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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Taking Back the Losses

We have to admit the fact that this year’s team could go undefeated.  I hate even typing that this few games into the season, but it is obvious.  What that also means for a team this good that any loss, whether it be in the regular season or tournament, will be especially painful.  Which means for many UK fans if this team loses a game this year, they will want that game back as much as any.

If I could have ONE game that Kentucky lost that I wish they would have won more than any other, it would have been the 2004 loss to UAB in the NCAA Tournament.  I had tickets to the Sweet 16 and never had seen UK play in the NCAA Tournament, loved that team, and hated UAB’s players.  But I know that would not be on most UK’s fans list of games they want back.  I also know that losing to Duke in 1992 would be #1 on a BUNCH of UK’s fans lists, so I leave that one out because of how obvious it is and just to give a little variety to the conversation.  So my question to you is:  Of the 10 games listed below, which game do you want back the most and why.  I listed some reasons under each game of my reasons why, but I want yours.

2010: West Virginia, Elite 8
-What if Kentucky had won this game and went to the Final 4 in John Calipari’s 1st season.  UK would have got the dream matchup with Duke and likely been favored to win the entire tournament.  Patrick Patterson would have firmly cemented himself as a Top 10 legend.  The Final Four streak would have ended at 12 years instead of 13.  UK fans would have dominated the home crowd in Indianapolis.

2005 and 2003: Michigan State and Marquette, Elite 8
-What if Kentucky goes to Final Fours in either of those 2 seasons.  Tubby Smith may still be the coach at Kentucky.  Maybe recruiting would not have dipped at the end of his tenure.  Maybe Dwayne Wade doesn’t become the national superstar he did, doesn’t get drafted by the Heat.  With a 2nd or 3rd Final Four Smith would have been considered loved by 100% of the UK fanbase.  And Tom Crean never becomes the IU head coach.

1997: Arizona, National Title Game
-What if Kentucky wins its 2nd straight title against Arizona.  This may have kept Pitino at Kentucky.  This would have certainly made UK the team of the 1990’s, especially after the 1998 title.  But maybe a title in ’97 would have prevented a title in ’98, as the team would have had more pressure.  Maybe Lute Olsen never wins a title, leaves Arizona sooner than he did.

1996, Mississippi State, SEC Tournament Finals
-What if UK completes the first ever perfect SEC season.  They would have won 8 straight tournament titles, instead of the streaks of 4 and 3 on either side of this game.  Would they still have been as dominant in the NCAA Tournament and won the title?  Would they have gone down, without any questions, as the greatest UK team ever?

1986: LSU, Elite 8
-What if Kentucky beats LSU for a 4th time that season and goes to a Final Four in Sutton’s 1st year?  They would have played Louisville in the Final 4, and maybe prevented them from winning their 2nd title.  They had already beaten the Cards by 5 earlier that year.     Maybe with a Final 4, Sutton’s later antics and probation don’t happen because the pressure to get to a Final Four decreases.

1983: Louisville, Elite 8
-What if Kentucky wins the original Dream Game.  Maybe the series between Kentucky and Louisville doesn’t get renewed.  Maybe Joe B Hall wins a 2nd national title, getting through Houston and NC State to do so.  Maybe UL doesn’t continue rolling in the 1980’s.

1975: UCLA, National Title Game
-What if Kentucky beats John Wooden in his last game.  Does Kevin Grevey go down as a Top 2-3 UK player of all-time?  Maybe Joe B. Hall really gets the program rolling on a yearly basis, winning a title in ’75 and ’78.

1970: Jacksonville, Elite 8
-What if Kentucky, the top ranked team in the country, beats Jacksonville and goes to the Final Four.  They would have been favored to win it all.  Dan Issel would have a Final Four on his resume.  Maybe the school doesn’t force Rupp into retirement 2 years later.

1966: Texas Western, National Title Game
-What if Kentucky wins Rupp’s 5th title in 1966.  Do race relations change as quickly in college basketball as they do?  Does Rupp’s reputation become as tarnished with future movies about the game?  Or is the pressure to recruit African-Americans to UK go away, preventing Tom Payne from coming later.

