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ESPN names Kentucky 3rd best program over the last 50 years

ESPN’s been keeping busy this offseason with their “50 in 50” series, a ranking of the top 50 programs over the last 50 years. How did they measure success? The nerds in the ESPN Stats department developed a point system comprised of conference titles, NCAA Tournament performance, winning percentages, draft results, and NCAA sanctions. How did the Cats do? ESPN ranked Kentucky the third best program over the last fifty years.

With a total of 841 points, Kentucky’s four national titles over the years of ESPN’s study put them towards the top, but they lost 17 points because of NCAA sanctions in 1988-89 and 1975-76. The drought of Final Fours between 1999-2010 didn’t help either, but in the past 20 years, Kentucky had the second most points (428) of any team, trailing only Duke (441).

The fun doesn’t stop there. ESPN also ranked teams and players within the program over the last fifty years:

Rank by the decade
1962-69: 97 (4th)
1970-79: 180 (2nd)
1980-89: 134 (6th)
1990-99: 215 (2nd)
2000-present: 214 (4th)

50 in 50 starting five (1962-present)
G — Kyle Macy (1977-80)
F — Jamal Mashburn (1990-93)
F — Jack Givens (1974-78)
F — Anthony Davis (2011-12)
C — Dan Issel (1967-70)

Top options off the bench
Kenny Walker (1982-86)
Tony Delk (1992-96)
Cotton Nash (1961-64)

50 in 50 coach: Adolph Rupp (1930-72)

Best teams (1962-present)
1977-78 (30-2, NCAA national champions)
1995-96 (34-2, NCAA national champions)
2011-12 (38-2, NCAA national champions)

UNC and UCLA ranked first and second in the series, respectively.

Here’s the top ten:
1. North Carolina (911 points)
2. UCLA (904 points)
3. Kentucky (841 points)
4. Duke (777 points)
5. Kansas (676 points)
6. Louisville (547 points)
7. Indiana (442 points)
8. Syracuse (431 points)
9. Connecticut (423 points)
10. Arizona (388 points)

Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

46 Comments for ESPN names Kentucky 3rd best program over the last 50 years



  1. Captain Artic
    11:22 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    That missed title in ’66 will forever be the inhibitor – until we reel off more under Cal. No way UNC should be 1 though.



  2. snoopaloop
    11:23 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    I think we are well past the time to stop considering UCLA elite off of Wooden’s accomplishments.



  3. GoCats2
    11:25 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    When I saw this originally I figured us or UCLA had to be #1 but I didnt know they were subtracting points. I am not going to be the one to say there is a UNC bias but they probably get 500 points just for Jordan.



  4. Captain Artic
    11:27 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Agreed – the top spot has to be between UNC and UK. UCLA has done nothing past the Wooden era with the exception of ’95 which was very fortunate. When Harrick won that National Title, it lessened the accomplishments of other coaches that have won a title.



  5. BigBlueAces
    11:28 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    “draught” = beer….good



  6. Captain Artic
    11:29 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    That and the fact that the ESPN President John Skipper is a proud graduate of UNC Chapel Hill.



  7. asdf
    11:29 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Granted the sixties and the eighties were tough decades for us (not to mention the late Tubby and BCG years), but still no other program can claim even as much consistency as us over that 50 years. UCLA had a really good decade, and then has been mediocre ever since with the exception of a couple of years. UNC has had a good last decade, but for thirty years under Dean Smith, they were known as the team that had a great regular season, went to the Sweet 16, and then always got beat because Smith could not win a big game. We should be # 1 and, as much as I hate to admit it, Duke should be # 2. They have been consistently good since the sixties except for a brief period right before Coach K. Then UCLS at # 3, Kansas at # 4 and UNC at # 5. That would be a much more objective listing.



  8. jacocat
    11:31 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    I loved Kyle Macey But Johm Wall was a # 1 draft pick.



  9. Me
    11:31 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    With all due respect, ksr, why should we really care about this type of ranking? We ALL know we are better and should be in the top spot in any poll. Sure, ucla has more titles (under an extremely shady coach wooden). We have more titles than everyone else INCLUDING unc, duke, and iu. We have more passionate fans – hell we’d show up on the moon for a game. And we’ve had more coaches win the title – which should speak to the SCHOOL, more so than success of a specific coach or two at other schools.

