We complete a simulation with every NCAA Tournament second-place team since 1985
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Using our college basketball simulation engine, we placed Kentucky in a round-robin tournament featuring every national champion runner-up since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Every team in our round robin tournament played every other team 51 times. The simulation generated each team's winning percentage (Win %) and average points per game (Avg. PPG).
To simulate these games or any other theoretical matchups of your choosing, try the WhatIfSports.com college basketball SimMatchup tool.
2014 Kentucky vs. Every Runner-Up Since 1985
|Rank||Team||Win %||Avg. PPG||Sim vs. 2014 UK|
|1||1998-99 Duke Blue Devils||94.5||93.4||SimMatchup >|
|2||1996-97 Kentucky Wildcats||84.3||89.0||SimMatchup >|
|3||1984-85 Georgetown Hoyas||80.4||85.3||SimMatchup >|
|4||1987-88 Oklahoma Sooners||77.0||95.1||SimMatchup >|
|5||1985-86 Duke Blue Devils||75.7||92.0||SimMatchup >|
|6||2004-05 Illinois Fighting Illini||70.1||83.2||SimMatchup >|
|7||2000-01 Arizona Wildcats||66.8||87.3||SimMatchup >|
|8||2002-03 Kansas Jayhawks||65.7||82.6||SimMatchup >|
|9||1994-95 Arkansas Razorbacks||62.0||85.4||SimMatchup >|
|10||2007-08 Memphis Tigers||59.8||81.0||SimMatchup >|
|11||2006-07 Ohio State Buckeyes||57.3||80.2||SimMatchup >|
|12||2011-12 Kansas Jayhawks||52.6||78.9||SimMatchup >|
|13||1999-00 Florida Gators||52.5||86.5||SimMatchup >|
|14||1986-87 Syracuse Orange||51.0||87.0||SimMatchup >|
|15||1988-89 Seton Hall Pirates||48.4||85.8||SimMatchup >|
|16||1997-98 Utah Utes||46.4||78.8||SimMatchup >|
|17||2003-04 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets||46.3||80.5||SimMatchup >|
|18||1989-90 Duke Blue Devils||42.2||87.8||SimMatchup >|
|19||2005-06 UCLA Bruins||40.2||76.2||SimMatchup >|
|20||2012-13 Michigan Wolverines||38.2||77.0||SimMatchup >|
|21||2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats||37.3||78.5||2014 Runner-Ups!|
|22||2008-09 Michigan State Spartans||35.7||79.5||SimMatchup >|
|23||1990-91 Kansas Jayhawks||34.3||86.1||SimMatchup >|
|24||1995-96 Syracuse Orange||32.6||79.8||SimMatchup >|
|25||1993-94 Duke Blue Devils||32.5||80.4||SimMatchup >|
|26||1992-93 Michigan Wolverines||30.0||80.9||SimMatchup >|
|27||2001-02 Indiana Hoosiers||24.0||75.1||SimMatchup >|
|28||2009-10 Butler Bulldogs||21.7||74.4||SimMatchup >|
|29||1991-92 Michigan Wolverines||20.8||79.8||SimMatchup >|
|30||2010-11 Butler Bulldogs||19.6||75.0||SimMatchup >|
The last few years, we've wrapped up the college basketball season by placing the newly-minted national champions into a round-robin tournament with every champion since the NCAA Tournament's expansion in 1985. The runner-up finisher, meanwhile, gets no love. After navigating the tournament gauntlet all the way to the championship game, only to fall short of the ultimate prize, it seems unfair that the tourney's second-place finisher often becomes an asterisk in the history books.
With that in mind, we're giving runner-ups their due. We placed the 2014 Kentucky Wildcats and every runner-up since 1985 - a total of 30 teams - into a round-robin tournament to determine which was best. The 1999 Duke Blue Devils smoked the competition, winning 94.5 percent of their games in the simulation. The stars of the 1999 squad were Elton Brand, Trajon Langdon and William Avery.
Duke is no stranger to the top spot in our college basketball power rankings, as the 2001 Blue Devils finished first in our power ranking of NCAA Tournament champions. Shane Battier, who averaged 9.1 points as a sophomore in 1999, scored 19.9 points per game as a senior in 2001 and led the team with 7.3 rebounds.
The 1997 Kentucky Wildcats were second in the simulation, winning 84.3 percent of their games. Kentucky won championships in 1996 and 1998, but fell to Arizona in 1997's finale as Miles Simon and Mike Bibby combined for 49 points to upset Rick Pitino's squad.
Like 1999 Duke and 1997 Kentucky, no one has much sympathy for the 1985 runner-up, Georgetown. Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas were attempting a repeat when league rival Villanova pulled the upset.
Many have forgotten how much talent Oklahoma had on its roster in 1988. The Sooners, the fourth-ranked team in our power ranking, finished 30-3 during the 1987-88 season and averaged 102.9 points per game. Their double-figure scorers included Stacey King (21.7 points per game), Harvey Grant (21.2 points per game), Mookie Blaylock (17.0 points per game), Ricky Grace (15.1 points per game) and Dave Sieger (10.8 points per game). Oklahoma ultimately lost to Danny Manning and the Miracles in the championship game. Manning totaled 31 points and 18 rebounds for Kansas.
Since our top runner-ups enjoyed so much success during their respective seasons, we were curious how they'd fare against the teams that were among the best in our national championship power rankings. We again created a round-robin tournament, this time selecting 1999 Duke, 1997 Kentucky, 1985 Georgetown, 1988 Oklahoma and 1985 Duke from our runner-up tournament. We then added the top five teams from our national championship tournament, 2001 Duke, 1996 Kentucky, 2005 North Carolina, 1990 UNLV and 1998 Kentucky.
Runner-Ups vs. Champions
|Rank||Team||Win %||Avg. PPG||Title Game Outcome|
|1||1998-99 Duke Blue Devils||74.8||95.7||Runner-Ups|
|2||2000-01 Duke Blue Devils||73.0||97.9||Champions|
|3||1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats||59.9||96.5||Champions|
|4||2004-05 North Carolina Tar Heels||58.1||96.0||Champions|
|5||1996-97 Kentucky Wildcats||45.8||91.5||Runner-Ups|
|6||1989-90 UNLV Runnin'Rebels||43.8||97.4||Champions|
|7||1984-85 Georgetown Hoyas||43.6||88.3||Runner-Ups|
|8||1987-88 Oklahoma Sooners||35.1||97.7||Runner-Ups|
|9||1985-86 Duke Blue Devils||35.1||95.1||Runner-Ups|
|10||1997-98 Kentucky Wildcats||30.9||85.5||Champions|
According to our simulation engine, the 1999 Blue Devils are the best championship game participant since 1985, despite their loss to UConn in the 1999 tournament finale. Another runner-up team, the 1997 Kentucky Wildcats, finished fifth in the simulation, edging out the championship-winning 1990 Runnin' Rebels.
Are you interested in creating your own all-time NCAA tournament dream team? Check out our NCAA Basketball Dream Teams feature and start loading up your roster with guys like Duke's Christian Laettner, Indiana's Isiah Thomas, Georgetown's Patrick Ewing and North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough. Then simulate your roster against other dream teams or any NCAA basketball program past or present. Best of all, it's FREE!
Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.