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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Who is Bronze Medal Best UK Team Ever

I don’t know, maybe it is the young person in me, but I think a large majority of people when asked what is the best UK team of all-time would argue either the 1996 or 2012 teams.  Maybe some older fans would argue teams from the late 1940’s should be considered, but the 1996 and 2012 teams dominated the competition in a deeper integrated NCAA and won more games in the NCAA Tournament, plus all of the NBA talent on each of those teams.  So, putting together a post about those 2 teams would be fairly uninteresting.  But what about the 3rd best team in UK history?

I think you can make an argument for a multitude of teams, so in true college basketball fashion, I bracketed what I considered the 32 best candidates for the bronze medal, and then seeded and bracketed them.  For the next 5 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)
(8) 1987-88 (27-6, #2 seed, Rex Chapman, Ed Davender)
BTI Pick: The 48-49 squad trounces the sophomore Chapman’s team.

(2) 2009-10 (35-3, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins)
(7) 1967-68 (22-5, SEC Champs, Mike Casey, Dan Issel)
BTI Pick: Nobody in the post could handle Cousins.  I go with the 09-10 team.

(3)  1996-97 (35-5, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Ron Mercer, Derek Anderson)
(6) 1976-77 (26-4, SEC Champs, Jack Givens, Rick Robey)
BTI Pick: A now healthy Anderson the difference maker here.  ’97 squad wins by 10.

(4) 2002-03 (32-4, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Keith Bogans, Gerald Fitch)
(5) 1951-52 (29-3, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey)
BTI Pick: Closest game of the tournament.  Bogans doesn’t sprain ankle, hits buzzer beating game winner.

(1) 1997-98
(35-4, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #2 Seed, Jeff Sheppard, Nazr Mohammed)
(8) 1961-62 (23-3, SEC Champs, Cotton Nash, Larry Pursiful)
BTI Pick: The closest 1-8 game, but the 1-seed squeaks out the win, probably in a comeback.

(2) 1947-48 (36-3, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza)
(7) 2004-05 (28-6, SEC Champs, #2 Seed, Kelenna Azubuike, Patrick Sparks)
BTI Pick: Love Chuck Hayes, but the ’48 team won a gold medal.  Beard and Co. win by 15.

(3) 1965-66 (27-2, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Champs, Pat Riley, Louie Dampier)
(6) 1994-95 (28-5, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Tony Delk, Rod Rhodes)
BTI Pick: Rod Rhodes implodes on foul line late, Rupp Runts win by 2.

(4) 1953-54 (25-0, SEC Champs, Declined NCAA Bid, Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey)
(5) 1956-57 (23-5, SEC Champs, Johnny Cox, Vernon Hatton)
BTI Pick: The only undefeated team in the tournament stays that way.  ’54 team moves on.

(1) 1977-78
(30-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, Jack Givens, Rick Robey)
(8) 2000-01 (24-10, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #2 Seed, Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans)
BTI Pick: Tayshaun vs. Givens on the wing in a classic.  Give me the ’78 champs though.

(2) 1957-58 (23-6, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, Vernon Hatton, Johnny Cox)
(7) 1949-50 (25-5, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Bill Spivey, Jim Line)
BTI Pick: Old-timers game.  Spivey mismatch leads to big upset.  I take the 7th seeded ’50 team.

(3) 1983-84 (29-5, Final Four, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 seed, Melvin Turpin, Kenny Walker)
(6) 1945-46 (28-2, NIT Champs, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Wah Wah Jones, Ralph Beard)
BTI Pick: Center’s delight here.  Healthy Sam Bowie + Walker/Turpin more than enough.

(4) 2010-11 (29-9, Final Four, SEC Tourney Champs, Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones)
(5) 1991-92 (29-7, SEC East Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #2 Seed, Jamal Mashburn, John Pelphrey)
BTI Pick: The lowest seeded Final Four team bounced in Round 1 by Unforgettables.

(1) 1992-93
(30-4, Final Four, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Jamal Mashburn, Travis Ford)
(8) 1998-99 (28-9, SEC Tourney Champs, Scott Padgett, Heshimu Evans)
BTI Pick: ’93 team presses better, shoots better, just better.  Win by 17. 

