Girls basketball previews
When you have eight returning players with four of those starters, one would think good things are likely to happen. East Rutherford, who had 19 wins a year ago, is the most talented team in the reformed Southwestern Conference.
Kendra Ross, Osha Makerson, Charmee Miller, Claire Jackson, Parris Baker, Shyon Randolph, Brooklyn Henderson and Amarie Price all return. Peyton Jackson and Devoria Boykins are newcomers to possibly watch.
Ross should be a key rebounder and a force inside to score. Makerson will lead at point guard. She is the most exciting to watch considering she is the most height deficient of the Lady Cavs, but isn't scared to drive the paint. Miller will continue to be a solid rebounder and help along the inside in the scoring column, but can hit three if asked upon. Jackson maybe their best rebounder and the second tallest of a deep post play unit. Brooklyn Henderson played a number of minutes last year, but should come off the bench again as a three-point specialist.
I expect to see them run the floor, but improvement in defense and consistent offensive execution along the inside are keys to how far they can go.
The Lady Hilltopers have three starters back, but one is still technically on the bench.
Aliyah Whiteside is the main catalyst for now. The key question is when Jada Logan will be available to play after recovering from shoulder surgery. She could be back in January or February. If they get Logan back, what a big boost that would be to this club.
Whiteside can shoot it at guard and can defend the perimeter well. Other than the last of the three ladies to return is Haley White. White should lead them in rebounding and has shown the most improvement so far this season.
Newcomers Jada Wilkins and Maddie Gillie will have to score consistently to help Central break into the win column more often than not, but should also have a supporting cast in rebounding with Nikya Lynch and Molly Martin.
They won't be as deep as they were a year ago, but 15 victories and a playoff berth are still possible.
They have four key players back from a season ago, but they don't have the depth and as many wins among the group.
Makayla Gordon is the leading scorer from a year ago and should keep that role. Brittany Bomer should rebound and find some easy baskets along the inside. Alivia Pruett may be their best three-point shooter. Maddie Hewitt will be leaned on to add points in the scoring column.
They need too: play better defensively, consistently scoring 50 or more a game and lessen the turnovers from a year ago. If those area can improve, the wins will be more-so this year.
As for the Lady Gryphons, Destiny and Dynasty Franklin are the two to watch at Thomas Jefferson. Both guards should lead the charge in scoring and assists, but can they find anybody to rebound and help around them? The twins are in their final tenure with Thomas Jefferson as seniors.
From the beginning of the year to now, what a change of events. New England's defense couldn't stop anybody and they look to be the number 1 seed in the AFC. The Chargers struggled early, but have found a defense recently and look like the team to beat in the AFC West with the Chiefs falling apart. I trust nobody in the AFC South, but like Jacksonville the best since they have a ton of offense talent and a defense that plays well, most weeks. Pittsburgh is also vying for the #1 seed in the AFC and they should considering they have two of the best offensive weapons in football.
In the NFC, take your pick, the Panthers, Falcons and Saints could all make the playoffs (all hold onto spots for now), but the Saints have the edge as they have beaten Carolina twice.
The Vikings look to win the NFC North and need one more win. Green Bay or Detroit need to win out and hope the Vikings lose three more in a row. Minnesota is the better team though in quarterback play and a pretty good defense.
The Rams and Seahawks are both dangerous and I can't even call this one. Rams hold the edge and have a healthier defense at this point. The NFC East belongs to the Eagles, but if Carson Wentz has an ACL injury that would force him out the rest of the season, then the NFC in general is wide open once again. Dallas still has a shot to make the playoffs, but they likely have to win out to make it happen.