The difficulty in asking whether this Kentucky team is the best team ever


INDIANAPOLIS — The conversation will be had regardless of what happens this week in Indianapolis. Whether or not Kentucky actually leaves Lucas Oil Stadium with a pair of wins, an unblemished record and a national title, the question is going to eventually be asked: where does this team rank among the greatest college basketball teams ever assembled?

Are they the best ever?

There’s no easy answer, but this is what happens when you are the first team in 24 years to enter the Final Four without a loss. It’s what happens when you are the first team to ever start a season 38-0. And it’s what happens when you do all of that with nine players that will likely end up playing in the NBA one way or another, some as lottery picks and potential all-stars.

But there probably isn’t a right answer, either, because comparing teams across eras is not only difficult, it may not be possible.

It starts with the obvious: players don’t stay in college as long as they did 20 or 30 years ago. Take, for example, Jerry Tarkanian’s 1990-91 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels squad, the last group to reach the Final Four without a loss. That team was led by Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon, all of whom were seniors and top 12 picks in the 1991 NBA Draft; Larry Johnson went No. 1 overall. George Ackles, a second round pick in 1991, was a senior, too. Anderson Hunt, a junior that season, was the youngest member of the starting lineup. Indiana’s 1975-76 team, the last one to finish a season undefeated, was led by four seniors — Scott May, Quinn Buckner, Tom Abernathy and Bob Wilkerson — and junior Kent Benson. May, Buckner and Wilkerson were all picked in the top 11 of the 1976 NBA Draft, and Benson went No. 1 overall in 1977.

This Kentucky team? They’re considered “old” because they start junior Willie Cauley-Stein and sophomores Andrew and Aaron Harrison. They’re “veteran-laden” because their rotation includes four sophomores and Cauley-Stein in addition to Karl Anthony-Towns, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis.

For comparison’s sake, if early entry wasn’t a thing and college basketball players still spent four years in college, Cauley-Stein — a first-team all-american — and Towns — the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft — wouldn’t be playing all that much because Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, Julius Randle and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would all still be in college.

The development curve of an athlete is never steeper than when they are in their late-teens and early-20s. It’s when they go from a prospect to a player, and while Coach Cal has worked his magic with these prospects, we’ve never actually seen what happens if he was able to coach them as “players.”

But there’s another level to this. Player development happens at an earlier age these days, whether it’s the result of specialization in one sport or more emphasis on time spent in the weight room or the age at which these kids get thrown into the fast track towards being a professional. In other words, freshmen get to campus better prepared both physically and from a skills standpoint to be able to contribute when they set foot on campus. It’s not as simple as saying  the best seniors on the best teams in the 80s are unequivocally better than the best freshmen on the best teams today.

Another question that needs to be asked is just how good these kids end up being as pros. There’s no question that Towns has a chance to be a franchise player in the NBA, but who else on this Kentucky team will end up being an NBA All-Star? Trey Lyles, maybe. Devin Booker’s got a shot, and so does Willie Cauley-Stein. None of those are locks, however, and fair or not, the way that we will remember this team 15 or 20 years down the road will largely depend on just how good these kids end up being at the next level.

Think about it like this: there’s an argument to be made that this isn’t even one of Cal’s top two teams that he’s had at Kentucky. Some will tell you that it was the 2012 team that won the national title, the one that had Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis, but how much of that is a result of the fact that Davis has turned into one of the NBA’s top four players? Others might tell you that it’s the 2010 team, the one that featured John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson on the same roster. That’s a direct result of Wall, Cousins and Bledsoe have all become max — or near-max — NBA players, because that year the Wildcats finished the season ranked 27th in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and lost in the Elite 8 to West Virginia because they simply were not able to shoot the ball from the perimeter.

So you tell me.

John Wooden’s UCLA teams from the ’60s. Indiana’s 1975 and 1976 teams. Georgetown’s Hoya Paranoia teams from the mid-80s. What about the 1991 UNLV team, or the Duke team that beat them and repeated in 1992? Kentucky in 1996. Duke in 1999 or 2001.

Where does this Kentucky team rank among that group?

Who knows.

We’ll never be able to reach a consensus.

But I will say this: a loss on Saturday or Monday night shouldn’t change how you feel about this group historically, but if they do end up winning the title, Kentucky will have undoubtedly completed the greatest season in the history of our sport.

