The journey through the balanced Tri-Valley League this season could be as entertaining as ever.
Bishop Diego is the early favorite to win its second consecutive league title, but the league's six teams are expected to have their say before the final jump shot is airborne.
Fillmore, especially, has looked strong in the early going.
"Bishop Diego is a little better than the rest of us, but several teams are right on their heels," Fillmore Coach Jim Fauver said. "It's going to be one of those years where you can be 0-10, 5-5, or 10-0."
Fauver, who came out of coaching retirement last year and gave the Flashes a commitment only through this season, hopes his team sports the latter record. Thus far, Fillmore is a surprising 6-1, losing only in the final of its own tournament to Nordhoff.
"We've been playing pretty well, and I think it's a little surprising," Fauver said.
The Flashes, who have only three players taller than 6-foot, were supposed to be too small to be a factor in the league race. Fauver isn't comfortable with 5-10 players starting at the forward positions, but the Flashes have responded.
"Fillmore has become a contender," St. Bonaventure Coach Marc Groff said.
Rick Aguilar, a 5-10 senior forward, has scored 30 or more points twice and Pokey Sanchez is contributing double-figure scoring. Mike Richardson, Fillmore's only big man at 6-6, is handling the middle in place of injured 6-1 senior Mike Thompson.
Thompson is expected to return from an early-season ankle injury this week, which relieves some of the rebounding woes on a team that still doesn't have a consistent starting lineup.
St. Bonaventure has five returning letterman from a team that was 15-9 and lost to eventual-state champion Santa Clara in the Southern Section 2-A Division playoffs.
Groff hopes his team's traditionally strong defense carries the Seraphs into the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
So far, the Seraphs appear to be on their way. Their defense is holding teams to 45 points a game their balanced offensive attack is led by guards Kevin Zoll (11 points a game) and Marvin Sagles (12). Frank Huber, a 6-5 junior, has grabbed 10 rebounds a game.
Although Groff isn't pleased with his team's field-goal shooting, the aggressive Seraph defense and deliberate offense has led them to a 3-2 record.
"I'm real pleased with the defense," Groff said. "But we have to start shooting the ball better."
Groff hopes the basketball begins to find the bottom of the net soon, or the Seraphs won't be able to keep up with the remaining talent in the league.
Bishop Diego has six letterman returning from last year's 18-6 team and is led by Dan Wolf, a 6-3 forward who as an all-league selection as a sophomore last year.
Moorpark, which is 18-63 the past four years, is off to a 5-5 start and is perhaps the most improved team in the league. Six Musketeers are averaging 10 points or more a game.
"This year we've already made some great strides," first-year Moorpark Coach Tim Bednar said. "I think we have a legitimate shot at finishing among the top three."
Carpinteria lost eight players from last year's 11-14 team, including the league's Player of the Year in Jeff Meister, but is expected to compete for a playoff berth.
Oak Park, which was 8-16 last year, is led by 6-6 center Ben Feick. Feick averaged 10 points and eight rebounds a game last year.