NCAA Tournament

Cats produce a 27-game winning streak and end an 18-year drought

If the aspirations of Kentucky fans were the total subjugation of college basketball, the 1996 Wildcats were as close as UK has come in the modern era.

After an early loss to John Calipari and Massachusetts, Rick Pitino ended an experiment with Tony Delk at point guard and installed Anthony Epps as his team's quarterback.

With the heady Epps distributing the ball to a loaded roster that included nine players who would eventually play in the NBA, Kentucky won its next 27 games. During that streak, only two teams (Indiana and Georgia) even played UK within single-digit margins of defeat.

In the Big Dance, the Cats won their first four tourney games by margins of 38, 24, 31 and 20 points (the latter over Tim Duncan and Wake Forest).

The Final Four brought a rematch with Marcus Camby and UMass. In a fiercely contested game, UK prevailed 81-74.

Against Syracuse in the finals, Delk scored 24 points and freshman Ron Mercer had 20 off the bench as UK claimed its first national title in 18 years.

Herald-Leader staff report