At this time of the year, the Cumberland District gets to manufacture the shade.
The Cumberland contains four of Region D's strongest boys basketball squads. Quite possibly, the four strongest, period.
All the more remarkable is the fact that Twin Springs - a program coming off three straight VHSL Group A Final Four appearances - isn't one of the four.
Castlewood, (11-0, 1-0) made a convincing bid for retaining its preseason favorite status in Friday's 72-53 win over St. Paul.
The Deacons (8-4, 0-1) are Region D's leading rebounding team. Post Ryan Padgett, a big-bodied, 6-foot-5 sophomore, has been particularly good at having his way on the offensive boards. But the Blue Devils still did a better and more efficient job putting the ball through the hoop Friday night.
Castlewood - the top-ranked team in the VirginiaPreps.com Group A Top 10 - has four guys averaging in double figures: Patrick Fisher (14.7 points per game), Drew Justice (13.7 ppg), Brad McReynolds (12.1 ppg) and Chris Smith (11.0 ppg).
Coach Aaron Williams is happy with what he is getting from the Blue Devils but expects even more.
"I like the way we were scoring in the third quarter. We were getting some drives to the bucket, drawing some fouls and getting some looks inside," Williams said after the game. "But I don't want us to get into a mode where we just outscore people. I want us to defend. And I think we kind of let up a little bit."
Castlewood's postponed clash with Rye Cove (9-5, 1-0) - moved to Jan. 17 - ought to be a crowd pleaser. Eagles guard Adam Hood's 26.6 ppg scoring average is the league's best. Thanks to John Franklin's steady 10.1 ppg supplemental effort, Rye Cove has had enough offense to prevail against some tough opposition.
Rye Cove's Coal Classic tournament title - which included wins over St. Paul and Thomas Walker - was a good way to set the tone for the second semester.
A little more context on top of context: The Pioneers (10-2, 1-0) are engaged in their most successful basketball campaign since the Ron Skeen era. Dude Overton, who scored 22 points in Friday's 50-40 win over visiting Twin Springs, gets a lot of ink. But the overall squad is at least as good as the one coach Chris Sutphin played with at Ewing under Clark Powers.
Maybe it's the result of a Lee County bucket baby boom. Over at Ben Hur, Group AA Lee High is 10-2 and looking forward to Friday's Highlands collision with Virginia High. Next year, the Generals will play in Region D in the newly formed Clinch Mountain District.
In contrast to its district-mates, Twin Springs (4-5, 0-1) looks like a team wearing clay Chuck Taylors. Star wing Mark Dockery has only been able to carry the Titans so far. Sophomore point guard Devon Matthews has been a help, but he's not a cure-all.
The Titans' 40-31 loss to Lonesome Pine District-leading Gate City in the Arby's Classic seemed an anticlimactic pronouncement on the New Order of Things.
But don't expect the Red Army to disband just yet. Dockery remains one of Southwest Virginia's best players. John McCrary remains one of Southwest Virginia's top coaches. And Nickelsville remains one of Southwest Virginia's toughest venues.
George Thwaites is a sports writer for the Kingsport Times-News. E-mail him at email@example.com.