Team to beat
Apollo-Ridge: After going just 5-5 in section play last season, the Vikings made a shocking run to the WPIAL semifinals behind all-section guard Tre Tipton (10.3 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists per game). Although Tipton returns for his junior season, the Vikings must replace three starters.
Ford City: The Sabers won just two section games last season, but have four starters returning, including senior guard Jesse Sequeira (15 ppg) and 6-foot-6 sophomore center Brandon Heilman (7 ppg, 6 rpg).
Burrell: New coach Shawn Bennis takes over a Bucs' team that won 19 games and reached the WPIAL Class AA championship game, but must replace nine seniors.
Deer Lakes: The Lancers tied Burrell for the section title last season, but all five starters, including all-section selections Tim Jaczesko (22.5 ppg) and J.J. Kowalkowski (12 ppg), graduated.
West Shamokin: The Wolves will lean more on senior guard Zane Clowser (8 ppg) with the graduation of all-section guard Anthony Rocco (19.2 ppg).
Summit Academy: Former Kiski Area standout Adam Petrosky takes over the coaching reins from Art McCray after the Knights went 5-16 last season.
Team to beat
Beaver Falls: The Tigers are the defending Class AA state champions and the two-time defending WPIAL champions. Returning senior starters Elijah Cottrill (16.3 ppg), an Akron football recruit and Post-Gazette Fab 5 member last season, and Dan Stratton make the Tigers the WPIAL favorites again.
Neshannock: Seniors Ernie Burkes (21.1 ppg), Matt McKinney and Tyler Haswell return from last season's playoff team.
New Brighton: The Lions improved from six wins in 2011-12 to 13 victories last season and return leading scorers Craig Thompson (14 ppg) and Chris Pipkin (14 ppg).
Riverside: The Panthers, a playoff team in 2012-13, will be inexperienced after losing all-section forwards Tyler Falk (15.5 ppg) and Gig Jewell (13.8 ppg) and their assist leader, Brent Molneix.
Aliquippa: New coach Nick Lackovich inherits a playoff team from a year ago that will be led by junior Patrick Anderson.
Mohawk: Senior forward Jonathan Grim (8 ppg) will try to replace the scoring lost by the graduation of his older brother, point guard Lucas Grim (12 ppg).
Shenango: The Wildcats will look to junior forward Brenton Booher (10 ppg, 10 rpg) to help them improve on their three section wins from a season ago.
Laurel: The Spartans have won just one section game over the past two seasons.
Team to beat
Greensburg Central Catholic: The Centurions have won or shared the section title each of the past four seasons. The squad returns all-section guard Brian Graytok (21.2 ppg) and 6-foot-8 center Collin Bisignani and welcomes Bishop McCort transfer Billy Hipp.
Jeannette: Junior point guard Julian Batts (15.1 ppg, 8 apg), the coach's son and a three-year starter, and senior forward Miles Sunder (9.9 ppg) return from last season's 18-win team.
Serra Catholic: Double-digit scorers Joe Satira, Tyler Grebur and Max Kaminsky return in the backcourt, but the Eagles must fill a big void in the middle with 6-10 junior George Prota transferring to Elizabeth Forward.
South Allegheny: All-section senior guard Kordell Thompson (15.3 ppg) is one of four starters back for the Gladiators, who haven't made the playoffs since 2003.
Shady Side Academy: David Vadnais takes over as the head coach of a program that has qualified for the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons.
Riverview: The Raiders will look to improve on last season's five wins with the return of its starting backcourt of Jason Anthony, Nick DiBucci and Zach Lesnick.
Springdale: Matt Matisko is the lone starter returning from last season's four-win squad.
Team to beat
Seton-LaSalle: The Rebels return all-section performers in senior point guard Dale Clancy (13.6 ppg) and senior swingman Levi Masua (11.5 ppg), as well as senior forward Malik White, from last season's WPIAL quarterfinalist.
Washington: The Little Prexies will look to Dupree Jenkins and Quorteze Levy to fill the void of losing the section's top scorer, Josh Wise (22 ppg), from their 17-win team.
Bishop Canevin: The Crusaders made it to the WPIAL second round for the third time in four years in 2012-13, but Jake Seligman (16 ppg) and Mike Tambellini (9 ppg, 11 rpg) graduated.