1952: St. Johns, Elite 8
-What if Rupp’s top ranked team doesn’t lose to the Johnnies, but instead makes another Final Four.  They could have won their 4th title in 5 years, something only UCLA will ever accomplish.  Maybe with a title, UK doesn’t cancel it’s next season, but instead figures out a compromise with the NCAA.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

33 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Taking Back the Losses

  1. JP Livco
    9:10 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

    Mine was the 1984 loss to Georgetown in the Final Four. I loved Bowie and Turpin and that team. And we get beat by a guy that we never heard from again. Michael Graham.

    • memphis wildcat
      1:08 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

      Yep…This loss needs to be on the list. Still remember watching it…

  2. Boone
    9:15 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

    Honestly… 1975 would be my #1. Adds a UK championship, while taking one away from UCLA. Long term, the thing that would make me happiest as a UK fan would be passing UCLA. Also, this one has less butterfly effect potential in my mind… Maybe 1978 changes, but I doubt it.

    Any of the Elite 8 games are tough to pick, because you still have 2 more games to win before they matter, and many have potential negative impact (no UL series, keep Tubby/miss Cal, etc.).

    1997 hurt, but we got it in 1998 (this has been the logic keeping me going this year, by the way).

    I would personally put either UConn game from this decade on the list to choose from.

    • jimlowe7
      9:21 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

      I agree with Boone 100% – and I hate to accuse refs of favoring one team, but it was SO OBVIOUS that they were gonna guarantee Wooden went out a winner in that game it made me SICK. Their guys had to “draw blood” to foul and the refs made sure a couple of our players “fouled” if they were on the court breathing!

  3. jonthes
    9:20 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

    You’ve got some of this history wrong, but the cruelest loss was to Marquette because it was due to the Bogans injury and UK was decidedly the best team in the country. The loss encouraged the racist anti-Tubby fans, who continue to this day to attack his record, which other than FFs was and is quite comparable to Pitino’s and Cal’s. He had the #1 class by the way, but Rondo was a bomb in his second year and left early, and he never had a down year like 2013.

    Rupp tried to recruit Unseld (two likely titles would have ensued) but honestly told his mother there would be problems on the SEC road so she wouldn’t let him, and he also considered leaving the SEC. Jim McDaniels too.

    Also Casey, Issel and Pratt losing the EE game to Ohio State on a last second shot on their home floor as sophomores should be on the list. Jacksonville turned entirely on how fouls were called, a terrible example of a college game. UK nearly won after Issel and Pratt fouled out early, and Rupp refused to use a zone until they did.

    • chris47601
      9:57 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

      Look at it this way. That Marquette F4 is the sole reason Tom Crean is at Indiana! It all worked out!

    • the ghost of Bill Hicks
      12:12 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

      And…..if Tubby wins it all that year, he probably doesn’t leave when he does, maybe we don’t have the Drunk Billy Clyde experiment and never get Cal. Plus, maybe Indiana doesn’t go after Crean and they pursue a Sean Miller or a Josh Pastner. That’s all totally plausible, but I’m fine with how it worked out.

    • LMU
      2:36 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

      Can I be the one to point out that Pastner is a terrible coach and I would be fine with him coaching any team in the country, so long as it isn’t UK?

  4. poppycat
    9:29 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

    Let me turn the table………….a game I wished we had lost………the semi to Duke in ’66. That would have changed history, TW would beat Duke and put Duke in a different light.

    Or, if it’s a game I rather have won, same year, beat TW and the movie would have never been made,

    • chris47601
      9:56 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

      Perfect. All white Duke would have been the story 🙁

    • Leroy Bird - 00
      9:57 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

      Really interesting point, and very true. Kentucky earned over half of its negative perception in the media universe because of that game.

    • BiggestCatsFanInOhio
      12:10 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

      I’m kinda with you guys too. It would be great not to be THAT team

    • blubo
      12:13 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

      been preaching this for years. that might have been the costliest game we ever won, pr wise.

    9:45 am December 8, 2014 Permalink


    The game where Dwayne Wade became DWAYNE WADE . I had tickets and a suite reserved in St. Louis. Lost all the $$$ on the tix. $&!^÷/÷^!&&

    That was an awesome UK team. Despite what some may say about some of Tubby’s teams, that team was incredible to watch.

