NCAA Tournament 2012: Power Ranking Last 25 National Champions
As the men's national championship game gets closer, it is important to look back and see all the great teams that have won the NCAA tournament in the past.
But which team is the best?
Is it the 1992 Duke Blue Devils? What about the Florida teams from the mid-2000s? What about that great North Carolina team from 2009?
Well, this slideshow is here to settle those disputes. Or, well, you know, something like that.
Remember, each of these teams was the best for its particular year. Just because one year might be weaker than another doesn't mean that team should just be thrown to the bottom of the list.
How well the team played will be the biggest determining factor for this list. There are bound to be some mistakes, so feel free to let me know what they are.
25. 1988 Kansas
The 1988 Kansas Jayhawks are the only team to lose double-digit games and still win the title.
The team had a month-long losing streak in January and part of February, but Larry Brown turned the team around just in time. Danny Manning led the Jayhawks to the title, scoring nearly 25 points per game.
Kansas won the six necessary games in the NCAA tournament, which matched its longest winning streak of the season. It wasn't the most impressive team, but the Jayhawks had the grit, star play and coaching necessary to win a championship.
24. 1997 Arizona
Arizona's 1997 team was a perfect example of getting hot at the right time.
Lute Olson's side didn't have the greatest regular season, finishing fifth in the Pac-10, but the team was tough enough to gear up for the tournament. The fourth-seeded Wildcats beat three No. 1 seeds en route to their first national championship.
Led by Mike Bibby and Jason Terry, the team had great ball-handling and shooting ability, which is the main reason they were able to win the title. Both guys had successful NBA careers, but it was their title at Arizona that began their legacy.
23. 2011 Connecticut
Watching Kemba Walker was special.
From the start of the Big East tournament through the Final Four, Walker was the most exciting player in the country. He wasn't the most skilled, but he had the most heart and the most clutch ability.
Walker would not let his team lose. Despite going 9-9 in-conference that season, Connecticut was able to come together in time to win the Big East tourney. Then, against the odds, Walker led the Huskies to a national championship.
Even though UConn won one of the ugliest title games in history, it doesn't take away from the fact that the Huskies did what it took to win.
22. 2006 Florida
In the first year of back-to-back championships, the Florida Gators were still figuring things out.
In all seriousness, the four best players on the team were sophomores. If Billy Donovan would've been honest, 2006 was the year for the youngsters to get some experience.
They got a pretty darn good experience.
The Gators were athletic and skilled, but it was their heart that set them apart. Yes, it's easy to remember Joakim Noah screaming like a jackal, but the entire team wanted to win as badly as him.
When we look back on this team (as well as the 2007 team, which we'll get to), it was their heart and desire that we will remember.
21. 2010 Duke
By no means was this Duke team the most talented, but it certainly was the most efficient team.
The Blue Devils used their size and length to cause matchup problems for teams smaller than them. They used their speed and athleticism to beat teams bigger than them. When necessary, they simply outsmarted teams dumber than them.
If anyone ever doubted Mike Krzyzewski, the 2009-10 season proved the haters wrong. This team always had a great game plan, and they were always in a good position to win a game.
The team wasn't flashy, but they did what it took to win. At the end of the day, that's all that matters.
20. 2005 North Carolina
Even though no one from this team has amounted to much in the NBA, 2005 North Carolina was one pretty good college team.
The team never had a losing streak, and it never had a winning streak of fewer than five games.
Sean May was a monster, averaging 17.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. He was a huge presence in the middle, but he also had the ability to step out and cause matchup problems with his mid-range game.
Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and Marvin Williams all were quick, sharpshooting perimeter players who stretched defenses. Against Illinois guards Dee Brown and Deron Williams, the Tar Heels were still able to shine.
Roy Williams got his much-deserved championship, and this team was able to earn the title despite not necessarily having the best season.
19. 2000 Michigan State
The 2000 Michigan State Spartans were the only team that could win Tom Izzo a national championship.
Izzo's six Final Four appearances prove he's a very good coach, but the championship proves he's a great one. The 2000 version of Sparty is the one that helped him prove that.
Michigan State did not leave any doubt, as it rolled through the tournament by defeating everyone by double digits.
Izzo hasn't gotten back to the top since then, which is why this will always be his greatest team ever.
18. 1993 North Carolina
It's tough to rank this North Carolina team because it wasn't even the best team in the national championship.
The Fab Five Michigan team was more talented, but North Carolina was greater. At the end of the day, that's what matters.
Carolina found a way to win, and Michigan found a way to lose. The Tar Heels capped off a 34-win season by capturing Dean Smith's second title.
