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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Can we even compare Rupp and K?

With Coach K winning his 4th national title, the common argument being made on TV and radio shows these days is “Where does Coach K rank now?”  Is he ahead of Ruppand behind Wooden, or he is ahead of them all?  Well, first of all, I find it RIDICULOUS to even consider Coach K anywhere near Wooden.  Wooden won 10 national championships!!  I don’t care about what era they were won in, and the level of competition, the man won an ENTIRE DECADE worth of championships!’

Now, that brings us to the Coach K against Rupp debate.  I will compare the two guys stats below, but my real argument is that you really can’t compare the two guys.  Whereas Rupp’s accolades primarily reside in the 1940’s and 50’s, Coach K has all of his great awards from the mid-1980’s and on.  And frankly college basketball has changed DRASTICALLY from those two time periods.  Whether the level of competition, the NCAA Tournament, playing styles, or playing styles, it’s nearly impossible to compare Rupp’s 4 titles and K’s 4 titles because they were won in entirely different ways. 

Take for instance this:

NATIONAL TITLES
Coach K: 4 (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010)
Rupp: 4 (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958)

Now, on the surface, you would assume that Coach K’s 4 titles are more impressive because they came in a greater era of parity in college basketball, with a more expanded tournament.  In 1948 and 1949, UK only won 3 games to take home the title, and in 1951 and 1958 they won 4 games to win.  But, Duke won 6 games to win each of those titles.

But I would argue those 6 wins a year are misleading because Duke’s first round wins in those 4 title years were Northeast Louisiana, Campbell, Monmouth, and Arkansas Pine-Bluff.  So, to give Coach K extra credit for beating teams who were not in the Top 100 college basketball teams that year is bogus.  To put it another way, If Kentucky in its 4 championship years got to play teams of that caliber in its first round game, I feel quite comfortable they would have won too.  Instead, Kentucky had to play 3 or 4 games against ONLY quality opponents, which is pretty much what Duke had to do.  Point being, a national championship is a national championship, and I would call this even between the 2 coaches.

Now, these are more relevant stats, in my opinion:

REGULAR SEASON CONFERENCE TITLES
Coach K: 12 in 35 seasons (34.2%)
Rupp: 27 in 42 seasons (64.3%)

Now, if you want to argue that the SEC in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s was weaker than ACC today, I would simply respond by saying Boston College, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest (most years) are not exactly much of a challenge.  Duke did have North Carolina to consistently challenge them, something Kentucky really never had in that time period, but Kentucky beat the teams that were put before them, and did so at a greater margin of victory and at a higher percentage than Duke ever did.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT TITLES
Coach K: 12 in 30 possible seasons
Rupp: 13 in 19 possible seasons

Rupp didn’t even have an SEC Tournament to play in from 1953-72 and STILL won more tournament titles than Coach K.  Kentucky won 9 of Rupp’s 13 tournament titles in the state of Kentucky, and Duke has won 9 of Coach K’s 12 titles in the state of North Carolina.  So, you can’t say that Rupp got any kind of advantage in the home court.  So again, much like in regular season title, Rupp has the advantage.

WINNING PERCENTAGE
Coach K: 75.7% (78.3% at Duke)
Rupp: 82.2%

Now, think about an average non-conference slate for Duke.  It includes a lot of directional schools, and in-state powder puffs.  Then, head over the Jon Scott’s site, and look at UK’s non-conference games under Rupp.  It’s BCS school after BCS school, with lots of road games too.  And despite all of that, Rupp still had a better winning percentage than Coach K. 

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So, again, I don’t think its fair at all to compare these two coaches.  Their eras are far too different to make a fair comparison.  I did just to show that Rupp, on paper, still had a better career than Coach K, and until K wins a 5th title, I will always keep Rupp ahead of him.  But, as we see so often in sports, in the immediate aftermath of something special happening, people overestimate its importance, and make wild statements like Coach K is the greatest college basketball coach in history.   

BTI: Always Convinced, Rarely Correct

Article written by Bryan the Intern