Mike Fields' 16-point primer to kick off the Greatest Show in Hoops

Herald-Leader staff writerMarch 18, 2014 

Sweet 16 Opens in Rupp Arena

2009 file photo of McCracken County and Covington Catholic fans raising their hands during a free throw at the Sweet 16 Tournament in Rupp Arena.

DAVID PERRY

Our long, cold, dark, snowy trek through high school basketball's winter season has led us to the 97th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen. There'll be plenty of electricity generated by players, coaches and fans under the bright lights of Rupp Arena over the next five days. To get you warmed up for the Greatest Show in Hoops, my annual 16-point primer on the tournament.

1. Peyton Woods of Wayne County and Trent Gilbert of Scott County each have made more three-pointers this season than Bowling Green has as a team. Woods has hit 124 of 298 threes; Gilbert 115 of 287. Bowling Green has made 109 of 360 threes.

2. The salivary glands of the recruiting analysts dry up when they don't see any five-star players in Rupp Arena they can drool over.

3. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray issues a gag order on Billy Hicks after he hears the Scott County coach's opinion on reinventing Rupp Arena: "It's already the No. 1 basketball facility in the United States," Hicks said. "Louisville has that big shiny (Yum Center), but it doesn't have the tradition or history of Rupp Arena. It's crazy to talk about spending $300 million on Rupp. That money should be spent on schools and a bunch of other more important things. There's nothing wrong with Rupp Arena the way it is."

4. Rick Chasteen of Cynthiana, who refereed in his first boys' Sweet Sixteen in 1988, is ready to blow the whistle in the state tournament for the fourth decade in a row. No, he doesn't remember when there were peach baskets.

5. Kentucky Coach John Calipari tweets that he's selling his "Tweak of the Week" to Sweet Sixteen coaches for a nominal fee of $500.

6. Fear the beard of Clay County's Trey Farmer. He makes those Duck Dynasty guys look like prepubescent middle-schoolers.

7. For the first time, the Sweet Sixteen features three coaches with more than 800 victories apiece: Scott County's Billy Hicks (861), PRP's Dale Mabrey (840) and Wayne County's Rodney Woods (801, counting wins in Tennessee). And not an ulcer among them.

8. The creative antics by the Covington Catholic and McCracken County student cheering sections make UK's E-Rupp-tion Zone look lame.

9. When Nacarius Fant and Blue Tisdale say they're "livin' the dream," they really are. They helped Bowling Green to three consecutive undefeated state football titles, and now they're in the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in three years. (Fant is Mr. Football, too.)

10. Two years ago, Trinity became the first school to win state football and basketball titles in the same school year. Bowling Green and Scott County have a chance to repeat the feat.

11. Knott Central junior star Camron Justice, who decommitted from Tennessee in early February, finds a crate of oranges from Vols Coach Cuonzo Martin in his Rupp Arena locker room.

12. Mitch McConnell, Alison Lundergan Grimes and Matt Bevin, looking to bolster their U.S. Senate campaigns, get into a shoving match Sunday afternoon when they try to take a selfie with the celebrating state champs.

13. If you're a Kentucky high school hoops junkie, Jeff Bridgeman's Kentucky High School Basketball Encyclopedia is your ultimate fix. Bridgeman will be in the Lexington Center this week selling his 630-page hard-bound reference book.

14. Hopkinsville's 30-2 record includes a 27-0 mark against Kentucky opponents. The last boys' team to go unbeaten against in-state competition was Scott County in 2007. Those state champion Cardinals were 34-2 overall, and 30-0 against Kentucky foes.

15. In the past 50 years, only three regions haven't produced a boys' Sweet Sixteen champion. It's up to McCracken County (1st Region), Knott Central (14th) and Fleming County (16th) to end one of those title droughts.

16. Pope Francis announces that if Trinity and Covington Catholic play for the championship Sunday afternoon, he'll be watching from the Vatican via the KHSAA's livestream.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Email: mfields@herald-leader.comTwitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.

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