SDS Roundtable: The greatest team I ever saw ...
Each SDS roundtable discussion involves the SDS staff providing individual answers and comments to questions covering a wide range of sports and non-sports topics. In this discussion, we ask the question: Who is the greatest team you ever saw?
Previous roundtable discussions:
- If you could change 1 thing about college football, what would it be?
- What are you watching right now?
- Who is your favorite SEC football player of all-time?
- What are your 3 favorite postseason moments involving SEC teams?
- Which 4 SEC athletes are on your Mount Rushmore?
- What is your most painful sports memory?
Jon Cooper, SDS co-founder
This is an easy one. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes are the best team I’ve ever seen, including having the most talented roster of all-time. In the team’s final 4 games against top 14 teams, Miami outscored them 187-45, including 124-7 combined over No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington. This ridiculous roster was headlined by QB Ken Dorsey, RB Clinton Portis, TE Jeremy Shockey, WR Andre Johnson and Bryant McKinnie on offense. On defense, the Canes boasted Jonathan Vilma, Phillip Buchanon and Ed Reed.
Miami allowed just 9.8 points per game in 2001 en route to beating Nebraska for the national championship in the Rose Bowl.
Connor O’Gara, Senior national columnist
I realize the lazy answer might feel like 2019 LSU, but I legitimately believe that for a few reasons. One, I saw that team play in person 3 times. I even say that despite the fact that I was there when Auburn made it far too close for comfort. But watching what that team did to Georgia in the SEC Championship to silence a very pro-Dawgs crowd (at least it was at first) was remarkable. The top scoring defense in America didn’t have a prayer.
And as I said, watching in person when LSU took a machete to Oklahoma’s national title chances was unforgettable. LSU was so dominant that you literally had media members laughing as they scored touchdowns. I’ve never understood what a laugher was until that very moment.
It was the most impressive season in the sport’s history, and seeing 180 minutes of it in person confirmed everything my TV told me all year. That is, that was a team for the ages.
Chris Marler, The SDS Podcast co-host
This is a tough one because there are so many teams that didn’t win a title that I think could make this list. I’ll say in my lifetime (I’m 33) that the 3 best teams I’ve ever seen were 2001 Miami, 2011 Alabama and 2018 Clemson. From the teams that never won a title, I’d say 2001/2009 UF, 2005 USC and 2016 Alabama.
I think 2001 Miami was the GOAT team ever, and that is all I will say on the matter.
I’m sure 2011 Bama will get a lot of weird looks because many think they should not have been in the title game in the first place. I’ll just let everyone in that camp know that you are wrong. Incredibly wrong. That team wasn’t the most fun to watch on offense even though they did have a Heisman finalist in Trent Richardson. However, that defense is statistically the greatest in college football history. They led the country in all 4 major defensive categories.
- Scoring D: 8.2 ppg. Allowed 10 points or less in 9 of 13 games. Only 1 team scored over 14 points.
- Rush D: 72.3 ypg and 3 total TDs
- Pass D: 111.5 ypg, 6 TDs and 13 INTs
- Tota D: 183.6 ypg, nearly 80 ypg fewer than the 2nd-best defense.
I absolutely hate having Clemson on this list because the Tigers played absolutely nobody, but I think we’ll look back at that team in a few years and see how many total NFL 1st-rounders and draft picks were on that team and be shocked. It’s one of the best D-Lines ever assembled, and Trevor Lawrence was playing out of his mind to close out the season. I was at the game and predicted Clemson to win on our SDS Facebook Live from outside the stadium. But I didn’t expect that.
Neil Blackmon, Gators columnist
I went basketball as an homage to the March Madness we didn’t get this year.
The Final Four I’d like to see is 2007 Florida, 2009 UNC, 2012 Kentucky and 2001 Duke.
Of those teams, I saw two in person: 2007 Florida and 2012 Kentucky.
It’s difficult to choose between them.
