Asked his opinion of the state’s top teams from outside of Louisville, Ballard High School boys’ basketball coach Chris Renner put Hopkinsville at the top of the list.
If Renner’s top-ranked Bruins survive the Seventh Region Tournament, they could get an early meeting with Hopkinsville in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16.
The draws for the girls’ and boys’ state basketball tournaments were held Monday in Lexington. The Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16 is set for March 12-16 at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green. The boys’ tournament is set for March 19-23 at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
On the boys’ side, the Seventh Region — led by No. 1 Ballard and No. 4 Trinity — got a relatively easy first-round matchup against the Third Region at 1:30 p.m. on March 19. But a quarterfinal matchup with No. 5 Hopkinsville could be waiting as the Second and Eighth regions also drew in the top quarter of the bracket.
“If you were to say what teams I’d take outside of Ballard or Trinity, I’d be looking at Hopkinsville No. 1 because of their style,” Renner said. “Then I’d probably put Newport Central Catholic No. 2 and Knott County Central No. 3.”
Here’s a look at both the boys’ and girls’ draws:
With the Second, Seventh and 11th regions in the top half and the Sixth and Ninth regions in the bottom half, most observers agreed that the bracket is fairly balanced.
Renner said the Seventh Region champion will have a tough road to the final with a possible quarterfinal matchup against Hopkinsville and a possible semifinal game against the 11th Region, which is led by No. 3 Scott County and No. 6 Lafayette.
“When you look at Lafayette and Scott County in the 11th, Ballard and Trinity in the Seventh and Hopkinsville in the Second, those are five teams that are all capable of winning the state championship,” Renner said. “It’s unfortunate only three of them will make it (to the state tournament) and only one could get to the final.”
The Eighth Region champion will face the Second Region winner in the tournament opener at noon on March 19. The Sixth Region titlist will face the Fifth Region winner at 6:30 p.m. on March 20.
The Sixth Region features three Top 20 teams in No. 9 Pleasure Ridge Park, No. 12 Iroquois and No. 13 Doss. No. 16 Elizabethtown is the top team in the Fifth Region.
The winner of the Sixth-Fifth first-round game could face the Ninth Region champion in the quarterfinals. The Ninth Region includes No. 2 Covington Catholic, No. 7 Holmes and No. 8 Newport Central Catholic.
The Sixth Region winner will face the Ninth Region champion in a first-round game at 7:30 p.m. EST on March 12.
The Sixth Region is led by No. 3 Butler, winner of the Louisville Invitational Tournament, and No. 9 Bullitt East. No. 11 Newport Central Catholic headlines the Ninth Region.
The Seventh Region drew into what may be the toughest quadrant of the bracket, with the Fifth and Eighth regions also included.
The Seventh Region winner will face the Fifth Region champion at 7:30 p.m. on March 13. No. 6 Sacred Heart, No. 8 Ballard, No. 13 Manual and No. 18 Eastern lead the Seventh Region. No. 2 Elizabethtown tops the Fifth Region.
The Eighth Region winner will face the Third Region champion in the final first-round game at 9 p.m. on March 13. No. 1 Anderson County and No. 4 Simon Kenton top the Eighth Region. Unranked Owensboro Catholic leads the Third Region.