Best NCAA Basketball Teams Ever


15. University of Houston 1984

Alumni to NBA: Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Robert Reid

Breakdown: The uber-athletic Olajuwon, and the high-flying acrobat Clyde Drexler (both Hall of Fame players), pioneered “Phi Slamma Jamma”, a fraternity of players that played above the rim. This squad of physically gifted and rarely skilled athletes played in two consecutive Final Fours, despite being beaten by the favored Georgetown Hoyas and upset by N.C. State.

14. University of Michigan 1992

Alumni to NBA: Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King

Breakdown: The Fab Five were the most highly rated recruiting class in history. As both freshman and sophmores, they were favored to win an NCAA championship. They were brash and unapologetic. They set fashion trends. The Fab Five were the first college team to wear baggy shorts and black socks. They demolished their competition in most games. However, the bright lights of the tournament forced them into careless errors and they never won a title.

13. University of Florida 2006, 2007

Alumni to NBA: Al Horford, Joaquin Noah, Corey Brewer

Breakdown: After winning a national championship, the group considered disbanding so that Brewer could pursue an NBA career to support his family. Instead, they renewed their commitments to Florida and won consecutive titles. They dominated the college landscape for two years and all have solid professional careers.

12. University of North Carolina 1997

Alumni to NBA: Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood, Shammond Williams

Breakdown: Dean Smith put together one of the most talented and balanced teams ever to be assembled. The Tarheels could score on the interior with Jamison, on the perimeter with Williams, or anywhere between the two with Carter. Ed Cota ran the point and Brendan Haywood cleaned up the mess.

11. University of Kentucky 1998

Alumni to NBA: Jamaal Magloire, Nazr Mohammed, Jeff Sheppard, Scott Padgett

Breakdown: Under new head coach Tubby Smith, the Kentucky Wildcats played a calculated, more  deliberate style of basketball. It suited them well. The ball was placed in the hands of the best players on every play and they flourished because of it. Padgett was a constant inside-outside threat and Magloire and Mohammed ruled the paint.

10. University of Kentucky 1996

Alumni to NBA: Tony Delk, Derek Anderson, Walter McCarty, Nazr Mohammed

Breakdown: Rick Pitino recruited the best athletes in the nation and coached them like a finely tuned machine. He pressed teams the entire game and beat half his opponents by twenty or more points.

9. Duke University 2001

Alumni to NBA: Carlos Boozer, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Jason Williams, Chris Duhon, Nate James

Breakdown: This was one of the most physically gifted groups of players that Coach K ever had. It was literally brimming with NBA talent. His offense was completely balanced with a penetrating point guard with Jason Williams, a sweet shooting forward in Shane Battier, a bruising, finishing post in Carlos Boozer, and an athletic swing man with Mike Dunleavy Jr. Nate James was a slasher and Chris Duhon could penetrate or shoot the three. Every player mentioned except James has had at least a solid pro career.

8. University of Indiana 1976

Alumni to NBA: Scott May, Sr., John Henson

Breakdown: Bobby Knight coached this team to one of only 7 perfect seasons in NCAA basketball. Scott May lead a team of gifted athletes and shooters through the tournament and to a 32-0 record.

7. University of Las Vegas – Nevada 1990

Alumni to NBA: Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt

Breakdown: This UNLV team was one of the most exciting basketball teams ever to play college basketball. It had two elite athletes in Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon. Greg Anthony was a tough, penetrating guard and Anderson Hunt did not miss from the three point line. They would trap teams to create turnovers and fast breaks or just play a stifling man to man defense. Larry Johnson headlined one of the most devastating front lines in college basketball. He was unstoppable in the post with his raw power and whirling spin moves, even at the NBA level. Very few teams in the history of the NCAA could match this team’s athleticism.

