The 10 Greatest NCAA Basketball Teams of All Time
Unfortunately, we’re months away from a brand-new NCAA men’s basketball season. And after such an exciting 2017-18 season – especially if you’re a Villanova Wildcats fan – it’s hard to deal with the fact that CBB doesn’t start back up until November. However, there’s plenty to discuss in the offseason, including one of the most argued topics: greatest teams of all time.
Check out our picks for the top 10 NCAA basketball teams to ever hit the court.
10. North Carolina Tar Heels (1981-82)
In 2018, it’s not hard to see why a college basketball program coached by Dean Smith and featuring James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and a freshman Michael Jordan as its leading scorers would have a lot of success. However, it wasn’t that cut-and-dry back then. Many had no idea how good MJ would be during that season (13.5 points on 53% shooting). In fact, all five starters that season were phenomenal shooting the ball. Each shot 51% or higher from the field.
With such a high-quality starting lineup, UNC was able to dominate the 81-82 season, posting a 32-2 record and winning the National Championship, defeating #1-ranked Georgetown thanks to a game-winning jumper by, who else but Michael Jordan.
9. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (1989-90)
This team beat Duke in the 1990 National Championship game by 30 points. THIRTY. POINTS. Under head coach Jerry Tarkanian, UNLV went 35-5 and was seventh in the nation in points per game. Featuring Larry Johnson (who averaged a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double), Greg Anthony, and Stacey Augmon, the Runnin’ Rebels ran teams out of the gym all season long.
8. Indiana Hoosiers (1975-76)
If your team goes undefeated in the regular season, including 18-0 in the Big Ten, it’s expected to win the National Championship. The 1975-76 Hoosiers, under head coach Bob Knight, met those expectations. At 32-0, Indiana rolled through the Tourney, wrapping up its season with an 86-68 win over Michigan in the title game. Featuring a starting lineup that included Scott May, Kent Benson, and Quinn Buckner, this Indiana team was unstoppable.
7. UCLA Bruins (1963-64)
John Wooden’s storied career with the UCLA Bruins put him in the history books as one of the greatest to ever coach the game. One of his best, most widely remembered seasons was 1963-64, when the Bruins went 30-0, beating Duke in the National Final by 15 points. This was Wooden’s first National Championship and his star player, Gail Goodrich, went on to a Hall-of-Fame NBA career.
6. Duke Blue Devils (1990-91)
It’s pretty remarkable that, after such a humiliating defeat to UNLV in the 1990 title game, the Duke Blue Devils would go on to win two straight national titles. The 1990-91 Blue Devils shook off that 30-point loss to the Runnin’ Rebels and had a phenomenal season, posting a record of 32-7. Under the tutelage of Coach K, Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Thomas Hill, and Bill McCaffrey (all who averaged 11-plus points per game) took the team all the way to the National Championship, defeating #3 Kansas by 13 points.
5. Kentucky Wildcats (1995-96)
During his pre-scandal coaching days, Rick Pitino led some fantastic, tough Wildcat teams. None were more dominant than the 1995-96 squad, which went 34-2 and was undefeated in the SEC East. The team averaged 91.4 points per game – 2nd in the nation in scoring – and was led by the duo of senior Tony Delk and sophomore Antoine Walker. Kentucky had little trouble in the Tourney, defeating Syracuse 76-67 to secure a National Championship.
4. San Francisco Dons (1955-56)
If you know your NCAA men’s basketball history, you know about the ’55-56 San Francisco Dons. Coached by Phil Woolpert, the Dons went undefeated – 29-and-0 – on the season and defeated Iowa to win a second straight title. Much of the success was due to the brilliant play of Bill Russell, who averaged 20.6 points and 21 rebounds per game. Yeah, a 20-20 double-double for the year. Amazing stuff.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels (1956-57)
With such a long tradition of winning, it shouldn’t surprise you that there are multiple UNC teams on this list. In ’56-57, it was head coach Frank McGuire who led the Heels to a 32-0 record, including 14 ACC wins, and a national championship. Small forward Lennie Rosenbluth led the team to success all season long, putting up 28 points and nine rebounds per game in his final collegiate season that culminated in ACC Player-of-the-Year honors. The Heels capped off the 1957 NCAA Tournament with a nail-biting 54-53 win over Kansas, securing the title.
2. UCLA Bruins (1971-72)
We’re doing single season teams here, but this could easily be a discussion about the 1971-1973 Bruins. Both teams recorded 30-0 records, taking home the National Championship. The ’71-72 team was a scoring monster, averaging the nation’s third best points-per-game at 94.6. It’s not hard to see why when you look at the starting lineup which featured center Bill Walton (21.1 points, 15.5 rebounds), guard Henry Bibby (15.7 points) and forward Jamaal Wilkes (13.5 points). In what ended up being yet another undefeated, title-winning season for coach Wooden, the Bruins defeated Florida State in the National Championship game 81-76.
1. UCLA Bruins (1966-67)
I swear I’m not a UCLA homer. This is simply how good these John Wooden Bruins teams were. Much like ’71-73, this could easily be about the ’66-68 squads that lost a total of one game in two years. However, it was the undefeated 1966-67 season that tops our list. Center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was unstoppable all season, averaging 29 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. Guards Lucius Allen and Mike Warren were no joke either, combining for 28 points per game. The Bruins never even came close to losing during the 1967 NCAA Tournament, winning all four games by 15 or more points (including a 49-point victory over Wyoming). UCLA grabbed the title after a 79-64 win over Dayton in the final.
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