    • BiggestCatsFanInOhio
      12:12 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

      That game was painful for me too. We were so dominant that year. I was a student at the time and I was so sure we’d win the title.

  6. Leroy Bird - 00
    10:00 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

    There are several of these that really stick out, and BTI, you make some good subtle points about how our entire history could and probably would be different had any of the events happened.

    I would love to have that 97 title, so that we’d have a 3-peat in place.

    I would also love to have that UAB game back because that was a senior laden really undervalued team in our historical context because of that loss. Guys don’t talk much about Fitch, Hawkins, Daniels, Hayes, Estill…great bunch of kids and players.

    • chris47601
      10:53 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

      Hawkins’ speed was sick….Fitch was clutch…..Daniels was a Vinnie Johnson clone (microwave)

    • blubo
      12:19 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

      ’97 would have been ours if only derek anderson had played. even so i think the ’75 loss to wooden and ’84 loss to gtown hurt the most. as i remember bowie and turp didnt play much in 2d half for some reason. oh well woulda coulda shoulda.

  7. catfan74
    10:09 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

    Im an old guy, and remember everyone of those, but last years UConn loss, and the loss to UConn in year 2 hurt the most to me. We were on the fringe of the greatest run in NCAA since UCLA. Beating UConn would have meant we got to play Butler in the champ game, and likely an easy title, along with the obvious title last year. We would be talking about NC in 2011, 2012, and 2014.

  8. El_Joe
    10:17 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

    A few thoughts on an interesting topic.

    For me, 1975 is the winner. Makes the race with UCLA that much closer, and would have UK playing for #10. 1997 loss to Arizona would be big, just from the perspective of another title. Still, can’t claim that loss really left a bitter taste in my mouth.

    1966 really didn’t have an impact on racial integration like people make you think. What did have an impact was that the Civil Rights Act in 1964 allowed the federal government to pull funding from schools that were not in compliance with the Civil Rights Act. THAT ensured that Southern schools eventually integrated. Worth noting that Nat Northington and Greg Page had already signed with UK football before the Rupp’s Runts game took place. UK was already integrating. Rupp had recruited black players before Texas Western. The problem, as I have discussed with Nat Northington, was that while most everybody wanted there to be black ballplayers, nobody wanted their son to be Jackie Robinson. Unseld and Beard were both recruited by Rupp, and I think he believed he had Beard.

    On the other side, the one game on this list that I couldn’t care less about was the 1996 SEC championship. Best loss ever. Focused our team, led to a renewed focus toward the title. Without the loss, that team might’ve folded against UMass or Syracuse.

    • chris47601
      10:45 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

      No one here is saying it impacted racial integration in a big way in 1966. What it DID do and still does to this minute is give the world a neverending race card to pull on UK

    • blubo
      12:24 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

      it created the perception that uk and rupp were racist. had dook won maybe they would’ve been looked at as tobacco road racists, unjustly so also.

  9. TJY
    10:47 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

    I would want the 97 championship. Many say that Derek Anderson was medically cleared to play but Pitino held him out. We all know that with Mercer and Anderson in the lineup we would beat any team in the nation. With that being said, I wouldn’t want the 97 championship if it cost Anderson anything in the longevity of his pro career.

    On another note, anything that would cause this current team to have never assembled, is on the list of things I would not change. This team is special. This team is one we will talk about to our grandchildren. The question is, how does the story finish…because like Aaron says, “It’s not finished”.

    • chris47601
      10:51 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

      Agreed. I think a title last year eliminates any possibility of this year’s team being put together, and missing a chance at history.

      I feel like 1997 was the same. If they win, 1998 may not have had QUITE the burning hunger and fortitude to come back all those times.