    My poll of top programs:
    1. UK
    2. Who cares?
    3. I could care even less.



  10. Mrs. Tyler Thompson
    11:31 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    5 – Bah. You can see where my head is today. Thanks for the heads up, fixed.



  11. Joshua
    11:33 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Wait and see if unc gets in trouble for a possible academic scandle. They’d lose quite a bit. Ucla was great in the wooden era but after that fit whipped by FL in championships! Besides that not too much in my book. Also, wait to see if they get in trouble for the shabazz stuff. Heck us too knowing the NCAA.



  12. Blue Bayou
    11:34 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    UK and UCLA have to be 1 and 2, in either order. We have the most all time wins and the second most titles. UCLA may not have done much since Wooden, but if we are talking about the last 50 years then you have to put them towards the top, unless you just leave out the 70s. That is the biggest dynasty period in college basketball history. You have to respect that era.

    UNC should not be above #3.



  13. SexnNursinHomes
    11:35 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Love that ESPN uses a time line of 50 years. Go back a few years and UK is clear cut #1. Funny, how numbers can be adjusted to make a point. Why just 50 yrs? Why not 60 yrs?.



  14. John O
    11:35 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Well if the NCAA would throw the sanctions against UNC now they would lose all their titles over the past 10 or so years.



  15. Chad in Evansville
    11:35 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    I think it’s ridiculous to think that UK is #3 in ESPN’s bogus scoring system. UK has the highest number of wins of any other team, ever. They also hold the highest win percentage of any team, ever. ESPN is just a bunch of powder blue lovers, along with the Puke lovers.



  16. snoopaloop
    11:39 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    13. Heck, make it 30 years. Does UCLA even make the Top 10?



  17. @sircolbyBrown
    11:42 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    I agree that UCLA should be ahead of us. But I don’t think UNC should be in front of us. Even though UNC has been a lot better than us in the last 10 years, but overall thats just crazy.



  18. SexnNursinHomes
    11:42 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    16- not on that time line, hahaha



  19. Loyal_UK_Fan
    11:43 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Anyone notice the sanctions on ULs little blurb:

    6. Louisville (547 points)

    Positives: Won a pair of national titles in the 1980s; also made six other Final Fours; 21 regular-season conference titles; five first-team consensus All-Americans; nine top-10 picks.

    Negatives: Lost 10 points due to sanctions; hasn’t reached the national championship game in 26 years; had an eight-year stretch without a conference title (1996-03).

    No title game in 26 years, no conference titles from 96-03 in weak ass CUSA, no title since 1986. That is laughable.



  20. ThatsAShame
    11:45 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    How about who was the best program of the past 1 year? Oh wait… some journalist already said it was UNC. So much for that poll.



  21. SexnNursinHomes
    11:53 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    17- unc has cheated for over 10 years, no wonder they have had a better decade than us. It’s a lot easier if you only have to concentrate on basketball and not college school work.



  22. Lunch box
    11:53 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    great Nerlens Noel will be ineligible now because UK is number 3 and that has to be some stupid a$$ violation



  23. Mr. Obvious
    11:57 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    UNC will not be #1 after a few seasons and titles are vacated!



  24. Mr. Obvious
    11:59 am August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Who am I kiddin, that will never happen will it?



  25. FanOfUK
    12:01 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    UK is the #1 NCAA basketball program of ALL-TIME. Whatever ranking of the last 50 years, that fact is beyond reasonable debate.



  26. Linda Taylor
    12:12 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    ESPN had to hurry with this list so UNC would make the top. It should be just a matter of time before all those wins and titles get taken down. UCLA wouldn’t even be on the list if the NCAA had any integrity because all their titles would have been taken away for paying players.



  27. UKBlue1!
    12:15 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Eddie Sutton, Tubby Smith and Billy Clyde pulled UK down to #3. 15 years of bad basketball. 1986-89 1999-2009= probation and zero final fours.



  28. Jd
    12:17 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    When was the site bought by USA today??



  29. Jus Sayin
    12:19 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Hate to say this but, what has Kansas done in the last 50 years to be ahead of Louisville?



  30. mores
    12:21 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Arbitrary criteria lead to arbitrary results. The end.



  31. Chris
    12:26 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    How in the blue hell is John Wall not on that team???? Granted only 8 players, not a full squad, but still, I think people forgot how dominant he was.



