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CBS Sports ranks the top eight Kentucky teams of all time

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

When you have the all-time winningest program in college basketball history and eight national championships, you’re bound to have some historically great teams over the years.

But who is the best?

This week, David Cobb of CBS Sports broke down the eight best teams in Kentucky basketball history, dating back all the way to the Adolph Rupp years in Lexington.

Some of the teams are obvious, but others may surprise you. Take a look at what they came up with below, along with a list of the stat leaders for each team to help you compare:

1. 1995-96 (Won NCAA championship)

  • G: Tony Delk (17.8 Pts, 4.2 Reb, 1.8 Ast)
  • F: Antoine Walker (15.2 Pts, 8.4 Reb, 2.9 Ast)
  • C: Walter McCarty (11.3 Pts, 5.7 Reb, 2.6 Ast)
  • G: Derek Anderson (9.4 Pts, 3.4 Reb, 2.4 Ast)
  • F: Ron Mercer (8.0 Pts, 2.9 Reb, 1.4 Ast)

CBS Analysis:

Led by a deep cast of future NBA players including Tony Delk, Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer, Derek Anderson and Walter McCarty, Kentucky started the season ranked No. 1 and never fell below No. 5 in the AP Top 25 as it snapped an 18-year national title drought. The Wildcats finished 34-2 (16-0 SEC) and cruised through the NCAA Tournament with a 21.5-point average margin of victory. 

2. 2011-12 (Won NCAA championship)

  • C: Anthony Davis (14.2 Pts, 10.4 Reb, 1.3 Ast)
  • G: Doron Lamb (13.7 Pts, 2.7 Reb, 1.5 Ast)
  • F: Terrence Jones (12.3 Pts, 7.2 Reb, 1.3 Ast)
  • F: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11.9 Pts, 7.4 Reb, 1.9 Ast)
  • G: Marquis Teague (10.0 Pts, 2.5 Reb, 4.8 Ast)

CBS Analysis:

There are striking similarities between the 2012 championship team and the 1996 team, but Pitino’s squad gets the edge on Calipari’s lone title-winner because of how deep it was. Still, there’s no doubt the 2011-12 team is one of the greatest in UK history. Led by freshman phenom Anthony Davis, the Wildcats allowed fewer points per game than any other Kentucky team since the introduction of the 3-point line until the 2014-15 team later broke that record.

3. 2014-15 (Final Four)

  • G: Aaron Harrison (11.0 Pts, 2.6 Reb, 1.4 Ast)
  • F: Karl-Anthony Towns (10.3 Pts, 6.7 Reb, 1.1 Ast)
  • G: Devin Booker (10.0 Pts, 2.0 Reb, 1.1 Ast)
  • G: Andrew Harrison (9.3 Pts, 2.2 Reb, 3.6 Ast)
  • F: Willie Cauley-Stein (8.9 Pts, 6.4 Reb, 1.0 Ast)
  • F: Trey Lyles (8.7 Pts, 5.2 Reb, 1.1 Ast)

CBS Analysis:

A Kentucky team whose leading scorer averaged just 11 points came within two games of completing arguably the greatest season in college basketball history. The Wildcats entered a Final Four contest against Wisconsin 38-0 and having held the No. 1 ranking all season. But even after losing 71-64 to the Badgers and having their magical season cut short, this UK team still comes in ahead of some Kentucky squads that won national titles. 

4. 1947-48 (Won NCAA championship)

  • C: Alex Groza (12.5 Pts)
  • G: Ralph Beard (12.5 Pts)
  • F: Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones (9.3 Pts)
  • F: Jim Line (7.0 Pts)
  • G: Ken Rollins (6.6 Pts)

CBS Analysis:

The competing interests of the NCAA Tournament and the NIT in crowing a champion and the eventual integration of UK’s rosters makes comparing the early Kentucky greats to its more modern teams a challenge. But the “Fabulous Five” of 1947-48 won the team’s first national title and deserves a prominent place on any list of the program’s great seasons.

The team didn’t just win — it dominated. Kentucky’s average margin of victory in the SEC Tournament was 26.5 points, and it won its three NCAA Tournament games by a margin of 15.7 points.

5. 1965-66 (Lost in NCAA final)

  • F: Pat Riley (22.0 Pts, 8.9 Reb, 2.2 Ast)
  • G: Louie Dampier (21.1 Pts, 5.0 Reb, 1.3 Ast)
  • C: Thad Jaracz (13.2 Pts, 7.5 Reb, 0.6 Ast)
  • F: Larry Conley (11.5 Pts, 5.6 Reb, 3.4 Ast)
  • G: Tommy Kron (10.2 Pts, 8.3 Reb, 1.6 Ast)

CBS Analysis:

This team is also remembered for starting 23-0 without a player over 6-foot-5 in the lineup. Former NBA player and five-time NBA championship-winning coach Pat Riley, who is currently president of the Miami Heat, led the Wildcats with 22 points per game.

