Time to ring out the old and bring in the new in boys basketball. So what if there's still shopping days left until Christmas?
Gone is the Devaney Center as home base of the state tournament. Welcome, Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln's Haymarket. It may take a year for everyone to adjust — the Huskers already notice shooting free throws isn't the same compared to the cozier Devaney — but the new arena's name does fits well as a state-tournament slogan. “We're going to the Pinnacle” has a ring that sounds as good as “We're going to the Devaney.”
Gone will be the Pershing Center, too. I can see all those teary eyes right now. Those games move to Devaney, with two high school gyms still needed for first-round and consolation games.
Gone is Omaha Central's Akoy and the Gang after four state championship years for Eagle big man Akoy Agau. Still around is Division I prospect Tre'Shawn Thurman, so the Eagles aren't expected to cede their reign to preseason No. 1 Omaha Benson, Omaha South or any other Class A team without a fight.
The intrigue in this Eagles team is how their two newcomers — Thurman's club teammates Jarek Coles (Millard South) and Rashad McCoy (Omaha Burke) — mesh with those bench players who have been waiting for their turn to play.
Gone from Class B is South Sioux City, which was state champion three of the past four years. The Cardinals move up to Class A, perhaps for longer than a one-year stay, but have a largely new cast. They replace Lincoln Pius X, which returns to Class B after an one-year absence.
Gone to college are all five players from last year's All-Metro and All-Nebraska teams — Agau (Louisville), Tra-Deon Hollins of Central (Central Community College), Brett Daugherty of Papillion-La Vista (Northwest Missouri State), Connor Lusso of Millard West (Truman State) and Cam Williams of Omaha South (North Platte Community College).
Gone to Hastings College are a couple of longtime high school coaches, new Bronco head coach Bill Gavers from Grand Island Central Catholic and assistant Chip Bahe from Millard North. While GICC promoted Tino Martinez as Gavers' replacement, Millard North hired Omaha Bryan's Tim Cannon after he took early retirement from the Omaha schools.
New coaches also include Jared Andersen at Omaha North, Terrence O'Donnell at Bryan, Dan Moore at Papillion-La Vista, Roger Trennepohl at Alliance, Kyle Jurgens at Omaha Skutt and Jason Jackson at Ralston. Moore follows ex-player Jason Ryan, who's now Papio's athletic director. Jurgens replaced Jon Burt, now with the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben. Jackson takes over for Bill Heard, who left for Gretna to be an assistant coach for college roommate Brad Feeken.
New, too, is the 40-point rule. In the second half of blowout games, the clock keeps running with few exceptions while the lead is 40 points or more.
In the preseason ratings, Benson, Central and South are regarded as ahead of the pack in Class A. Bellevue West and Omaha Westside are the best bets to break up that OPS trio in the postseason.
There are no iron-clad locks in the other classes. Elkhorn South and Gretna, which meet Friday night at Gretna to open their seasons, are the co-favorites in Class B.
Boone Central/Newman Grove, which came up a game short of the state finals in football, will try to follow last year's runner-up finish in Class C-1 with a state title. Fremont Bergan in C-2 and defending champions Howells-Dodge in D-1 and Wynot in D-2 also start atop the ratings.
Before the state tournament, the noteworthy events include the Metro Conference tournament Dec. 28 to Jan. 3 — the semifinals and finals return to Civic Auditorium — and the Feb. 15 Heartland Hoops Classic in Grand Island with Central meeting Denver East in the marquee game.