One of the biggest joys of basketball is that no matter how hard we try, it is very difficult to get an understanding of who is good and who isn’t until several games are under their belt. Teams that we look at before the season, or after 1 or 2 wins, and think they are unstoppable can quickly show us that they are really not that good as they get punched in the mouth by a team that shocks everyone, yes, we are looking at you, Evansville.

Even as the end of the season it can be tough. The 16th last season had a clear cut favorite to cut down the nets at Morehead State. However, Ashland got hot at the right time and added to their vast collection of championships nets. Who will cut down the nets this year? The most accurate method at this point is old-fashioned Rock, Paper, Scissors, but we will try to rank and see where it goes.

1. Ashland Blazer - The defending regional champions are on top of the hill until they get knocked off. Ashland is loaded with young talent at the guard position this season with Villars, Sellers and Elliott County transfer Collin Porter. The tomcats will most likely look to push the pace this season.

2. Boyd County - Boyd County is coming off a 24-11 season and a loss in the regional finals last year. The Lions graduated only 3 seniors and will be bringing back a bunch of talent. Blake Stewart will be the catalyst for the team this year looking to continue a long streak of 20 win seasons.

3. Rowan County - Rowan County had the region’s best record last season at 26-6. They graduated 2 players from last year’s squad so will be bringing back players that are accustomed to winning. Mason Moore will look to continue his high scoring from last year.

4. West Carter - West Carter is coming off of a 16-13 season last year that saw the departure of 2 seniors. This year they will add experience to their fast play. The Comets will have 6 seniors this season and anticipate the experience will lead to more success on the court.

5. Russell - Russell returns just about everything from last year’s 9-18 team, including their top 8 scorers. What is different about Russell this year is the man in charge. Russell brought in Ohio High School Hall of Famer and 350 game winner, Tom Barrick. There is excitement in Russell that has not been present for several years.

6. Lewis County - At 21-10 last season, the Lions are the defending 63rd District Champion. They seek to continue their success and their super Senior Sam O'Keefe will lead the way. O'Keefe is a do it all players for Lewis and the team will follow.

7. Raceland - The Rams at 16-14 last year lost 4 seniors. However, they maintain a nucleus of sharp shooters lead by Pence and Floyd. They will do a lot of work from the 3-point line this year, which has brought them success in the past.

8. East Carter - Brandon Bakers Raiders had quite the wild ride last year, starting the season by losing 12 of their first 14 games, only to won 10 of their last 13. After graduating 2 seniors, the Raiders look to keep the wins going from the beginning this year.

9. Morgan County - The Cougars were 18-12 last season. They graduated 4 seniors and bring back 3. They will try to continue the winning ways these seniors have gotten used to.

10. Greenup County - Robert Amis will be in his second year at Greenup. The first year ended at 11-19 but things are different this year. The athletes are more familiar with the coach and the coach familiar with athletes and opponents. Greenup looks to make some noise in the wide-open 63rd district.

11. Fleming County - The Panthers were 11-19 last season. They graduated 4 and replace them with 4 seniors for this year as well. They will have to do better this season of scoring points Only 2 16th region teams scored less points than them last season.

12. Elliott County - Following last years, 26-4 season, Elliott County looks to continue their winning ways. Things will look different this year with the graduation loss of Korbin Spencer and the transfer loss of Collin Porter, but Elliott County still has plenty of young talent on the roster. The question will be how quick can that talent grow?

13. Bath County - Bath County finished last year at 12-21. They bring in a new platoon of seniors, having lost 6 seniors to graduation, but having 6 seniors this year as well. Last season, Bath had the sharpshooters to put a lot of points on the board in a short time. They look for more consistency in their scoring this season.

14. Fairview - With a different Cooksey at the helm this year, the Eagles look to expand on last year’s 10-20 record. Fairview graduated 3 seniors. Their youth and familiarity with new coach Brett Cooksey, the Eagles should hit the ground running.

15. Menifee County - The Wildcats return the core from last season, losing only 2 seniors. They will be a senior laden class this year with 6 of their players this year being seniors. They scored the fifth most points in region last year, but finished at 9-22. They will look for defensive improvements while keeping their offense powered.

16. Rose Hill - The Royals will continue to be the youngest team in the region this year. The 4-25 team from last year graduated only 1 senior. They hope a little more experience will lead to some additional wins this season.

Pre-season Top 10 Players

1. Blake Stewart
Senior - Boyd County Senior
A 4-year starter and leader for Boyd County. Last year he averages 21.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game.

2. Mason Moore
Junior - Rowan County
Mason Moore will lead the Vikings again this year. As a sophomore last season, Moore averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds. He looks to be an even bigger force with an additional year of experience and muscle.

3. Kirk Pence
Junior – Raceland
Pence is one of the top clutch players in the region. He is deadly with the ball in his hands. He also does a good job of making all of his teammates better. Pence averages 14 points a game last year and will certainly see that improving this season.

4. Sam O’Keefe
Senior - Lewis County
O’Keefe is an all-around player and the leader of the Lions. Last season he averages 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.

5. Tristan Miller
Senior – Russell
Miller has been one of the top 3-point threats in the region over the last 2 years. This trend will certainly continue. Last year, Miller averaged 14.7 points a game while shooting 42.9% from the arc.

6. Braden Leadingham
Senior - West Carter
Leadingham is a dual threat with his points and rebounds that he brings to the table each night. Leadingham will be the leader of the fast paced offense, pushing the temple throughout.

7. Cole Villers
Sophmore – Ashland
After an injury limited his season last year, Villers looks to make the most of this year. Villers averaged 10.4 points a game last year with high success from the 3-point line.

8. Brady Nelson
Senior – Greenup County
The offense in Lloyd goes through Nelson. Coming off of a year in which he averages 17.7 points and 7 assists a game, if he isn’t doing the scoring, he is getting the ball to someone who can.

9. Jake Helton
Senior - Morgan County
Helton averaged 16.7 points and 6.8 rebounds a game last year in West Liberty. He will be the leader of the team this year looking to lead in attitude and in performance.

10. Collin Porter
Freshman – Ashland
Porter a freshman transfer from Elliott County will be the point guard for the Tomcats this year. Last year, at Elliott, Porter averaged 7.7 points a game in varsity play, as an 8th-grader. He has an amazing vision of the court and will put his teammates in a position to score.