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The Greatest Basketball Program In The South: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on June 25, 2008

Kentucky Wildcats

Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Nickname: Wildcats

Reason For Nickname: In 1909 after a football game against the University of Illinois, Commandant Carbusier mentioned that the football team fought like wildcats, giving birth to the nickname.

Colors: Blue and White

Conference: Southeastern

Arena: Rupp Arena (built 1976, capacity 23,000)

Postseason Appearances:

NCAA Appearences: 48 Appearances, 13 Final Fours, 7 National Championships

NIT Appearances: 7 Appearances, 1 Championship

Conference Championships: SEC Regular-Season Champions (1933, 1935, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005). SEC East Champions (1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005). SEC Tournament Champions (1933, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1984, 1986, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004). Southern Conference Champions (1926, 1932).

Coaching Legacy: “The Man In The Brown Suit”, Adolph Rupp, is and will always be the standard for Kentucky basketball. From 1930 to 1972, his teams won four National Championships (1948, 1949, 1951, and 1958) and dominated the SEC in the process. He would be followed by Joe B. Hall, who would add a National Championship of his own in 1978 behind the play of Jack “Goose” Givens. After a lull during the tenure of Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino would bring the glory back to the program by winning the program’s first NCAA title since 1978, beating Syracuse in the 1996 National Championship game. After Pitino left for the Boston Celtics, Orlando “Tubby” Smith would lead the Wildcats to another title in 1998, which is to this point the last time the Wildcats have gone to the Final Four.

Big Man On Campus: The South’s greatest basketball program has been home to countless greats of the game, ranging from Alex Groza and Cliff Hagan to Patrick Patterson and Rajon Rondo. The University of Kentucky is where coaches like Herb Sendek, Billy Donovan, Tubby Smith, and Ralph Willard got their start and where players like Nashville native Ron Mercer, Wayne Turner, Jamal Mashburn, Jamal Magloire, Antonie Walker, and Nazr Mohammed won National Championships in the 1990’s. But throughout its long and storied history, the Wildcats have produced more All-Americans than any other school.

Below is a partial list of greats who have played at Kentucky throughout its history:

Sean Sutton

Antoine Walker

Walter McCarty

Richie Farmer

Cameron Mills

John Pelphrey

Kenny Walker

Ron Mercer

Keith Bogans

Jack Givens

Tony Delk

Frank Ramsey

Tayshaun Prince

Keith Bogans

Pat Riley

Kyle Macy

Dan Issel

Ralph Beard

Travis Ford

Patrick Patterson

Sam Bowie

Rivalries: Kentucky’s most famous rivals are the University of Louisville and Indiana University. Along with those two, the University of Tennessee is one of the Wildcats’ historic rivals in basketball. As of this writing, the Volunteers have won more games than any other SEC school against the Wildcats.

Did You Know?: The Wildcats were on the wrong side of history on Feb. 12th when Vanderbilt handed the Wildcats their worst defeat in the school’s 75-year association with the SEC, beating the Wildcats 93-52 at Memorial Gym.

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5 Responses to “The Greatest Basketball Program In The South: Kentucky Wildcats”

  1. mtbrooks said

    You’re going to upset many a Tar Heel fan with declarations like that. Besides, Kentucky is more midwest.

  2. Doc Holliday, Jr. said

    Well, I try my best to piss people off. It’s why they always get to the finals of some sport and choke.

  3. thebodnerone said

    Midwest? Someone needs a quick geography lesson.

    There’s a reason Kentucky is in the Southeastern Conference.

    And Kentucky over North Carolina is a no-brainer. Kentucky has 7 NCAA Championships. North Carolina only has 4.

  4. mtbrooks said

    Do I really? Mayhaps you can edgercate me on that geogerphy. I’m well aware of Kentucky’s position on this continent, thanks. Any state that borders Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri definitely has a midwest streak in it, though I suspect midwestern people would take offense to that. I certainly wouldn’t want to be lumped in with that state.

    Both schools have a long history of winning, but basing the comparison purely on national championships is short sighted. The ’48 and ’49 tournaments only had 8 teams. ’51 only had 16. Not as impressive as the full field (like 96 and 98). Also, where has this “greatest program ever” been hiding for the last ten years?

  5. Matt said

    Calm down ladies…it was one man’s (Doc’s) opinion — and he isn’t even a UK fan.

    I think he was basing it on the fact that Kentucky has more championships, more total wins, higher total attendance (more attendance titles), etcetera.

    Obviously UK, UNC, UCLA, Duke, Kansas, etcetera (no particular order) are all 1A-1E before you even get to #2 on a list in terms of the entire nation.

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