A Brief History of Kentucky Basketball

Which team name comes first when you think about NCAA basketball tournaments? It is probably the Wildcats.

You got me right; we are talking about the Kentucky basketball team and they represent the University of Kentucky.

Kentucky has its name on successful NCAA division 1 basketball events in both all-time wins and all-time winning percentage.

Many successful players came under spotlight through this platform both on collegiate and professional level tournaments.

Also, when it comes to the coaches, they have even bright names on the list. Kentucky basketball has a glorious history in the past. And if you are someone who is a fan of NCAA events, then you must know about their magnificent achievements.

Describe Kentucky Basketball are Given Below

Early History (1903-1930)

The start was not victorious as today. According to the records, W.W.H Mustaine was the first coach of wildcats. In 1903, they participated an intercollegiate basketball event, and it was a 15-6 defeat to Georgetown College. 

Their first season was 1-2 with another defeat to Transylvania University. But they managed to defeat the Lexington. Through 1908, they were not able to win a season and made a record of 15-29.

 Later on, a full-time coach was hired in the same year. After that, they went 5-4. And three years later, with nine victories, they boasted their very first undefeated season.

George Buchheit and his “Wonder Teams” (1919-1925)

In 1919, George Buchheit signed as the head coach for wildcats. An alumnus of the University of Illinois introduced a new basketball system. It was called the "Buchheit system" or "Illinois System." One player would stand under each basket, and other three roamed the court.

When the Illinois system deployed a zone-defense, Buchheit's system came up with an aggressive man-to-man scheme. It was a complicated system of passing called "figure eight" offense or "zig-zag."

Even though, they did not manage to win in the season of Buchheit's first year. But they won Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association event for every first time by defeating favored Georgia Bulldogs in the following year.

It was considered Kentucky's early major success and they became known as the "Wonder Team."

Change of Coaches (1925-1927)

In 1925, the Wildcats got their new coach name C.O. Applegran. He was smart enough to follow the former coach, and this led to a respectable 13-3 victory.

After that, Ray Eklund was in charge of wildcats and was able to make a 15-3 record for the team. That great record was sufficient for the wildcats for winning the Southern Conference Championship, which was a regular seasonal Championship.

Ray Eklund resigned before starting the 1927 season, which made them to find another coach. That time, former player Basil Hayden was in charge.

He was an inexperienced coach and farewell the Wildcats with a 3-13 record of that season. But this was their last losing season for next six decades.

John Mauer’s Mauermen (1927-1930)

The next coach for the 1927-28 season was John Mauer. Just after joining, he realized that even though his team had talented players, but they did not know the fundamentals of this game.

He introduced the team with a regimen of 3-4 hours of practice. During the preseason, it was five days a week.

Later on, his team was known as the "Mauermen." He made every player to work on every aspect of the game. He followed the footsteps of Buchheit and employed man-to-man defense, which was quite strong.

 Mauer introduced two systems that were new in the south – the bounce pass and the offensive screen. It was known as "submarine attack." During his 3-year tenure, he led the Wildcats to the record of 40-14. Mauer left the team during 1930 season.

Adolph Rupp (1930-1972)

Rupp was the coach for the Wildcats from 1930-1972. During his period, the basketball team became even more victorious. Under his supervision, they appeared in 20 NCAA events, qualified to 6 NCAA final four, and won NCAA championship in 1948,1949, 1951 and 1958.

Additionally, they captured Southeastern Conference regular-season titles for 27 times and won 13 of them. The team ranked 1 in Associated Press college basketball poll for six times and on four occasions in the United Press International poll for coaches.

Furthermore, in the NIT, they were both champion and runner-up for one time. Rupp was called "The Man in the Brown Suit" and "Baron of the Bluegrass."

Joe B. Hall (1972-1985)

The assistant coach Joe B. Hall became the head coach for Kentucky Basketball team from 1972-85. As he became a predecessor of the legendary Adolph Rup, it was challenging for him to keep the team in pace.

Nonetheless, in 1978, he led the team to their fifth NCAA championship.

Sutton (1985-1988)

Eddie Sutton had been the head coach for the basketball team for three years. In 1986 NCAA tournament, he led the team to the Elite Eight.

