How Many Times Has Kentucky Won March Madness?
The Kentucky Wildcats have a rich NCAA history. With the second-most NCAA championship wins, Kentucky has left and continues to leave an indelible mark on college basketball history.
The Wildcats have taken home eight NCAA Championship titles, having fewer titles than only one NCAA team, the UCLA Bruins. The eight March Madness Championships Kentucky has won were in the following years, and against the following teams:
- 1948: Baylor, 58-42
- 1949: Oklahoma, A&M 46-36
- 1951: Kansas State, 68-58
- 1958: Seattle, 84-72
- 1978: Duke, 94-88
- 1996: Syracuse, 76-67
- 1998: Utah, 78-69
- 2012: Kansas, 67-59
1948 & 1949: Kentucky vs. Baylor and Oklahoma A&M
Kentucky won their first National Championship in 1948, against Baylor. They were the second team to win back-to-back championships when they defended their title and won in the 1948-1949 season, against Oklahoma A&M.
Alex Groza was arguably the biggest reason for the Wildcats’ early success. Averaging 12.5 points per game in the 1947-1948 season and 20.5 points per game in the 1948-1949 season (nearly double the second-highest PPG for the Wildcats), the indomitable center led Kentucky to victory in both the Baylor and Oklahoma A&M championships. Additionally, Groza had an impressive 42.3 field goal percentage and was 72.6 percent from the free throw line in the 1948-1949 season.
Groza wasn’t the only one carrying the team, however. Below are the awards or honors Kentucky players received during the 1947-48 and 1948-1949 seasons:
|Ralph Beard||1948: Consensus First Team All-American, SEC First Team All-Tournament1949: Consensus First Team All-American|
|Alex Groza||1948: Second Team All-American, Final Four Most Outstanding Player, All-Tournament Team, NCAA Regional MVP, All-Regional Team, SEC Second Team All-Tournament1949: Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Consensus First Team All-American|
|Wah Wah Jones||1948: Third Team All-American, SEC First Team All-Tournament|
|Ken Rollins||1948: SEC First Team All-Tournament|
|Cliff Barker||1948: SEC Second Team All-Tournament|
|Wallace Jones||1949: Consensus Second Team All-American|
1951: Kentucky vs. Kansas State
Only two years later, Kentucky won March Madness yet again. This time, they were propelled by the up-and-coming superstar Bill Spivey (another center). As one of the only two men on his team receiving an award or honors (winning Final Four Most Outstanding Player and consensus First Team All-American in 1951), Spivey was the most influential player on Kentucky’s roster.
Spivey put up an incredible 19.2 points per game in the 1950-1951 season. However, his presence on the board was even more impressive. He averaged 17.2 rebounds in the same season.
After their 68-58 win over Kansas State, Kentucky was walking on cloud nine. They had won the NCAA Championship in four of the last three years. Additionally, they were the only team at the time to have won three titles.
1958: Kentucky vs. Seattle
After a seven-year championship drought, the Wildcats showcased their NCAA dominance by taking home the title again in 1958. With players like Vernon Hatton, Johnny Cox, John Crigler, and Adrian Smith putting up 17.1, 14.9, 13.6, and 12.4 points per game, respectively, the Wildcats were unstoppable.
By now, Kentucky had been to the NCAA Tournament 10 times and won 20 tournament games: both records. They were also the only team with more than two NCAA championship titles. The win over Seattle put them at four.
Seattle’s game was particularly electrifying. With eight minutes left in the first half, the Wildcats were down 29-18. Then, by the end of the half, Kentucky brought the game to 39-36. They went on to win the game, destroying Seattle 84-72.
1978: Kentucky vs. Duke
With all-stars Jack Givens, Rick Robey, Kyle Macy, James Lee, and Mike Phillips, Kentucky was set to dominate the 1977-1978 season. Their five starters each held an average of points per game for the season above 10 points. Jack Givens finished the season with four accolades: Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Helms Foundation Player of the Year, Consensus Second Team All-American, and SEC Male Athlete of the Year.
Givens’ NCAA championship game was even more impressive, however. Putting up a massive 41 points, the small forward was unstoppable.
1996 & 1998: Kentucky vs. Syracuse and Utah
Kentucky won two NCAA Championships within three years in 1996 and 1998. Although, most of the players from the 1995-1996 season did not carry over to the 1997-1998 season. Therefore, Kentucky must have had an impressive basketball program and mentality over those three years. The two teams that came home victorious did not even have the same coach!
Take the 1996 Wildcats with Tony Delk (averaging 17.2 points per game for the season), Antoine Walker (averaging 15.2 ppg and 8.2 rebounds), and Walter McCarty (with 11.3 ppg). Or take the 1998 Wildcats with Jeff Sheppard (averaging 13.7 ppg), Nazr Mohammed (with 12.0 ppg and 7.2 rebounds), and Scott Padgett (with 11.5 ppg). Kentucky was unstoppable with either team, as evidenced in their crushing defeats over Syracuse 76-67 in 1996 and Utah 78-69 in 1998.
2012: Kentucky vs. Kansas
Kentucky won the NCAA Championship most recently in 2012 against Kansas, defeating them 67-59. Impressively, the Wildcats won with three starting freshmen and two starting sophomores. Although they were one of the youngest college teams of the 2011-2012 season, the Wildcats didn’t let it stop them. They took home the trophy as the No. 1 seed. Granted, with Anthony Davis, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Marquis Teague all scoring 10 points per game or above for the season, Kentucky’s rookie win does not seem that far-fetched. Additionally, Davis, Jones, and Kidd-Gilchrist averaged seven rebounds or higher per game. Davis, at 10.4 rebounds, averaged a double-double per game in the 2011-2012 season.
When was the last time Kentucky won the National Championship in basketball?
The Kentucky Wildcats last won the NCAA championship in 2012, beating Kansas 67-59, as the number one seed and one of the youngest teams in the 2011-2012 season.