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NCAA Top 20 Basketball Programs Post 3-Point Inception in 1987

Ryan CuriFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2012

NCAA Top 20 Basketball Programs Post 3-Point Inception in 1987

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    Since I was not yet born when the NCAA instituted the three-point shot into the game in 1987, I've never known basketball any other way. The three-point line has made college basketball more exciting, allowing for more comebacks, but you could also argue it's a less physical game now.

    Regardless of what your viewpoint on three-pointers is, both myself and Bleacher Report contributor Chase Johnson thought that compiling an article ranking teams' success since the inception of the three-point line would provide a unique look at the last 25 years of college basketball.

    I want to personally thank Chase (whose B/R profile can be found at http://bleacherreport.com/users/1032209-chase-johnson) for supplying all the data used in this article and handing the information over to me. 

    The six categories used to determine the top 20 teams were: wins, tournament appearances, conference tournament championships, regular season championships, Final Four appearances and national championships. While all six were accounted for when figuring out the order, the greatest emphasis was certainly given to Final Four appearances and national championships.

    All 25 national champions since 1987 are a part of the 20-team list presented here. While it is impossible to determine how each of these teams have been directly affected by the institution of the three-point shot, it's clear that the addition of the shot completely changed the landscape of college basketball forever, in what I believe to be a positive light.

20. Memphis

2 of 21

    Wins: 554

    Tournament Appearances: 13

    Conference Tournament Champions: 6

    Regular Season Champions: 7

    Final Four Appearances: 0

    National Championships: 0

    Although it states that Memphis has not made a Final Four appearance, we all remember that the 2008 Memphis Tigers fell in overtime to Kansas in the national championship game. The 38 games that Memphis won that season was later vacated by the NCAA however.

    The Tigers have been dominant in Conference USA, although they will be headed to the Big East in 2013. John Calipari, who coached Memphis in that 2008 title game, may not be a huge fan of three-pointers considering he elected to allow Mario Chalmers to tie the game with a three and thus send the game into overtime, where Kansas eventually won.

19. Gonzaga

3 of 21

    Wins: 582

    Tournament Appearances: 15

    Conference Tournament Champions: 11

    Regular Season Champions: 15

    Final Four Appearances: 0

    National Championships: 0

    Another mid-major squad checks in at the 19th position in Gonzaga, who have dominated the WCC in recent history. The Bulldogs have also not made any Final Four appearances, although they haven't had any vacated either.

    The last time that Gonzaga missed out on the NCAA Tournament was in 1998. In 1999, the Bulldogs advanced to the Elite Eight, but they have never advanced past that point. If Mark Few, who is already heralded as one of the top coaches in all of the NCAA, can get Gonzaga to the Final Four, he will certainly deserve all the credit he gets for continuing to build the program that Dan Monson started.

18. Xavier

4 of 21

    Wins: 594

    Tournament Appearances: 20

    Conference Tournament Champions:

    Regular Season Champions: 15

    Final Four Appearances: 0

    National Championships: 0

    Three teams into the list and all three have come from non-BCS conferences. Xavier, who plays in the A-10, has only missed one NCAA tournament since 2001. The Musketeers have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in four of the past five years and have made two Elite Eight appearances in school history.

    Although Xavier doesn't play in a power conference like Cincinnati, their crosstown rival, the Musketeers have enjoyed more success while turning the Atlantic-10 into the best conference outside the six BCS conferences. No matter who is the head coach at Xavier, the team always seems to have the same success and should continue to do so under Chris Mack.

17. Ohio State

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    Wins: 455

    Tournament Appearances: 10

    Conference Tournament Champions: 3

    Regular Season Champions: 7

    Final Four Appearances: 3

    National Championships: 0

    Although the Buckeyes have not made as many trips to the NCAA Tournament as the three teams listed before them, they have made three appearances in the prestigious Final Four. The last such appearance came this past season, when OSU fell to Kansas in a semifinal matchup.

    Under Thad Matta, Ohio State has made six of the last seven NCAA tournaments and won the NIT the year that they missed the field. Although Ohio State did win a national championship in 1960, the school would love to update their collection by winning another title in the near future with Matta at the helm.

16. Georgetown

6 of 21

    Wins: 562

    Tournament Appearances: 17

    Conference Tournament Champions: 3

    Regular Season Champions: 5

    Final Four Appearances: 1

    National Championships: 0

    Georgetown made three Final Four appearances between 1982 and 1985, winning the title in 1984. Since '85 however, the Hoyas have only reached the Final Four once, that being in 2007 when they fell to Greg Oden and Ohio State.