(2) 1950-51 (32-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, Bill Spivey, Shelby Linville)
(7) 1980-81 (22-6, #2 seed, Sam Bowie, Dirk Minniefield)
BTI Pick: This was Bowie’s first injury season. Tight game, Spivey wins it at end.

(3) 1974-75 (26-5, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Champs, Kevin Grevey, Jimmy Dan Conner)
(6) 1979-80 (29-6, SEC Champs, #1 Seed, Kyle Macy, Sam Bowie)
BTI Pick: John Wooden not coaching, refs not there to bail out ’80 team.  Grevey scores 35 in win.

(4) 1985-86 (32-4, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Kenny Walker, Winston Bennett)
(5) 1969-70 (26-2, SEC Champs, Dan Issel, Mike Pratt)
BTI Pick: Issel scores 40, Pratt pours in 25.  ’86 squad wins by 7.

OK, if you see a game that you think would have gone differently than I predicted, use the comments section to convince me otherwise.  


Article written by Bryan the Intern

37 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Who is Bronze Medal Best UK Team Ever

  1. Excuse me...
    9:05 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    I’m sorry, but the 1996 team is hands down better than the 2012 team. Not even much of a comparison in my opinion.

  2. A-YO
    9:08 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    lemme get an A-Yo! if you readin this from work

  3. A-YO
    9:08 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    Also, maybe you should back up your claim #1 anyone can just state things

  4. Not Dan Issel
    9:11 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    Without commenting on your individual game match-ups, I am one of those “old” fans (been watching the ‘Cats since Larry Pursiful) who has a longer perspective of some of the great teams in UK history. Having said that, I believe the 1996 team is without a doubt the greatest team UK has ever had. The results speak for themselves (wins, NCAA championship, statistical margins). That team dominated everyone. My second choice is the 1978 NCAA championship team. A veteran team, tough as nails, Robey, Phillips and Lee brutalized people inside, Givens, Macy and the rest killed them from the outside. Either of those units (IMHO) would beat the 2012 team on a regular basis.

  5. "I can play"
    9:11 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    Is Anderson available for the ’96-’97 team? Or is his coach still holding him on the bench, although the doctor’s say he can play? That will have a major impact for my choices.

  6. Duck Fuke
    9:20 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    This is an Excellent time waster as a way way to generate content during the slow news period! Great job! Guess I will check back after SEC media days and the start of football season.

    Have a nice summer y’all

  7. Ugly muffin
    9:22 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    I think Dan Issel would give Cousins and Patterson all they want. Cousins wouldn’t be stopped but more than likely he’s in foul trouble and out for most of the game. And Wall and crew have NEVER seen a 15 foot hook shot like Issel. I think lazy D and turnovers lose it for the 09-10 cats.

  8. catlanta
    9:24 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    it has to be 96-97. that team was just as talented and dominant as the ’96 team, and i think they beat the 2012 team in a best of 7 series…ridiculous depth in ’97.

  9. The Water Boy
    9:28 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    I can’t even read this vomit of a post. BTI sucks eggs.

  10. Steve Fitts
    9:37 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    You can’t fairly compare the pre-integration teams with the post-integration teams. Prior to the 1960s, UK could only recruit the best WHITE players in America. Back then the African-American ballplayers either went to college north of the Mason-Dixon line or to all African-American colleges (like Kentucky State). No way you can compare the all-white national championship teams (1948,1949, 1951, 1958) to the integrated teams from the late 1960s forward. You can compare all-white teams to other all-white teams, or you can compare integrated teams to other integrated teams, but you can’t accurately compare an all-white team to an integrated team, because the integrated team would WIN EVERY SINGLE TIME! If we were still living in a segregated society, Kyle Wiltjer would have been the best player (and only star player) on the 2012 team.

  11. Mark
    9:39 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    Fun game, but the game has changed so much over time. In general, the modern teams would be bigger and stronger than the teams from long ago, not to mention the skills that players have developed over time (dribbling and shooting have changed dramatically). So while it’s fun to pit the teams against each other (particularly in the east region), perhaps it would be more prudent to compare the teams to their contemporaries, seeing how each team fared against the best competition of its day. For example, the ’05 team would cream the ’48 team with its athleticism and shooting, but the ’48 team pretty much mowed down their competition and won that gold medal you mentioned, so their overall greatness is much clearer.

