Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kentucky Wildcats 25-1 and Still Number One!


College Basketball Week 15: Kentucky Stays Runaway No. 1 In AP Top 25

Is this the year Kentucky finally wins the National Champioship again? After taking three diffeent teams to the final four will Coach John Calipari finally get his national championship and ticket to the Hall of Fame? The master of coaching the kiddie corp, Kentucky is of course dominated by freshmen, is dominating the polls and opponents as the last few games are played before March Madness begins.

What is it about the Kentucky basketball mystique?

Kentucky basketball history is a glorious thing. And, new coach John Calipari is leading the Cats back to college basketball heaven.

Widely considered to be the best men’s basketball program in the Southeastern Conference, the University of Kentucky Wildcats are in fact also ranked among the elite programs across the nation. Among all NCAA men’s basketball programs, Kentucky ranks #1 all-time with 1,948 career victories (the University of North Carolina is second, with 1,914 career victories). With an all-time record of 1948-608, Kentucky is also #1 all-time in winning percentage, at .762.

The University of Kentucky’s basketball program came into existence in 1910, when E. R. Sweetland signed on as UK’s Director of Athletics and its first basketball coach. And while UK tasted its first championship of any kind in 1921, when it upset Tulane, Mercer, Mississippi A & M, and Georgia to win the first Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association basketball championship, it wasn’t until the hiring of Adolph Rupp, regarded by many as one of the greatest collegiate basketball coaches of all time, [see Top All-Time SEC Basketball Coach] that UK was elevated to a national level of prominence.

The University of Kentucky has won 7 National Championships in Men’s Basketball. The first four, in 1948, 1949, 1951, and 1958, came under the coaching of Rupp. The remaining championships came in 1978, 1996, and most recently, in 1998. That team, coached by Tubby Smith, earned he nickname the “Comeback Cats”, due primarily to their penchant for falling into deep deficits early in games only to rally late, including overcoming double-digit 2nd half deficits in comeback victories in each of the final 3 games of the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

The 1996 Championship team, coached by Rick Pitino, is widely considered to be among the greatest Men’s Basketball teams of all time. See Best All-Time SEC Basketball Team.

That team, which became the first team in 40 years to complete SEC conference play undefeated, went 34-2 en route to its victory over Syracuse in the NCAA Championship game. Kentucky's 1996 basketball team, rated as the best of all time by statistical guru Jeff Sagarin, featured nine future NBA players.

Many former Wildcats have gone on to find success in the NBA. In fact, from 1949-2006, UK ranks sixth nationally with 34 players selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Among the former UK stars that went on to NBA success are players such as Dan Issel, Jamal Mashburn, Cliff Hagan, Pat Riley, Rex Chapman, and Frank Ramsey.

How big is Kentucky basketball?

By Ron Higgins on February 13, 2012 11:20 AM

So if you're John Calipari and your No. 1 nationally ranked Kentucky team doesn't have a game on Wednesday, what do you do?

You hold a practice, plan to open it to the public and maybe televise it.

"There are a lot of people, fans and students, who never get a chance to see us play," said Calipari during today's SEC teleconference. "They never get a chance to feel that experience."

So Calipari is in the process of trying to figure out where he wants to practice, depending how many people show up.

"If we get 4,000 to 8,000 fans, we'll probably do it in Memorial Coliseum," Calipari said. "If it's 20,000 fans, then Rupp Arena."

What about using Commonwealth Stadium?

"I woke up this morning and it was a little frosty," Calipari said with a laugh.

Kentucky is still unbeaten in league play and doesn't play until Saturday when the Wildcats are home against Ole Miss. Calipari said he's not thinking about winning the league regular season championship with a perfect 18-0 record.

"We're not talking in those terms," Calipari said. "It might happen, it might not happen. I'm just worried about improving and I see that we are. But we have a lot of hard games left. It's not about running the table. It's about putting ourselves in the best possible position at the end of the year.

"I thought our team last year was the best in the country at the end of the year. But that team lost six games on the road in the SEC. It helped us get where we were at the end of the year."

The Basketbowl - Michigan State versus Kentucky
The Basketbowl, between Michigan State and Kentucky, was the most attended basketball game in history. It occurred on December 13, 2003 at Ford Field in Detroit, setting an attendance record of 78,129. The previous record of 75,000 was held by the Harlem Globetrotters during their exhibition game at Berlin, Germany's Olympic Stadium.

Kentucky won the game 79–74. The NCAA was impressed with the massive size of the crowd that they decided in 2008 to expand the seating capacity for the Men's Division I Basketball Championship to a minimum of 70,000 starting with the 2009 Final Four, which would be held in that stadium.

Keep in mind, folks, this was a regular season game.

UK Cheerleaders are National Champions as well

The University of Kentucky climbed back atop the cheerleading world’s pyramid on January 15, 2012, at the Universal Cheerleading Association’s (UCA) College Cheerleading National Championships. Kentucky, competing in the UCA’s Coed IA division beat out 19 other squads from across the nation to win its record 19th national title. Last year’s Division IA champion, Alabama, finished second. The University of Central Florida, the only other squad to topple Kentucky in the past 10 years, finished third.

Thoughts about UK Basketball

"I just thought it was the Kentucky fans coming in." - Coach Billy Gillispie in Atlanta after a tornado slams into the Georgia Dome.

"Really, UCLA's a great place as well, but they don't have the kind of environment they have here. The fans here have a passion." - Dick Vitale on Kentucky fans, December 23, 1999.

"He's got the puppies set off the bus." - Bill Raftery talking about Tayshaun Prince hitting his fifth straight three-point shot from U.

"Apparently the University of Kentucky basketball dynasty is to continue forever." - Philadelphia Inquirer, December 23 1954.

"Turner ... Burner .... and one" - Jim Nantz

"Kentucky has found the secret of basketball, that it's five guys playing together." - former University North Carolina coach Frank McGuire

"I see no reason to end the basketball season in February just so some of these schools can start spring football practice early... Someday they are going to wake up and realize that basketball is here to stay." - Adolph Rupp on his Southeastern Conference brethren in 1934.

"I'd just as soon freeze to death." - Actress Ashley Judd relating a story of being offered a University North Carolina - Chapel Hill jacket on a chilly movie set. - Lexington Herald Leader, August 15, 1996.

"It's not wise to come to Kentucky and try to run them off their court. Not too many teams have ever done that." - Mississippi State Coach Babe McCarthy in 1962.

"When you see Kentucky's fans, you just wonder. You think how wonderful it would be to go to their school. You wish you could trade places for a day, just so you could experience that feeling." - UCLA player Kris Johnson

"In the next four or five years, Kentucky will be at its best. It has taken a lot of hard labor, but down the road we will be at our best." - Rick Pitino in 1995

"They had it before you, they had it during you, they'll have it when you're gone"...." - Al McGuire on Kentucky Basketball Tradition


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