When a program has been as successful as the University of Kentucky comparisons happen on a frequent basis. The question addressed in Sunday’s Louisville Courier-Journal is whether or not their eighth national champion is the best of the eight.
The list of accomplishments for John Calipari’s team are nothing to scoff at, as they went 38-2 and became the third team to win a national title after going undefeated in conference play (1976 Indiana and 1996 Kentucky).
To say the least a group led by three freshmen and two sophomores can hold their own in discussions about greatness, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t varying opinions of where they rank among Kentucky’s eight title teams.
“They pass the ball like the Rupp’s Runts, they run the break like the Fabulous Five, they shoot it maybe like my ’78 team and they’re talented and can play any style like Rick’s ’96 team,” said Joe B. Hall to the Courier-Journal.
“They’re extremely talented, and they’re so much a team. It’s been fun to watch them put this together.”
Tubby Smith, who coached the 1998 national champions, said that while he isn’t a fan of comparisons the 2012 group was highly impressive.
“It’s different eras, but this team is as talented as any team that I have seen at Kentucky,” remarked Smith in the piece. “I saw some of Joe B. Hall’s teams and some great ones, Adolph Rupp had some great players and Rick Pitino had some great guys.
“But I would say Anthony Davis is as talented a player that I have seen at Kentucky. They have such balance and so many good players. They’re all (starters) going to be pros and you don’t see that very often.”
Smith is correct in the sense that comparisons across eras can be difficult, given rule changes, improved competition and other factors.
Ultimately this discussion may take years to render a decision. That 1996 team featured seven players who would eventually play in the NBA, and clearly the 2012 group can approach that.
But regardless of where Kentucky fans may fall in this one, the fact that they can hold this kind of debate underlines the excellence of the program through the years.