Greatest College Basketball Teams
Page 2 staff

One game's a crapshoot, but we'll take Kansas over Syracuse in tonight's final.

As Marquette coach Tom Crean said after the Jayhawks grounded his Golden Eagles, "They are very, very, very good."

But are they one of the greatest teams of all time? We're gonna say ... nope, seven losses doesn't get you into the club. But you make the call.

1. 1968 UCLA Bruins (29-1)
John Wooden
John Wooden led UCLA to a record 10 NCAA championships.
Hard to pick just one of the Lew Alcindor squads as the best, so we defer to John Wooden: "I've never come out and said it, but it would be hard to pick a team over the 1968 team."

The Bruins, playing with an injured Alcindor, suffered a mid-season loss to Houston and Elvin Hayes in the Astrodome, but proved that was a fluke in the tourney semifinal, burying the Cougars 101-69. The final was also cake, a 78-55 win over UNC.

How'd they do it? To start, they had Alcindor, the best player in college basketball history, who averaged 26 points and 16 rebounds per game. Junior guard Lucius Allen, senior Mike Warren, Jr., Lynn Shackleford and senior Mike Lynn also averaged in double figures for the season.

2. 1996 Kentucky Wildcats (34-2)
Rick Pitino's Wildcats were so good that they could have been a decent NBA team in 1995-96 -- Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Derek Anderson and Ron Mercer would all be first-round picks, and Mark Pope was a second-round draft choice.

Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino is one of four coaches to win NCAA titles at Kentucky.
Even though Kentucky lost two regular-season games, they established themselves as one of the all-time great teams by destroying the competition in the Big Dance, winning their six tourney games by an average of 21 points.

The Wildcats were, by far, the deepest team in recent college basketball history, with so many stars that some were amazed that Pitino was able to keep it all together.

"Rick's done a phenomenal job," Providence coach Pete Gillen said. "I mean, how does he keep Ron Mercer happy playing 12 minutes a game? This guy was maybe the No. 1 high school player in the country last year, according to some magazines or newspapers or gurus. Rick's got to be the greatest psychologist since Sigmund Freud. He's my idol. He could sell freaking snow to the Eskimos. It's unbelievable."

3. 1976 Indiana Hoosiers (32-0)
Over the two seasons that culminated in their 1976 national championship, the Hoosiers, coached by the ornery Bob Knight, went 63-1.

Bob Knight? Ornery? Nahhh.
To win the title in Philly, Indiana, behind a combined 51 points from Scott May and Kent Benson and a great all-around performance by Quinn Buckner, defeated Big Ten rival Michigan, 86-68. To get to the final, Indiana had defeated the 1975 national champion UCLA Bruins.

On the season, Indiana outscored opponents by an average margin of 17.3 ppg. May, Benson and Buckner were All-America selections in both 1975 and 1976, with May being named the NCAA Player of the Year.

"The win also should stuff a basketball down the mouths of the many doubting-Thomases across the country both in the press and on television who downgraded the Hoosiers talent," wrote Dick Mittman in the next day's Indianapolis News. "Sports Illustrated writers rooted against Indiana for two straight days. But in the final 20 minutes last night the Hoosiers became a Mafia in Sneakers."

4. 1972 UCLA Bruins (30-0)
The Walton Gang swept through the regular season without a challenge, winning by an average margin of 32 points per game. Besides Walton, the young team also featured future first-round draft picks Keith Wilkes and Swen Nater, and Henry Bibby, who'd play nine solid NBA seasons.

From 1972-74, Bill Walton led UCLA to an 86-4 record and two national titles.
The Bruins were so good that Walton was disappointed about his team's 81-76 victory over Florida State in the NCAA title game.

"I'm really embarrassed," Walton said. "I can't believe how bad I played. I'd have to say it was one of my worst games. We should have beat these guys with ease. I guess I should be happy that we won, but, in all honesty, I'm not."

5. 1992 Duke Blue Devils (34-2)
The Blue Devils won their second straight NCAA title in 1992. Ranked No. 1 the entire season, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and Co. crushed the "Fab Five" in the final, 71-51.

"What Mike Krzyzewski and Duke have done is unheard of," said Michigan coach Steve Fisher. "You can't do it, but they do it. One, they have outstanding players; two, they have outstanding coaching. And luck. They have had a phenomenal, phenomenal run. They have put themselves in position to get here year after year. They have found ways to win games, make key plays when it matters most. It rivals what UCLA did, winning all those championships."

6. 1982 UNC Tar Heels (32-2)
James Worthy. Michael Jordan. Sam Perkins. Any questions?

7. 1974 NC State Wolfpack (30-1)
The Wolfpack's only loss came to the Walton Gang, but they avenged that defeat by ousting UCLA in the NCAA tourney semifinal in overtime, 80-77.

N.C. State had tough competition in 1974 -- their 103-100 overtime win over Maryland for the ACC title was one of the greatest games in college basketball history.

But David Thompson had led N.C. State through two seasons with only one loss, and thrilled spectators with his 42-inch vertical leap as he soared to slam Monty Towe's alley oop passes. Also shining for the Wolfpack in 1974 -- center Tom Burleson, who averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds per game, and guard Moe Rivers, who, like Towe, scored about 12 ppg.

8. 1956 San Francisco Dons (29-0)
When USF, starring Bill Russell and Hal Perry, defeated Iowa 83-71 to win their second straight NCAA title, they ran its unbeaten streak to 55 games. Even without All-America guard K.C. Jones, ineligible for the tourney, few expected anyone to challenge the dominant Dons, who hadn't won a regular season game by less than seven points.

Russell snagged a combined 50 rebounds in the semifinal and final. "This team is the finest I've ever seen," said San Fran coach Phil Woolpert. "I can honestly say that now. It has done everything asked of it. The difference -- without a doubt -- was Russell."

9. 1957 North Carolina Tar Heels (32-0)
The Tar Heels capped their undefeated season by containing Kansas' Wilt Chamberlain in the final. North Carolina held Chamberlain to just 13 shots by collapsing the defense around him, and won in triple-overtime, 54-53. The night before, UNC had defeated Michigan State, also in triple OT.

Coach Frank McGuire also used some gamesmanship to hold Chamberlain in check, sending out his shortest player, the 5-foot-11 Tommy Kearns, to jump against Wilt in the opening tipoff.

The Tar Heels were led by All-American Lennie Rosenbluth, the leading scorer in the tournament, who averaged 28 ppg. on the season.

How did UNC win it all, with back-to-back heartstoppers, including the final against No. 2 ranked Kansas? "We're a chilly club," Kearns said. "We play it chilly all the time. I mean, we just keep cool."

10. 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes (25-3)
Jerry Lucas, only a soph, averaged 26 points and 16 rebounds on the season, shooting 63 percent from the field. Fellow starters John Havlicek, Mel Nowell, Joe Roberts and Larry Siegfried each averaged 11-plus points per game. The young Buckeyes lost two games early in the season but won the Big Ten title with a 13-1 record.

By the time the Big Dance rolled around, Ohio State was unstoppable. ""We immediately developed almost total communication on the floor," Havlicek said. "Our basketball intellects meshed perfectly. We never had to call a play."

The Buckeyes rambled through the NCAA tourney with ease, winning every game by at least 15, and blowing out California in the final, 71-51. All of the team's starters eventually played at least two years in the pros.

Also receiving votes:

  • 1990 UNLV (35-5)
  • 1954 Kentucky (25-0)


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