6. Duke University 1991, 1992

Alumni to NBA: Grant Hill, Christian Laetner, Bobby Hurley

Breakdown: Christian Laetner had one of the greatest college careers of all-time. He was a good athlete with quick feet and great shooting touch. He could score in the paint with his back to the basket, or play the stretch 4, and shoot jump shots. Grant Hill was an elite athlete and the son of a professional football player, Calvin Hill. He could penetrate at will and rise above any defender at the rim. And, Bobby Hurley was as fast as anyone in the country with the basketball in his hands.He had great court vision and distributed the ball to whomever was hot that night. Together they upset the favored UNLV Runnin’ Rebels in the Final Four, won the National Championship, and then repeated the feat.

5. University of San Francisco 1955, 1956

Alumni to NBA: Bill Russell, K.C. Jones

Breakdown: Few people know that Bill Russell started his path to winning excellence in college. He won two consecutive national championships at the University of San Francisco with another Hall of Fame player, K.C. Jones. In 1956, Russell and Jones led the Dons to a perfect season of 29-0.

4. Georgetown University 1984

Alumni to NBA: Patrick Ewing, Sleepy Floyd, Reggie Williams, David Wingate, Michael Jackson

Breakdown: This Georgetown Hoyas team was one of the most physically, intimidating basketball teams that the NCAA has ever seen. The guards did not allow any penetration and constantly shot through passing lanes for easy buckets. And, if an opposing player managed to get past them, he was abruptly met by the domineering, Georgetown big man, Patrick Ewing. In college, before knee trouble grounded him, Ewing’s athleticism was only rivaled by Hakeem Olajuwon. He bumped opposing big men and blocked every shot that was released in the paint. Then, he rebounded the basketball, threw an outlet pass to his guards, and often finished the play with a resounding dunk. Sleepy Floyd could stroke the basketball or get into the paint. Reggie Williams was one of the best scorers in the nation.

3. University of North Carolina 1982

Alumni to NBA: Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Matt Doherty

Breakdown: People always remember the shot when they think about the 1982 UNC team. Micheal Jordan was not the best player on this team. Sam Perkins could not be moved in the paint, James Worthy led them in scoring, and Matt Doherty was the sweet shooting wing. Jordan was almost an afterthought, despite being a more physically gifted wing.

2. University of California – Los Angeles 1972

Alumni to NBA: Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, Henry Bibby, Dave Meyers, Swen Nater, Greg Lee

Breakdown: Bill Walton led a talented squad to an NCAA championship and almost had a perfect game in the final. With Walton leading the way in the paint UCLA won 60 games in a row, then a national Division 1 record. The athletic, smooth-shooting Jamaal Wilkes could score a basket from anywhere on the floor. Bibby was a sweet-shooting floor general. The Bruins were a devastatingly talented team.

1. University of California – Los Angeles 1968

Alumni to NBA: Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar), Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, Lynn Shackleford, Steve Patterson, John Vallely

Breakdown: Lew Alcindor finished his college career with 3 NCAA Championships, 3 MOP awards, 2 National Player of the Year awards, and a total collegiate record of 88-2. The UCLA Bruins lost 2 basketball games in the three years that Alcindor attended. Wicks was an athletic wing and scorer. The UCLA Bruins played against college basketball teams with a NBA squad anchored by a Hall of Fame center who also happens to be the all-time leader in points in the NBA.


2 comments for “Best NCAA Basketball Teams Ever

  1. Mike
    November 2, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    Great post! Thanks for this. I love thinking about the old teams. There’s no way these current teams could hang with some of those older teams. I found a pretty extensive 64-team bracket on a site. Good stuff. I found your article searching for more opinions on the best team. Nice!

    If you want to check out the 64-team bracket. It’s enjoyable if nothing else: http://www.tchuddle.com/2011/04/the-greatest-ncaa-division-i-men%e2%80%99s-basketball-tournament-teams-ever-champion/

    • AFM
      November 3, 2011 at 8:56 AM

      Mike, thanks! This is a great comment, and we will check out that bracket. We’re getting ready for basketball season over here and we need all the inspiration that we can get during the NBA lockout. At least college games have started.

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