Kentucky Basketball: Ranking the 5 Best Seasons in Wildcats History
Picking just the five best seasons in Kentucky basketball is tough to do when there are eight championship banners hanging in the rafters at Rupp Arena. However, that is what this slideshow will attempt to do.
While success is measured by national titles, especially at Kentucky, there can be great seasons that don't end with a banner being raised. However, we'll see if any of those seasons make the list that will be heavily influenced by a championship.
As always, feel free to leave your list in the comments.
1992: The Unforgettables
Like it was mentioned before, you don't necessarily have to raise a banner to be considered a great season. The 1991-92 season did just that for Kentucky.
So, why is this listed as one of the five best seasons in Kentucky's history when it's not one of the eight title years? Simply put, it allowed Kentucky to be back on the map in college basketball.
After a two-year postseason absence and coming off of sanctions, seniors Sean Woods, Richie Farmer, John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus meshed with Jamal Mashburn to make a run to the Elite Eight.
Kentucky recognized what this group accomplished by doing something that is almost unheard of. Almost immediately following the loss to Duke, Kentucky retired the jerseys of the four seniors, who now are raised in the rafters of Rupp Arena next to the eight title seasons.
1998: The Comeback Cats
After what Duke did to the Unforgettables in 1992, the Comeback Cats were able to get some sort of revenge in 1998. In the Elite Eight of the 1998 NCAA tournament, the Wildcats spotted Duke a 17-point lead, only to come back and win the game to advance to the Final Four.
Life didn't get any easier for the eventual national champs once they made the Final Four though. In the semis, Kentucky was down by 10 in the second half to Stanford before it made an epic rally to earn the right to play for the national title.
Keeping with the trend and living up to their name, the Comeback Cats spotted Utah a 10-point lead at halftime before coming back one last time.
The title was in Tubby Smith's first season in Lexington and helped solidify what was a three-year dynasty for Kentucky, resulting in two championships and a runner-up.
1948: The Original Fab Five
1948 set the standard for Kentucky basketball. It was this year that Kentucky won its first national championship.
The team went 32-2 before defeating Oklahoma State for the national title. However, it wasn't just the NCAA championship the core group from this team won. Later that year they participated in the London Olympics, leading the United States to a gold medal.
The group would also go on to win the 1949 NCAA championship under legendary head coach Adolph Rupp.
2012: The 8th Wonders
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Big Blue Nation waited a long 14 years to see the eighth national championship banner get raised. But, man, was the wait worth it for this team.
A 38-2 record with wins over Indiana, Louisville and Kansas en route to the national title was a sweet way to end the championship drought if you are a fan of Kentucky. Not to mention the team had some of the more likeable players on the roster in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and Darius Miller.
During the NCAA tournament, Kentucky never trailed in the second half and won each game by an average of 10 points. The 38 wins in the season is an NCAA record for most wins in a season.
Following the title, six players would go on to be drafted in the 2012 NBA draft.
1996: The Untouchables
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The 1995-96 Kentucky team is not only the best in Wildcats' history but arguably one of the best teams in the history of college basketball. The team would go on to have nine players in the NBA headlined by Tony Delk and Antoine Walker.
The Untouchables became the first SEC team in 40 years to go undefeated in conference play before steamrolling its way to the national title.
During this season, Kentucky overtook North Carolina for most wins by a program, something the Wildcats haven't relinquished since. Other highlights from the year include scoring 86 points in the first half on the road against LSU and winning a school-record 27 straight games.
Similar to 2012, the 1996 team lost the SEC title game and one other game in the regular season. However, it is unlikely that there will be a team that sends so many players to the NBA.
The 1996 title was the first of a three-year run that saw an overtime loss to Arizona in the 1997 championship game and then a victory over Utah in 1998 by Kentucky to win its second title in three years.