As the calendar changes from 2010 to 2011, every conference race in the state will start to take shape.
When North Mecklenburg visits Vance Friday night, the battle for the I-Meck crown gets a little more clarity as both the Vikings and Cougars fight to stay in second place behind unbeaten conference favorite West Charlotte.
North Meck (9-1, 2-1) enters the contest with their only loss coming at the hands of the Lions. The Vikings have been one of the early-season surprises, getting off to a hot start despite losing forwards Bernard Sullivan and Phillip Anglade to Davidson Day.
Senior guard Carlin Bremmer has moved from the point to the shooting guard and been exceptional, averaging nearly 21 points per game to lead his Vikings.
Vance is also a bit of a surprise, starting (7-3, 2-1) after losing its best three players in Marquis Rankin (Hargrave Military), Braxton Ogbueze (United Faith Christian) and Charles Robinson (graduation).
Versatile senior forwards Jawuan Springs (13 ppg, 7 rpg) and Kenyan Harper (12 ppg, 7 rpg) have led a team with enough experience to contend for a conference title.
North Meck's strength is on the perimeter, while Vance's best offensive weapons are inside. Which team finds their top options the most will likely come out on top in this I-Meck battle that is sure to go down to the wire.
North Meck (9-1, 2-1)
After establishing themselves as one of the top teams in the Charlotte area for most of the last decade under coach Duane Lewis, North Meck struggled last season going 12-10 with a talented team.
This season, after losing a good bit of that talent, the Vikings are overachieving with Bremmer leading the pack.
Junior point guard Shavaughn Wiggins, a Lake Norman Charter transfer, is fitting in nicely, averaging 10 points and seven assists per contest, while senior forward Jermaine Forte has been solid inside.
The rest of the Viking team has filled roles nicely with Karl Barkley and Kenny Tucker serving as shooters off the bench, while sophomore Tahjai Watt and Rashaun Sifford are improving on the interior, where the Vikings do lack overall size and bulk.
North Meck plays hard every minute of every game and has the talent to play with Vance. This game could likely come down to who makes the most plays in the final minutes.
Vance (7-3, 2-1)
Like North Meck, Vance has made huge strides early this season, despite losing a wealth of talent from their 2009 squad, which was one of the state's best for most of the season.
The Cougars and coach Will Robinson have shifted the focus of their offense from the perimeter to the interior, where Springs and Harper are match-up nightmares at 6-foot-6, each.
Cat-quick but small point guards Ivan Lowe and Kyle Bullock form a nice duo that looks to get the ball inside and into the hands of shooter Eric Lusha's hands as much as possible.
Lusha (7.8 ppg) can light it when he is on, but he has been streaky.
North Meck and Vance have both started strong this season, despite moderate expectations. Now, it's time to show who is a real contender and who is a pretender in the first rotation of I-Meck play.