By Gary Parrish | CBSSports.com College Basketball Insider
Before John Calipari turned Kentucky into the monster it is today, Rick Pitino did it ... and arguably better. The Hall of Coach took over a program on probation and won in 1992 with a overachieving group dubbed the "Unforgettables." Four years later, Pitino had a team he labeled the "Untouchables" because, well, they basically were. There were pros all over the court. And because the rules of basketball only allows a coach to play five guys at once, Pitino had pros all over his bench, too. Ron Mercer, arguably the best high school player in the country as a senior, didn't even start for Kentucky as a freshman. That would be like Anthony Davis not starting for the 2012 Wildcats. It would make no sense ... except the 1996 Wildcats were so talented that it didn't seem strange at all.
Coach: Rick Pitino
Primary starters: Anthony Epps, Tony Delk, Derek Anderson, Antoine Walker and Walter McCarty.
NCAA Tournament final result: Defeated Syracuse 76-67 to win the national title.
Best player: Tony Delk. A first-team All-American, the SEC Player of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. The guard from Brownsville, Tenn., was the Wildcats' leader and leading scorer. He averaged 18 points per game, made seven 3-pointers in the title game, then spent seven seasons in the NBA. He's now an assistant coach at New Mexico State under Marvin Menzies, a former Pitino assistant at Louisville. All in the family, you know?
Another worth noting: Antoine Walker. A first-team All-SEC member who was the first Wildcat selected in the 1996 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-9 forward from Chicago averaged 15 points and nine rebounds per game as a sophomore while displaying a unique skill set for a man his size. Walker could create shots for others and himself (mostly himself). He was picked sixth that June and spent the next 12 years in the NBA earning more than $110 million. Still, he's reportedly somehow broke. That's sad.
This team is one of the best of all-time because ... It had nine -- seriously, nine! -- future NBA players who spent their amateur days dominating the opposition. Yes, the Wildcats lost two regular-season games, but let's just chalk that up to boredom. When the lights came on (in March), they were lights out. They used a deep rotation to play up-tempo, shoot 50 percent from the field, average 89 points per game and beat their opponents by an average of 21 points while cruising in the 64-team bracket. This Kentucky team is, in most people's opinion, the greatest of the modern era.
Did you know ... One of the teams Kentucky eliminated in the 1996 NCAA tournament was Tim Duncan's Wake Forest Demon Deacons? The future NBA champion was just 2 for 7 from the field with five turnovers against the Wildcats' smothering defense.