Sports Illustrated has recently come out with a list of the most influential teams in college basketball history. Instead of asking, who’s the most dominant? Who’s the best? SI put a finer point on the topic. The 1996 National Champion Kentucky Wildcats made the cut at #10 out of 14 teams listed. SI notes that the team should be on the list by default for the nine NBA players the team featured..Praising coach Rick Pitino for showing what could be done with pressure defense and a prolific three point shot. Pitino hinted the potential of this combination with Providence nine years earlier, leading them to a Final Four. SI also notes that defensive length, an array of three-point snipers, and unlimited depth is always on a coach’s wish list in today’s game.
Interestingly, just a spot above the 1996 Kentucky team, the 2008 Memphis Tigers make an appearance with current Kentucky head coach John Calipari. SI calls the Tigers’ season as a season-long showcase of the dribble drive motion offense. Coming from Vance Walberg, a juco coach in California, showcased a new style of how to beat your man off the dribble. As Walberg puts it, the DDM teaches “players to play basketball, and not just run plays.”
The 1964 UCLA Bruins topped the list with the start of the dynasty that saw UCLA captures 10 championships in 12 years. On a personal note, I’m really fond of the 1996 team. This team was the very first Kentucky team that I was able to remember and follow for a full season. I was officially in love with college basketball because of this dominant plethora of future NBA talent in my backyard. This team certainly influenced me into my love for college basketball and sports in general. Because of how young I was, I thought Kentucky was supposed to win the same way every year after. When the ‘Cats fell to Arizona in OT in ’97, I cried my little nine year old eyes out. It was a harsh lesson, but a lesson learned for the better.
Filed Under: Basketball
About the Author: Writer for StraitCats.com, lifelong UK fan, college sports enthusiast. Twitter: BrianLewis_SP