  12. Musehobo
    9:41 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    I can honestly say that I don’t have the proper perspective to dispute anything before the games in the 90’s. I’m only thirty, and I can only remember games about as far back as the early Pitino years. Since stats are skewed so much, my guess is you’d need some of the “old timers” to give you their insight. As far as the 1996/2012 debate, I lean slightly toward 1996.

  13. GoCatsWin#9
    9:43 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    02-03 is the best team that under-achieved in the NCAA tourney… they are a 2 or 3 seed in my book and a good pick for a deep run.

  14. Rockfield, KY
    9:49 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t see anyone being that close to ’96. AD and MKG were our two difference makers in 2012, but 96 had Walter McCarty to counter AD and bring him away from the basket and Derek Anderson to give MKG all he can handle. Mercer and Darius would be a key battle, but I think that Antoine would dominate T Jones and Teague wouldn’t abuse Epps like he did some guards in the tourney.

  15. KnowYourHistory
    10:00 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    I think you are underestimating Issel. The guy was able to play in the NBA into the mid-80s when the league was becoming super-athletic. I think with Issel’s inside and outside game, Boogie would be in foul trouble by the first TV timeout. Patterson would be a better match-up against the Horse, but I think Issel would punish PPat inside.

  16. Duuuuuude
    10:01 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    #8 is spot on. I will go as far as to say that if Anderson could play, the 1997-1998 UK team would have beaten the 2012 team….they were that good.

    Beyond that, these comparisons are difficult to make. I will say as an old timer here that the seldom talked about team of 83-84 was a great team. They had a bizarre 2nd half against Georgetown (who won the championship) in the NCAA Semi-finals hitting 3 of 33 shots. They had the number one pick in the NBA draft that year Sam Bowie picked ahead of Michael Jordan, and fellow twin tower Melvin Turpin….Remember Ketchup and Mustard? I would call this the most disappointing team as they were much better than 3 of 33 that half. They could not hit the ocean! That was 29 years ago and I still get frustrated when I think about it.

  17. Correcting Mistakes
    10:15 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    #16, a couple of corrections. First, Anderson was not on the 97-98 team. He was on the 96-97 team. Second, Sam Bowie was not the #1 pick in 1984, Hakeem Olajuwon was.

    And those who believe Dan Issel could not have handled Cousins need to go back to playing Call of Duty and forget about watching basketball. I love Cousins, but Issel would have schooled him all day long.

    Beyond that, these sort of things are as meaningless as any other BTI post (which are not nearly as meaningless as any Tomlin post). It’s hard enough to debate 2012 UK vs 2010 UK, much less 2012 UK vs 96 UK or 78 UK or 68 UCLA or…

  18. Travis Johnson
    10:32 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    weres 2012 team

  19. So your saying Issel couldn't handle Cousins
    10:34 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    Now that’s crazy talk. Issel was the demi-god son of Zeus on the court, I’m pretty sure he would rattle freshman cousins.

  20. lonnieb
    10:49 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    Players are better now…..all of calipari teams and and 96 cats would have man handled all these 60’s and 70’s team….its just different now. Sorry

    Its like adrian peterson playing tailback in the 70’s…he would literally never get tackled…safeties and corners running 4.7 40’s. The game progresses on a never ending timeline. The best always get better

  21. MonsterMash24
    11:08 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    I like the debate but no one really knows what woulda happened because we are using different time names but i dont believe the UK teams from the 40s & 50s would have been more productive if the black athlete had a significant role back then…Sadly they’d get crushed in today’s game which means they dont advance in this poll…My #1 Is 1996 Team,#2 2012 (just because they won it), #3 is 1993 Team…Had refs not called a stupid 5th foul oN Mashburn,we beat Michigan,& N.Caro. didnt have anyone to guard him either…Mashburn is the man!!! G.O.A.T

  22. Young Gun
    11:11 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    Dan Issel is the leading scorer in UK history and scored 53 points in a game before the 3 point line. If Issel’s skills were then “developed to the level of a modern player” I don’t think there is any way Cousins could handle him. Now, whether any other players on the ’67-’68 team could handle players like Wall, Bledsoe, or PPat, that’s a different story, and the outcome might still be the same (’10 team beats ’68 team). But I think its foolish to say Issel couldn’t handle Cousins.

