Six reasons why Kentucky resembles the ’76 Hoosiers other than the zero in the loss column

Posted: February 23, 2015 by jmklee in Uncategorized

iuThe 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, the last college basketball team to finish the season without a loss and regarded by many as the best team ever, post the UCLA dynasty.  There has been a few teams that have come close since 1976 but none were able to close the deal.  Until now???  Is this year’s Kentucky Wildcats the team to finally pull of an undefeated run?  Can a team in today’s college basketball world actually go 40-0?  I think they can and I think this years Cats are the team to do it because they are so similar to those Hoosiers from ’76.  Coach Cal has Kentucky currently at 27-0, the same record that Indiana had during their regular season.  Let’s take a closer look at what these two teams have in common.

Disappointment

Both teams entered their magical seasons coming off of a season that ended in disappointment.  Indiana only lost one game the year before and it was their last game.  A 2 point loss to Kentucky in the Elite 8 in which All-American, Scott May, played with his broken arm wrapped in a cast.   Kentucky didn’t have the regular season success as the ’75 Indiana team had but was able to right the ship in time to make a magical tournament run only to fall one game short of hanging banner #9.  UK also was without a major player as Willie Cauley-Stein went down with an injury.

Expectations

Both teams returned many from the year before and were ranked preseason AP #1 and stayed that way all season long.  Many people keep saying that a loss will do UK good but I poo poo that idea.  Both teams had one goal going into the season and that was to win their last game of the year.  Both teams enter games as the best team on the court and if they play to their potential then there’s not a team that can beat them.  If Kentucky enters the tournament still undefeated it does change expectations or the pressure level it will feel.  The goal remains the same.

Coaches 

Bob Knight was in this 5th year at Indiana in ’76.  Cal is in his 6th year at Kentucky.  Both coaches are polarizing with larger than life personalities that keeps the attention on them many times and allows their players to not always have to feel the white hot spotlight that shines on them during as season like this one.  Both coaches had come close to undefeated seasons before and as much as Cal pretends it isn’t a goal you know he would love to complete the feat.

Schedules

When we think about the ’76 Hoosiers we think that they played in the Big10 and what a great conference but the truth was the Big10 was not great that year.  In fact they were about as equally average as the SEC is this year.  Both conferences only had 2 other teams that were ranked at anytime during the season.

1976 Big10 – Michigan (highest ranking) #9 and Minnesota #16

2015 SEC – Florida #7 and Arkansas #18

Overall winning percentage

’76 Big10 – 0.588

’15 SEC – 0.601

The other thing the schedules have in common is a very strong pre-conference schedule.  6 of the 9 teams the ’76 Hoosiers played ended up with at least 20 wins.  (UCLA, Florida St., Notre Dame, Kentucky, Virginia Tech and St. John’s)  Kentucky beat many quality teams leading into conference also.  (Kansas, Providence, Texas, North Carolina, UCLA and Louisville)  At the end of the day these are the types of teams Kentucky will have to beat in the tournament and not only have they beat them but they beat them decisively.  That leads us to…

Dominance

Kentucky has had some close games like Indiana did in ’76 but for the most part they have taken care of business.  Let’s break down the first 27 games.

Average margin of victory

Indiana 18.07

Kentucky 26.92

Games decided by 10+ points

Indiana 18

Kentucky 21

Games decided by 20+ points

Indiana 11

Kentucky 12

Games decided by 30+ points

Indiana 4

Kentucky 10

Games decided by 40+ points

Indiana 2

Kentucky 5

Games decided by 50+ points

Indiana 1

Kentucky 1

The Sum is Greater than the Parts

“None of the individuals on that team was a superstar-Quinn Buckner, Scott May, Bobby Wilkerson, Tom Abernethy, and Kent Benson— but as a group they were unbeatable.”  This is what Al McGuire wrote in the introduction of A Season on the Brink and what many are saying about 2015 Cats.  Yes, both teams have NBA talent but not many teams have been able to come together and make the sacrifices for each other like this Kentucky team has.  Coach McGuire obviously thought the same of the ’76 Hoosiers.

It’s not over yet

This Kentucky team has to do a couple things the ’76 Hoosiers did not.  Play 4 more regular season games and then navigate a conference tournament full of teams desperate to make the NCAA tournament.  I didn’t think it was possible for Kentucky to go 40-0 this year until they won a game they had no business winning at LSU.  This team does not waiver, this team does not wilt and this team expects to make the plays down the stretch to win close games.  Will it happen?  Only time will tell but the ’76 Hoosiers showed us the blueprint of the type of team that can do it and this year’s Kentucky team looks a lot like that team.  Either way this season has been so much fun for both Big Blue Nation and those rooting against the Cats each and every game.  Who would have thought a Kentucky vs Miss St. game in late February would be so important to so many.

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