NCAA Tournament Scores 2012: Power Ranking the Last 25 National Champions
We could debate this for years.
Who is the best? Who was the best? Which team was the most dominant?
They are questions we will leave on the table for now. But the past 25 years have produced some really great champions. And some really great games.
From Mateen Cleaves to Donald Williams to even Christian Laettner and Chris Webber, there have been some special players who will forever be etched in our minds.
My favorites might be your favorites. And, as a side note, thanks to the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007 for making me a tidy sum of money.
But for now, we can debate who the best championship teams were over the last 25 years in the NCAA Tournament.
25. Connecticut Huskies (2011)
They surprised everyone in the Big East Tournament and then proved to be the juggernaut of the NCAA Tournament.
There is something about Jim Calhoun and the way he coaches his players.
He has been like this since he started at UConn.
None of his players were overwhelming superstars, but teams that collaborate together go far in this tournament every year.
This was their year.
24. Arizona Wildcats (1997)
Mike Bibby and the 'Cats.
Success in the NCAA Tournament is predicated on solid guard play and good ball movement. Bibby was one of the better guards in the show, and having Lute Olson on the bench helped the Wildcats capture the NCAA title.
Arizona won the national title with a 84-79 overtime victory in the final game over a defending-champion Kentucky team coached by Rick Pitino.
Miles Simon was named the MVP of the tournament.
23. Michigan Wolverines (1989)
Against Seton Hall in the championship game, this Michigan team did what the Fab Five could not do. The Wolverines, led by Glen Rice, won the national title with a 80–79 overtime victory.
What made this team interesting was head coach Bill Freider's announcement that he would be taking the head coaching job with Arizona State, right before the start of the NCAA first round.
He was promptly fired by Bo Schembechler and Steve Fisher took over.
22. Indiana Hoosiers (1987)
Steve Alford, the state's wonder kid, led Bobby Knight's team to the national title.
But against Syracuse, it was actually Keith Smart who hit the game-winning shot to beat the Orangemen, 74-73.
This tournament was also a coming out party for freshman Derrick Coleman of Syracuse.
21. Kentucky Wildcats (1998)
Kentucky's team, coached by Tubby Smith, won the national title with a 78–69 victory in the final game over Utah, which was coached by Rick Majerus. The Kentucky team was made workmanlike players.
Jeff Sheppard was named the tournament's MVP. Kentucky came back from double-digit deficits in each of its last three games in the tournament, showing they could play uptempo basketball.
It also led to the school's fans dubbing the team the "Comeback Cats."
20. Maryland Terrapins (2002)
Gary Williams wins it all.
Maryland won the national title with a 64-52 victory in the final game over Indiana, the first time the Hoosiers were in a national title game without Bobby Knight on the sideline.
Juan Dixon won the tournament's MVP.
19. Kansas Jayhawks (1988)
This was all abut Danny Manning.
I have said for years that if there is good guard play and a solid inside presence, then a team can win the NCAA Tournament.
Danny Manning was everything for Kansas, winning the national title with an 83–79 victory in the final game over Oklahoma and head coach Billy Tubbs.
18. Arkansas Razorbacks (1994)
Nolan Richardson called his brand of basketball "40 minutes of hell."
Opponents believed it.
Duke knew it was in for a fight that night and the 76-72 win for the Razorbacks proved the best team in the country won the tournament.
17. Duke Blue Devils (2010)
Many remember this tournament for the emergence of Butler, but in the end, Duke won the National Title 61-59.
When the Blue Devils and Bulldogs played each other in the tournament final, it was the first title game between private universities in 25 years.
Kyle Singler was named the tournament's MVP.
16. Kansas Jayhawks (2008)
Bill Self finally won a national title.
Kansas defeated the Memphis Tigers 75-68 in overtime. It was the fifth national title for the university and first since 1988, when Larry Brown was head coach.
Mario Chalmers proved to be the tournament's MVP. Chris Douglas-Roberts led Memphis.
15. North Carolina Tar Heels (2005)
Welcome to the ACC, Roy Williams.
After taking over the reigns at his alma mater, Williams won a national title for his beloved Tar Heels.
Sean May led the Tar Heels to a 75-70 win over Illinois.
It was the first time someone other than Dean Smith had won a national title in Chapel Hill.
14. Connecticut Huskies (2004)
The Huskies won another one.
In a 82–73 win over Georgia Tech, Connecticut dominated from the start.
Emeka Okafor proved he was college basketball's most dominant player and showed the Yellow Jackets early on that he would not be denied a national title.
13. UCLA Bruins (1995)
Ed O'Bannon was the difference maker.
Arkansas was denied its opportunity to win a repeat title, as Jim Harrick's Bruins had other ideas.
