National Weather Service satellite images show the last snow drift in Kentucky has finally melted — hey, there was a Volkswagen under that roadside glacier in Hardin County! — so the 98th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen is good to go.
In the spirit of intrepid TV meteorologists who boldly, and a little too excitedly, tell us what's about to hit us, my Sweet Sixteen forecast about what will transpire in Rupp Arena this week:
1. Covington Catholic's entertaining student cheering section, which helped propel the Colonels to the state title last year, auditions to be the opening act for Taylor Swift's October appearance in Rupp.
2. The Best Beard Award, which went to Clay County's Trey Farmer last year, goes to Johnson Central assistant coach J.R. VanHoose. Yep, the same J.R. who led Paintsville, Johnson Central's crosstown rival, to the 1996 state title.
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3. Seven years after plans were announced for the Centrepointe project in downtown Lexington, Sweet Sixteen fans are encouraged to see a big empty hole where there used to be a big empty city block.
4. Hopkinsville's Jaqualis Matlock, who wasn't among the 19 players on the ballot for Mr. Basketball, starts in his fourth consecutive state tournament. Guess the ballot came up a little short.
5. Rand Paul asks his hometown team, the Bowling Green Purples, if they'll wear "Paul for President" patches on their uniforms in exchange for free eye exams.
6. For the second time in three years, Johnson Central draws Ballard as a first-round opponent. Golden Eagles senior point guard Braxton Blair, a talented boxer, says he loves stepping into the ring against heavyweights.
7. To put in perspective how long it's been since Williamsburg was in the Sweet Sixteen: John Wooden was in his first year as a college basketball coach at Indiana State in 1946.
8. After Camron Justice hits four free throws to break the boys' state record for free throws made in a career, he resists the urge to take a selfie with his teammates.
9. Taylor County legend Clem Haskins, 71, still looks like he could suit up for the Cardinals, who are in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1983. Haskins made the all-tournament team in 1963.
10. Look for Ballard and Owensboro to add to their state tournament victory haul. They've combined to win 75 Sweet Sixteen games and six titles. The other 14 teams in the field have combined for 61 wins and three championships.
11. The series finale of the TV show Justified is filmed during the Sweet Sixteen. The final episode features a showdown between Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and crime boss Boyd Crowder. They have a bloodless three-point shooting contest in Rupp Arena.
12. In a rip-and-run first-round game, Hopkinsville and Taylor County give it their best, but they can't come close to the tournament record for total points set in 1956 when Wayland, led by King Kelly Coleman's 68 points, rang up Bell County 122-89.
13. Football rivals Boyle County and Lexington Catholic clash in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen, and quarterbacks Josiah Robbins (Rebels) and Reese Ryan (Knights) play more than passing roles on the court.
14. Hopkinsville, Knott Central and Johnson Central, in the tournament for the fourth year in a row, get free hotel lodging because they have enough rewards points as frequent guests.
15. The Young and the Restless producer asks CovCath permission to use the names of some of its players — Cole VonHandorf, Max Bishop, Cooper Theobald and Gunnar Schuh — for soap opera characters.
16. Yours truly will brag that he correctly picked 12 region champs. Yours truly will confess that he correctly picked five boys' and seven girls' regions to come up with that dozen.