SEC Basketball: Revisiting the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats
In college basketball there have been 7 teams that went undefeated and won the NCAA Tournament, with the last being the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers squad. Since then, there have been 6 teams that went undefeated in the regular season but fell short of the ultimate prize, including a team from SEC Basketball.
One of those teams was the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats who, led by coach John Calipari, is one of the best teams in college basketball to not win it all (and may be the best outside of 1990-91 UNLV).
Revisiting the 2014-15 SEC Basketball champion Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky was on a war path winning 38 straight games and only having four close games before losing.
In early January they had consecutive overtime games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M, the latter would go into double-overtime.
The other close games included a couple 2-point victories. One against LSU in February and the other against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight.
The Wildcats would finally lose in the Final Four by a score of 71-64 to Wisconsin who was led by Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, and Nigel Hayes.
The Badgers went on a 15-4 run in the final 4:26 to close out the game and send Kentucky home empty-handed.
Wisconsin was a 1 seed and only had two losses on the season when they met in the semifinal.
The Badgers made 4 more threes, grabbed 8 more rebounds, and shot 12 more free throws than the Wildcats in the game.
Kaminsky was the games leading scorer and rebounder with 20 points and 11 boards.
For the year Kentucky averaged 74.4 points per game as a team and only gave up 54.3 points per game (third best in the nation).
And their opponents had the lowest per game field goal percentage (35%) in the country.
The team was filled with NBA players, 9 to be exact, with most notable being Devin Booker and Karl Anthony-Towns.
In the 2015 NBA Draft, 4 players from that Kentucky team would be selected in the lottery. Towns at first overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Willie Cauley-Stein to the Sacramento Kings at 6, Trey Lyles to the Utah Jazz at 12, and Devin Booker to the Phoenix Suns at 13.
In the second round, Andrew Harrison went to the Suns and Dakari Johnson went to the Oklahoma City Thunder
In the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft, Tyler Ulis also went to Phoenix joining his former Kentucky teammates.
Aaron Harrison went undrafted in 2015 and Alex Poythress went undrafted in 2016. But both played minutes in the NBA.
Ironically neither Towns or Booker led the team in scoring as Calipari played players in a platoon role because of the amount of talent on the team.
The title of leading scorer would go to Aaron Harrison who averaged 11 points per game.
Towns was the best player on the team averaging 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. He was a consensus 2nd team All-America, 1st team All-SEC, and SEC Rookie of the Year.
Booker didn’t start a game for Kentucky, instead he flourished off the bench winning SEC Sixth Man of the Year. For the season, he averaged 10 points per game and shot 41% from three.
As a junior, Cauley-Stein was the heart of the team averaging 9 points and 6 rebounds per game.
The Harrison twins combined for 20 points per game and Andrew tied with Ulis for the team lead in assists.
Ulis led the team in three-point percentage and the following year became one of the best college players in the nation.
In the 2015-16 season he was named SEC Player of the Year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, won the Bob Cousy award, was 1st team Consensus All-America, and was a finalist for the Wooden Award and Naismith Award.
Lyles averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds and was one of the four freshman for Kentucky to be named to the SEC All-Freshman Team.
And it shouldn’t go without mentioning that Coach Calipari won his third Naismith College Coach of the Year.
Since 2015, the only team to go undefeated in the regular season was the 2020-2021 Gonzaga Bulldogs who were 31-0 before they lost to the Baylor Bears in the Championship game.
Goes to show that perfection is not easy and there is a reason it hasn’t happened in almost 40 years.
In fact, four of the seven teams that have gone undefeated were the John Wooden led UCLA Bruins in the 60s and 70s.
But that 2015 Wildcat team owns the record for most wins by a college basketball team in a single season with 38.
So for Kentucky fans out there, this season is one to remember and not one to forget, despite the sour ending.