Favorite: Taft. With no senior starters, Taft is a year away from being one of the best in the City, but the Toreadors can win a weak league behind sophomore Steve Smith. Point guard Mustafa Asghari has improved.
Contenders: Chatsworth. Any team with high-scoring point guard Shayne Berry can't be taken lightly. The league title will come down to Taft-Chatsworth games scheduled for Jan. 17 at Taft and Feb. 2 at Chatsworth.
Longshot: Birmingham. With little size, the Patriots look like a Class B team at times. But center Heig Tatian, from Lebanon, has good offensive skills and freshman Jordan Farmar is a future standout.
Favorite: Sylmar. With a 5-8 record, Sylmar hardly fits the role of overwhelming favorite. Coach Bort Escoto has insisted a tough nonleague schedule will get his team ready for league and beyond. His theory is about to be tested. The Spartans still have the league's most talented team, with guard John Valdez, forward Earnest Williams and center George O'Garro.
Contenders: Monroe. The Vikings surprised Sylmar last season and could do it again because Coach Don Loperena is one of the region's best. Guard Ramall Goodrich is the Vikings' top player.
Longshot: Reseda. Junior Sergei Lepiashinski, a transfer from Belarus, is a scoring machine who could make some coaches uncomfortable.
Favorite: North Hollywood. Winning the Hart tournament shows the Huskies can win without a legitimate point guard. Teams in the league know how to play the Huskies--use a pressure defense. But with 6-5 Kenny Hauser finally fulfilling his potential and Nathan Stern playing well at point guard, the Huskies start out as the team to beat.
Contenders: Canoga Park, Grant. Cecil Brown is averaging more than 30 points a game, making Canoga Park a real threat. Grant was the preseason favorite, but the decision of all-league guard DeWayne Anderson to quit has left the Lancers scrambling to come up with anyone to support 6-6 Mike Charleston and point guard Gino Riney.
Longshot: Poly. The Parrots took third place in the Eagle Rock tournament and have a hustling three-year starter, guard Mike Mgdesyan, who's averaging 16.5 points.