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Tubby Smith

While the Worldwide Leader might be all about the NFL and the upcoming MLB Playoffs, they are also preparing for college basketball. One such way is to generate mounds of page views and discussion concerning team rankings. Since the preseason Top 25 isn’t quite ready for the printing press, ESPN decided it would offer an all-time ranking of all the Division 1 college basketball teams, with the help of Jeff Sagarin. You see, ESPN is getting ready to release a book called “ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men’s Game” and one of the book’s features is it ranks college basketball teams on an all-time basis.

In order to quantify these rankings, Sagarin took data from the last 72 years (wins and losses as well as the scoring differential) and created a ranking algorithm that gave us the following top 10:

1. Kentucky
2. UCLA
3. Kansas
4. North Carolina
5. Indiana
6. Illinois
7. Duke
8. Purdue
9. Ohio State
10. Iowa

While the top five is to be expected — no matter the order, these five are by and large considered the top programs in college basketball — that doesn’t mean Sagarin’s final rankings aren’t being disagreed with. One such dissenter, Pat Forde, made his feelings known about Sagarin’s top choice, Kentucky, in a follow-up article:

But Kentucky should not be No. 1. No computer takes into account a program’s NCAA rap sheet, and the Wildcats have a long history of problems. They were given the de facto first death penalty, forbidden from intercollegiate play for the 1953-54 season. There was a point-shaving scandal. There have been multiple NCAA probations.

Kentucky also thrived for decades in an all-white league while African-Americans were taking over the game elsewhere. It’s probably not coincidence that Adolph Rupp’s long era of domination started waning as black players began to make their impact on the sport in the late 1950s and 1960s. Rupp’s last national title came in 1958, and his last Final Four ended in defeat in the famous game against all-black Texas Western in 1966.

Essentially, Forde’s anti-UK stance comes down to cheating and racism. Meanwhile, when Forde ranked UCLA number one in his list, he gave minor lip-service to Sam Gilbert, using the word “anecdotal” to describe the evidence of his relationship with John Wooden’s Bruins.

Maybe Forde is still unhappy with the John Calipari hire.

ESPN was kind enough to link Sagarin’s complete rankings list, in PDF format, giving us something to argue about while waiting for Midnight Madness to begin. Speaking of Kentucky and basketball practice, fans are certainly ready for the debut of Calipari’s stud class, and they went to long lengths — literally — to show their support.