Chris Lykes and Gonzaga knocked off DeMatha in dramatic fashion to win the WCAC title last winter, and both the Eagles and Stags will be in the mix yet again this year. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Top teams

DeMatha (33-4), St. John’s (27-9), Paul VI (20-15), Gonzaga (25-12)

Top players

G Anthony Cowan, St. John’s, 5-11, Sr.

G Markelle Fultz, DeMatha, 6-4, Sr.

G/F D.J. Harvey, DeMatha, 6-6, Jr.

G/F V.J King, Paul VI, 6-7, Sr.

G Chris Lykes, Gonzaga, 5-6, Jr.

Skinny: A year after finishing atop the final Post rankings, DeMatha again starts the season as the area favorite thanks to the return of two of the nation’s top prospects in Fultz and Harvey. Fultz, the reigning WCAC Player of the Year capped a tremendous offseason by committing to Washington and figures to build off last year’s breakout campaign after finetuning his ball handling and jump shot. Harvey’s smooth game and deft ability to get to the bucket gives DeMatha another punch at the wing, and with sharpshooter Nate Darling keeping defenses honest, it appears the nationally ranked Stags have the tools to reverse their fortune in three of the last four WCAC finals and win the title. . . .

The new faces that surrounded Cowan, an All-Met, in the lineup are now bubbling with experience following a campaign in which St. John’s won the DCSAA crown. Known for his quick, explosive drives that produced an average of 20 points per game, Cowan’s improved strength and jump shot will make him even more of a scoring threat. The Maryland recruit won’t have to do it alone, though. Jeffrey Dowtin Jr. is a long-range threat while long-armed Kylia Sykes patrols the glass to make up for the team’s lack of size. . . .

Host Marisa Pilla and Brandon Parker preview high school boys basketball for the 2015-2016 season in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

After spending a good chunk of last season adjusting to the conference’s high-level of play, King is ready to take the reins for a Paul VI team looking to bounce back from an up-and-down year. The Louisville signee’s versatility, length and court vision are why he’s ranked among the country’s best players. Those skills are also sound complements to a talented lineup that includes post stalwart Corey Manigault, floor general Aaron Thompson, emerging guard Brandon Slater and junior transfer Myles Douglas, who holds offers from Maryland and Miami. . . .

While the two leaders from last year’s WCAC title run are gone in Bryant Crawford and Sam Miller, the sparkplug for Gonzaga is back. Electrifying junior guard Chris Lykes plays with a fearless style, using his explosive first step and quick release to infuse energy into his team. Joining him in the backcourt is sophomore Prentiss Hubb, one of the conference’s rising stars after a strong postseason performance yielded an offer from Maryland. Junior wing Eddie Scott and sophomore Myles Dread will be leaned on more in Gonzaga’s efforts to repeat. . . .

With all five starters back from last year’s 20-11 team, McNamara is in the conversation for conference contention. Three of those starters averaged in double figures, with all-conference guard Jamir Moultrie at 17 points, Drexel recruit Sam Green at 11 points and bruising forward Jamar Watson at 12 points, making for a balanced attack. . . . O’Connell is led by Ako Adams, an all-conference guard who can score in bunches. The lefty will share some of the scoring load with Randall Gaskins and six-foot-eight Capitol Christian transfer Nate Watson, who brings another sizable presence for the Knights alongside D’Marco Baucum. . . . Upstart St. Mary’s Ryken graduated its top two scorers, but the one-two punch of sophomore guard Wynston Tabbs and center Deivydas Kuzavas is one to watch. . . . Good Counsel returns four starters, including its leading scorer (Cam Norman) and top rebounder (Tyler Baylor). . . . Carroll hopes to make strides in Tim Fudd’s third year as coach.