Eastern Coach Jason Couch should plug his ears. He probably doesn't want to hear how big a favorite his No. 1 Eagles are going into the PNC/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena.
"I don't see Eastern getting beat," said Bullitt East Coach Troy Barr, whose team lost twice to the Eagles this season. "They're senior-laden; they got all that talent; they've got one of the best coaches in the state; their kids are playing well at the right time, and they've come out of the toughest region in the state.
"They're like a Division I college team out there."
Warren Central Coach Tim Riley, whose Dragons face Eastern in Wednesday's opening round, has the same take.
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"They've got four Division I players. They've got length, size and athleticism, and they survived the 7th Region.
"I think Eastern is one of the best teams that's walked into the state tournament in a long time."
Clark County Coach Scott Humphrey sizes up the Eagles this way: "With the talent they've got, if they shoot the ball well, they're going to roll. It's as simple as that."
And this from Christian County Coach Kerry Stovall: "In post-season play, strong defense and strong rebounding are the biggest keys, and nobody does both as well as Eastern."
Couch appreciates why everybody has a high opinion of his team. Eastern is 31-2 and survived a 7th Region that included powers Ballard, Jeffersontown and Trinity.
"As coaches, we always try to shy away from pressure," Couch said. "But if you look at the facts, we're a really good team with really good players and we played an extremely tough schedule.
"But so much can happen in the state tournament. It's comparable to the first and second rounds of the NCAA. Weird things can happen."
Eastern's lineup includes four Division I players: 6-foot-4 Remy Abell (Bradley), 6-6 Lyonell Gaines (IUPUI), 6-9 Kameron Woods (Butler) and 6-4 Arman Marks (James Madison).
But the Eagles face a difficult road to Saturday night's finals. Six of the top seven rated teams in the field are in the upper bracket with them.
In its opener Eastern plays Warren Central, which features WKU signee George Fant and IUPUI signee Jordan Shanklin. If the Eagles win, their next opponent will likely be Clark County, which has Vinny Zollo (WKU) and Robbie Stenzel (EKU).
Also in the upper bracket are Christian County, Lexington Catholic and Dixie Heights.
Christian County is here for the third year in a row and has proven stars in Anthony Hickey, Donovan Kates and Veontae Lewis.
Lexington Catholic's Taylor Martin and Scott Schuette started in the Sweet Sixteen two years ago.
Dixie Heights (29-3) has one of the best records in the state, and maybe the best freshman in Brandon Hatton.
"Whoever comes out of the upper bracket will be breathing hard," Stovall said. "They'll have three difficult games just to get the opportunity to play Saturday night.
"So if somebody other than Eastern is there, I don't think anybody should be shocked."
Bullitt East is a clear favorite in the bottom bracket, in a spot similar to Shelby Valley's last year.
In the upper bracket last March, Ballard had to fight its way through tough games against Shelby County, Warren Central and Scott County to make it to the finals where it lost to Shelby Valley.
"Ballard had to get through a gauntlet," Riley said. "That's what everybody is facing in the upper bracket again this year."
Perry County Central Coach Allan Hatcher, who has a team in the Sweet Sixteen for the 11th time, knows how unpredictable this week can be.
"You never know what's going to happen. That's why they call it the greatest show on earth," he said.
Lexington Catholic Coach Brandon Salsman agreed that Eastern is an undisputed No. 1, but that's not a free pass to the title.
"I'm sure Jason Couch is having as many sleepless nights as the rest of us," Salsman said. "They've got to get by a lot of very good teams.
"I've always said Rupp Arena is a magical place, and magical things always seem to happen there. That's why we play the games, and why all those people come out to watch."
This Sweet Sixteen includes five former champs: Clark County (1951), Eastern (1997), Lexington Catholic (2002), Warren Central (2004), Shelby Valley (2010).