UCLA won its record 11th NCAA men's basketball championship and its first since the departure of John Wooden.
Corliss Williamson was the tournament's top scorer.
12. North Carolina Tar Heels (1993)
The championship was the infamous "time out" game when Chris Webber tried to call time out when the Michigan Wolverines did not have one, and that mistake helped North Carolina win 77-71.
This year's tournament came closest to having all four top seeds advance to the Final Four, until it actually happened in 2008.
Donald Williams scored 108 points in the tournament and was named the MVP.
11. Michigan State Spartans (2000)
Who can forget Mateen Cleaves and the smile on his face when Michigan State won its first national title since Magic Johnson and the Spartans won the school's first-ever national title in 1979?
The Spartans held back upstart Florida 89-76 in Indianapolis.
Cleaves was named the tournament MVP. It was the first national title game appearance for Billy Donovan and Florida.
10. Syracuse Orangemen (2003)
Jim Boeheim's masterful coaching finally brought home a championship.
Led by Carmelo Anthony, the all-everything freshman, the Orangemen beat Kansas 81-78.
Syracuse beat four Big 12 teams on its way to the title: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Anthony was named the tournament MVP.
9. Duke Blue Devils (2001)
This Duke squad was another team that proved to be better than the sum of its parts.
In the 82-72 win over Arizona, Shane Battier was the driving force that led the Blue Devils to victory.
It was Duke's third national title.
8. Connecticut Huskies (1999)
Rip Hamilton and the UConn Huskies gave head coach Jim Calhoun his first national title, 77-74 over Duke.
While Hamilton and the Huskies dominated the tournament, it was still Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils who tied the season record for wins with 37.
It also proved to be the start of Connecticut's run as a powerhouse, all from a team that was just barely good enough to get to the dance.
7. Kentucky Wildcats (1996)
The Final Four was held in New York for the first time since 1950, and that was where Rick Pitino and the Wildcats reigned supreme.
Pitino and his team, led by Tony Delk, beat Syracuse, 76-67.
Kentucky's run to the championship was one of the most dominant in NCAA tournament history, as the Wildcats won each of their first four games by at least 20 points and won every game by at least 7 points.
6. Duke Blue Devils (1991)
This was Christian Laettner at his finest.
Duke beat Kansas for the title, 72–65, in what was Kansas head coach Roy Williams' first trip to the national title.
What made the tournament even better was Duke got revenge by beating UNLV in the Final Four after losing by 30 points in the national title game last season.
Williams and Kansas beat North Carolina and Williams' mentor Dean Smith in the other Final Four game.
Laettner was named the tournament's MVP.
5. North Carolina Tar Heels (2009)
North Carolina beat Michigan State in what was a game of players who were more no-name than star power.
It may have been head coach Roy Williams' finest coaching job in getting his team to the finals against Michigan State and head coach Tom Izzo.
This was the first time where each game won by the Tar Heels was by 12 points or more.
4. Florida Gators (2007)
Billy Donovan picked up where he left off, taking a team of five starters and running them through the paces of the regular season to dominate an NCAA Tournament,
Oh, it's good to be a Florida Gator.
The team looked like it may have hit a stumbling block in Mike Conley, Greg Oden and the Ohio State Buckeyes, but Florida quickly adapted to the style Thad Matta played and made it work to their advantage.
All five starters from the year before returned and their core of Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford could have returned for a run a third straight title.
How scary would that have been?
3. Duke Blue Devils (1992)
The Blue Devils played a style of ball that was not only impressive but disturbing.
And playing against the "Fab Five" freshmen from Michigan, the 71-51 win was downright impressive.
While everyone was touting the efforts of Chris Webber and company, Duke showed why it was the most impressive team in the land and why the program was the best in the country.
2. Florida Gators (2006)
They were the Lakers of college basketball. Billy Donovan had this team in a zone.
They could turn their offense on and off when they wanted to, led by Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer.
Donovan had put his teams in position to win in the past. This time, everything just seemed to click. The 73-57 win over UCLA proved there was a new sheriff in town and his outpost was in Gainesville.
1. UNLV Runnin' Rebels (1990)
This was without a doubt the one game I remember thinking how much I dislike a team for its style of play.
But as I got older, I was angered more and more at the brand of ball Jerry Tarkanian put on the floor. Although it was impressive, it was the "dirtiness" of it that struck a chord with me.
Tarkanian wasn't a saint, but brought in some of the best players he could to win a national title. And the thing I remembered most about that contest in the 103-73 win over Duke, was watching Duke players running around in the final minutes trying to make something happen for the Blue Devils.
Nothing went right that night and "Tark" even showed a little insincerity when he leaned back to take it all in from the sideline.
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