In the current sports lull we refer to as a global pandemic, sports writers have the time to dig into some pretty interesting historical debates. David Cobb from CBS did just that earlier this week when he decided to rank the top eight seasons in Kentucky Wildcats basketball history.
I feel like I need to clarify that this is not a ranking of the best “teams,” as in who would win in a head-to-head match-up. But this is about the overall season, given the time period, the competition, and the success of that group.
Cobb’s Top Eight
- 1995-96 (NCAA Champions)
- 2011-12 (NCAA Champions)
- 2014-15 (Final Four)
- 1947-48 (NCAA Champions)
- 1965-66 (NCAA Runners-up)
- 1997-1998 (NCAA Champions)
- 1977-78 (NCAA Champions)
- 1991-92 (Elite Eight)
Here are some interesting comments about some of the more notable squads in the modern era:
“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,” Cobb wrote. “The Wildcats finished 34-2 (16-0 SEC) and cruised through the NCAA Tournament with a 21.5-point average margin of victory.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Again, this is a ranking of the best seasons, not the best teams. I’m sure John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins would like their chances against that 1965-66 squad.
Did CBS get it right? Did they miss any teams you believe to have had better seasons? Read the rest of the list and Cobb’s commentary here.