The 15 Best Players Who Never Won the NCAA Tournament
NCAA Tournament: The 15 Best Players Who Never Won One
With March Madness right around the corner, hundreds of college basketball players are undoubtedly dreaming of hoisting the championship trophy. However, as has been proven time and again, winning a NCAA title is an incredibly difficult endeavor. Not only do you need a team capable of beating anyone on any night, but that team also has to get hot at just the right time and have some luck sprinkled in for good measure.
History is littered with the names of players who won NCAA titles that no one will ever remember, but there are also plenty of higher profile players who never raised the trophy. While many of the better players have the capability of carrying their teams on their respective backs, for some the task was just too much. Many of the greatest players of all time failed in their quest to win a NCAA title, including one who called a loss in the title game "the most painful of his life."
To be sure, not winning a NCAA championship doesn't diminish these players' careers in any way, shape, or form, but it's undoubtedly a personal scourge for some. Some of the players on the following list were able to overcome their inability to win a title at the college level by winning titles in the NBA, but not everyone was so lucky. While the game of basketball has changed ever so significantly over the last 60 years, one thing has remained a constant: the great ones hate to lose. Without further ado, here are the 15 best players who never won a NCAA Tournament title.
15. Jason Kidd
In addition to being one of the NBA's best point guards of all time, Jason Kidd was also an accomplished college player in his two seasons at the University of California. Known best for his incredible court vision and "how'd he do that?" passes, Kidd was Freshman of the Year in 1992-93 and followed that up by being first team All-American, Pac-10 Player of the Year and a finalist for the Naismith Trophy as the nation's best player in 1993-94. One thing Kidd didn't obtain at Cal, however, was a National Title, as his Golden Bears never made it past the Sweet 16.
14. Clyde Drexler
Clyde Drexler was a part of the famous Phi Slama Jama teams at the University of Houston in the early 1980s that some still regard as one of the best collections of talent on a college team they've ever seen. Few teams boasted multiple Hall of Famers on the court at the same time as Houston did. Even playing out of the small forward spot, Drexler was able to average a double-double for his college career, but he and his Cougars teammates came up short in what was the first of back-to-back NCAA Title games for the school, losing to NC State in 1983 on the unforgettable tip in at the buzzer by Lorenzo Charles.
13. Chris Webber
Before he dominated players in the NBA, Chris Webber was a tremendous college player at the University of Michigan. Webber won Freshman of the Year honors in 1991-92 and was a first team All-American in 1992-93. Of course, Webber may be best remembered for his infamous timeout call in the 1993 title game vs. North Carolina when Michigan was out of timeouts, which essentially cost them the game. That loss marked the second consecutive title game loss for the Wolverines, who had fallen to Duke the year before, and Webber would leave for the NBA following that gaffe.
12. Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson, better known as The Answer, only spent two seasons at Georgetown University, but he left as the Hoyas' all-time leading scorer in points per game. Iverson won Big East Rookie of the Year in 1994-95 and was a first team All-American in his final season in gray and blue. Despite Iverson's incredible scoring prowess, he was never able to get Georgetown further than the Elite Eight where they fell to Massachusetts in his final season.
11. Julius Erving
Julius Erving was an incredible college basketball player at the University of Massachusetts before he earned his PhD in the NBA (not literally) and became Dr. J. Erving averaged an eye popping 32.5 points and 20 rebounds per game during his two seasons playing in Amherst, becoming one of the only players to ever surpass 30 PPG and 20 RPG in his college career. Although Erving's individual accolades are astounding, his Minutemen never made the NCAA Tournament, let alone won a title.
10. Bob Pettit
Bob Pettit was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history, but before he earned that distinction he was an almost unstoppable force for the LSU Tigers. Pettit played three seasons for the Tigers' varsity squad during which he averaged 28 points per game and was a two-time All-American. Pettit finished his career in Baton Rouge averaging 31 points and 17 rebounds per game in his final season, but the closest he ever came to winning a NCAA title was when the Tigers lost in the 1953 Final Four.
9. Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor's college career wasn't nearly as celebrated as what he did in the NBA, but he averaged over 31 points per game playing for the College of Idaho and the University of Seattle. After transferring to Seattle following his freshman season, Baylor proceeded to lead the nation in rebounding in 1956-57. Baylor led the then Chieftains to the National Title Game in 1958, his final college season, where they fell to a superior Kentucky team.
8. Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan is arguably the best power forward of all time and has won multiple NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs, but he was never able to reach the promised land in college with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Duncan put together one of the more impressive college resumes, earning two-time All-American honors as well as being named Wooden National Player of the Year in 1996-97. He was also two-time ACC player of the year, but all of that couldn't help Duncan lead his team past the Elite Eight.
7. Jerry West
Affectionately referred to as The Logo because his likeness was used in the NBA logo, Jerry West enjoyed a very productive college career at the University of West Virginia. West was a two time All-American for the Mountaineers and averaged 25 points and 13 rebounds per game. West was even named NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 1959, but it was after West Virginia fell in the title game to California by one point. After that game, West and West Virginia would never get that close again.
6. Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal is known as one of the most dominant big men to ever take the court in a NBA game, but he got his start at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Although O'Neal dominated the SEC much like he did the NBA, winning conference Player of the Year twice and taking home National Player of the Year honors in 1991-92, his team never made it past the second round in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, O'Neal more than made up for that by winning four titles in the NBA.
5. Pete Maravich
Pistol Pete Maravich is regarded by some as the best college basketball player of all time as his record for most points scored during a college career (3,667) still stands 44 years after he last took the court for LSU. To make Maravich's achievement even more staggering, freshmen weren't allowed to play on LSU's varsity team, so those numbers were accumulated over only three seasons. Furthermore, Maravich played before the advent of the three-point line, which would've undoubtedly increased his record. But one thing Maravich never accomplished was appearing in a NCAA tournament, much less winning a NCAA title.
4. Hakeem Olajuwon
Along with Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon was the other future Hall of Fame member of the Phi Slama Jama squad at Houston University. Olajuwon was a first team All-American and won the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award in 1983, although his Cougars fell at the buzzer to NC State. Olajuwon would return to the finals in 1984, sans Drexler, to play Patrick Ewing and Georgetown, but Houston would ultimately fall short again. Thankfully, the man they call The Dream would eventually win two NBA titles to lessen the pain.
3. Larry Bird
Larry Bird originally chose to attend the University of Indiana but decided to drop out after only a month and return to his hometown. Eventually, Bird would join the Indiana State Sycamores, for whom he starred during three seasons in Terre Haute. Bird won National Player of the Year honors in 1978-79 and most famously went toe to toe with Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans in the that year's National Championship Game. But ultimately Bird and the Sycamores fell short.
2. Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson is one of the greatest players in NBA history, but he was also the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history when he left Cincinnati (until Pete Maravich, and several others, ultimately eclipsed him). Robertson was a three-time All-American and was named Player of the Year on several occasions by multiple institutions. Robertson was the first to win the USBWA Player of the Year award, an award that now bears his name. However, one thing that eluded Robertson during his college career was a title. Despite two Final Four appearances, Robertson and the Bearcats could never get over the hump.
1. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain is regarded by some as the most dominant player ever to step on a basketball court and a player who completely changed the way the game was played. Chamberlain cut his chops at the University of Kansas where he was predictably dominant, averaging 30 points and 18 rebounds per game in two seasons with the Jayhawks. In his first year at Kansas, Chamberlain won first team All-American honors and was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player even though the Jayhawks lost in the 1957 title game to North Carolina. Chamberlain ultimately finished his career without a title, although he would earn two during his time in the NBA.