Basketball

KHSAA sets brackets for Sweet 16 tournaments

Butler guard Brittney Just tries to swat away the ball as Male guard Alana Striverson drives to the basket in the Girls' LIT championship. 28 January 2017

Butler guard Brittney Just tries to swat away the ball as Male guard Alana Striverson drives to the basket in the Girls’ LIT championship. 28 January 2017

If the top two girls basketball teams in Kentucky meet in next month’s state tournament, it will come in the first round.

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association on Wednesday held its draws for the Sweet 16s, and for the third time in five years the Sixth and Seventh region champions were matched together in the first round of the girls event.

This year that means Sixth Region favorite Butler and Seventh Region leader Male could meet in the opener. Butler (23-1) is No. 1 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings and No. 13 in the nation in the USA TODAY Super 25. Male (21-2) is No. 2 in the Litratings and No. 25 in the Super 25. The Bearettes and Bulldogs have split their two regular-season meetings.

Male coach Champ Ligon Jr. encountered the same scenario in 2015, when his Bulldogs beat Mercy 78-59 in the first round of the Sweet 16 on its way to the semifinals.

“Maybe that’s a good omen for us getting back there,” Ligon said of the draw. “We have our work cut out for us just to get out of the Seventh Region, but if we’re lucky enough to do that we’ll stand up and play whoever is in front of us. If these go by rankings, you’re going to have a marquee game there in the very first game.”

On the boys side, the Sixth and Seventh region champions avoided each other in the first round but could meet in the quarterfinals. That could feature a matchup between No. 3 Fern Creek and No. 4 Trinity.

The St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls Sweet 16 is set for March 8-12 at BB&T Arena in Highlands Heights. The Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 is slated for March 15-19 at Rupp Arena in Lexington. The KHSAA has not released tipoff times for first-round games.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the brackets:

►​ Girls: Along with Male’s victory over Mercy in 2015, the Louisville-area regions also were matched in the first round of the 2013 tournament. Manual beat Mercy 74-60 on its way to the semifinals.

Ligon doesn’t count himself among the conspiracy theorists who come out in force when the Sixth and Seventh region champions are matched in the first round. But he would like to see some changes to the Sweet 16 format.

“You kind of like to stick tradition, but it would be nice to have it seeded,” said Ligon, who coached boys teams at Atherton, Male, Shelby County and Bryan Station before taking over at Male. “And I’d like to see some at-large bids. I don’t know if you could expand it an extra round and have 32 teams, but there have plenty of years when I had a good team that couldn’t make it out of the region but could have beaten by double digits the majority of the teams in the state tournament.”

If the Litratings hold up, the winner of the Sixth-Seventh region matchup would face No. 7 Elizabethtown in the quarterfinal round. The other quarterfinals would match No. 8 Mason County vs. No. 3 Mercer County, No. 13 Franklin County vs. No. 4 Simon Kenton and No. 9 Holmes vs. No. 17 Henderson County.

The Litratings favor defending champion Butler over Simon Kenton in the championship game.

►​​ Boys: The Louisville-area regional champions drew into the bottom quadrant of the bracket, with the Seventh Region champion to meet the Fifth Region winner and the Sixth Region titlist to face the Second Region champion.

If Fern Creek (23-2) and Trinity (22-3) were to meet in the quarterfinals, it would be their fourth matchup of the season. The Tigers have won two of three against the Shamrocks this season.

Other potential quarterfinal matchups according to the Litratings would be No. 2 Scott County vs. No. 5 Bowling Green, No. 13 Campbell County vs. Perry County Central and No. 11 Oldham County vs. No. 1 Covington Catholic.

The Litratings favor Covington Catholic over Scott County in the championship game.

Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and jfrakes@courier-journal.com.