’s teams have a knack for peaking at tournament time.

2. South Portland: The Red Riots have four starters back from a team that made it to the Western Class A semifinals. They also have a new coach in Kevin Millington, a South Portland High graduate who coached Windham for 18 seasons. There’s likely to be an adjustment period for the players getting used to Millington’s way of doing things, but my midseason the team should be hitting its stride. The Riots have excellent size with 6-foot-6 Jack Fiorini and 6-5 Jordin Jackson. Matt Pelletier, a 6-4 forward, is an excellent 3-point shooter. Ruay Bol, also 6-4, is one of the top players in the state.

3. Deering: The Rams have enjoyed a strong preseason, led by three returning starters from a team that lost in the Western Class A semifinals. Ben Williams is one of the top scorers in the SMAA; he averaged 16.9 points last season. Malik White is a fast-improving point guard. Raffaele Salamone, at 6-foot-4, is a strong rebounder and was named to the league’s all-rookie team.

4. Falmouth: The Yachtsmen have three starters back from a team that lost in the Western Class A final. The Yachtsmen have been impressive in preseason. The Coyne brothers, Tom and Colin, form one of the top backcourts in the state. Both are strong from 3-point range and are double-figure scorers. Falmouth has excellent size.

5. Gorham: The Rams have three starters back from a team that lost in the Western Class A quarterfinals. Sam Kilborn, a 6-foot-5 senior, averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds. Other veterans looking to have big seasons include seniors Billy Ruby, a 6-3 forward, and point guard Cody Elliott.

6. Cape Elizabeth: The Capers ended a 27-year state championship drought last winter, winning the Class B title. The Capers are considered one of the favorites again in their new class – Class A South – even though they have the smallest enrollment in the division. The team has three returning starters. Jack O’Rourke, Quinn Hewitt, Justin Guerette, Finn Bowe and James Bottomley will all figure in the team’s success.

7. Lake Region: The Lakers enter the season as the clear favorite in Class B South. Jack Lesure, Marcus Devoe and Nick Wandishin were starters for a 15-6 team that lost to Cape Elizabeth in the regional final. Lake Region has a new coach in John Mayo.

8. Medomak Valley: The Panthers have three starters back from a 19-3 club that dropped a heartbreaker to Cape Elizabeth in the Class B state final. Nick DePatsy, a 6-foot-3 senior, was an All-State selection after averaging 21.1 points and 7.9 rebounds. Cameron Allaire, a 6-6 junior, should be a force at both ends of the floor. The Panthers are in a new class, Class A North, and will likely have to go through Hampden Academy to return to the state final.

9. Cheverus: The Stags have two of the top guards in the SMAA in Austin Boudreau and Jack Casale. Boudreau is a 6-foot-4 point guard who is starting his third year on the varsity. Casale is a 6-3 shooting guard who can change a game with his 3-point shooting. Cheverus has good overall size, with 6-5 Jesse Matthews and 6-4 Andrew Roberts. Ryan Soucie takes over as head coach after three years as an assistant under Dan Costigan.

10. Thornton Academy: The Golden Trojans are counting on several players from the two-time Class A state championship football team. Ben Lambert, Corey Hart and Rome Pura were all key members of the football team. The team has a transfer point guard in Jack Tilley, from New Brunswick. John Fogg, a 6-foot-5 junior, will be counted on to help with rebounding, defense and inside scoring. Thornton could surprise a few teams.

– Tom Chard