    The Hoyas have had success in the Big East, but with the conference losing key members in the near future, winning a Big East title may not be as meaningful as it once was. However, John Thompson III, son of former coach John Thompson, has the program in great shape for the future. Although Georgetown has gotten 14 players drafted in the NBA since the three-point inception, most have been post players, which could be a partial reason for not having as much success since 1987.

15. Louisville

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    Wins: 580

    Tournament Appearances: 20

    Conference Tournament Champions: 10

    Regular Season Champions: 7

    Final Four Appearances: 2

    National Championships: 0

    The Louisville Cardinals won national championships in both 1980 and 1986, but have not won any since then. They made Final Four appearances in both 2005 and 2012, but didn't advance to the title game in either of those attempts at winning another championship.

    Louisville has only missed the NCAA tournament once since 2003. In 2005, the team moved from Conference USA to the Big East. The Cardinals currently play at the KFC Yum! Center, where I personally saw six NCAA tournament games this past March and should add that this should be a place for any real college basketball fan to catch a game.

14. Michigan

8 of 21

    Wins: 516

    Tournament Appearances: 9

    Conference Tournament Champions: 0

    Regular Season Champions: 1

    Final Four Appearances: 3

    National Championships: 1

    The Wolverines won the 1989 national championship and were runner-ups in 1992 and 1993 with the Fab Five, although both of those appearances were later vacated. After missing the NCAA tournament every year from 1998 to 2008, the Wolverines have gotten back in 2009, 2011, 2012 and will likely be making the field year-in and year-out now under John Beilein and his top recruiting classes.

    In the 1989 NCAA tournament, pure shooter Glen Rice set the tournament record for his 184 points in six games. Although the two Final Fours that the Fab Five made were vacated (though I still included them in the count), what those players were able to accomplish for the game of college basketball both on and off the court is astounding. I highly recommend checking out ESPN's 30-for-30 segment on them.

13. UNLV

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    Wins: 591

    Tournament Appearances: 12

    Conference Tournament Champions: 9

    Regular Season Champions: 8

    Final Four Appearances: 3

    National Championships: 1

    Just like Michigan, UNLV has made three Final Fours and won a single national championship since 1987, although none of their accomplishments was taken away. The Runnin' Rebels won the 1990 tournament and reached the Final Four in both 1987 and 1991. 

    After only making the tournament field twice between 1992 and 2006, UNLV has made the tournament five of the last six years. Dave Rice currently serves as their head coach and could be a Final Four sleeper with the addition of Anthony Bennett to an already deep and talented squad.

12. Maryland

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    Wins: 505

    Tournament Appearances: 15

    Conference Tournament Champions: 1

    Regular Season Champions: 3

    Final Four Appearances: 2

    National Championships: 1

    The Terrapins became a college basketball mainstay during Gary Williams' tenure, participating in every NCAA tournament from 1994 to 2004. This included trips to the Final Four in 2001 and 2002, and Maryland brought home the crown in 2002 after defeating Indiana in the title game.

    Mark Turgeon currently serves as the team's head coach, and although there have been struggles in the program as of late, Turgeon has brought in big time recruits and transfers hoping to turn this thing around as soon as possible. Maryland last won the ACC in 2010, thanks in large part to Greivis Vasquez's efforts there.

11. Indiana

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    Wins: 541

    Tournament Appearances: 21

    Conference Tournament Champions: 0

    Regular Season Champions: 5

    Final Four Appearances: 3

    National Championships: 1

    Other than the rough patch caused by Kelvin Sampson between 2009 and 2011, the Hoosiers have made all but one other NCAA tournament since 1987. Indiana won the first national championship that included the three-point line and made it to Final Fours in 1992 and 2002 as well.

    Though Indiana has never won a Big Ten tournament, I'd like to add that the B1G only started hosting conference tournaments in 1998. Indiana and Tom Crean are expected to be the top team in preseason polls this year, so reaching the Final Four for the first time in 11 years appears to be a definite possibility.

10. Syracuse

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    Wins: 660

    Tournament Appearances: 21

    Conference Tournament Champions: 5

    Regular Season Champions: 8

    Final Four Appearances: 3

    National Championships: 1

    Syracuse, who fell to Indiana in that 1987 title game, has also won a national championship and reached two additional Final Fours since the three-point inception. Their national title came in 2003 over Kansas, behind Carmelo Anthony and sharpshooter Gerry McNamara (pictured above).

    The Orange have won two of the last three Big East regular season championships, but like Pitt and Notre Dame, will be moving to the ACC. Although this is a huge blow for the team's current conference, having Syracuse added with traditional powerhouses Duke and North Carolina may get the ACC back to the top of college basketball again.

