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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Bronze Medal Best UK Team, Round of 16

Yesterday, 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 4 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 1950′s 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:

(1) 1948-49
(32-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza)
(4) 2002-03 (32-4, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Keith Bogans, Gerald Fitch)

BTI Pick: Tough to pick against a healthy Keith Bogans in his senior season, but Beard and Groza comprised the best college basketball team until the UCLA dynasty.  This was a highly competitive game, but the ’49 champs experience pulls out a win here.

(2) 2009-10 (35-3, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins)
(3)  1996-97
(35-5, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Ron Mercer, Derek Anderson

BTI Pick: This is just unfair for these 2 teams to face off in the Sweet 16.  Assuming Derek Anderson is healthy (which we are), I think the ’97 squad gets the slight nod.  They would be one of the few teams who could match up athletically, were deeper off the bench, plus Nazr Mohammed could actually match Cousins.  Boy, this would be fun, but I think the ’97 teams just a slight bit better.


(1) 1997-98
(35-4, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #2 Seed, Jeff Sheppard, Nazr Mohammed)
(4) 1953-54 (25-0, SEC Champs, Declined NCAA Bid, Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey)

BTI Pick: The ’54 team could have been the first and only undefeated champion in UK history if they hadn’t declined a bid.  And in this matchup, they take down the first number 1 seed in this tournament.  Hagan and Ramsey provide a 1-2 punch that the Comeback Cats can’t match. 

(2) 1947-48 (36-3, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza)
(3) 1965-66
(27-2, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Champs, Pat Riley, Louie Dampier)

BTI Pick: Rupp’s Runts take on the Gold Medal Champs.  Dampier is the difference maker as he controls the pace of the game, dishing off to Riley for easy bucket after easy bucket.  The Texas Western loss motivates the ’66 team even more to prove they are worthy, and they upset the ’48 team, Rupp’s first title team.  Rupp is happy and sad.

(1) 1977-78
(30-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, Jack Givens, Rick Robey)
(5) 1991-92 (29-7, SEC East Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #2 Seed, Jamal Mashburn, John Pelphrey)

BTI Pick: The ’78 champs were probably just as good as Duke in 1992, and we know how that game turned out.  Certainly this would be a great matchup, but I think Givens, Macy, Robey, Lee, have too much all-around for the Unforgettables.

(7) 1949-50 (25-5, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Bill Spivey, Jim Line)
(3) 1983-84 (29-5, Final Four, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 seed, Melvin Turpin, Kenny Walker)

BTI Pick: After pulling off the big upset in the first round, the ’50 team is out of gas for this matchup with UK’s best team of the 1980’s.  Turpin and Bowie dominate the post with a 1-2 punch Spivey has never seen.  The biggest mismatch of the Sweet 16. 

(1) 1992-93
(30-4, Final Four, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Jamal Mashburn, Travis Ford)
(5) 1969-70 (26-2, SEC Champs, Dan Issel, Mike Pratt)  *result changed from reader comments

BTI Pick: Talk about an up and down game.  The shot clock would barely be necessary in this game, but the ’93 team just too good from the 3-point line, and Mashburn does more than just score, outplays Issel.  ’93 team wins 115-105.

(2) 1950-51 (32-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, Bill Spivey, Shelby Linville)
(3) 1974-75 (26-5, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Champs, Kevin Grevey, Jimmy Dan Conner)

BTI Pick: The ’51 team take their national title experience, and a big game from Spivey to remain alive in the tournament.

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

Article written by Bryan the Intern

16 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Bronze Medal Best UK Team, Round of 16

  1. FitchIsClutch
    9:21 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    Just my opinion, but I do believe that the 2002-2003 team would take out the 48-49 team in possibly the best game of the tourney thus far. The smothering defense, top to bottom three point shooting, and the fact that Dwayne Wade didn’t play for the 48-49 team is enough to sell me. Erik Daniels is a matchup nightmare, and a #1 seed normally goes down in the sweet 16. A Cliff Hawkins steal and break away layup in the final seconds seals the deal.

