Originally Posted by 2-3-Zone
I have been away from the 13th for a few years now, but I really doubt Jones has forgotten how to coach. Two very different, yet somewhat distinct alternatives could be that this group is struggling with the mental aspect of getting their first regional win and this pressure only intensifies each year, and/or the group simply may not be as talented as many are led to believe.
Since 2002, the region has been won by:
Rockcastle County (02), Cumberland (03), Rockcastle County (04), Corbin (05), South Laurel (06), South Laurel (07), South Laurel (08), Corbin (09), Corbin (10), Bell County (11), and North Laurel (12).
I think a number of factors have contributed to the somewhat unpredictable results on the whole that we've seen in the 13th as a whole over the past decade (2002-Present).
Some reasons why there has been this much parity whereas it was absent in the past include:
#1. Talent as a whole is down.
This means that some of the non-traditional powers (i.e., Bell County, North Laurel) and smaller schools (i.e., Cumberland) have had taken advantage of more parity and made seized the opportunity to make a name for themselves.
#2. Influxes of Talent
This one is closely related to the first reason. It seems as though the luck of schools who'd typically have a good player find their way into their program hasn't been there (or at least not to the same extent that there used to be for schools like Clay County, Corbin, or South Laurel). As these programs have fell off, the cycles of athletes who might otherwise be a part of and/or find their way into these programs has perpetually lessened, and this problem would likely compound through the years.
#3. The region has typically been played at Corbin.
This is not only a huge advantage for Corbin, but it also changes the style of play that is needed to be successful given the fact that the floor is a bit longer, and the shooting backgrounds are much more open (and unfamiliar). Also, the fact that the arena is capable of seating so many people, yet increases to ticket prices have left many people staying at home, and thus, attendance being down and/or teams that would traditionally host the region playing there instead, there has been less of a home-court advantage. I would also think that the switch to this arena has a big effect on teams who don't play off of the energy of the crowd and/or those who might be more rattled by a hostile, noisy environment, as my experiences in the arena have left me with the impression that regional games there are far more sedated than those in sweltering gyms like Cawood where everyone is on top of the floor and the noise is ear-splitting.
The power structure of the region was altered with realignment. For evidence of this, I would point to the obvious things like districts being shuffled, some districts going from seeding-to-voting for tournament play, two relatively large schools (North & South) replacing one smaller one (Rockcastle Co.), etc., as well as some of the more subtle differences such as new rivalries re-shaping our notions of who is favored to win the whole thing based on traditional rivalries.
#5. Tradition and the Intimidation Factor
Because of reasons #1, 2, 3, and 4 (or a combination thereof), teams are no longer as intimidated by some of the traditional powers like Clay County, Corbin, or South Laurel. One real turning point for the powers losing their luster (at least for Clay County and Corbin) was when Rockcastle County had their run and took their program from a team that was capable of upsetting someone on a given night into a giant killer, and then from a giant killer into a contender. I know South Laurel wasn't in the region at this time, and that Aaron Cash was a once in a generation player for a school like Rock, but I think the effects of the Rockcastle/Cumberland years were still being felt once they got into the region. I know that in the early 90's, it would have been unthinkable for someone to fathom a regional final without Clay County, Corbin, or Harlan, but I think Rockcastle's run planted a seed in the heads of many and other programs started to emulate things they had been doing to take their programs to the next level. I would think that the biggest beneficiaries of their run might be teams like Bell County, North Laurel, and Knox Central because they were competitive teams who were on the edge of breaking through, and in many ways, what Rockcastle was able to accomplish might have become a part of their blueprints (motivationally speaking if nothing else).
#6. Relative to Reasons #1 & 2, we haven’t seen classes of talent at the traditional powers like we were used to seeing.
For example, like the Proffitt/Allen/Fields, Crawford/Wilson/Johnson, Asher/Walker, and/or Cash/Anderkin. Even more telling in the years to come might be whether or not programs like South Laurel and Rockcastle simply caught lightning in a bottle and rode a very talented class to success or whether the school has the feeder systems, coaching, talent pool, and other resources necessary to sustain success. For Rockcastle, it would appear to be the former given recent history. South’s run is more recent, and they are a bigger school, but I’d be interested to revisit this topic a little further down the line before making any conclusions.
#7. Football Class Structure.
Finally, with the move to 6 classes in football, the emphasis on what portion of the better athletes in a school play which sports has also likely shifted. For example, a school that was a struggling 4A (in the 4 class system) might now be a big 5A (in the 6 class system). Even if the coaches don't directly influence the players (despite the fact that many do), other variables such as the likelihood of being part of a successful team and peer pressure might have shifted younger athletes' time and focus onto different sports, which would have an indirect effect on basketball.