Both Stamford and Trinity Catholic qualified for the FCIAC playoffs last season and both have designs on a return trip.
On the other hand, Westhill struggled all season, finishing near the bottom of the FCIAC standings after years of sustained success.
The Vikings bring back several players from that team and will be looking to move back to relevancy, qualify for the state tournament and maybe even push for a league playoff spot.
This boys basketball season is the first in 40 years to begin without Mike Walsh at the helm of Trinity but the Crusaders should still be a force to be reckoned with.
Stamford comes into the season as one of the preseason favorites in the FCIAC with a boatload of talented players back on the floor.
If the Black Knights are going to reach the FCIAC championship, it will be the guards who lead them there.
Stamford is stacked with ballhandlers who can also score and despite lacking size, will give most teams fits all season.
Josh Thervil, Jaden Bell, Tyhiem Burgess, Jay Jaudon and Jalen Lindsey are among the players fitting the bill for Stamford of players who can handle the ball, get to the basket off the dribble and score from the outside.
They will be joined at midseason by Trinity transfer Rasheed Constant who must sit out 10 games per CIAC transfer rules.
“We have a lot of talent at guard. If we can learn to play the right way, play defense, we can compete but we have to work on those things,” Stamford coach Zach Smith said. “We are undersized. Our bigs are bigger than last year but not as aggressive. Hopefully as they get more experience and varsity seasoning, they should be contributing pretty well by the end of the year.”
The Brian Kriftcher era begins as he takes over as head coach for Walsh, though Walsh is still involved as the assistant coach.
The Crusaders lost a ton in graduation but have a lot of talented players waiting in the wings.
Akim Joseph and Ras Fisher (both 6-foot-5) saw time off the bench last season and could be two of the most improved players in the league this season.
They will be in the lineup along with Xavier Riullano, Anthony Anderson, Matt Hennessey and host of other players vying for playing time.
Unlike Walsh who used a short rotation the last few seasons, Kriftcher is planning on having a deeper bench in play.
“We are going to look to run, defend hard and spread it out when we have to,” Kriftcher said. “We have the talent to compete with anybody. We have depth and we want to play 10 guys. The key will be keeping (Joseph and Fisher) out of foul trouble. We will see how good we can be.”
The Vikings clearly struggled last season, winning only three games though they lost several close contests along the way.
This season, it will be all about winning those close games and bringing the program back into league relevancy.
There are returning starters with the talent to make difference in the FCIAC and push Westhill, at least, back into the state playoffs.
Junior Jack Schlachtenhaufen and senior Eli Stockman both started and could help carry the Vikings as they try to climb out of the cellar.
Anthony Scott and Wilmer Guevara will be among those joining the top two along with several other seniors and juniors looking to play important minutes.
“The guys have gotten better, been working on their game. As long as we can mix some of these pieces together, we should be alright,” Westhill assistant coach Roberto Nieves said. “(Stockman and Schlachtenhaufen) played their butts off last year and it made them better. They are both leaders, they are vocal and they strive to be better and I think they are hungry. They are tired of the 3-17 season.”