The top two teams in Observer Sweet 16 poll will match up when Hopewell and Lake Norman meet Thursday in Mooresville.
Lake Norman head coach Brandon Jolly said that there's a reason why many believe the Titans are the best team in the area.
"I think they're really fundamentally sound and they don't make a lot of mistakes, so they're not going to beat themselves," he said.
Whoever comes out with a victory will have an upper hand in the I-Meck.
"This should be a good matchup - I think their pieces and our pieces match up a lot," Titans head coach Eric Davis said.
Lake Norman moves up from 3A to the new I-Meck conference after a 27-2 season. The Wildcats boast an all-senior starting lineup, including four double-digit scorers, giving them one of the best starting lineups in the I-Meck and in the area.
"I expect them to bring a lot of emotion - they know a lot of these kids a long time playing in AAU together," he said. "I want them to come out and compete."
The center match up between Hopewell's DeMon Brooks and Lake Norman's Paul Larsen could be the difference-maker for these two squads, Jolly said. He added that point guard play between Kevin Canevari and Titans' Earl McLaurin could also be key.
The Titans are unbeaten (through Dec. 10) but they're just getting into the tough part of their season. They played Concord and West Charlotte - both ranked in the Sweet 16 - last week and now face Lake Norman.
Although Davis said he's very familiar with some of the Wildcats' players through AAU, he admitted that he hasn't had a chance to scout the newest member of their conference much.
"I do know that they have a very solid team ," he said.
But so does Hopewell. The Titans return several starters from last season including all-conference forward Jordan Downing.
Davis also said he was excited about Brooks and Larsen going head to head, but the coach said the key to this game will be defensive intensity.
Davis said that playing at Lake Norman's gym will be a challenge.
"Any time you go on the road in our conference is tough."