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I've posted a few articles over the years about best programs in the state, best to never win a championship, etc. With it looking more and more like basketball won't crown a champion in 2020 it seemed like a good time to look at the best programs in our state's illustrious basketball history to never take home a Sweet 16 trophy.

Note 1: I did use a formula to rank the top teams and to develop this list. I'll give my opinions along with it. You're welcome to disagree and/or add thoughts of your own.

Note 2: Prior to 1927, region tournaments were called district tournaments and the district champion advanced to the state tournament. I've not included those championships in the stats list.


10. Highlands
Stats: 33 district championships, 10 regional championships, 9 state tournament games won

Last Trip: 2001; lost to Russellville in first round

Closest: Second place in both 1924 and 1997. The 1924 team lost to Lexington, who was winning their fifth title in seven years. The 1997 Bluebirds lost to Eastern, one of the most underrated champions of the last quarter century.

9. Monticello - closed in 2013
Stats: 15 district championships, 9 regional championships, 16 state tournament games won

Last Trip: 1987; lost to Paintsville in first round

Closest: Second place to Flaget in 1960, which capped a streak of four trips in five years. Trojans also finished fourth in 1958.

8. Breathitt County
Stats: 35 district championships, 11 regional championships, 8 state tournament games won

Last Trip: 1996; lost to Lexington Catholic in first round

Closest: Fourth place in 1961. Lost to Lexington Dunbar in state semifinals by one point.

7. Newport
Stats: 27 district championships, 11 regional championships, 14 state tournament games won

Last Trip: Surprise visit in 2010 was first since 1962; lost to Christian County in first round

Closest: Runners-up to St. Xavier in 1935 and Inez in 1954. Early Kentucky basketball power but haven't won a game at state tournament since 1955.

6. Central City - closed in 1990
Stats: 34 district championships, 15 regional championships, 9 state tournament games won

Last Trip: 1989; lost to Bryan Station in first round

Closest: For years the winningest program in the state, the Golden Tide were runners-up to Ralph Beard and Male in 1945. Central City also recorded a fourth place finish in 1950.

5. Oldham County
Stats: 36 district championships, 16 regional championships, 11 state tournament games won

Last Trip: 2018; lost to Covington Catholic in semifinals

Closest: The semifinal round has been a hurdle for the Colonels, falling in 1963 (Seneca), 1985 (Hopkinsville), 2012 (Scott County), and 2018 (Covington Catholic). Three of the four teams that beat Oldham County would win the state championship.

4. Pikeville
Stats: 43 district championships, 11 regional championships, 13 state tournament games won

Last Trip: 2018; memorably knocked off undefeated John Hardin in three overtimes before falling to Warren Central

Closest: Third place in 1957, falling to Lafayette in semifinals before beating Russell County.

3. Madisonville-North Hopkins
Stats: 57 district championships, 16 regional championships, 9 state tournament games won

Last Trip: 2019; lost to Warren Central in quarterfinals. Maroons had qualified for 2020 before tournament was canceled.

Closest: For such a great program their state tournament resume is a bit thin. Lost to Logan County in semifinals in 1984. Seven other times they've won their opener but lost in second round.

2. Danville
Stats: 50 district championships, 12 regional championships, 15 state tournament games won

Last Trip: 1990; lost to Clay County in first round.

Closest: Another early basketball power, Admirals were second to St. Xavier in 1926 and Ashland in 1934. Danville has only two state tournament wins since World War II, the last coming over Bowling Green in the first round in 1973.

1. Paducah Tilghman
Stats: 60 district championships, 23 regional championships, 14 state tournament games won

Last Trip: 2010; lost to Shelby Valley in first round

Closest: Runners-up in 1953 and 2002 by almost identical scores. Lafayette whipped Tilghman, 84-53, in Memorial Coliseum in 1953 and Lexington Catholic rolled the Blue Tornado, 83-53, at Rupp Arena in 2002.