Even though this team wasn't the best, North Carolina found a way to win the game, and that counts for something.
17. 2004 Connecticut
Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor made up one of the best college duos in this millennium.
With Gordon's shooting and ball-handling and Okafor's post game and size, no one could stop the Huskies. The team struggled during parts of the year, causing many people to doubt they could really win it all.
Luckily for them, they figured things out just in time. Even though they didn't win the regular-season Big East title, the Huskies definitely proved themselves in the postseason. The Huskies went on to nine straight games through the Big East tournament and NCAA tournament.
16. 1991 Duke
The 1991 Duke team was just a preview of things to come.
As the team was coming together, they managed to win the national championship. Not too shabby, huh?
Led by Most Outstanding Player Christian Laettner, Duke rolled through most of the tournament, and no one really challenged Coach K's squad until the Final Four.
When you think about it like that, it's pretty easy to see this team was extremely good.
15. 1998 Kentucky
In its third straight championship game, Kentucky brought home its seventh title.
With Tubby Smith at the helm, the Wildcats scratched and clawed their way to the top spot. The team came back from double digits in each of its last three games, which is an incredible feat.
The team wasn't the most dominant, but it certainly knew how to win games. Despite losing four games, the Wildcats swept the SEC regular season and tournament title.
Once they got into the tournament, the Wildcats just found ways to win games. When that brings you a national championship, that's pretty darn impressive.
14. 1987 Indiana
The 1987 Indiana team is the oldest on this list, and it is one of the best.
Steve Alford got Indiana to the tournament, and he's the main reason they got as far as they did. Then Keith Smart took over. The Most Outstanding Player of the tournament was Smart, and his play in March Madness definitely warranted the award.
Alford still played well, but he was smart enough to let Smart just do his thing.
With their great play and Smart puns, the 1987 Hoosiers were one of the best champions in NCAA history.
13. 1994 Arkansas
Led by Corliss Williamson, the Arkansas Razorbacks won the school's first and only men's basketball championship.
Williamson averaged over 20 points per game, and he helped the team to a very impressive 31-3 record. The Razorbacks only lost in conference, and the regular-season losses were by a combined three points (they were blown out of the SEC tournament).
Arkansas beat up on everybody, and Duke was the only team that could keep the final score under five points.
Williamson bounced around the NBA for over a decade, but his shining moment came in March 1994.
12. 2002 Maryland
Juan Dixon had a great season, and he topped it off by winning the 2002 national championship.
Maryland was dominant. Gary Williams' team only lost game in the ACC regular season, and it avenged that loss by beating Duke exactly one month later.
The Terrapins played a strong inside/outside game with Dixon on the perimeter and Lonny Baxter bruising in the middle. With the two of them playing well, Maryland was practically impossible to stop.
11. 1989 Michigan
Michigan's 1989 team was one of the most efficient offensive teams in history.
The Wolverines shot 56.6 percent from the field, which is still the second-highest total in NCAA history. Glen Rice was the star of the team, scoring more than 25 points per game. However, he wasn't the only one who contributed.
Four other players scored in double figures, sharing the ball when necessary. As a team, they were better than the collection of individuals.
At the end of the day, that's what matters most.
10. 1990 UNLV
The UNLV Running Rebels were one of the most fun teams to watch.
Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon and Larry Johnson made up one of the most dynamic scoring trios in NCAA history. The team averaged well over 90 points per game, and they simply ran teams out of the gym.
UNLV was good, and it could outscore anybody. Its offense was its claim to fame, and it proved that every time on the floor.
9. 2003 Syracuse
The 2003 Syracuse Orange (Orangemen at the time) were one of the most entertaining teams in recent memory.
One of their greatest qualities was how quick their success happened. With freshman Carmelo Anthony leading the way, Syracuse was able to beat Kansas in a great championship game.
Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick were also underclassmen who played significant roles in the team's success. As those two matured as players, Anthony proved to everyone how great he can be on the biggest stage.
Even though none of the players has come close to an NBA Championship, this team was one of the most athletic, pure scoring teams in history.
8. 1999 Connecticut
Even before the mask, Richard Hamilton was pretty great.
A year after breaking Washington's hearts, Hamilton was back for more in 1999. He led the team in scoring, and he added a necessary toughness.
Khalid El-Amin controlled the tempo and distributed the ball extremely well. Between him and Hamilton, UConn was always able to have someone control the ball and get a good shot.
