Top 25 All-Time College Basketball Programs
Top 25 College Basketball Teams All Time
The top college basketball program of all time. It's a debate that will forever be changing depending on the success and failures of programs throughout time.
The Kentuckys, Dukes, UCLAs and North Carolinas of the world will forever be engrained in such a list, but for the teams close to the bottom of the top 25 programs, they are still fighting for a permanent spot.
Based on championships, tournament appearances, conference titles and overall wins, this list will take into consideration anything that goes into making a great college basketball school. Notable alumni and coaches will be lightly considered.
Kentucky may be the most consistent program of all time but could they be the No. 1 in my rankings as well? Consistency is key, but former success is also important.
Duke has been the best team in the past two decades, but are they the best school in the history of college basketball.
UCLA has won championships upon championships decades ago, but will that former success have an impact on where they stand in this list.
What about North Carolina? Producing some of the greatest players to ever step foot on a basketball court, but are they the best?
No matter who finds themselves at No. 1 on my list, the debate will never be over.
Let's take a look at my top 25 college basketball programs in the history of the sport.
The one-time NCAA National Champion Michigan Wolverines find themselves at No. 25 on my list. They have had some of the best teams in recent memory, including the Fab Five. Although that team never won a championship and their wins were vacated due to improper benefits, they still brought Michigan to relevance. With 13 Big Ten titles and six Final Fours, the Wolverines are a solid program.
The Temple Owls are the sixth team in NCAA history to reach 1,800 wins, but if they were in any other conference, they would find themselves at a higher mark than No. 24 on this list. Hall of Fame head coach John Chaney led the Owls to over 700 wins and 17 tournament appearances. They have two Final Four appearances and 30 tournament appearances, making them a tough team to beat in the Atlantic 10.
Marquette may not be considered an elite program, but they are still a worthy team on this list. They have one national title and made the Final Four three times. Some notable alumni are Doc Rivers and Dwyane Wade-- both of which have won an NBA title and had their fair share of success at the NBA level. Oh, and Al McGuire was pretty good, too-- a former Marquette basketball player.
22. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State is an under-the-radar type of college basketball program. They aren't quite great, but they have had really good teams. Although they are infamously known for a plane crash in 2001 that killed 10 players and coaches, they seem to be overshadowed by the horrific event. They have won two NCAA titles and have 17 conference titles. If they had won a championship more recent than 1946, they would find themselves higher than No. 22.
21. North Carolina State
North Carolina State may be a rising team to watch out for nowadays, but they have two NCAA titles and three Final Fours in their history. The most notable championship came under Jim Valvano in 1983 when a last second heave to win the game was air-balled and then dunked in Lorenzo Charles as time expired. They won the game against Houston 54-52 and is one of the most memorable title games of all-time.
Texas may be known as a football school, but basketball is still one of the strong points of the school down in Austin. With many notable alumni and lottery picks galore, the Longhorns have sprinkled the NBA with their talent. Although they have never won a national title, they have been the thorn in the sides of many teams trying to make a tournament run. Head coach Rick Barnes has taken them from average to contenders in his tenure and has produced players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin.
With one NCAA title and four Final Four appearances, UNLV has been one best teams of the late 1970s stretching all the way to the early 1990s. They have accumulated 19 tournament appearances since 1975 and 12 conference titles since 1983, making them a force in the Mountain West Conference. Notable alumni are Reggie Theus, Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon.
18. St. John's
St. John's has not been one of the most successful programs in the last decade or so, but the Red Storm have had quite the history of success. Having never won a college basketball title, they make the list because of their prominence in the NCAA tournament, making the 'Big Dance' 28 times. Current head coach Steve Lavin is looking to bring them back to relevance since he took over in 2010 and it may take them a while to be a force again, but the Big East is not the toughest conference these days.
The Georgetown basketball program has only been mentioned with the top teams for about 30 years, but the Hoyas have had a steady stream of success. They are current members of the Big East and have had much success, winning 10 conference titles since 1975. However, if they had won more than one conference title since 1989, they would easily climb up this list. They do have one national title in 1984 and they went to the title game three times from 1982-85.
Another school that is primarily known for football, the Arkansas Razorbacks find themselves at No. 16 on the list. They have accumulated over 1,500 wins and six Final Fours in their history and were a no-brainer addition to the discussion of top college basketball programs of all-time. Although they have not been successful as of late (last tournament appearance was 2008), they still have one NCAA title and have produced 26 NBA players.
15. Ohio State
Thad Matta is currently one of the best coaches in college basketball, but he isn't the first successful coach to lead the Ohio State Buckeyes. Fred Taylor led the Buckeyes to their only national title in 1960 and is one of the more successful coaches in the school's history. The Buckeyes are definitely a football school, but these days, good football schools have developed good basketball programs as well. With 11 Final Fours and 22 conference tournaments in school history, they are a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.
With over 1,600 wins, Cincinnati can't be overlooked on this list as they have also won two NCAA titles and made the Final Four six times. Although they have had off-the-court issues in years past, couple with poor play in the last decade, their place among the all-time great programs in wavering. However, any school that has 26 conference titles deserves to be recognized for greatness.
