YAOUNDE (AfroBasket Women 2015) - AfroBasket Women 2015 is finally upon on us, and 12 national teams - divided into Groups A and B - representing all corners of the African continent will battle from 24 September to 3 October in Yaounde, Cameroon.
The teams not only will compete to be crowned continental champions, but also to clinch the only direct qualifying berth on offer for African teams for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
By far the least competitive of the two groups, Group A is comprised of one former African champion (Mali), a title contender (hosts Cameroon), it also includes a team that recorded the highest climb in African basketball in recent years (Mozambique), as well as South Africa, Gabon and Uganda.
MALI (12 wins-4 losses in the last two AfroBasket Women)
FIBA Ranking - 2nd in Africa; 19th in the World
Mali, the second highest ranked team in Africa, emerge not only as the group favourites, but also as potential AfroBasket Women 2015 finalists.
Having won the latest edition of the All-Africa Games last week in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, the Malians made a major statement of their intentions in Yaounde.
Despite heading to the tournament without some of their influential performers - including Djenebou Sissoko, Djene Diawara and Astan Dabo - the winners of AfroBasket Women 2007 remain one of - if not - the most athletic team in the tournament.
While Naignouma Coulibaly - a 1.91m centre who last played for Diosgyory VTK in the Hungarian Championship remains a dominant force in the paint area, Meiya Tirera provides precious defense support for Amare Traore's team.
At AfroBasket Women 2013, Mali started off with three wins in a row, but Diawara suffered a knee injury in a Group Phase game against Nigeria and they were never the same again as the 1.92m centre sat out the remainder of the tournament.
If they remain injury-free, this Mali team has what it takes to beat anyone else in the tournament.
However, it remains to be seen how Mali deal with the home crowd support when they face Cameroon on Day 2.
CAMEROON - (8 win-8 losses in the last two AfroBasket Women)
FIBA Ranking - 6th in Africa; 47th in the world
Cameroon, who fell short to Angola in the Quarter-Finals of the All-Africa Games last week, are on a mission to make history.
It will be the first time that Alain Zedong's team hosts a tournament of such magnitude and there is only one goal in mind - to win the tournament.
Needless to say that both Mali and Cameroon are clearly the strongest contenders in the group.
Zedong has blended veterans and young players in a bid to improve on the Cameroonians' fourth-place finish accomplished two years ago in Maputo, Mozambique.
At the time, Cameroon showed immense competitiveness and talent.
At some point in the competition, they got really close to spoiling the host nation's campaign, but a succession of turnovers at key moments of the Semi-Final destroyed their aspirations of reaching the Final and secure direct qualification for the 2014 FIBA Women's World Championship.
Team captain Amina Njonkou, Priscilla Mbiandja, Ramses Lonlack and Nicole Jamen have played at least two AfroBasket Women together, and remain the backbone of the team.
However, as Jamen said to FIBA.com: "There won't be a Rio [Olympic Games] tournament without victory in Yaounde. So my focus is to first take care of business at AfroBasket [Women]."
MOZAMBIQUE (13 wins-3 losses in the last two AfroBasket Women)
FIBA Ranking - 4th in Africa; 27th in the World
One of the biggest question marks in the tournament concerns Mozambique's rebuilding process.
In recent years, a lot had been said about the need to inject fresh blood into the team.
That moment has come, but perhaps, few expected the rebuilding to come this early as six influential players - including Leia Dongue, one of the best players on the African continent - are set to sit out the tournament.
Although Nazir Sale's team has some talent and experienced players such as Deolinda Ngulela and Deolinda Gimo, they are likely to face tough adversity coming up against Mali and Cameroon.
At first glance, the third spot in Group A seems to be Mozambique's.
SOUTH AFRICA (2 wins-5 losses at AfroBasket Women 2009)
FIBA Ranking: 17th in Africa; 70th in the World
Considering that the top four teams from each group advance to the Final Phase, Gabon, South Africa and Uganda should compete to reach the Last Eight for the very first time in their basketball histories.
Neither Gabon, nor Uganda have featured in the tournament in more than a decade, so this year's showdown marks their return to FIBA Africa's top Women's tournament.
Although South Africa emerge as the highest ranked team among the three, they should not overlook the "Gazelles" from Uganda - the only East Africa team - who won FIBA Africa Zone 5 over Egypt and Kenya.