I’m not going to mince words: If Kentucky takes care of business tonight, it’ll be regarded as the best college basketball team since the turn of the century.
Even if the Wildcats fall short, they’ll still be in that conversation.
I’ve been following college basketball since 1999, the year UConn “shocked the world,” in Khalid El-Amin’s words, and took out Duke. The Blue Devils entered that game with one small blemish (an early-season loss to Cincinnati) and 37 wins by a preposterous average of 26 points per contest. To this day, that was the best college basketball team I’ve ever seen.
But they didn’t win it all. On that particular April night, UConn was better.
Tonight’s situation is similar. Unlike Kentucky, Kansas doesn’t have six first-round picks on its roster. These two teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to NBA talent. Since that UConn/Duke classic in ’99, two teams have made the national championship game with just one future NBA player, and one team, prior to these Wildcats, has boasted six future pros. Check the chart below.
Note: * denotes national champion. Players must have played more than a half-season in the NBA to qualify (for example, former Kansas guard Aaron Miles played 19 games in the league before going overseas).
SIX NBA PLAYERS
2005 North Carolina* – Marvin Williams, Ray Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants, David Noel, Jawad Williams
2009 North Carolina* – Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Ed Davis, Danny Green, Tyler Zeller?
2004 UConn* — Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone
1999 Duke – Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon, William Avery, Corey Maggette, Shane Battier
2006 UCLA – Jordan Farmar, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ryan Hollins, Aaron Afflalo, Darren Collison
2007 Florida* – Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Chris Richard, Mareese Speights
2008 Kansas* – Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush, Darnell Jackson, Cole Aldrich
2001 Duke* — Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Shane Battier, Chris Duhon
2000 Michigan State* – Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell, Morris Peterson, Jason Richardson
2000 Florida – Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Donnell Harvey, Matt Bonner
2002 Maryland* – Juan Dixon, Chris Wilcox, Lonny Baxter, Steve Blake
2006* Florida – Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Chris Richard
2007 Ohio State – Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook, Othello Hunter
2001 Arizona – Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, Loren Woods, Luke Walton
1999 UConn* — Richard Hamilton, Jake Voskuhl, Khalid El-Amin
2004 Georgia Tech – Will Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Luke Schenscher
2005 Illinois – Deron Williams, Luther Head, Dee Brown
2008 Memphis – Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey
2011 UConn* – Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb?, Alex Oriakhi?
2010 Duke* – Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler? (currently playing overseas due to lockout), Mason Plumlee?
2003 Syracuse* – Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick
2003 Kansas – Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich
2010 Butler – Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack
2002 Indiana – Jared Jeffries
2011 Butler – Shelvin Mack
2009 Michigan State – Draymond Green?