Yesterday, we started breaking down which team should be considered the 3rd best team in UK history. Why the 3rd best? Because there is a general consensus amongst most that the 1996 and 2012 squads were the 2 best teams in UK history. Which one is first and which one is 2nd is up for debate, but that is not what this tournament is about.
I considered the 32 best candidates for the bronze medal, and then seeded and bracketed them. For the next 4 days we will whittle them down until we have just 2 remaining. To be considered for one of the 32 spots, my criteria were the team had to do at least 1 of these things:
-SEC Champions or SEC East Champions
-SEC Tournament Champions
-NCAA Tournament 1 or 2 seed
-Final Four Appearance
If a team couldn’t complete at least 1 of these tasks, they probably wouldn’t deserve consideration anyway. Now, I will give you who I think would win in a fictional game between teams, BUT you have the chance to change my mind. If a convincing enough argument is put into the comments section I will change my pick for the next round tomorrow
. Now, one last thing when considering which team you think would win a game. It goes without saying that players in the 1950â€²s were slower and less athletic than players today. So, for the sake or argument, let’s assume those older players’ skills have developed to the level of the modern player. The 1993 UK team would probably beat every UK team before 1970 if they actually played. Just for this post, take that out of play:
(32-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza)
(32-4, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Keith Bogans, Gerald Fitch)
BTI Pick: Tough to pick against a healthy Keith Bogans in his senior season, but Beard and Groza comprised the best college basketball team until the UCLA dynasty. This was a highly competitive game, but the '49 champs experience pulls out a win here.
(35-3, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins)
(35-5, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Ron Mercer, Derek Anderson
BTI Pick: This is just unfair for these 2 teams to face off in the Sweet 16. Assuming Derek Anderson is healthy (which we are), I think the '97 squad gets the slight nod. They would be one of the few teams who could match up athletically, were deeper off the bench, plus Nazr Mohammed could actually match Cousins. Boy, this would be fun, but I think the '97 teams just a slight bit better.
(35-4, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #2 Seed, Jeff Sheppard, Nazr Mohammed)
(25-0, SEC Champs, Declined NCAA Bid, Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey)
BTI Pick: The '54 team could have been the first and only undefeated champion in UK history if they hadn't declined a bid. And in this matchup, they take down the first number 1 seed in this tournament. Hagan and Ramsey provide a 1-2 punch that the Comeback Cats can't match.
(36-3, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza)
(27-2, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Champs, Pat Riley, Louie Dampier)
BTI Pick: Rupp's Runts take on the Gold Medal Champs. Dampier is the difference maker as he controls the pace of the game, dishing off to Riley for easy bucket after easy bucket. The Texas Western loss motivates the '66 team even more to prove they are worthy, and they upset the '48 team, Rupp's first title team. Rupp is happy and sad.
(30-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, Jack Givens, Rick Robey)
(29-7, SEC East Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #2 Seed, Jamal Mashburn, John Pelphrey)
BTI Pick: The '78 champs were probably just as good as Duke in 1992, and we know how that game turned out. Certainly this would be a great matchup, but I think Givens, Macy, Robey, Lee, have too much all-around for the Unforgettables.
(25-5, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, Bill Spivey, Jim Line)
(29-5, Final Four, SEC Champs, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 seed, Melvin Turpin, Kenny Walker)
BTI Pick: After pulling off the big upset in the first round, the '50 team is out of gas for this matchup with UK's best team of the 1980's. Turpin and Bowie dominate the post with a 1-2 punch Spivey has never seen. The biggest mismatch of the Sweet 16.
(30-4, Final Four, SEC Tourney Champs, #1 Seed, Jamal Mashburn, Travis Ford)
(5) 1969-70 (26-2, SEC Champs, Dan Issel, Mike Pratt) *result changed from reader comments
BTI Pick: Talk about an up and down game. The shot clock would barely be necessary in this game, but the '93 team just too good from the 3-point line, and Mashburn does more than just score, outplays Issel. '93 team wins 115-105.
(32-2, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, Bill Spivey, Shelby Linville)
(26-5, NCAA Runner-Up, SEC Champs, Kevin Grevey, Jimmy Dan Conner)
BTI Pick: The '51 team take their national title experience, and a big game from Spivey to remain alive in the tournament.
OK, those are my picks. You can use the comments section to disagree and try and convince me otherwise.
Also, keep in mind when considering how these games go a couple of things:
-The 3-point shot does exist
-The Shot Clock does exist (35 second)
-Injured Players are now healthy