Though situated on the holy grounds of SEC football, the state of Kentucky is just as basketball-obsessed as traditional hotbeds like North Carolina, Indiana and New York. Today marks the latest edition of the Bluegrass State’s marquee matchup: Kentucky vs. Louisville.
The Wildcats are ranked 11th in the Associated Press poll, while the Cardinals are 22nd. Both teams are in contention for respective SEC and Big East conference crowns. Currently, they are two of the most explosive teams in the country. But how do they match up historically?
Kentucky has seven national championships to Louisville’s two, and Kentucky has been to 13 Final Fours to eight for Louisville. More recently, though, during Rick Pitino‘s reign at UL, the Cardinals have evened up the score — making the Elite Eight three times since 2005, while UK has been to the Elite Eight twice in that same span. Who has the edge in this all-time alumni matchup?
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John Wall, PG, 2010 — Were it not for the traditional bias against freshmen, Wall may have won a few national Player of the Year awards in his one-and-done at UK. He averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals and had the Wildcats near the top of the national polls all season before the team fell short of its championship potential in the Elite Eight.
Rex Chapman, SG, 1988 — “King Rex,” a.k.a. “The Boy Wonder” was like Jimmy Chitwood with a nastier disposition and way more hops. The homegrown hero played two years for the Wildcats, averaging 17.6 points, hitting 40 percent of his threes, and making All-SEC as a freshman and sophomore. Chapman was a Top-10 NBA draft pick.
Jamal Mashburn, SF, 1993 — The defining player of the Pitino era at UK averaged 21.0 points and 8.4 boards his junior year as a first team All-American before going pro as a Top-5 draft pick. Kentucky’s fourth all-time leading scorer.
Dan Issel, PF/C, 1970 — Two-time All-American put up 25.8 points and 13.0 rebounds per game in his college career, including a monstrous 33.9 ppg his senior year. Graduated as the all-time leading scorer and rebounder at Kentucky, and for almost four decades he held the single-game scoring record, a 53-point effort against Ole Miss. Member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Sam Bowie, C, 1984 — He was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan for a reason, you know. As a sophomore Bowie was good for 17.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks before injuries sidelined him for the next two whole seasons. He bounced back to earn a second team All-American selection as a senior.
Bench — Rajon Rondo (PG, 2006); Antoine Walker (SF, 1996); Tony Delk (SG, 1996); Cliff Hagan (G/F, 1954); Ralph Beard (PG, 1949); Tayshaun Prince (SF, 2002); Alex Groza (C/F, 1949).
Darrell Griffith, PG/SG, 1980 — “Dr. Dunkenstein” led the Cardinals to a national championship in 1980, the same year he was picked No. 2 overall in the NBA Draft. He averaged 22.9 points as a senior and was the Wooden Player of the Year and Final Four M.O.P. Griffith is Louisville’s all-time leading scorer.
Junior Bridgeman, SG/SF, 1975 — Even though the Milwaukee Bucks retired his #2 jersey and he scored over 11,000 points, Bridgeman’s may be most well-known in NBA history as part of the trade that sent Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers. In college, Bridgeman put up 16.2 points and 7.4 rebounds as a senior.
Rodney McCray, SF, 1983 — Spearheaded the Final Four teams in ’82 and ’83 and was drafted 3rd overall in the NBA Draft. After that he made two NBA All-Defensive Teams.
Pervis Ellison, PF, 1989 — Final Four M.O.P. as a freshman in ’86, then stayed three more years to mold himself into a No. 1 overall NBA draftee. Ellison averaged 15.8 points and 8.4 boards at Louisville.
Wes Unseld, C, 1968 — Dominated in college, averaging 20.6 points and 18.9 rebounds for the Cardinals and was drafted No. 2 overall to the NBA as part of a Hall of Fame career.
Bench — Milt Wagner (G, 1986); DeJuan Wheat (G, 1997); Jim Price (G, 1972); Terrence Williams (F/G, 2009); Francisco Garcia (SF, 2005); Samaki Walker (PF, 1996); Felton Spencer (C, 1980).
Who do you think would win?