Western coach Breezy Bishop and St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton each believe that their respective teams can match up with anyone in the country.
And they're out to prove it.
Western, the defending Class 4A state champion and top-ranked team in the metro area, will play in the highly competitive Altoona Holiday Tournament, where the Doves could meet Altoona, ranked fourth nationally by USA Today and seventh by Street & Smith's.
"Altoona is basketball country," Bishop said. "I've taken good teams there before and never won. But this is one of my better teams, so we'll see what they're made of."
The Doves (No. 14 in USA Today, No. 21 in Street & Smith's), also will play Washington Township, a strong team from New Jersey, twice and the always-tough H.D. Woodson (D.C.).
Locally, Western -- which is led by All-American Chanel Wright, who has signed early with North Carolina -- has two City-Wide 4A League games against No. 4 Lake Clifton as well as a contest against defending Class 2A state champion and second-ranked Hammond in the Fuel Fund Classic on Dec. 17.
"I have eight players who will play college ball next year," Bishop said. "I just want to prepare them for that next step. Since they are so talented, they should be tested."
St. Frances' program has shown rapid growth in its four years, all under Shelton. After going 10-37 in their first two years, the Panthers are 43-11 the past two.
Now, Shelton believes the defending Catholic League Tournament champions are ready for perhaps the area's most ambitious schedule.
Among the opponents on No. 3 St. Frances' schedule are: New York's Christ The King (No. 6 in USA Today, No. 10 in Street & Smith's), Bethesda's Stone Ridge (honorable mention in Street & Smith's), Washington, D.C.'s Elizabeth Seton (which beat Western and Hammond last season), Woodrow Wilson (N.J), Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) and University City (Pa.).
All but one of those games (against Stone Ridge) is on the road.
The Panthers also will play Hammond in the Holly & Hoops Christmas Tournament and defending Class 3A state champion and seventh-ranked Howard in the Fuel Fund Classic.
In league play, St. Frances has two meetings with defending champion and No. 5 St. Mary's.
"We've upgraded our schedule every year, and with the talent level and experience and the depth we have, we thought we would see how our team compares with some more established programs," Shelton said.
With a schedule like that, Shelton said the Panthers may not match last season's 24-3 record. But that really isn't a concern.
"What's the worst thing that can happen? It's a win-win situation," he said. "If we lose by less than 10, we still played well against a top team. If we win, we can say we beat a nationally ranked team."
Needless to say, Western and St. Frances are each favored to win their respective leagues.
Lake Clifton is the only division team that can challenge Western. St. Frances, which lost two of three meetings to St. Mary's last season, again will be tested by the Saints in the Catholic League.
No. 10 Seton Keough appears to have a secure hold on third place in the Catholic League and No. 17 Mount de Sales -- which finished fourth last season after placing last the year before -- is looking to continue its surge.
The unpredictable Institute of Notre Dame is a team to watch in the Catholic League, and Mercy could surprise.
Poly, with three starters returning from last season's team that set a school record for wins (20) and advanced to the region final, is the team to beat in the City-Wide 2A-3A League. Carver and Northwestern pose the two most serious threats to the Engineers.
In Baltimore County, the balance of power lies in the 1A-2A League, where No. 11 Towson, No. 19 Loch Raven and Catonsville all should challenge for first place.
Towson, which finished 20-1 last season and lost to Fallston in the region final, returns four players over 5 feet 9, and hopes to use its height advantage to compensate for the loss of all-county guard Sarah Weaver. If the Generals can find an adequate replacement for Weaver, they'll be tough to beat.
Loch Raven returns four starters from an 18-6 squad and Catonsville has a talented group of juniors and a new coach in Mike Mohler, who helped to turn Seton Keough's program around last season.
It also could be a three-way battle for first in the 3A-4A League, where Randallstown is the slight favorite.
Despite losing most of its offense in leading scorer and rebounder Nyota Mitchell, No. 18 Randallstown returns an athletic cast led by 6-2 Katrina Johns. Woodlawn transfer Anika Lee gives the Rams a solid point guard. New coach Chris Hodge said the Rams will be more team-oriented than in the recent years.
Franklin, which returns four starters, and Dulaney also should be in the hunt.
The Association of Independent Schools A Division lost its brightest star when Sonia Chase graduated from McDonogh and accepted a full scholarship to Maryland, but with her departure comes parity and the return of championship dreams for other teams.
McDonogh, Severn and Notre Dame Prep all have the potential to win the league and Bryn Mawr could be a surprise team.
The AIS B Division also is up for grabs as graduation took its toll on defending tournament champion St. Timothy's and others.