The 15 Greatest Teams In NCAA Tournament History
The 15 Greatest Teams In NCAA Tournament History
In college basketball, like every other sport, there is no single answer to what makes any team great or legendary. Analysts, pundits and fans all have their own methods for determining which teams separate themselves from the rest. Each of the previous 75 NCAA tournament champions fall under one of these categories. The champions who had the most talented team, the champions who were able to get hot at the right time and carry the momentum to the end, or the Cinderella team that no one saw coming and would shock the world with a championship.
With 75 teams to choose from, narrowing the list down to the top 15 is not an easy task. Comparing champions is like comparing Hall of Famers; it takes a lot of time and more often than not you are never right, but I will try to accomplish this anyway.
Overall greatness is what separates the great champions from the good champions. Whether it is a Hall of Fame coach who devises the perfect strategy or great players who prove their all-time greatness with performances that have never been seen before -- the best teams of all time find the ability to use these assets to ultimately become victorious at the end.
In my ranking of the 15 greatest teams in NCAA tournament history, I only included 15 teams that went on to win the championship. I did this because the best label for greatness comes at the end when a team ultimately comes out with a title. Here now is my ranking of the top 15 greatest teams in NCAA tournament history.
15. 2012 Kentucky Wildcats
The 2012 Kentucky squad might be a little premature on this list, but their resume gives them a good argument for inclusion. The team went 37-2 with a majority of their key players being freshmen and sophomores.
Led by player of the year Anthony Davis, the Wildcats won their eighth title overall and first in 14 years by defeating Kansas 67-59.
14. 1957 North Carolina Tar Heels
Mostly forgotten in history, the 1957 North Carolina Tar Heels won the first title in the program's rich history.
Led by Hall of Fame coach Frank McGuire, the 1957 team completed a perfect season. Before reaching the title game, the Tar Heels defeated Michigan State in triple overtime. They then clinched the title against Wilt Chamberlain and the Kansas Jayhawks in another triple overtime classic.
13. 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes
Led by Hall of Famers John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas, the 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes dominated the NCAA Tournament.
In Ohio State's four tournament games, the Buckeyes won all four by an average of 19.5 points per game. The Buckeyes capped off their greatness by beating California 75-55. The Buckeyes also had Hall of Fame head coach Bob Knight on that team as a player.
12. 2007 Florida Gators
The second of Florida's back-to-back championship teams, the 2007 squad featured three top nine draft picks (the first-time ever at that point), two of which have been NBA All-Stars in Al Horford and Joakim Noah.
All five starters from the first championship returned and finished 26-5 in the regular season. The Gators defeated a UCLA team that had four future NBA starters headlined by Russell Westbrook. The Gators then defeated Greg Oden and a great Ohio State squad in the championship game 84-75.
11. 1956 San Francisco Dons
Before being main pillars on the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1960s, K.C. Jones (25) and Bill Russell (6) starred on one of the first college basketball dynasties in San Francisco.
The 1956 squad returned all five starters from their first championship team the previous year. Despite losing Jones for the NCAA tournament, the Dons went undefeated in '56 and defeated Iowa 83-71 in the title game.
10. 1974 North Carolina State Wolfpack
The 1974 North Carolina State Wolfpack stopped the most dominant stretch in college basketball history. With David Thompson, Tom Burleson and coached by Norm Sloan, the Wolfpack finished the regular season 27-1 and faced the UCLA Bruins in the Final Four.
With the Bruins looking to continue to build on their streak of seven consecutive national championships, the Wolfpack, led by Thompson's 28 points, defeated Bill Walton and the Bruins 103-100. The team would win the title a few nights later against Al McGuire's Marquette Golden Eagles.
9. 1990 UNLV Runnin Rebels
The 1991 UNLV squad was the more talented team, but the 1990 squad was the one that would be national champions. Led by three NBA lottery picks in Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson and coached by Jerry Tarkanian, the Rebels would defeat a very powerful Loyola Marymount team in the Elite Eight before continuing their dominance in the Final Four.
After defeating Georgia Tech 90-81, the Rebels would face Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils. In a game that was never close, the Rebels would blow out Duke by 30 in the biggest rout in title game history.
8. 1984 Georgetown Hoyas
It is hard to believe that the 1984 Georgetown Hoyas would be the only team under coach John Thompson and Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing that would win a title. Both the 1982 and 1985 teams were better, but the '84 squad was the only one to win it all.
Led by Ewing, the Hoyas would finish 29-3 in the regular season. In the tournament, the Hoyas would survive a 37-36 scare to the SMU Mustangs and would dominate the rest of the tournament. In the Championship game, the Hoyas would defeat Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Cougars ' "Phi Slama Jama" for the school's only NCAA title.
7. 1982 North Carolina Tar Heels
The 1982 North Carolina Tar Heels had one of the most talented teams not just in Tar Heel history, but in NCAA history. While Michael Jordan was only a freshman, fellow Hall of Famer James Worthy was the leading scorer and Sam Perkins would also be a good NBA player.
The Tar Heels would avenge their national championship loss the previous year by defeating Houston's "Phi Slama Jama" in the Final Four and Patrick Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas in the championship game 63-62 on a game-winning jumper by Jordan.
6. 1979 Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans and Magic Johnson would win their first NCAA title, and more importantly, establish March Madness as a primetime event with a victory over Larry Bird's Indiana State Sycamores.
The Spartans dominated the tournament with five victories by an average of 20 points per game. The Spartans were not just a one-man show as both Greg Kelser and Jay Vincent were solid complementary players for Johnson and coach Jud Heathcote.
5. 1996 Kentucky Wildcats
With eleven players who would become future NBA players, the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats are one of the most unheralded teams in NCAA history. In the tournament, Kentucky would defeat their first four opponents by 20 points or better.
The Wildcats and coach Rick Pitino would avenge one of their two regular season losses by defeating Massachusetts in the Final Four. In the title game, the Wildcats would defeat Syracuse 75-67.
4. 1976 Indiana Hoosiers
The 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers are still the last undefeated champions in college basketball, but even this accomplishment doesn't give this team the No. 1 ranking.The Hoosiers would defeat Marquette and UCLA in the tournament leading up to the title game. The Golden Eagles won the title the next season, and the Bruins were the defending champions. The Hoosiers completed their perfect by defeating Michigan for the third time that season 86-68.
3. 1992 Duke Blue Devils
The 1992 Duke Blue Devils, led by Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, and Bobby Hurley, lost only twice in the regular season and were the No. 1 team the entire year.
While Laettner's buzzer-beater against Kentucky gets most of the headlines, the Blue Devils defeated Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers in the Final Four and Michigan's "Fab Five" in the title game with a 71-51 rout.
2. 1972 UCLA Bruins
The Bruins' closest game of the whole season was a five-point victory over the Florida State Seminoles in the title game. If not for another stacked UCLA team, the 1972 squad would be not just the best UCLA team ever, but the greatest team ever.
1. 1968 UCLA Bruins
Led by the greatest college basketball player ever in Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), the 1968 UCLA Bruins are the undisputed greatest team in NCAA tournament history. The Bruins also had five other players who would average double-figures in scoring for the season. The team averaged 93 points per game while holding their opponents to just under 70.
The Bruins would only lose one game all year when Alcindor was injured against a Houston team led by Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes. In the tournament, the Bruins got revenge against Houston by routing the Cougars by 32 in the Final Four, and then they defeated North Carolina by 23 in the title game.