  32. Linda Taylor
    12:30 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    28-Affiliated does not equal bought.



  33. Matthew
    12:35 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    I think they should do a top 25 for the last 25 years just to see Louisville gone from this list all together.



  34. coolioo1
    12:37 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    One thing that UK should get extra credit for is that 4 different coaches have won titles. That really shows the PROGRAM’s strength over time. IU, Duke, UofL, all come from one coach and UCLA really only come from one coach….



  35. Capt'n Obvious
    12:38 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    So ESPN does a “50 in 50” series ranking the top “50” teams of the past “50” years. But they are supposed to go back 60 years to accomodate UK fans. Jeez!



  36. Rockfield, KY
    12:58 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    29. Same number of titles with more wins and no real drop of. I’m guessing the consistency matters in this ranking. Kansas has been to 3 title games in the last decade alone and won 1 of them.



  37. SexnNursinHomes
    12:58 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    35- umm, I think you were referencing me on that. Why not 60 in 60? What’s the fascination with “50” are you saying that couldn’t have added another 10? and they also picked a time line that completely discounts Rupp’s 4 banners. How nice.

    Hypothetical time lines are only used to make points. Jeez!



  38. Big Blue Coming at You
    1:04 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    Both UNC and UCLA are highly over-rated. Now that we know that at least over the past 20 or so years UNC has been using fake classes to keep athletes eligible. But i don’t expect ESPN to account for the biggest academic scandal in the history of college sports. What has UCLA done since their dominance of paying athletes in the 60s and 70s? Their lone title in 95 was won by one of the biggest cheats ever who was banned from college basketball for what he would later do at Georgia.

    No other program has been better in the last 20 years than UK. We owned the 90s with 3 straight championship appearances winning 2 of them. Even with Tubby we won a lot of games and owned the conference for most of those years. We had about a 4 year lull at the end of Tubby’s reign and with BCG but we bounced back bigger than ever with Cal and are back on top of college basketball. We also did well in the early to mid 80s before the scandal and won a championship in 78. If anything it should be Kentucky #1 and Duke #2. Duke has been great program since the late 70s even though i can’t stand them but i give credit where credit is due.



  39. JS
    1:08 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    I think MKG should be coming off the bench, no body in my mind better on defense!!!!!!



  40. Dr. Funke
    1:20 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    I heard UNC is gonna hang a banner to commemorate this acheivement.



  41. Bryan
    1:22 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    #19, it is hilarious that a UK fan would bring up U of L getting 10 points taken off for sanctions when UK has had 17 points taken off. Besides unlike UK, U of L sanctions did not involve recruiting violations, a post season ban or forfeiture of games.
    UK fans should Thank God the ranking don’t go back 60 years to include the 1952-53 Death Penalty season. If it did your ranking would really fall off!!!



  42. Richie's 5-o'clock Shadow
    1:56 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t really have a problem with that ranking. Realize that the last 50 years begins after the 1962 season, which eliminates half of our titles and our most dominant era. Our four titles in the last 50 years is no better than UNC or Duke, and though I haven’t looked at the numbers, our win total is probably not as high as them either. UNC will always be given credit for the sheer number of pros they have developed over the last 30 years. And UCLA will be forever overrated because of their one dominant decade. (Until Cal help us catch them.) Kentucky is still the most consistently strong program across college basketball history – most wins, best win percentage, eight titles with four coaches in five different decades.



  43. Capt'n Obvious
    1:57 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    37. No I wasn’t referencing anyone, otherwise I would have put your number up like i did in this comment. And you’re crazy if you don’t think that 50 isn’t a milestone number. Like people said earlier. The president of ESPN is a UNC grad, of course there is gonna be favoritism. Gotta accept it, until theres a UK guy in charge. Its not fair, but the way it is. And if i knew you were so sensitive, i would pick at you too. They are just loving the hits and attention they are getting from the BBN.



  44. AaronE
    2:51 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    we had 5 coaches win titles at kentucky didnt we? bc Ive noticed some people saying we had four. Rupp, Hall, pitino,tubby,cal



  45. AaronE
    2:53 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    nevermind that was 4 in the last 50 my bad



  46. maddogmitchell55
    7:50 pm August 24, 2012 Permalink

    According to ESPN, UNC is first for the last 50 years? Who cares?

    According to history, Kentucky is the of best all time. And that is all anybody needs to know.