  2. GoCatsWin#9
    9:21 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    I will give you that modern players are bigger and perhaps a little more athletic… but consider this: the 69-70 team could score. 100+ points in 13/28 games without a shot clock. They played Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Indiana, and an excellent Notre Dame team twice. They won and won big. Give Issel and Pratt and company a 3-point shot and they win even bigger. I love Mashburn and Ford, but the 69-70 team takes down your number one seed 4/5 times.

  3. Ugly muffin
    9:34 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    I’m all for giving the 54 cats a shot at a tornament here but I don’t see how they beat the 98 team. You say 54 had a 1-2 punch but 98 had Turner driving, Padgett being a better Kyle Wiltjer, Big Nazr doing his thing (and hopefully hitting a free throw) Heshimu was an underrated really good player (played over seas for several years at a high level) plus Shepherd was a great talent and team leader. They had experience (3 final fours for most of them) leadership, and obviously talent. They could beat you inside or outside. Honestly the 97 and 98 Cats would beat the 2012 version in my opinion.

  4. BiloxiGuy25
    9:40 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    So you’re saying a team from 1948 can beat a team from 2002? Impossible. Different time, game, and level of athleticism. No team from that time era can beat high school teams in 2002.

  5. UKCats81
    9:42 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    Agree with #2, especially with your rule of no injuries so Tom Parker would have been playing.

    Have to disagree on the Fabulous Five losing to the ’66 squad – they were all five really good (not just Groza and Beard), and Rollins would have shut down Dampier.

  6. catlanta
    9:43 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    i disagree that the “general consensus” is that 2012 is one of the top 2 of all time. great team, national champs, and probably among the top 5 of all time, but i dont think they’re a consensus #2 when you look at how many great teams UK has had in the past.

  7. UKCats81
    9:48 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    Oops! Meant Mike Casey not Tom Parker.

  8. Kentucky Effect
    9:53 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    adderall jibberish

  9. MJ
    10:16 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    I agree the 1996 team is #1 team and the 2012 team is #2.

    I think Joe Hall’s 1978 team deserves to be #3. UK went 20 years without a championship (last one was 1958). That’s a long time for UK fans to go without winning a championship. Jack Givens was the Golden Goose as he poured 41 in points over Duke to win the championship in 1978. And who could forget James Lee’s last second thunderous slam dunk to put the icing on the cake. lol… And who could forget the celebrations downtown and the destruction done to the airport that night as fans waited all night for the team to come home.

  10. Mark
    10:17 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    Also, there’s no way the ’54 team would have been an undefeated champion if they’d accepted the NCAA bid. The NCAA had deemed their three best guys ineligible for the tournament because they were graduate students.

  11. Matt14
    10:33 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    2002-03 is one of my favorite teams of all-time, but I agree with the loss to the 49 team. My Picks for tomorrow in order would probably be 97, 54, 78 (in the best game of the tournament over 84), and 93.

  12. Bart Edwards
    10:49 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t know where you are getting this “consensus,” because I am not aware of any serious and KNOWLEDGEABLE fan of the game who thinks either the 96 or the 12 team could hold a candle to the 54 Cats. I understand that young folk think that the world started when they were born, but neither of those teams had anywhere near the cohesiveness on both sides of the ball that Frank Ramsey’s team had that year, as the undefeated record shows. The race is for second best, yes, but as to that team, not either of those Johnny-Come-latelies.

  13. don't mess with my yoyo
    11:25 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    I stopped reading after ‘Nazr Mohammed could actually match Cousins.’

  14. rixter
    11:25 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    Oh, dear god, can we take up a collection and buy this guy a life?

  15. SMH
    11:34 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    You know what’s even sadder? that so many of you are playing along…..

    WHAT IF…. Moses tried his little march in 2013? HOw far would the jewish people get?

    WHAT IF… Adolph Hitler tried to take over modern day Europe? How would France react?

  16. Coach Cal
    2:26 pm June 25, 2013 Permalink

    There is no way the John Wall team loses to the 97 team, even with healthy Derek Anderson. That team might be better than the 2012 team.