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The Athletic: Kentucky has Four of the 15 Most Dominant College Basketball Teams in the last 50 Years

It’s good to be the king. And it’s good to be a Kentucky basketball fan.

Over the last 50 years the Wildcat faithful has witnessed some of the best teams to ever grace the hardwood. Obviously, the BBN will take their team above all others, but how do outsiders stack the best UK teams up against the competition? The college basketball staff at The Athletic has an answer to that question that will delight you.

Last week the sports media outlet ranked the 25 most dominant college basketball teams of the last 50 years. Four Kentucky teams finished in the top 15, starting with Joe B. Hall’s 1978 National Champions at No. 15. Like the 1978 team, the 2012 Wildcats only lost two games, finishing in the poll ranked No. 12, one spot behind a team that fell in the Final Four, the 38-1 Kentucky Wildcats from 2015. The 1991 Running Rebels from UNLV (No. 4) are the only team ranked higher that did not win a title.

Near the top of the list you will find one of the greatest teams ever assembled. Rick Pitino’s Untouchables from 1996 finish at No. 6. Brian Hamilton statistically puts into context that team’s greatness.

Enter: The Untouchables. Do we really need to say much more than that? Fine, we will. There’s plenty of material. A 27-game win streak, and exactly one loss after Thanksgiving week. A roster featuring nine players who would have NBA careers and flowed beautifully together at the college level; the Wildcats took more shots (2,461), made more shots (1,198) and scored more points (3,292) while dishing out more assists (783) than any other team in the country. Eight of the 10 players who appeared in at least 30 games shot 50 percent from the floor, and all of them were at 46 percent or better.

Kentucky also played some defense, leading the country in steals and finishing 11th in blocks, which would explain its plus-22 average scoring margin for the season. It won each of its first four NCAA Tournament games by at least 20 points and then avenged one of its two losses with a defeat of Massachusetts in the Final Four. It was Rick Pitino’s only national title in Lexington and the first since the 1977-78 crew won it all. Fairly amazing that Tony Delk was the team’s only player recognized with All-America honors. Or put another way: Kentucky was this good in a college basketball season that included Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby and Kerry Kittles as its most luminous performers at the top of their games. And The Untouchables outshone them all.

I was pleased to see one other UK team make a cameo. Bobby Knight long claimed that his 1975 Hoosiers were better than their undefeated successors. It’s a real shame Joe B. Hall’s Cats knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament in the ’75 Elite Eight, a real shame.

[The Athletic’s 25 Most Dominant CBB Teams over the Last 50 Years]

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

5 Comments for The Athletic: Kentucky has Four of the 15 Most Dominant College Basketball Teams in the last 50 Years

  1. Big Blue goggles or not, the 96 team to me should be #1 on that list. When they were focused, can you really name a team in the last 50 years that could beat them?? Too much depth, talent, and one of the greatest in-game coaches in his prime! Say what you want, but he was back then.

    • RAGE
      7:41 pm May 23, 2020 Permalink

      Agreed Skooms… Honestly best shooting team by far I have ever seen in college basketball… It is also funny that the only coach who had true success that season against us now coaches us too… Umass beat us early in the season and gave em the toughest game of the tourney in the Final Four… Was truly the only team in the country that really could compete with us that season… I know we lost the SEC championship against Mississippi State but that was a fluke…. I just loved the style and tempo that team played with…

  2. 2015 was best team ever.

  3. IMO, that loss to UMASS resembled the 2012 teams loss @ IU as far as the way we played afterwards (To clarify the word “loss” when discussing the IU game that season, ABSOLUTE HIGHWAY ROBBERY is closer to reality than saying WE lost that game when the stripes were worse than horrible, all of them shouldve been banned from refing anymore games period, we were getting held and hacked the entire game, not to mention the 300 times IUs players traveled, walked, etc and maybe 2-3 were called, none in the last 5 minutes, almost seemed at times they thought it was a football game,, that game propelled us into an undefeated conference schedule where our only other loss (ONLY REAL LOSS THAT SEASON IMO, no excuses with refs or anything, they showed up and just happened to play slightly better than we did that night, but IMO, luckily they did win, because we dominated the NCAA tourney and took home title #8 after that) was to a very solid Vandy squad in the SEC tournament title game. IMO, ’96 should be #1 but our other teams on the list, namely ’12 and undefeated ’15 teams are ranked way too low. I mean the ’12 squad, Teague a defensive bulldog, Doron Lamb, a sharpshooting slasher, MKG, another Defensive bulldog, rebounding machine and ELITE Utility man, Terrance Jones, southpaw super ELITE Athletic stretch 4 who could shoot it with solid handles and underrated shot-blocker, and then arguably the Greatest College player in 20+ years in A.D….. super Athletic, extremely underrated offensive game, ELITE rebounder and IMO, without question, THEE BEST, shot blocker in history of the college game, not to mention he was insanely unselfish, title game, tells teammates, you guys score, I’ll rebound and play D??.. I mean what type of #1 pick in the NBA draft does that? NONE, that’s what type. That team shouldve went 39-1 with only loss to Vandy in SEC tourney-title game, got robbed at IU.

    Then the ’14/’15 team is probably the closest in history resembling our ’96 team as far as pure dominance over the country and the stacked amount of talent… Harrison twins, Ulis, Booker, Dom Hawkins, Poythress, Lyles, Derek Willis, WCS, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee and the BIG-KAT Karl Anthony Towns!?!!!?!! Loaded, ridiculously loaded, if Poythress doesn’t go down with a torn ACL early in the season, we win #9 HANDS DOWN IMO. ’15 should be top-5, ’12 should be top-5 IMO. Only reason their not is because were Kentucky and they love to hate us, if the same 2 teams played for P(d)uke, they’d be 1, 2 and 3 while K was proclaimed god of college Bball. It’s a crime they are rated as low as they are IMO, Blue-Tinted shades OR NOT!

  4. Sorry so long guys, it was supposed to be cut in half and into 2 separate posts, lol. Long or not, it doesnt make my points any less valid though, ’96 team should be #1, ’15 and ’12 should both be in the top-10 or IMO, the top-5/6. I mean the ’15 team, lol, I still remember watching the Kansas and UCLA games that season and I believe the 41-7 HALFTIME score against ucla is one of the craziest things you’ll ever see in college Bball history IMO. Arguably best defensive team in history.

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