Just after two seasons, the team won by 25-5 and captured SEC title for 37th times. They were able to rank as the 6th basketball team in the nation.

The era of Rick Pitino (1989-1997)

Rick Pitino was the next coach for the team. They suffered in season 1990 by 14-14 record. Nonetheless, within one year they scored 22-6.

Back to the Final Four (1993)

The team was expected to go to the final four. They were able to do that with only two losses and ranked no. 5. And this was their first time since Joe B. Hall’s 1984 team.

Just after winning the SEC event, they quailed to the final four in NCAA and met Michigan’s “Fab Five” team.

Even though, Michigan's team was talented enough but was defeated by 78-81 to the Wolverines.

The Mardi Gras (1994)

In the next season, the Wildcats became no. 1 in the ranking. But unfortunately, it was the only time when they were unable to qualify for the Elite Eight.

The Untouchables (1996)

In 1996, Kentucky gathered final fours from future NBA players. Their nickname was "Untouchables."

Because of their overwhelming talent and excellent chemistry, they were able to win the sixth national title in 1996s NCAA tournament. It was the first NCAA championship in 18 years for Kentucky.

The Unbelievables (1997)

In the next year, Pitino’s Kentucky team was able to go to the national title game. But in 1997s NCAA tournament, they were defeated to Arizona in overtime in the finals.

By the end of Pitino’s era, they were qualified for three last five Final Fours and five last six Elite Eights.

People did not expect them to bring the Wildcats back, so they addressed the team as "Unbelievables."

Orlando “Tubby” Smith (1997-2007)

Smith was selected as the 20th head coach of wildcats. He was given the challenging task of replacing the previous coach Rick Pitino.

Luckily, he led the team to their seventh NCAA championship.

In the tournament, the team was often lagging behind in games before bringing back the victory rather than dominating over the competition.

Later on, they completed a perfect 16-0 regular season conference in 2003. Also, managed to win five SEC regular season Championships. Furthermore, they had their names on SEC tournament titles. Coach Smith led the team six times to Sweet Sixteen appearances.

Additionally, he was able to make them appear in four Elite Eight during his ten seasons. Smith brought straight 100 wins which were quicker than any other coaches before him except the legendary Adolph Rupp.

The decline in form in the years of (2008-2009)

During that time, the Wildcats was faded away from winning and lost to many competitors. They did win a few numbers of games as well. But these are not worth mentioning compared to their failures.

They were able to make the way to the NIT tournament till quarterfinal round and lost against Notre Dame. 

John Calipari (2009-Present)

Billy Gillispie was replaced by John Calipari. He began with tenure with recruiting classes. After that, on December 19th, they defeated Austin Peay by 90-69.

Calipari broke the record of Adolph Rupp’s record for being the most consecutive wins to start the first season with.

By defeating Drexel Dragons on December 21st by 88-44 record, they became the first team in college basketball history to reach 2000th victory and ranked no. 1.

They finished off 2009-2010 regular season by winning their 44th SEC regular-season championship with a 14-2 record and 26th SEC tournament Championship. Kentucky’s 50th NCAA tournament appearance was made with receiving their 10th No. 1 seed.

Final Four (2011)

During that season, Kentucky started by winning with a 12-2 record but lost to North Carolina and UConn in Maui Invitational Finals.

They struggled in the SEC by losing 6 out of their eight games with unranked opponents.

They ended the season being defeated to Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee, otherwise Wildcats would have won their 27th SEC title.

An Eighth Championship (2012)

During 2011-12 season, Kentucky sealed their 45th SEC regular championship.

In 2012, Kentucky defeated the Cardinals by 69-61. The coach of Cardinals was wildcats former coach Rick Pitino. The winning sent Kentucky to the National Championship event.

The Wildcats qualified for NCAA tournament by being No. 1 in the south region. In the national championship game, they defeated Kansas Jayhawks by 67-59 and won the 8th NCAA championship.

To conclude…

No matter how good a team is, you will find their past full of ups and downs. The thing was not different for the Wildcats too. After each straggling seasons, they came back with a much stronger performance by adding their name to many big tournaments including NCAA and SEC.

 There is hardly a second college basketball team with a history like Kentucky. Hopefully, our article was able to feed your hunger to know their glorious past.

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