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By Kyle Kelly
After a team dominates a season from start to finish, the way UK did this season, it will be questioned if it is potentially the “greatest college team ever”. But I will ask the question, is the 2012 National Basketball Champions the best UK team in school history? Let’s start by comparing this year’s team to the 1996 Cats, who also won the national championship.
“It would be very close, but I like the 2012 team,” said Matt Jones, moderator of Kentucky Sports Radio. “Their (2012 team) defense is so spectacular that I think they would win a close battle.”
It is hard to compare teams from different decades, but it is easy to say that with Anthony Davis any team would have a hard time scoring on this year’s Wildcats.
“I would compare this team to the “Fab Five” of Michigan,” said Jared Prickett, a member of the 1996 UK squad. “This year’s team progressed as the year went on, that’s how they were able to win the national championship.”
Yet, Prickett thinks that the 1996 team would win.
“I feel we would win because we had the ability to run with this year’s team, except we were able to replace players and not lose any talent,” he said.
By comparison of players drafted into the NBA, these teams are similar. The 1996 Cats had six first round draft picks (three in the ‘96 draft, two in the ‘97 draft and one in ‘98). However, the highest overall pick for these Cats were Antoine Walker in ‘96 at sixth and Ron Mercer in ‘97, also at sixth.
While this information is impressive, the 2012 NBA mock drafts believe this year’s team to have players go much higher.
According to mynbadraft.com, the 2012 Wildcats will have four players (Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones and Teague) in the first round, and one (Lamb) early in the second.
Projections have Davis first overall, Kidd-Gilchrist second, Jones 15th, Teague 21st and Lamb 33rd.
In terms of All-Americans, the 1996 team had two first team choices, Tony Delk (‘96) and Ron Mercer (‘97).
The 2012 team only had one first team player, which was Anthony Davis.
As for rosters these teams have brutal similarities in every position. Here is the top seven players from each roster.
1996 (Key Players) 2012 (Key Players)
• Tony Delk-Senior (Guard) vs. Marquis Teague- Freshman (Guard)
• Anthony Epps-Junior (Guard) vs. Doron Lamb- Sophomore (Guard)
• Derek Anderson-Junior (Forward) vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- Freshman (Forward)
• Antoine Walker-Sophomore (Forward) vs. Terrance Jones-Sophomore (Forward)
• Walter McCarty- Senior (Center) vs. Anthony Davis- Freshman (Center)
• Mark Pope- Senior (Center) vs. Kyle Wiltjer- Freshman (Forward)
• Ron Mercer- Freshman (Forward) vs. Darius Miller- Senior (Forward)
While considering these great players, Doron Lamb was actually said to be the “x-factor” according to Matt Jones. “If he (Lamb) is hot, he opens up everything else on the floor,” Jones said. “If he scores 20, then the 2012 team couldn’t be beaten by almost anyone.”
Dave Baker, a sports broadcaster for WKYT, compared John Calipari to former UK head coach Rick Pitino, who was at the helm for the 1996 season.
“I give a slight nod to Cal, because of his approach on concentrating on what his team does well,” he said. “Cal’s legacy is his ability to get players with off-the-charts talent to play so unselfishly.”
It is hard to decide which team really is the “greatest of all time”, but with all the accomplishments and talent that this year’s team had they would have to be mentioned, along side of the 1996 team, as one of the top teams ever.