On Monday, we started breaking down which team should be considered the 3rd best team in UK history. Why the 3rd best? Because there is a general consensus amongst most that the 1996 and 2012 squads were the 2 best teams in UK history. Which one is first and which one is 2nd is up for debate, but that is not what this tournament is about.
I considered the 32 best candidates for the bronze medal, and then seeded and bracketed them. For the next 3 days we will whittle them down until we have just 2 remaining. To be considered for one of the 32 spots, my criteria were the team had to do at least 1 of these things:
-SEC Champions or SEC East Champions
-SEC Tournament Champions
-NCAA Tournament 1 or 2 seed
-Final Four Appearance
If a team couldn’t complete at least 1 of these tasks, they probably wouldn’t deserve consideration anyway. Now, I will give you who I think would win in a fictional game between teams, BUT you have the chance to change my mind. If a convincing enough argument is put into the comments section I will change my pick for the next round tomorrow.
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Now, one last thing when considering which team you think would win a game. It goes without saying that players in the 1950â€²s were slower and less athletic than players today. So, for the sake or argument, let’s assume those older players’ skills have developed to the level of the modern player. The 1993 UK team would probably beat every UK team before 1970 if they actually played. I have put this exact statement in every post this week, but get comments every day making this point. Just for this tournament, take that out of play:
Also, keep in mind when considering how these games go a couple of things:
-The 3-point shot does exist
-The Shot Clock does exist (35 second)
-Injured Players are now healthy
1996-97 (35-5, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Ron Mercer, Derek Anderson)
1965-66 (27-2, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Champs, Pat Riley, Louie Dampier)
BTI Pick: The ’66 Rupps Runts team made a surprising run through this tournament, and might have benefitted from a favorable draw. They certainly one of UK’s best non-championship teams, but they run up against a buzz saw here. The problem for the ’66 squad in this game would be size, duh. They were called Runts for a reason. 6-5 being the tallest starter. While the ’97 Cats started 6-10 Nazr Mohammed and 6-9 Jared Prickett. Plus, Jamaal Magloire was available off the bench. Even though the ’97 Cats strength was their guard play (Mercer, Anderson, Turner, Epps), Pitino gameplans for the post game, and it works. It likely leads to foul trouble for Jaracz and Riley, which is rough for them because that team had no depth.
Point is, the surprise run comes to and end in the Final 4. A bad matchup for the ’66 Cats and Rupp’s last Final Four team goes down quietly. Mohammed scores 21 and Riley is held under 20 as the ’97 team pulls away late.
Whatifsports.com predicts fantasy games and it calls this an 82-65 win for the 1997 Cats, and I agree.
1977-78 (30-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, Jack Givens, Rick Robey)
1992-93 (30-4, Final Four, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Jamal Mashburn, Travis Ford)
BTI Pick: The best matchup of the tournament, in my opinion. Mashburn v. Givens. Ford v. Macy. Robey v. Rhodes. This game would be an incredibly tight one, likely decided in the last minute. But the deciding factor turns out to be scoring depth. People sometimes forget, but only 2 players on the ’93 team averaged more the 10ppg. While 5 different players did that for the ’78 team without a shot clock. More options on the offensive end, plus just a freshman Tony Delk and Rod Rhodes means the depth and experience help the ’78 team pull out the win.
I say a late Macy jumper, plus some Givens free throws see the ’78 team win this one 83-81.
OK, those are my picks. You can use the comments section to disagree and try and convince me otherwise.