The Huskies only lost twice, even though they played an incredible 36 games (34-2 is pretty darn good). With a championship on top of that, Connecticut played out one of the greatest seasons in NCAA history.
7. 2001 Duke
The Duke team featuring Jay Williams was one of the best teams in history.
He could score, defend and facilitate. Moreover, he seemed to do it with an effortless swag that was endearing to watch. Unfortunately, Williams got into a serious motorcycle accident, and it cost him his career.
However, this season will forever be remembered.
Williams, along with Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Carlos Boozer, led the Blue Devils to a great year. They lost early on to Stanford, and they split with Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. Other than that, Duke's record was spotless.
The team was fun to watch, and it dominated. It was one of the deepest teams I've seen, and its poise and swagger were second to none.
6. 2008 Kansas
Mario Chalmers hit one of the most clutch shots in sports history.
With Derrick Rose right in his grill, Chalmers nailed a fading three-pointer in cold-blooded fashion. The shot took the game to overtime, where Kansas ended a spectacular season for Memphis.
In a way, this shot—along with Memphis' choke job—makes people forget how good that Kansas team really was. They swept the Big 12 regular-season (co-champions) and postseason crowns.
Furthermore, the Jayhawks only lost three games; all three were in-conference road games. In the course of a season, games like that are very tough to win so the losses don't hold much weight.
Regardless, Kansas ended up winning 37 games, which is tied for an NCAA record. Even though Kansas was the underdog against Memphis, the Jayhawks pulled out the win and made history in the process.
5. 1995 UCLA
When you've already won 10 titles, a national championship loses a bit of its luster.
Still, this UCLA team was easily the best since the John Wooden era.
With Charles and Ed O'Bannon, the Bruins had one of the best brother combinations in recent memory. When you add in Tyus Edney's court vision, the team was practically set from those three.
UCLA only lost at Oregon and against California; that's pretty impressive, considering the Bruins had one of the toughest schedules in the country.
With such an impressive season, it's tough not to consider them one of the best college champions in the last 25 years.
4. 1996 Kentucky
The 1996 Kentucky team was dominant.
Tony Delk and Antoine Walker led the team in scoring. Both of them could score from the inside and the outside, which provided matchup problems.
They caused so many problems for other teams that only two defeated Kentucky. In the second game of the year, they lost to Massachusetts at a neutral site. In the SEC tournament, they lost to a very good Mississippi State team.
Both of those teams made the Final Four.
All things considered, this Kentucky team is one of the best of all time.
3. 2009 North Carolina
The 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels were one of the most overwhelming teams in college basketball history.
They had speed.
Ty Lawson pushed the floor like a madman. Wayne Ellington and Danny Green filled the wings, and the big men got down to the blocks quickly.
They had size.
Tyler Hansbrough turned himself into one of the greatest college basketball players in history. He scored, rebounded and led his team emotionally. When you add it all up, you have a pretty great college basketball player. Throw in Ed Davis, Deon Thompson and freshman Tyler Zeller, and you have an incredibly deep front line.
They had experience.
Six of the top seven scorers, including the top five, were upperclassmen. With juniors and seniors doing most of the scoring, the Tar Heels could rely on their maturity to carry them through.
The team had it all, and they dominated when they had to.
2. 2007 Florida
Love them or hate them, the 2007 Florida team is one of the greatest champions of the last 25 years.
It was coming off an unexpected title, and there was a giant target on its back. The Gators responded by destroying any and all competition.
They lost two early games on neutral courts, and they lost three out of four games because their schedule had them playing three road games in 10 days. After losing to Tennessee, the Gators soundly defeated every single team they faced.
They didn't necessarily run up the score, but Billy Donovan's players made sure everyone knew who the best team in the country truly was. Although the scores look close, none of Florida's tournament games looked like the Gators would lose.
It's been five years since this team cut down the nets, but they still haven't been forgotten as one of the best champions in the last 25 years.
1. 1992 Duke
I'm pretty sure this is the team that made everyone hate Duke.
I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
The biggest reason people love to hate this team is the talent level. These guys were spectacular college basketball players.
Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill combined to be one of the most dangerous trios in college basketball history. With Coach K's competitive fire, this team just rubbed people the wrong way.
Considering Duke's antithesis was Michigan, it only seemed right that the reserved, fundamentally sound Blue Devils played the loudmouthed, abrasive Wolverines in the championship.
Duke eviscerated them.
As the Blue Devils secured their second straight title, they embarrassed the Fab Five. Duke proved its experience and skill by beating the Wolverines by 20 points.
Whether you love them or hate them, you have to respect the Blue Devils.