  23. Real UK Fan
    11:19 am June 24, 2013 Permalink

    BTI, I have never really paid much attention to the bilge you author but after reading this last blog I begin to see why so many people find you to be inept and unintelligent. You truly are an idiot.

  24. ItzBadAndy
    12:17 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    People are forgetting just how good the Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe, Patterson combo was. People seriously don’t forget that the team had to shoot an all time NCAA worst shooting performance to barely loose to a very good West Virginia team. I know if we played them 100 times we beat them 95% of the time.

  25. GoCatsWin#9
    12:20 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    In order to even consider who would win the historical/modern era matchups, we must know if a shot clock is to be used. What about the three point shot? If you think Issel’s stats are impressive, consider that he did it in grind-it-out games or up-tempo games with no three-point line. He still holds the rebounding record and played 80 some odd games… against good shooters. Modern teams turn the ball over so much… if they tried to play the same tempo without a shot clock, players like Issel, Nash, Givens, etc. would eat them alive. It is a different game, more fun to watch now… but the historical teams had to make every possession count.

  26. BellCounty Mounty
    12:37 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    Issel/Pratt defensive prowness would have handled Walker/Bennett in the 80’s. Walker and Issel would counter balance each other as both were great players. Pratt would take Bennett 7 times out of ten.

  27. Mateo
    12:53 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    2010 with Wall/Cousins or 1998 with Shepherd I would say for third place. I’m sorry but the competition is just different now. A great team in the 50’s or 60’s would have trouble keeping up with an average UK squad now. It’s just the way it is.

  28. bung
    2:11 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    I guess Rocky Marciano would not be able to handle the great athletic heavyweights of today huh? Those older teams were rough and tough…these new kids wouldn’t know what hit em…

  29. Mateo
    2:23 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    #28 – Correct…he would not be able to handle them. I think you’re starting to get it.

  30. Ky_Tom
    2:44 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    The best Over all UK Team ….1996 team with a doubt….
    The 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998, 2012 all were Championship winners.
    All of these teams made it to the Final game………
    It’s just this simple,… There is NO Prize for 2nd Place.
    The 1997 team was great, just like the 1975 team.
    However these teams did make it to the final game..But they lost..The 2010 team was good, but failed to even make the Final Four, so they do not belong on the same page as the winners. The 2011 team that did make the Final Four, belongs higher on the staus pole than that of the 2010….You can not elevate Losing teams over WINNERS~!…Just my view…….

  31. Wildcat Mike
    2:50 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    The ’78 team should be left off this list and everyone else should be playing for 4th. They had returned their 4 best players from the previous year’s team that spent the entire season ranked in the top 3. Plus they upgraded from Larry Johnson (a 6’3″, athletic point guard in the 70’s) to an All-American in Kyle Macy.

  32. JoeB
    3:04 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    It’s 1978 easily. That team was the best in the country that year by far and an easy pick for third best in UK history. The game between them and Prince’s team wouldnt have been a classic, it would have been a romp…

  33. KyJake
    4:47 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    A few things: I’m not sure why there’s so much vitriol about this post – I think it is kind of entertaining and it’s the summer, a very slow news time. Lighten up, folks. Second, add my voices saying that I think the ’96 team is superior to the ’12 team. Third, the only quibble I have seems to be in line with the others – don’t underestimate Dan Issel. An incredible scoring talent. You have some athleticism issues between the eras, sure, but the Big Horse was something else.

  34. gary
    6:10 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    way tooooo much time on your hands BTI

  35. Georgetown Luke
    7:38 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    I actually think the 96-97 team could give the 12 or 96 team a good run. Of course the 97 team had some of the same players as 96, but, if treated as stand-a-lone teams the 97 is very close with a healthy Anderson
    I feel this way because of a thing called “chemistry”. 97 team had a certain joy and energy they played with that just destroyed other teams.

  36. Wendel
    8:05 pm June 24, 2013 Permalink

    you suck!

  37. Chaz
    12:44 am June 25, 2013 Permalink

    Must admit, I am mildly surprised. Waited all day and no crude Alan Cutler jokes. Ah well, it’s summertime.