ESPN's team of college writers and reporters has seen some things. In a world where collegiate athletics are on indefinite hiatus, denying us not only March Madness and spring football but also iconic events such as baseball's College World Series and softball's Women's College World Series, our group was enlisted to reflect on the top players, teams and performances that have marked its members' many decades of collective coverage. All college sports were on the table, but much like their MLB colleagues, our writers were bound by one rule -- they had to have seen the moments they were recounting in person.
Up first in our weeklong series -- the best, most dominant teams of their experience within the college landscape:
Ivan Maisel: I pick the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers over the 2001 Miami Hurricanes and the 2004 USC Trojans because the Huskers never took a week off. They won all 12 games by at least 14 points. They won 11 of 12 games by at least 23 points. They destroyed the second-best team in the country, the Florida Gators, 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl. Game, set, matchless.
Chris Low: No, unfortunately I wasn't there in Philadelphia that night to see Christian Laettner's iconic shot to beat Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. But as a young reporter working in Rock Hill, South Carolina, just across the border from Charlotte, North Carolina, I got a chance to cover that 1992 Duke basketball team a few weeks earlier in the ACC tournament. Mike Krzyzewski, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Laettner ... all in one building. That team became the first to repeat as NCAA national champions since those legendary John Wooden-coached UCLA teams in the 1970s. Even all these years later, just wow.
Myron Medcalf: If we're talking about championship squads, then it's definitely the 2012 Kentucky team that, because of Anthony Davis, could weather mediocre offensive nights to win as a dominant defensive team. But the 38-1 Kentucky squad is still the best team I've ever witnessed in person.
Nine players on that roster signed NBA contracts. That team started the 2014-15 season with a 32-point win over Kansas, a squad that won the Big 12 outright; topped North Carolina by 14; outscored UCLA 41-7 in the first half of an 83-44 win; and beat West Virginia by 39 points in the Sweet 16. The Wildcats fell short against a great Wisconsin team in the Final Four, but through 38 games, I've never seen a better team.
Mark Schlabach: Unfortunately, I never saw the 1987 Miami Hurricanes in person, but I watched them plenty of times on TV. So the 2004 USC team, led by quarterback Matt Leinart and tailback Reggie Bush, goes down as the best team I ever witnessed with my own eyes. The Trojans were No. 1 from wire to wire and won their second straight national championship with a 55-19 rout of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Leinart won the Heisman Trophy, the Walter Camp Award and the Manning Award, and Bush won the Heisman the next year (but later gave it back). The Trojans won their 13 games by an average margin of 38-13.
Mechelle Voepel: One way to measure "greatness" is the odds you would have been given that this team would have lost in a season. I can think of a couple of cases where the odds seemed like "zero." The 2001-02 UConn women's basketball team went 39-0 and won every game but one by double digits; its closest contest was a 9-point victory at Virginia Tech. Four of the Huskies' starters were in the top six WNBA draft picks in 2002, led by No. 1 Sue Bird, and the other starter, Diana Taurasi, would be the No. 1 pick in 2004 after winning two more NCAA titles.
Penn State's volleyball program won four consecutive NCAA titles in 2007-10, during which time it had a 109-match winning streak. The 2008 team was perhaps the best in NCAA history. Penn State didn't lose a set all season until facing Nebraska in Omaha in the national semifinals, but still beat the Huskers 3-2 before 17,430 mostly Huskers fans. Then the Nittany Lions finished off a 38-0 season by sweeping Stanford in the final. They went 114-2 in sets, had a team hitting percentage of .390 and had four first-team All-Americans, including national player of the year Nicole Fawcett.
Ryan McGee: Growing up in Raleigh, I saw the 1982 and '83 UNC Tar Heels in person several times. Those rosters had Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Sam Perkins and Brad Daugherty. I mean, what the hell, right?!
Andrea Adelson: My default answer is always the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, a team I had the privilege to cover for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as a young reporter starting to make my way into the business. Oftentimes, it is hard to appreciate the greatness staring you in the face when you are working in the moment, but that was never the case with this team: 38 total draft picks, including 17 in the first round (and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ed Reed). Miami outscored its opponents 512-117, and if you need further proof about this team, go back and watch the first half against Nebraska in the 2002 BCS national title game. That remains the single best half of dominance I have seen from any team in any sport.
Jeff Borzello: This is a close one between the 2012 Kentucky Wildcats and the 2018 Villanova Wildcats, but the way the latter simply ran roughshod through the NCAA tournament gives Jay Wright's team the edge. Villanova won every NCAA tournament game by double digits; the Wildcats won their two Final Four games by a combined 33 points. Their last game decided by single digits came on Feb. 28, 2018, an overtime win at Seton Hall that also started their 11-game, title-winning streak.
There was a narrative that season that Villanova just played more together than everyone else, got hot from 3 at the right time, and had superior continuity and chemistry -- but that team had dudes, too. Five guys on that team played in the NBA or were drafted. The 2012 Kentucky group was sexier in terms of elite-level talent, but that 2018 Villanova team could lay down a barrage on an opponent more than any team I've ever seen. I had no doubt the Wildcats were cutting down the nets.
Graham Hays: The Oklahoma Sooners had the best offense in college softball in 2013. They also had the best pitching in the sport that season. And a year removed from missing out on a title by a run, the Sooners were arguably the most determined team in the country. The Sooners went 57-4 and swept through the Women's College World Series. Pitcher Keilani Ricketts went 35-1 and was the national player of the year for the second season in a row. On her way to the NCAA career record, Lauren Chamberlain led the nation with 30 home runs, while All-American Shelby Pendley added 22 more. Those two alone hit more home runs than almost 250 Division I teams. Current Team USA coach Ken Eriksen compared the core of the Sooners to that of the 1927 Yankees. Most opponents looked as if that's exactly who they thought they were playing.
Joe Lunardi: Duke's back-to-back NCAA champions of 1991 and 1992 would be first on my list. We forget about the number of teams in that era that seemed destined to repeat -- UNLV (1990 champs, lost to Duke in '91), Carolina (1993 champs, lost to Boston College in '94), Arkansas (1994 champs, lost to UCLA in '95), Arizona (1997 champs, lost to Utah in '98) -- but could not do so. The Blue Devils got it done because they were the best team and program between the end of the UCLA dynasty and the modern one-and-done era. Honorable mention: Florida (2006 and 2007).
Heather Dinich: The best team I ever saw played just months ago. Believe it. At 15-0, the 2019 national champion LSU Tigers marked their place in the sport's history as one of the best teams ever -- if not the best. After a 42-25 win against a Clemson team that had won its previous 29 games, some wondered what had happened to Clemson. The answer? Nothing. LSU, led by Heisman winner Joe Burrow and his all-star cast, was just that much better.