The field is set for the 2017 Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen State Basketball Tournament — celebrating its 100th year — and it comes with an almost entirely new look.
Not only was 2016 state champion Paul Laurence Dunbar derailed in its opening postseason game this year, but only three teams in the 2017 Sweet Sixteen return from last year’s event — Bowling Green, Taylor County and Elliott County, champions of the 4th, 5th and 16th regions, respectively.
The event’s opening day in Rupp Arena, March 15, features three teams that won 30 or more games this season. The tournament tips off with Bowling Green (32-2) taking on Graves County at noon. Thirteenth Region champion Harlan County (31-3) and 11th Region victor Scott County (30-5) are also in action on opening day.
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March 16 includes the winningest team in the field, Fern Creek (33-2) of the 6th Region, along with the only school in the Sweet Sixteen with a losing record, 3rd Region champion Meade County (13-21). At one point this season, Meade County lost 14 games in a row and 19 of 20, but the Green Wave put things together when it mattered most.
The 2017 field includes four former state champions. Ballard has won the title three times previously, Scott County twice and Pulaski County and Hopkinsville once each.
Scott County, which opens against 12th Region champion Pulaski County on March 15 at 8 p.m., is making its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2014, when the Cardinals made it all the way to the state finals before falling to Covington Catholic 59-51 in overtime.
The Cardinals enter this year’s tournament ranked No. 1 in Dave Cantrall’s most recent Rating the State.
Bowling Green is No. 2, Fern Creek No. 4, Ballard No. 6, Cooper No. 7, Perry County Central No. 15, Graves County No. 24 and Hopkinsville No. 25. The remaining eight Sweet Sixteen teams were not among Cantrall’s most recent Top 25.
In addition to the top-flight teams headed to Rupp Arena, fans will have a chance to check out several of the state’s top players. Mr. Basketball finalists Chris Vogt of Graves County, Terry Taylor of Bowling Green, Clivonte Patterson of Ballard and Jake Ohmer of Scott all helped lead their teams to the Sweet Sixteen.
Boys’ Sweet Sixteen
The Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen begins Wednesday, March 15 in Rupp Arena. Below are the pairings for the tournament in bracket order:
FIRST ROUND: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15
Scott County (30-5) vs. Pulaski County (27-7), 8 p.m.
Bowling Green (32-2) vs. Graves County (27-7), noon
Scott (21-12) vs. Harlan County (31-3), 6:30 p.m.
Pikeville (23-8) vs. Perry County Central (27-7), 1:30 p.m.
FIRST ROUND: THURSDAY, MARCH 16
Elliott County (26-3) vs. Collins (23-12), 6:30 p.m.
Cooper (28-4) vs. Meade County (13-21), 8 p.m.
Ballard (28-6) vs. Taylor County (20-14), 1:30 p.m.
Fern Creek (33-2) vs. Hopkinsville (28-6), noon
QUARTERFINALS: FRIDAY, MARCH 17
Scott County-Pulaski County winner vs. Bowling Green-Graves County winner, noon
Scott-Harlan County winner vs. Pikeville-Perry County Central winner, 1:30 p.m.
Elliott County-Collins winner vs. Cooper-Meade County winner, 6:30 p.m.
Ballard-Taylor County winner vs. Fern Creek-Hopkinsville winner, 8 p.m.
SEMIFINALS: SATURDAY, MARCH 18
Friday’s winners, 6:30 and 8 p.m.
FINALS: SUNDAY, MARCH 19
Saturday’s winners, 2 p.m.