  10. Sparker89
    10:55 am December 8, 2014 Permalink

    I know the others make good points, but 2010 WVU was a personal hell for me.
    I was born in Louisville, but my parents were from WV, and they moved my family back up to WV when i was very young. I still consider WVU a second favorite team for me. However, once I came to UK for college, I was 1000% CAT.
    When the brackets came out, I knew UK would be in trouble in a head to head matchup, as WVU was long and could extend the defense unlike anyone the Cats had played, but I thought they would still win. I talked smack all week prior to the potential matchup, thinking no matter what UK would be the superior talent and that would rule the day.
    On gameday, my parents decided they would drive down to Lexington to watch the game with me. They ended up arriving late, and all of the places to gather were full. We ended up just gathering in their hotel in Hamburg, as the game was very close to tip. As it ended up, this was a saving grace because I feared for what abuse my mother would have taken when out in public dressed in her Blue and Gold.
    Everyone knows how this result ended up, and the memory of my father taunting me throughout the second half will forever stick with me. I was daily served up plates of crow to eat for almost a month. Just a brutal time for me to personally be a fan.

  11. J-Dub421
    12:18 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

    The 1997 loss in the NCAA finals to Arizona was painful because I always felt like the refs handed AZ that title. AZ shot 41 free-throws to our 17. AZ shot 17 free-throws in overtime alone, and did not make a single field goal in OT. That loss hurt.

    The 2010 Elite 8 loss to WV hurt a lot too.

    My other most painful loss which is not on BTI’s list, was the Final 4 loss in 1993 to Michigan. I love Jamal Mashburn, and if any player ever deserved a title, it was him. Mashburn is still one of the best ever to play in blue and white.

    • KentuckyHouse
      1:04 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

      Yeah, great point on the ’93 loss to Michigan. Mashburn definitely deserved a title after being the main cog that pulled us out of probation.

      Someone else mentioned the ’66 title game loss that spawned all the “racist” chatter in the media. I would definitely agree that I wish we’d lost to Duke in the Final Four so they could’ve taken this title as opposed to us.

      But my choice from the list would be the 2010 West Virginia game. That team deserved a title so much and to this day it hurts me that they didn’t get a shot at it. All credit to West Virginia, as they played the perfect game to win (and our ice cold day from 3-point land only aided that effort). Even after all the teams we’ve had under Cal, that’s still my favorite one because of the collection of personalities and the fact that they not only bought in to Cal’s system, but they understood from day one what UK means to the state of Kentucky. They set the ball rolling for all the teams to come.

  12. Biglaw Dawgin'
    1:04 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

    1997 National Championship – That would make it 3 in a row; the first time that’s happened since the Wooden era. And don’t give me that “butterfly effect” crap, you said which ONE game.

  13. poppycat
    1:17 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

    Has anyone mentioned that the ’97 game would have filled the gap for a threepeat?

    1:38 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

    This is NO CONTEST, winning the 97′ championship game would have given us a three-peat. But what if we won that game, there’s a chance we wouldn’t be where we are now with Coach Cal.

  15. LMU
    2:39 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

    Had we beat wvu in 2010, we would’ve won the title.After that year, everyone left anyway, so there wouldn’t have been any additional butterfly affect for the future. That game hurts because it would mean a title and no repercussions

  16. DC Cat
    4:04 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

    Great question. I have to rank a top 5 some of which are not on the list.

    1. 84 gtown. Win and go in to championship getting Bowie a deserved title and UK an 80’s title
    2. 97 U of A. 3 peat
    3. 2010 WVU. Cap iff super fun rebound/we’re back year.
    4. 03 Marquette. Solidify Bogans legacy if we go in to win title.
    5. 75 UCLA. close gap by 2

  17. UK51Fan
    8:54 pm December 8, 2014 Permalink

    For me the 75 loss where Wooden took over the game (and the refs) was a growth moment for Joe B, that’s the only game Joe B coached and lost but would have won if Rupp had been on the bench – Rupp wouldn’t have allowed Wooden or any other coach to intimidate the refs; Joe B never did again.
    However, the most painful loss for me isn’t in the list. The 1977 regional final was most painful painful because the agony went on for what seemed like forever as Dean Smith’s UNC Tarheals ran the 4-corner for about the last 30 minutes of a regional final after UK opened cold, got down double digits, and could never get over the hump – tie or get ahead. This upset of number 1 Kentucky was one of the key events that led to the shot clock.