The outlook on the 2013-14 North Bay League boys basketball season, according to a handful of coaches, is pretty simple: It's a crapshoot among seven teams and there won't be any nights off this season
And then there's Montgomery.
The Vikings lost only four players — one starter — and have one of the Empire's best in Alec Raven, but you can't tell Vikings coach Tom Fitchie that his team's the favorite.
"I'd rather be there than be at the bottom, but coaches always want to do that," Fitchie said. "Maybe try and put a little bit more pressure on that team, maybe sort of a head kind of game or something like that and see if the team buys into it, and maybe starts believing the press and believing the things they hear. Which is fine. I've been around long enough to know. I understand where that's coming from and we fully accept the challenge if that's where they want to put us."
Here's how the NBL stacks up this season:
Casa Grande Gauchos
Last season: 14-14 overall, 7-7 NBL
Overview: The Gauchos' fourth-place finish in league last season wasn't too bad for a team that coach James Forni said was very young.
"They had a year of learning and sometimes we were making big plays, sometimes they weren't," he said. "We were very inexperienced."
A look at last year's standings shows Casa Grande beat most of the teams it was supposed to beat — all the teams that finished below it in the league standings — but managed to record only one victory against the three teams that finished at the top of the league.
Player to watch: Cetrick Yeaney's junior year was far from disappointing. The guard averaged 15.9 points per game last season.
"He's got to be the guy who sets the tone for us," Forni said.
Yeaney's off to a good start this year, and he hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Gauchos in a thrilling 48-47 victory against Foothill of Pleasanton on Saturday.
Santa Rosa Panthers
Last season: 9-17, 5-9
Overview: It has been a slow climb up the win column for the Panthers, who won two more games in league play last season than in 2011. Coach John McGill has enjoyed victories in the preseason against fellow North Coast Section Division 1 school Antioch and Division 2 Vintage, but also suffered a blowout defeat at the hands of Newman.
Players to watch: McGill has two post players who could be difference makers.
McGill said 6-foot-6 center Dustin Rome and 6-4 forward Daniel Crestin have been preparing hard.
"Both those guys did a lot of work in the offseason," McGill said. "They've put a lot of work in. They put a lot of work in during the summer."
Rome led the NBL in blocked shots, McGill said. Rome and Crestin are the highest-scoring returners from last season and both led the team in rebounds last season.