Wednesday, March 31, 1999

Team of '90s: Duke or UK?


Kentucky has as many titles and a solid argument

BY NEIL SCHMIDT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As they signed off Monday night, CBS's announcing team consoled Duke with the words, “You're still the Team of the Decade.”

        Not so fast. Don't discredit Kentucky.

TEAMS OF THE DECADE
A comparison of the success of Kentucky's and Duke's men's basketball programs in the 1990s:

Category UK Duke
NCAA titles 2 2
NCAA runner-up 1 2
Final Fours 4 5
Record 282-63 271-78
Winning percentage .817 .777
NCAA tourney record 31-6 32-7
NCAA tourney win pct. .838% .821
Head-to-head overall 1-2 2-1
Head-to-head NCAAs 1-1 1-1
AP Top 10 finishes 9 7
30-win seasons 4 4
Losing seasons 0 1
All-Americans 3 7
NBA draftees 9 11
First-round draftees 7 6
Current NBA players 10 6
(Note: The decade spans the 1989-90 season through the '98-99 season, which the NCAA recognizes in determining the winningest team of the decade by percentage.)
        Had Duke won Monday, OK. It would have an unbeatable three national titles in the 1990s.

        But it didn't. Its two titles are matched by UK, and other numbers match up pretty evenly.

        Duke has one more Final Four appearance. UK has more victories and a better winning percentage. Duke has a 2-1 head-to-head edge. UK didn't suffer a losing season like Duke did.

        “It's arbitrary,” UK coach Tubby Smith said in midseason. “It's really something for the fans to discuss.”

        UK can claim consistency.

        No one else has been ranked in the Associated Press' final Top 10 each of the past nine years. It has the nation's best winning percentage the past eight years, since coming off NCAA probation. It has the most Elite Eight appearances, advancing to the regional finals in seven of the eight years it was eligible for the tournament.

        Duke went 5-1 in Elite Eight games, but UK handed the Blue Devils that one loss. UK's NCAA Tournament winning percentage (.838) in the '90s is the nation's best.

        ESPN analyst Dick Vitale picks Duke, saying, “Going into this year I felt they were tied, so after going 37-2 and beating UK this season, I now give them a slight edge.”

        But Duke has to explain a 13-18 season in 1994-95, a first-round loss to Eastern Michigan in '96 and a second-round loss to 10th seed Providence in '97.

        UK's 282-63 mark this decade is actually second to Kansas' 285-60, but the Jayhawks haven't won the NCAA title in the '90s.



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