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. 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. Just for this post, take that out of play:
MIDWEST REGION FINAL
(1) 1948-49 (32-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza)
(3) 1996-97 (35-5, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Ron Mercer, Derek Anderson)
BTI Pick: Again, in this scenario, Derek Anderson is healthy. The 1949 champs won a gold medal the previous year, had 7 players who would be All-SEC at some point, and had 4 players who eventually had their jersey’s retired. Certainly Alex Groza would be a beast in the post, with Nazr Mohammed having his hands full with the national player of the year. But the combination of Mercer and Anderson on the wings would be too much. Not to mention Wayne Turner held a 4-inch advantage over Ralph Beard. The ’97 Cats shoot the ball well enough, and pester Beard enough to pull out a victory in my book.
’97 UK 85
’49 UK 75
EAST REGION FINAL
(4) 1953-54 (25-0, SEC Champs, Declined NCAA Bid, Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey)
(3) 1965-66 (27-2, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Champs, Pat Riley, Louie Dampier)
BTI Pick: Both these teams pulled upsets in the Sweet 16 to get here. In this matchup though, the ’66 Cats have such balance in their starting lineup, they are hard to gameplan for. All 5 players score in double figures, with Dampier leading the charge in dishing the ball around. Hagan would be a handfull for Thad Jaracz, but it’s not enough and the ’54 squad finally takes a loss. Rupp’s Runts into the Final Four.
’66 UK 80
’54 UK 73
(1) 1977-78 (30-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, Jack Givens, Rick Robey)
(3) 1983-84 (29-5, Final Four, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 seed, Melvin Turpin, Kenny Walker)
BTI Pick: This is a great matchup between 2 teams from the same era, so you don’t have to really imagine player’s skills improving, etc. The ’78 though probably had a little more star power with Givens, Robey, and Macy. Yes, the ’84 team had Kenny Walker, Melvin Turpin, and Sam Bowie, but had no guards average over 9 ppg and nobody average over 3 apg. I think this is probably the difference in this game. The guard play of Macy keeps the game going at their speed, and his distributes the ball to Goose, Robey, and Phillips and the ’78 squad wins an entertaining game.
’78 UK 75
’84 UK 69
(1) 1992-93 (30-4, Final Four, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Jamal Mashburn, Travis Ford)
(2) 1950-51 (32-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, Bill Spivey, Shelby Linville)
BTI Pick: Who would guard Jamal Mashburn in this game? I asked myself over and over and never came up with a good answer. Yes, Spivey would be trouble, but people forget that Jared Prickett and Rodney Dent were decent enough defenders to probably keep him under 30 points. Hopefully. But in the end, Mashburn is the best player on the floor and the way he played in 1993 was nearly unstoppable. Afraid this might have been the biggest mismatch of the Elite 8.
’93 UK 90
’51 UK 76
OK, those are my picks. You can use the comments section to disagree and try and convince me otherwise.
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