Grand Forks Red River last won a game at the Class A boys basketball state tournament in 1988 and has qualified just twice since. The Roughriders have a chance to end that drought this year.
The Roughriders, who were tabbed as the conference favorites in the Tribune's East Region coaches' poll, have a couple of key building blocks in Mack Arvidson and Mac Kroeplin.
Arvidson, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, was a second-team all-stater last season for Red River (13-9), averaging 18.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
"Arvidson is a strong scorer from anywhere on the court," Red River coach Jason Gregory said. "He will post up or shoot the 3."
Also returning in the backcourt is Kroeplin, a 6-2 junior. Kroeplin, an all-region pick, contributed 16.2 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds a year ago.
Fargo Davies is in just its second season as a varsity program and went 5-17 in 2010-11, but the Eagles already are expected to be contenders in the East.
Davies has a strong core of veterans back, led by point guard Andrew Kozlowski. An all-region pick last season, Kozlowski scored 14.8 points per game and dished out 4.7. assists.
"He is a complete player," coach Bart Manson said.
Brady Jordahl who averaged 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks last season, is an athletic presence in the post.
Mark Potter knocked down 48 3-pointers.
"Jordahl is a very athletic big guy," Manson said. "He handles the ball extremely well."
Fargo North went 18-7 and placed third at state, but the Spartans have just two returning starters. Brady Syverson and point guard Anthony Schnabel. Syverson, an excellent perimeter shooter, hit 50 3-pointers en route to a 12.2 scoring average.
"We have a good nucleus of seniors and younger players that work extremley hard," North coach Dan Shultis said. "It will take some time to adjust to new players and new roles that players are going to be expected to play, but overall I think we will be very competitive. "
Fargo Shanley has just one starter back from a year ago - when the Deacons won 20 games, along with the East Region regular-season and tournament titles - but he's a good one. A.J. Jacobson was a second-team all-state pick last season as a sophomore. The 6-5 guard averaged 18 points and seven rebounds per game.
Shanley's other returnee with significant varsity experience is Patrick Strom. The 6-1 guard scored 10 points per game last season.
Unlike Shanley, Wahpeton has plenty of varsity experience. The Huskies (9-14) are led by captain Jeremy Bontjes. A senior guard, Bontjes (15 ppg) was an all-region selection.
"He is our ballhandler, best penetrator and he can shoot it from the 3-point line," coach Jeff Ralph said.
The Huskies also return their top 3-point shooter (Carson Miller), top rebounder (Zayne Medhaug), and Jack Christensen, who started 19 games as a freshman. Justin Manning, a 6-5 center, is healthy after missing most of last season with a back injury.
Fargo South (13-11) will have a different look, but is hoping its backcourt can help the Bruins compete. Landon Poss (8 ppg) will be counted on for his outside shooting, point guard Paxton Lloyd for his quickness and Todd Nicklaus for his hard work.
West Fargo is rebuilding after losing most of the firepower from last year's 15-9 squad. The Packers do have a veteran at point guard, where Kory Wolden has two years of experience.
Grand Forks Central (4-16) coach Dan Carlson says guard play will be the key for the Knights, especially Sean Norton. He was Central's leading scorer, connecting for 15.1 per game.
"He is a good offensive player that has improved defensively, Carlson said.
David Olson, a 6-5 junior, will be a key inside presence.
"I expect we will need to gain some varsity experience, but if we can get better defensively and work together on offense we will be able to compete in the EDC," Carlson said.
Nathan Mertens will be the go-to guy for Devils Lake (3-17) under new coach Derek Gathman. Mertens contributed 17.3 points and 4.2 assists.
"He's a playmaker and scorer, just a great competitor and will make his teammates better," Gathman said.
Valley City went 11-10 a season ago, its best season in eight years, but lost a key group of seniors.