And that may actually mean more than being the greatest team of all-time.

Monday’s Things To Know: Florida State rolls, Texas is back?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There was some action on Monday night in the college basketball world, and we are here to talk you through all of it.


Trent Forrest scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and the No. 6 Seminoles used a 42-16 tidal wave over the course of the final 15 minutes to turn a 51-40 deficit into an 82-67 win over No. 11 Louisville.

It was everything that you expect a Florida State team to be during that stretch. They forced turnovers, they switched everything defensively, they dared you to try and beat them in isolation, and they did it all while getting the kind of balanced effort that makes it impossible to key in on a single player. Five guys were in double-figures on Monday night, and that doesn’t include the eight points that Leonard Hamilton’s club got from Anthony Polite off the bench.

This program is a machine.

All they do is produce physical, tough, athletic wings that stand somewhere between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-8, guard like their life depends on it and completely by in to what Leonard Hamilton is trying to do.

I would not want to see them in March.


The Longhorns won their third straight game on Monday night, as they beat No. 20 West Virginia, 67-57, despite playing without Jericho Sims, Gerald Liddell and Jase Febres.

Suddenly, a team that we had all written off is right back in the mix, as the Mountaineers are a top 15 team in the NET and the kind of elite win that Texas was sorely lacking on their resume. As it stands, the Longhorns are sitting at 17-11 overall and 7-8 in the Big 12. They have three Quad 1 wins, Monday night’s win as well as roadies at Purdue and Oklahoma State, and a 5-11 mark against the top two Quads without a bad loss to their name.

Put another way, this team is suddenly very much in the bubble picture.

Now, I still think they have plenty of work to do, and given the fact that neither a road win at Oklahoma or a home win over Oklahoma State is going to change all that much for them, I think Saturday’s trip to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech is going to be the make or break game. It’s not a win-and-you’re-win type deal, but I do think that taking a loss to the Red Raiders would mean that the Longhorns will have to beat one of the Big 12’s top four teams in the conference tournament to have a realistic shot at getting to the dance.

Regardless of what it actually is, the bottom line is pretty simple: Texas needs to keep on winning.


The Jayhawks, in their first game as the No. 1 team in the country, did not have any kind of a letdown.

Udoka Azubuike finished with 19 points, 16 boards, three blocks, two assists and hit 7-for-8 from the free throw line in an 83-58 win over Oklahoma State in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

No. 6 Florida State’s steamrolls No. 11 Louisville

Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images
Leave a comment

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Trent Forrest scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime, and No. 6 Florida State rallied from a double-digit deficit to beat No. 11 Louisville 82-67 on Monday night.

The Seminoles (24-4, 14-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) moved past the Cardinals into first place in the ACC. They lead Louisville and No. 7 Duke by a half-game.

Patrick Williams’ thunderous dunk put an exclamation point to a 15-0 run that put the Seminoles ahead for good. Florida State outscored Louisville 50-27 in the second half and extended its home winning streak to 22 games.

RELATED: Latest CBT Bubble Watch | Bracketology

Devin Vassell and M.J. Walker each scored 12 points for FSU, which set a school record for ACC regular-season wins with three remaining in the 20-game schedule.

Ryan McMahon scored 14 points and Jordan Nwora had 13 points and eight rebounds for Louisville (23-6, 14-4), which went more than seven minutes without a field goal during one second-half stretch.

The Cardinals played short-handed most of the night after junior center Malik Williams injured his left foot minutes into the game. He returned to the bench with a boot on the foot.


Louisville: The Cardinals shot well in the first half, making 52% before cooling off to 32% in the second.

Florida State: The Seminoles shot 50% in each half and overcame nine first-half turnovers to complete a season sweep of Louisville.


Louisville hosts Virginia Tech on Sunday.

Florida State visits Clemson on Saturday.

More AP college basketball: and

Ionescu first player to 2,000 points, 1,000 assists, 1,000 rebounds

Leave a comment

STANFORD, Calif. — Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu is the first player, man or woman, to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds.

Ionescu hit the milestone on a defensive rebound with 1:47 remaining in the third quarter for the third-ranked Ducks against No. 3 Stanford on Monday night, only hours after she spoke at the memorial service for Kobe Bryant and daughter, Gianna, in Southern California.

