By Steve Pimper
The cheers from the state football finals have barely faded and yet the basketball preseason tips off across Utah this week with more than 100 teams hitting the hardwood.
A full schedule of non-league games and numerous tourneys highlight the opening week and coaches from every Region have voted for the squads they see as the favorites in the state's five classifications.
If the coaches are on target with their early season prognostications the pigskin kingpins of Bingham and Duchesne will add more hardware to their trophy cases in March as the champions of court, as well.
Leading the 5A rankings are the defending state basketball champion Bingham Miners. Mark Dubach's club returns lettermen at every position led by football all-state selection Jordan Pendleton. Joining Pendleton will be Tyler Strong and Austin Holt with a deep bench and group of very talented and experienced players.
The team seen with the best chance of dethroning the Miners is Jay Welk's Davis Darts. The Darts return Brady Hurst and Nick Martineau from a team that went 21-3 in 2005-2006 and lost to Bingham in the semifinals last March.
Third in the preseason rankings are coach Tony Cannon's Alta Hawks squad with sharp-shooting guard Taylor Brown. Rounding out the top five are the Lone Peak Knights and state runner-up Riverton with University of Utah signee, Morgan Grim.
Moving to the 4A classification, the Provo Bulldogs of coach Craig Drury top the preseason rankings thanks to BYU-bound, 6-7 post Chris Collinsworth.
Not far behind is Mike Maxwell's Bountiful Braves squad with 6-10 Ben Aird. Aird has been starting since his freshman year, and while only beginning his junior year for the Braves, will be among the most coveted players in the state when early signing time rolls around for schools across the nation.
Rounding out the top five in 4A are Perry Wildeboer's Timpview Thunderbirds, Matt Barnes' always tough Olympus Titans, and the Payson Lions under coach Dan Lunt.
Topping the rankings in 3A are the defending state champion Judge Memorial Bulldogs of coach Jim Yerkovich. The Bulldogs have to overcome the challenge of replacing Daniel Deane, who now plays for the University of Utah, but don't sell this group of Bulldogs short despite the loss of Deane.
Runner-up spot in the first 3A poll goes to the Logan Grizzlies, who have one of the most exciting players in the entire state in senior guard Charles Abouo.
Following the Bulldogs and Grizzlies are Dixie, Bear River and Snow Canyon.
In 2A the North Summit Braves return all five starters and that has all the other squads scrambling in hopes of chasing down the talented squad of Coach Jerre Holmes.
Cross county rival, South Summit, however, nabbed the preseason runner-up spot which positions the two teams from Region 14 to wage a battle for the league title as well as the state bragging rights.
The Kanab Cowboys were ranked No. 3 while South Sevier and Manti round out the top teams in 2A.
Finally, among the smallest schools in the Beehive State this year's undefeated football state champion Duchesne Eagles lead the parade at the No. 1 spot while Layton Christian comes in at No. 2.
The Piute Thunderbirds, Escalante Moquis, and Tabiona Tigers grabbed the final three spots in the 1A preseason rankings.