High School Basketball

Boys' Sweet Sixteen Preview | Poll

Don't know much about history, don't know much biology. Don't know much about a science book, don't know much about the French I took. But I do know the 92nd boys' Sweet Sixteen is fast approaching, and I have to come up with 16 nuggets of information and opinion:

1 Can anybody keep Scott County from winning its third state title in 12 years? The Cardinals, led by senior center Richie Phares and a transfer-bolstered roster, take a 20-game winning streak into the post-season. They haven't lost since before Christmas, but Coach Billy Hicks is still grimacing like he's got acid reflux.

2 A few e-mailers wonder if Dave Cantrall's computer blew a gasket when it rated Elliott County No. 1 and Shelby Valley No. 3 in the state. If you haven't seen the Lions and Cats play, don't sell them short just because they're from Eastern Kentucky.

3 It was strange to see the 10th Region tournament played at Montgomery County last March after it was held at Mason County the previous 39 years. But it's going to be downright weird to see a 10th and 9th region doubleheader at the Bank of Kentucky Center at Northern Kentucky University next month.

4 Maybe Madisonville and UK signee Jon Hood have a chance to make it to Rupp Arena after all. The Maroons, who've had a losing record most of the season, had a confidence-boosting, double-overtime win against Hopkins Central last week. Hood is doing his part to nail down Mr. Basketball honors by averaging 29 points and 12.5 rebounds.

5 What can you get for a penny these days? If it's senior star C.J. Penny, Anderson County might get its first 8th Region title since 1997.

6 I'd rather have a root canal without Novocain than referee a tournament game between arch-enemies Hazard and Perry Central.

7 South Laurel Coach Steve Wright could make a mint if he marketed whatever it is he puts in his team's Gatorade this time of year. The Cardinals are a threat to win the 13th Region and make their fourth straight trip (and fifth in six years) to Rupp Arena.

8 Warren Central's chances of winning the 4th Region for the seventh time in eight years may hinge on whether sophomore Jordan Shanklin is recovered from a stress fracture in his shin.

9 Defending state champion Mason County graduated Mr. Basketball Darius Miller, Trevor Setty and Ethan King, but don't count out the Royals. Led by senior Russ Middleton, they could make it to Rupp for the sixth time in eight years.

10 Last year after Holmes had a 17-game winning streak snapped in mid-February, it didn't lose again until the state finals. This year Holmes had a 22-game winning streak snapped in mid-February. Bulldogs Coach David Henley hopes his team reacts the same way it did last season.

11 Top-rated Elliott County may be the first team in state history to have three seniors with more than 2,000 points. Jonathan Ferguson, the 16th Region's all-time leading scorer, has more than 3,200. Ethan and Evan Faulkner have more than 2,000 apiece. That's a whole bunch of offense, sports fans.

12 Paducah Tilghman is favored to win its third straight 1st Region title, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since Marshall County did it 20 years ago.

13 Muhlenberg North is rated No. 1 in the 3rd Region. That must be unsettling for rival schools, knowing Muhlenberg North may consolidate with Muhlenberg South before next season.

14 Eastern has earned the right to be called the favorite in the ultra-competitive 7th Region. The Eagles (26-1) started the season with a 14-game winning streak and have a 12-game string going into tournament time.

15 Do you think Clark County Coach Scott Humphrey lies awake at night wondering how good his Cardinals would be if Travis Purvis hadn't blown out his knee and Corey Rogers hadn't fractured his nose?

16 As Kentucky celebrates Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, Lincoln County hopes to celebrate a three-peat as 12th Region champ.

Mike Fields' Sweet Sixteen picks

1st Region: Paducah Tilghman

2nd Region: Christian County

3rd Region: Owensboro

4th Region: Warren Central

5th Region: Adair County

6th Region: Bullitt East

7th Region: Eastern

8th Region: Anderson County

9th Region: Holmes

10th Region: Clark County

11th Region: Scott County

12th Region: West Jessamine

13th Region: Corbin

14th Region: Knott Central

15th Region: Shelby Valley

16th Region: Elliott County

National City Sweet Sixteen

March 18-21 in Rupp Arena

March 18, first round: 12th Region vs. 14th, noon; 3rd vs. 5th, 1:30 p.m.; 6th vs. 1st, 6:30 p.m.; 7th vs. 13th, 8 p.m.

March 19, first round: 11th vs. 4th, noon; 9th vs. 2nd, 1:30 p.m.; 10th vs. 15th, 6:30 p.m.; 8th vs. 16th, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $16 lower arena, $10 upper arena

Region sites

1st: Murray State

2nd: Hopkinsville

3rd:- Butler County

4th: Western Kentucky University

5th: Marion County

6th: Bellarmine University

7th: Bellarmine University

8th: Henry County

9th: Northern Kentucky University

10th: Northern Kentucky University

11th: Eastern Kentucky University

12th: Lincoln County

13th: Bell County

14th: Powell County

15th: Eastern Ky. Expo Center

16th: Morehead State University

Rating the State

Dave Cantrall's top 25 boys' teams

1. Elliott County 85.6

2. Scott County 85.2

3. Shelby Valley 83.1

4. Eastern 82.9

5. Jeffersontown 82.4

5. Ballard 82.4

7. Corbin 82.3

8. Holmes 81.3

9. Warren Central 81.1

10. Boone County 81.0

11. Franklin County 80.1

11. Mason County 80.1

13. Clark County 79.8

14. Lexington Catholic 79.7

15. Christian County 78.5

16. North Hardin 77.5

17. Bryan Station 76.9

18. Adair County 76.7

19. Anderson County 76.6

20. Knott Central 76.2

21. Paducah Tilghman 76.1

22. Seneca 75.8

23. Scott 75.5

24. Pleasure Ridge Park 75.4

25. Paul Dunbar 75.2