6. 1997-98 (Won NCAA championship)

  • G: Jeff Sheppard (13.7 Pts, 4.0 Reb, 2.7 Ast)
  • C: Nazr Mohammed (12.0 Pts, 7.2 Reb, 0.7 Ast)
  • F: Scott Padgett (11.5 Pts, 6.5 Reb, 2.1 Ast)
  • G: Wayne Turner (9.3 Pts, 3.1 Reb, 4.4 Ast)
  • F: Allen Edwards (9.2 Pts, 3.2 Reb, 3.3 Ast)
  • F: Heshimu Evans (8.8 Pts, 5.4 Reb, 1.6 Ast)

CBS Analysis:

The 1998 title-winning team was by no means a slouch, but its claim to a spot on this the list is due primarily to its improbable run through the final three games of the NCAA Tournament. The “Comeback Cats” as they became known, fell behind by 17 against Duke in the Elite Eight, by 10 against Stanford in the Final Four and by 10 against Utah in the title game.

7. 1977-78 (Won NCAA championship)

  • F: Jack “Goose” Givens (18.1 Pts, 6.8 Reb, 2.5 Ast)
  • F: Rick Robey (14.4 Pts, 8.2 Reb, 1.9 Ast)
  • G: Kyle Macy (12.9 Pts, 2.5 Reb, 5.7 Ast)
  • F: James Lee (11.3 Pts, 5.3 Reb, 1.2 Ast)
  • C: Mike Phillips (10.2 Pts, 4.7 Reb, 0.9 Ast)

CBS Analysis:

This team, coached by Joe B. Hall, spent 11 weeks at No. 1 and only dropped to No. 3 after an overtime loss at LSU in February. The Wildcats never lost again as they rattled off 13 straight wins to close the season with a 30-2 record and the program’s first national title won by someone other than Rupp.

8. 1991-92 (Elite Eight)


  • F: Jamal Mashburn (21.3 Pts, 7.8 Reb, 1.4 Ast)
  • F: John Pelphrey (12.5 Pts, 4.2 Reb, 4.0 Ast)
  • F: Deron Feldhaus (11.4 Pts, 3.8 Reb, 2.3 Ast)
  • G: Richie Farmer (9.6 Pts, 2.0 Reb, 1.5 Ast)
  • G: Sean Woods (7.7 Pts, 2.6 Reb, 4.6 Ast)

CBS Analysis:

This team lost seven games but produced one of the most meaningful — and therefore, best — seasons in program history. On the heels of a two-year postseason ban, this group of Wildcats, led largely by in-state players, restored the program to prominence.

What do you think of the list? How would you rank the all-time best Kentucky teams?

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

13 Comments for CBS Sports ranks the top eight Kentucky teams of all time

  1. Davey McCrockett
    8:05 pm July 30, 2020 Permalink

    I hate Wisconsin so much.

    • Gogh Big Bleu
      8:28 pm July 30, 2020 Permalink

      Agreed. Is there is any other more heartbreaking ending to a season outside 92 and 15?

    • Bluehender
      6:54 am July 31, 2020 Permalink

      Yes. As a 10 year old boy, the 65-66 loss in the championship game crushed me. They were a great team..

  2. katmandue2you
    9:28 pm July 30, 2020 Permalink

    The 75 team was awfully damn good. If John Wooden doesn’t retire there’s another championship. Should’ve been anyway. Team had some shooters. With a three point line they would’ve been phenomenal.

  3. Rick_S
    9:38 pm July 30, 2020 Permalink


    • miggles
      10:59 pm July 30, 2020 Permalink

      Typing in all caps doesn’t make an incorrect statement correct. Cats won the ‘98 title with three consecutive games that best exemplify playing to the final whistle no matter what. If that’s not a top-10 all-time UK team for you, then your criteria are severely out of whack.

  4. bigblue98
    9:55 pm July 30, 2020 Permalink

    The 78 team is way too low. They should be either 2 or 3, but definitely not below that.

    • Bluehender
      6:56 am July 31, 2020 Permalink

      I agree..

  5. katmandue2you
    10:50 pm July 30, 2020 Permalink

    The 84 team and the 75 are the two best that never won a championship. The 84 team had Bowie, Turpin, Skywalker, Winston Bennett, Dickie Beal, Jim Master, James Blackman, Roger Hardin, Tom Heinz, Troy McKinley and Baby Magic (he was 5’ 5”). Im pretty sure there are at least two and maybe 3 first team All Americans on that list and no telling how many 1st Team SEC at some point in theyre career….probably 6-8. Bowie Turpin Walker Bennett definitely we’re and possibly Beal and Hardin. THAT TEAM WAS LOADED. WAY LOADED. WAY WAY LOADED. THEY HAD IT ALL. ONE OF NOT ONLY THE BEST WILDCAT TEAMS BUT DEFINITELY MOST EXCITING. THAT WAS THE CHAMPIONSHIP THAT GOT AWAY FROM JOE B. PROBABLY BETTER THAN 2010 2012 or 2015

  6. Bluehender
    6:59 am July 31, 2020 Permalink

    Those teams were great..

    • Bluehender
      7:29 am July 31, 2020 Permalink

      …the 84 & 75 teams

  7. the ghost of Bill Hicks
    12:57 pm July 31, 2020 Permalink

    96 team…..the 2 teams that beat them both went to the Final 4. That will never happen again.

  8. BallDontLie
    12:14 am August 1, 2020 Permalink

    2015 was best team