Ionescu got to 1,000 assists in a win at UCLA on Feb. 14. She notched her NCAA-record 25th career triple-double at California on Friday night – also most in the men’s or women’s game. She came into Monday’s game needing nine rebounds for the 1,000 mark.

Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry sat courtside for the second straight game to support Ionescu and women’s basketball.

Monday Overreactions: Kansas is great, San Diego State and Gonzaga are not

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan are back after a wild weekend in college basketball that saw three of the top four teams in the country lose on Saturday. They are here to talk through whether or not Kansas is actually a great team while explaining why you should (or should not) be concerned about San Diego State and Gonzaga after they lost to UNLV and BYU, respectively. Reags also tries to justify going full fanboy and taking and posting two pictures with Bill Raftery.

Bracketology: Kansas grabs No. 1 overall seed

NCAA tournament bracketology
AP Photo
Leave a comment

Here is today’s updated NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

Following its win at Baylor, Kansas grabs the No. 1 overall seed in today’s bracket update.  That said, it’s basically semantics. Kansas continues to lead the Midwest Region and Baylor the South Region.  The margin between the two is more of a 1-A and 1-B approach.

The biggest surprise of the weekend was San Diego State losing at home to UNLV.  For now, the Aztecs hold onto their No. 1 seed in the East.  Maryland could have made a strong case had the Terrapins won at Ohio State on Sunday.  Either way, the door is now open for a Big Ten, Big East, or ACC champion to potentially overtake SDSU. Dayton is squarely in the mix, too.

As for the Bubble, the Providence Friars and UCLA Bruins have both recovered from challenging starts to emerge as serious at-large contenders.

Anyway, here is today’s updated NCAA tournament bracketology. If you’re looking for the NBC Sports Bubble Watch, it can be found here.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: February 24, 2020

SOUTH REGION Providence vs. Wichita State

MIDWEST Indianapolis SOUTH – Houston                    
Omaha St. Louis
1) KANSAS 1) Baylor
9) Florida 9) Saint Mary’s
Sacramento Tampa
5) Auburn 5) Colorado
12) NORTHERN IOWA 12) Providence / Wichita St
4) Michigan 4) Penn State
St. Louis Albany
6) BYU 6) Iowa
11) Oklahoma / USC 11) Utah State
3) Creighton 3) SETON HALL
Greensboro Tampa
7) Wisconsin 7) Marquette
10) Rhode Island 10) Rutgers
2) Duke 2) Florida State
EAST – New York WEST – Los Angeles
Sacramento Spokane
8) Indiana 8) Texas Tech
9) Virginia 9) Houston
Omaha Spokane
5) Ohio State 5) Michigan State
4) KENTUCKY 4) Oregon
Albany Cleveland
6) West Virginia 6) Butler
3) Villanova 3) LOUISVILLE
Cleveland Tampa
7) Illinois 7) Arizona
10) NC State 10) Xavier

Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Rutgers Providence Stanford Alabama
NC State Wichita State UCLA Mississippi State
Rhode Island Oklahoma Memphis Arkansas
Utah State USC Richmond Georgetown

Top Seed Line

Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …

Big Ten (10)
Big East (7)
Pac 12 (5)
Big 12 (5)
SEC (4)
ACC (4)
West Coast (3)
American (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (2)

OK, how good are you guys at NCAA tournament bracketology?

Not too bad. Our bracketologist, Dave Ommen, is sitting atop the ranks for the bracket matrix, which cobbles together everyone who does this for a living. So yeah, we’re on our game.

When do conference tournaments begin?

Conference tournaments — when teams can earn automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament — begin on Tuesday, March 3. Most of the league tournaments for that week are mid-major and low-major schools (though those can often be the most exciting games to watch).

There is a full schedule for all 32 conference tournaments here, though check back with us later on for previews for all those tournaments, recaps and highlights from the buzzer-beaters and many dunks for the start of March.

When do Selection Sunday and the NCAA Tournament begin?

Selection Sunday for the 2020 NCAA Tournament is on March 15 (about 4 pm ET), while the games begin a couple days later. The First Four is on March 17 and 18, while the craziness of Round 1 starts on Thursday, March 19.

The Final Four, held in Atlanta this year, starts on Saturday, April 4. The National Title Game is Monday, April 6.