It's hard to put a team that has never won an NCAA title at No. 13, but Illinois has had so much success throughout their history that they were impossible to overlook. The Fighting Illini have made the NCAA tourney 10 times since 2000 and 29 times in school history. Their 17 conference titles puts them ahead of a good number of Big Ten teams, but they are not an elite program these days.
Villanova has been through its ups and downs as a program, but as of late, Jay Wright has brought the program back to relevance. With a winning record in all but two of his 11 seasons, Wright has taken the Wildcats to eight NCAA Tournaments, including one Final Four in the past decade. They have won one national title (1985) and have made 32 tournament appearances, including seven straight from 2005-11.
Utah is one of those teams that you wouldn't think would have had a successful basketball history, but the Utes have been one of the most consistent basketball teams. They haven't won an NCAA title since 1944, and haven't made the title game since 1998, but their 27 tournament appearances-- losing in the first round just five times-- are quite impressive. Their four Final Fours and 36 conference titles aren't bad either.
10. Michigan State
Michigan State has been a model of consistency since Tom Izzo has taken over in 1995. The Spartans have made 26 NCAA Tournament appearances, including 15 straight under Izzo. They have also won two national titles and eight Final Fours. Their 13 conference titles are impressive, but they would find themselves higher than No. 10 if they had more success before Izzo took over. Although Jud Heathcote was a great coach before Izzo, he only won three conference titles in 20 seasons.
Syracuse has been in the hands of Jim Boeheim for the past 35 years and those hands have been good to the Orange. Boeheim is second on the all-time win list for Division 1 coaches with 940, behind only Mike Krzyzewski. They have won a national title (2003) and have four Final Four appearances and 35 appearances in the tournament. The Orange currently have five players in the NBA highlighted by star player Carmelo Anthony.
Connecticut has had a storied history that is highlighted by three national championships, all of which have come within the last 15 years. Legendary coach Jim Calhoun retired prior to the 2012-13 season due to a variety of health issues that kept him away from the game for a length of time. He led them to all three national titles and all four Final Fours in school history. He brought the school into the national spotlight, a place where they may stay for a while.
Louisville has had a steady rise from the Missouri Valley Conference in 1964 to Conference USA in 1996 and now they find themselves in the Big East in 2005. Rick Pitino has been the head coach of the Cardinals since 2001 and have made nine tournament appearances and two Final Fours since Pitino has been the coach. The Cardinals have two national titles under their belt and nine Final Four appearances, including last season. With Pitino at the helm, the Cardinals will be tough to beat for years to come.
Indiana could be in the discussion with the top five teams on this list, but with the amazing history and consistency of the those teams, the Hoosiers find themselves at No. 6. Bob Knight is one of the most famous coaches in college hoops history, leading the Hoosiers to over 660 wins and three national titles in almost 30 years. The Hoosiers are venturing back to greatness with Tom Crean at head coach-- turning them from a six-win team in 2009 to the No. 1 team in college basketball to begin the 2012-13 season. Watch out for this team.
Kansas is predominantly a basketball school and with three NCAA titles, the Jayhawks have been one of most impressive programs in college basketball. They have not let off the gas at any point as they still are one of the best programs in the country and find themselves in the top 10 seemingly year after year. They have made 14 Final Four appearances and won 55 conference titles in school history-- an almost unreal number. They are currently ranked in the top five in the 2012-13 season and will look to make a run for their fourth national title.
4. North Carolina
North Carolina has been one of the best college basketball teams of all-time and find themselves at No. 4 on my list. With over 2,000 wins, the Tar Heels are one of the most impressive schools when it comes to college basketball. They have won five national titles and have made 18 Final Fours in school history. Their 36 conference titles is one of the highest marks in college basketball, not to mention the way they churn out NBA players year after year, including the greatest player of all-time: Michael Jordan.
Mike Krzyzewski is easily the best coach currently in college basketball, and arguably the best of all-time. He has the most wins of any coach in Division 1 basketball with 944 wins and he also has four national titles, the most of any active coach. The Blue Devils weren't as successful before Coach K, but since he has taken over, they have made an impressive 27 NCAA Tournament appearances, 11 Final Fours and have accumulated 79 tournament wins-- the most ever.
The UCLA basketball program has had some tough times lately, missing the tournament two times in the last three years, but their history is nothing short of amazing. The Bruins have had arguably one of the best coaches of all time in John Wooden, a winner of 10 national titles and one of the most noteworthy histories of any sports program. The Bruins have won an unbelievable 11 national titles, including seven straight from 1967-73. Their 17 Final Fours, 30 conference titles, 82 NBA players and 15 current NBA players are just a little bit of what makes a great college basketball program.
Kentucky is at the top of the list of all-time college basketball programs. The Wildacts have won eight national titles and have made 15 Final Fours. Adolph Rupp was one of the best coaches to ever roam the sidelines and coached an astounding 42 years at Kentucky, leading them to four NCAA Championships and 27 conference titles. Overall, the Wildcats are No. 1 all-time in wins (2,103), win percentage (.763), All-Americans (55) and NBA Draft picks (106). A solid program and the definition of a dynasty.
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