The Cats didn’t lose a conference game in the regular season and wouldn’t have lost a conference game period had John Jenkins not made everything in New Orleans Orena in the conference championship.
The Cats weren’t particularly deep (it was basically a 7-man rotation come March), but they were long, could score from all three levels, and of course had a once-a-generation superstar in Anthony Davis. There’s this myth that Davis played at center, but in reality Davis only played 20% of his possessions at the 5, with John Calipari preferring to play him at the 4 where he was a mismatch nightmare whether facing up from the elbow or playing back to the basket as a post with Terrence Jones.
If you doubled him, which most everyone did, he was a terrific passer and they had three guys who were just assassins from beyond the arc in Darius Miller, Doron Lamb and Kyle Wiltjer. Then they had Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was as tenacious a defender as you’ll ever see as a freshman and brutally effective attacking a closeout and getting to the tin.
You’d have to be a team full of pros with elite scoring balance and a ton of depth in your frontcourt to play against them, which … sounds like 2007 Florida?
The Gators lost 5 games, though they played the whole season with a huge target on their back as not only the defending national champions but a team that returned the same starting 5 from their national championship squad a year prior.
The Gators steamrolled through the SEC Tournament, winning every game by at least 17 points, and then marched through the NCAA Tournament winning every game by at least 7 points.
Florida was deep, athletic, had an absolute deadeye 3-point shooter in 2-guard Lee Humphrey and featured 3 lottery picks and a bunch of pros.
The frontcourt was the strength of the team though. Noah and Horford were future NBA All-Stars, with Noah eventually winning NBA Defensive Player of the Year before injuries shortened his career a bit. But behind those two, they had Mo Speights and Chris Richard, a couple of pros in their own right. This allowed Donovan to send waves against teams with elite frontcourt players, which is precisely what he did in the national championship game against Greg Oden and Ohio State.
“We played an outstanding game against them, but by the middle of the second half, they had 20 fouls with 4 pros to team up on Greg Oden, and we couldn’t solve Corey Brewer at the top of that zone. It was just so tough to play them and find an advantage,” Mike Conley Jr. told me recently.
I think that’s right.
I think they are the best team I ever saw because to go back-to-back in this era, with the same starting 5, with all the attention and pressure they were under — that was remarkable.
Chris Wright, Executive editor
I’ll exclude the 1992 Dream Team, the hand-picked, most dominant collection of talent in world history.
I was in Miami for those 2001 Canes, too. Ridiculous. Any time you have future NFL stars like Frank Gore and Willis McGahee coming off the bench … Those Canes games were a party, the sidelines stacked with the biggest hip-hop artists.
But I’ll stick with basketball, and give it up to the 1990 and 1991 Runnin’ Rebs in a close call over the 2009 North Carolina team, which was the last great, upperclassmen-led college basketball team.
Everybody likes to claim that the Fab Five brought swag to college basketball. The Fab Five certainly created a new look — from their youth to their black socks and baggy shorts — but let’s not forget what UNLV did, really over the course of 2 seasons.
They blended Georgetown’s menacing defense and Jerry Tarkanian’s love of transition basketball to form the greatest show on hardwood.
Tark’s aptly-named Runnin’ Rebels didn’t just win the 1990 NCAA title, they blasted the field. They won 5 of the 6 games by double digits. They won 3 of the games by 30 points. The exclamation point, of course, was the 30-point blowout of Duke in the championship game — still the most lopsided final in NCAA Tournament history and their 103 points remain the most points scored in the title game.
With the key pieces back, notably Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony, they were even better the next year. Wire-to-wire No. 1, they raced into the Final Four with a perfect 34-0 record. They topped 100 points 13 times! It was almost a given that they were going to replace 1976 Indiana as the most recent unbeaten national champion.
They ran into Duke in the Final Four. Shots didn’t fall. Transition slowed. Bobby Hurley took care of the ball, Christian Laettner played like a player of the year, and, eventually, panic set in. The Rebels lost 79-77. One great game for Duke, one missed opportunity for college basketball fans.