Brentwood: The Spartans advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals last season, but must replace all-section guard Jason Pilarski (19.4 ppg).
Burgettstown: The Blue Devils, who have missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons, lost their top two scorers in Ryan Glover (10 ppg) and Josh Mack (12.6 ppg).
Chartiers-Houston: After winning eight games in its first season in Class AA, the Buccaneers will look to improve with the return of junior guard Alec Ferrari (13 ppg).
Fort Cherry: Rob Baier replaces D.J. Gambridge as head coach after the Rangers won just one section game last season. Zac Dysert (13.3 ppg) will lead the offense.
Team to beat
Charleroi: All-section guard Matt Indorante (14.8 ppg) moves from shooting guard to point guard this season for a Cougars team that won 14 games in 2012-13 and will start five seniors.
Brownsville: Seniors Cole and Ryan Novotney return from last season's 16-win team.
Jefferson-Morgan: After making the playoffs in their first year in Class AA, the Rockets will try to get back behind the play of junior forward Rece Henneman (16 ppg).
California: In their first season in Section 5, the Trojans won the title with a 13-1 record. But they must replace all-section guards Tanner Huffman (22.8 ppg) and Brian Fisher (18.5 ppg).
Beth-Center: Entering last season on a 25-game section losing streak, the Bulldogs won six league games in the 2012-13 season and return senior guard Adam Walters (11.6 ppg) and senior forward Dean Holt (9 ppg, 9 rpg).
Bentworth: The Bearcats return two starters from last season's seven-win squad, including senior guard Mike Clark (11 ppg).
Frazier: Leading scorer and rebounder Charlie Manack (14 ppg, 12 rpg) is back from last season's six-win team.
West Greene: The Pioneers have won a total of just three games over the past four seasons.
Team to beat
Quaker Valley: The Quakers return four starters and eight letter-winners from last season's WPIAL semifinalist. Senior guard Qadir Taylor (8.7 ppg) and junior forward Chris Conlan (8.6 ppg) are the leading returning scorers.
Sto-Rox: The defending section champion Vikings return a strong 1-2 combination in senior guard Lenny Williams (12.4 ppg, 8 rpg) and senior forward Malik Allen (10.2 ppg, 14 rpg) and welcome a new coach, Jordan Marks.
Avonworth: Senior forward Eric Gallupe (10.9 ppg, 11.4 rpg) will try to lead the Antelopes back to the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Northgate: Senior guard Taymon Russell (13.7 ppg) is the leading returning scorer for a Flames team that has made the postseason each of the past three seasons.
South Side Beaver: The Rams lost their top two scorers from last season's team that went 5-7 in section play, but they return top distributor Nolan Lamont (5 assists per game).
Carlynton: Mason Follmer is the top returning scorer from a Cougars' team that improved by five wins from 2011-12 to 2012-13.
Freedom: The Bulldogs have won a total of three games in the past two seasons.
Team (Last season)
1. Beaver Falls 28-3
2. Seton-LaSalle 21-3
3. Greensburg C.C. 23-3
4. Neshannock 17-6
5. Quaker Valley 20-6
Players to Watch
Malik Allen, Sto-Rox, 6-6, Jr., Forward
Julian Batts, Jeannette, 5-11, Jr., Guard
Ernie Burkes, Neshannock, 5-10, Sr., Guard
Dale Clancy, Seton-LaSalle, 5-8, Sr., Guard
Chris Conlan, Quaker Valley, 6-4, Soph. Forward
Elijah Cottrill, Beaver Falls, 6-3, Sr., Guard
Brian Graytok, Greensburg Central Catholic, 6-1, Sr., Guard
Matt Indorante, Charleroi, 5-11, Sr. Guard
Levi Masua, Seton-LaSalle, 6-5, Jr., Guard-forward
Jesse Sequeira, Ford City, 5-10, Jr., Guard
Danny Stratton, Beaver Falls, 6-2, Jr., Guard
Kordell Thompson, South Allegheny, 6-0, Sr, Guard
Craig Thompson, New Brighton, 5-9, Sr., Guard
Tre Tipton, Apollo-Ridge, 6-1, Jr., Guard
Lenny Williams, Sto-Rox, 5-11, Sr., Guard