College Basketball's Sweet 16 of Best Team Nicknames of the Past 50 Years
Every college has a nickname. Some are more suited for one school sport over the other. But inside the past 50 years there was a glorious era of nicknames within a nickname, a time when students and fans gave their team a specialized and personal description.
In analyzing the past six decades of the featured era, 1958–2008, it is obvious that such team nicknames are no longer popular, for one reason or the other.
Is it because the sport has taken a "me first" and concentrated on individual player's nicknames rather than to promote a team mentality?
We struggle with the line between "good old college boy rally cries" and what may be offensive to various groups of individuals in the 21st Century.
Of the sixteen team nicknames listed, eleven are from the 1970s and '80s. The '60s and '90s produced two each worthy of listing. The late '50s featured one, the 21st Century none.
So with apologies to all those inclined to be offended, we present the Sweet 16 Best Team Nicknames of 1958–2008.
16) The Duke Power Company: 1977–'78 Duke Blue Devils: Runner–Up for the National Championship to Kentucky, 94–88. Featured an 18 year old sophomore in 6'11" Mike Gminski, two freshmen 6'7" 215 forwards in Gene Banks and Kenny Dennard, and 6'5" junior Guard Jim Spanarkel.
15) Slaughterhouse Five: 1972 National Champion UCLA Bruins: Bill Walton and Keith Wilkes were in their first year of varsity basketball when they led John Wooden's crew to a 30–0 record with a 28 point winning margin, an NCAA record by a mile.
14) The Kiddie Korps: 1972–'73 South Carolina Gamecocks: Frank McGuire is the man who would start out at the poker table with the least amount of money and by the end of the night he would have the most.
Borrowing a nickname from Duke's 1959 squad that started five sophomores, the great Irishman presided over the first season freshmen could play in the late fall of 1972, and he made the most of it.
Freshmen Mike Dunleavy and Alex English started, and fellow classmates Bob Mathias and Mark Griener were the first two men off the bench. The young cubs advanced to the Sweet 16 before bowing to eventual national runner–up Memphis State.
13) The Soul Patrol: 1969–'70 St. Bonaventure Indians: Although the western New York school always used the faux–nickname "Bonnies", their mascot was the Indians until more politically correct times. Strange response from a school who in the early 1960s delighted in prancing about the court and campus with a casket symbolizing another home court victim.
Starting 6'11" Bob Lanier with leapers Matt Gantt and Bubba Gary on the front-line, the nickname "Soul Patrol" was given and stuck. The flamboyant Bonnies crashed into the Final Four that season before going down to Artis Gilmore and Jacksonville.
12) Rupp's Runts: 1965–'66 Kentucky Wildcats: Adolph Rupp, until the John Wooden championship era, was considered the greatest basketball coach in history.
Rupp junked his "taller is better" philosophy he learned at the knee of his own coach, Dr. Phog Allen, when young Adolph was a Jayhawk. He started 6'3" Pat Riley at power forward, 6'3" Larry Conley at small forward, and 6'5" sophomore Thad Jaracz at center.
This great team, 27–2 on the year, is best known for losing the national championship game to Don Haskins and his Texas Western Miners at the end of the film Glory Road.
11) Bo Pete and the Ragin' Cajuns: 1971–'72 Southwestern Louisiana: Few outside the swamplands had ever heard of this school, much less the powerhouse roundball program they produced beginning in 1971.
10) The Louie and Bouie Show: 1979–'80 Syracuse Orangemen: A whispered local nickname the prior two seasons, the seven–foot Roosevelt Bouie and 6'9" Louis Orr anchored this fine early edition of Coach Boeheim. The duo won 100 games in their era.
9) Danny and the Miracles: 1988 National Champion Kansas Jayhawks: 6'11" Danny Manning led Kansas to a mediocre regular season but, they won the last six games of the year to take it all.
8) The Three Basketeers: 1976–'77 Arkansas Razorbacks: Known locally as the Triplets, Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer, and Marvin Delph led the resurrection of the Hogs' program under Eddie Sutton, and even into the Final Four a year later.
7) Elvin, Melvin, and The Duck: 1966–'67 Houston Cougars: Massive, monstrous, and talented. Elvin "The Big E" Hayes went 6'9" 242, Melvin "The Savage" Bell 6'7" 240, and guard Don "The Duck Chaney" 6'5" 205. A Final Four Entry in 1967 and again in '68.
6) The Doctors of Dunk: 1980 National Champion Louisville Cardinals: 6'4" superman Darrell Griffith, known as "Count Dunkenstein," lead this team of sky–walkers to the National Title over Larry Brown's UCLA Bruins.
5) The Bernie and Ernie Show: 1975–'76 Tennessee Volunteers: First use of the term "show" described Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld's SEC run in '75 thru 1977.
4) Lethal Weapon Three: 1989–'90 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott, and Brian Oliver led Tech to the ACC title and the Final Four.
3) The Fab Five: 1991–'92 Michigan Wolverines: A take–off of the Beatles' nickname of "Fab Four," these five freshmen lost to Duke for the national title, 71–51.
2) Phi Slamma Jamma: 1982–'83 Houston Cougars: If circus tricks won titles then this Akeem Olajuwon–Clyde Drexler outfit would have done it. Final Four in '82 thru '84.
1) The Fiddlin' Five: 1958 National Champion Kentucky Wildcats: Adolph Rupp said this talented group fiddled all their potential away in losing games they should win. They shocked the great coach by beating the legendary Elgin Baylor and Seattle to win it all in 1958.
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