But that’s OK for Marshall County’s Marshals and Lady Marshals, who have felt the heat of being favored before and endured.
Both teams will go after repeat basketball championship titles in the First Region this year.
For coach Gus Gillespie’s boys squad, the quest is for a third consecutive title, which would match the trifecta of the 1987-88-89 teams.
For Joseph Simmons’ girls team, the objective will be to stay at the top of the heap, where Marshall County resided most of the time in winning 19 regional titles and two state champions under the state’s winningest girls basketball coach, Howard Beth, before Simmons took the job after Beth stepped down at the close of the 2009-2010 season.
It’s likely neither team will have the burden of a No.1 ranking going into this season.
Not that either Gillespie or Simmons should be expecting a sub-par season; quite the contrary, actually.
But there will be formidable opposition bent on wresting the championship title away from the Marshall squads, some of them richly deserving of equal billing or perhaps even favored status.
n Kentucky’s John Calipari has yearly turnover to worry about thanks to college basketball’s controversial “one and done” phenomenon.
For the Marshals’ Gillespie, “four and done” is wreaking just about as much havoc.
Gillespie lost five seniors – three of them starters – from the 2011 region champion team. Then, he saw six graduate after year’s season.
Three of those six were starters (Cole Nelson, Chase Buchanan and Chase York), and all six played key roles in the team putting together the best-ever season record.
Gillespie does have the team’s leading scorer, swingman Chase Clark, who hit for 13.9 points per game last year, coming back for his senior year.
Clark also was tops percentage-wise in field goal (60.4) and free throw (75.3) accuracy and was second in rebounding at 4.8 per game.
Gillespie also has big man Austin Rentfrow, who started as a sophomore and scored nine points per game (fourth) and pulled down 5.9 rebounds (first).
But only one other player from last year’s roster, Noah Steele, saw action in more than 15 games last year. Steele, a senior this year, averaged 1.3 points last year in 28 games.
Dalton McCoy played in 15 games as a sophomore and Landon Taylor played in nine in his junior year.
There’s not much more experience on call for Gillespie.
Further complicating matters is a football injury which will keep Steele out of action for some time, and which will mean Clark, the shooting guard last year, will play the point.
The Marshal roster is bolstered by several upperclassmen who are returning to basketball after focusing on football in recent years. Dalton Greenfield, Casey White and Jamie Gilland will play, along with Beau Phillips – the sixth senior on the 2012-2013 roster.
White and Gilland, like Steele, will be late in joining the rotation because of football injuries.
n For his part, Simmons will miss two starters from last year’s 27-9 team. Tory Fehrenbacher was the starting point guard for two seasons and last year was the fourth-leading scorer on a well-balanced team at 8.6 points per game.
No. 2 scorer Allie York, who hit at an 11.3 clip and was the team’s leading rebounder with 7.5 per game, is expected to miss her entire junior year after undergoing surgery to repair damage to a knee that was injured in a fall pickup game.
Much of the offense returns, though, in seniors Taylor Meadows (13.4) and Mariah McKenty (9.3). McKenty also proved herself to be one of the top defenders in the region last year.
McKenty missed six games after suffering a sprained knee in mid-season, but finished strong.
Also returning is center Alyssa Barnard, who averaged 5.6 points per game as a freshman. She pulled down 4.7 rebounds, second only to York.
Barnard played in all but one of the games last year and started at least half of those games.
Rachel Reed also saw significant playing time last year as a junior, along with Bailey Greer, who will be a sophomore this year.