9. UCLA

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    Wins: 579

    Tournament Appearances: 20

    Conference Tournament Champions: 3

    Regular Season Champions: 8

    Final Four Appearances: 4

    National Championships: 1

    After winning 10 national championships during a 12-year span between 1964 and 1975 under John Wooden, the Bruins have only held up the title trophy once since then in 1995. UCLA did make a three-peat of Final Four appearances between 2006 and 2008, but only reached the final game once where they lost to Florida.

    After a rough few years under Ben Howland, including investigations into the program, Howland was able to land a top notch recruiting class for the upcoming season. This gives fans in Westwood expectations of more national championships, not only in the near future but even in this upcoming season. 

8. Arizona

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    Wins: 644

    Tournament Appearances: 23

    Conference Tournament Champions: 4

    Regular Season Champions: 11

    Final Four Appearances: 4

    National Championships: 1

    Until Arizona missed the NCAA tournament field in 2010, the Wildcats had been a part of every NCAA tournament since 1985 under Lute Olson. Miles Simon and Mike Bibby helped Arizona win the 1997 national championship, before Jason Gardner and others lost the 2001 title to Duke.

    Olson built a program that had only been to three NCAA tournaments before that incredible streak started in 1985. Sean Miller currently serves as head coach of the program, and like Ben Howland at UCLA, hopes to make Pac-12 basketball relevant once again.

7. Michigan State

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    Wins: 577

    Tournament Appearances: 20

    Conference Tournament Champions: 3

    Regular Season Champions: 8

    Final Four Appearances: 6

    National Championships: 1

    Checking in at No. 7 is the final Big Ten team on this list, the Michigan State Spartans. After winning the 1979 NCAA tournament with Magic Johnson, the Spartans went on a 20-year slump before getting back to the national semifinals. Since 1999, MSU has made six Final Four appearances.

    The Spartans won the 2000 national championship behind Mateen Cleaves. During Tom Izzo's tenure, the Spartans have never missed a Final Four in a four-year span. To be able to preach to recruits that during your time in East Lansing you'll make at least one Final Four appearance makes it clear that Izzo is one of the top coaches in the land.

6. Florida

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    Wins: 574

    Tournament Appearances: 17

    Conference Tournament Champions: 3

    Regular Season Champions: 5

    Final Four Appearances: 4

    National Championships: 2

    Although the Gators fell to Michigan State in that 2000 national championship, Florida got back to the Final Four in 2006 and 2007, winning back-to-back titles behind Joakim Noah and Al Horford among others. Florida has had golden opportunities to add to their Final Four count the past two seasons, but have blown leads late in Elite Eight contests against Butler and Louisville.

    Florida is the only team ever to win back-to-back national championships using the same starting five, which also included Corey Brewer, Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green. The Gators will likely remain Kentucky's biggest competition, so long as Billy Donovan is head coach in Gainesville.  

5. Connecticut

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    Wins: 609

    Tournament Appearances: 18

    Conference Tournament Champions: 7

    Regular Season Champions: 10

    Final Four Appearances: 4

    National Championships: 3

    Up until this point, the number of national championships a team has won directly affected where they fell in this list. Jim Calhoun built a program that won titles in 1999, 2004 and most recently in 2011. Additionally, they reached the Final Four in 2009 before losing to Michigan State.

    With all the scrutiny surrounding the UCONN basketball program currently, it's hard to have much optimism for a team that cannot participate in next year's NCAA tournament. Kevin Ollie was recently named head coach of the Huskies and hopes to build on this program's already impressive feats.

4. Kentucky

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    Wins: 680

    Tournament Appearances: 22

    Conference Tournament Champions: 12

    Regular Season Champions: 9

    Final Four Appearances: 6

    National Championships: 3

    Kentucky, like Connecticut, has won three national titles since 1987. The Wildcats won it all in 1996 under Rick Pitino, 1998 under Tubby Smith and most recently in 2012 under John Calipari. Along the way, the Wildcats have also made three other Final Four trips.

    While Calipari hasn't changed the game of basketball in the same way that the three-point line has, he proved that a team starred by underclassmen and one-and-done players can in fact bring home a title, something he was unable to do at Memphis and in his first few seasons at Kentucky. 

3. North Carolina

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    Wins: 690

    Tournament Appearances: 23

    Conference Tournament Champions: 7

    Regular Season Champions: 11

    Final Four Appearances: 9

    National Championships: 3

    North Carolina has also won three titles since 1987, theirs coming in 1993, 2005 and 2009. The Tar Heels have also made six other trips to the Final Four since '87, being led mostly by Dean Smith and Roy Williams during this time period.

    The Tar Heels may have been able to add another Final Four appearance and possibly a national championship to their banners this past March Madness, had it not been for a season-ending injury to point guard Kendall Marshall. UNC has won five of the last six ACC regular season crowns.

2. Kansas

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    Wins: 764

    Tournament Appearances: 25

    Conference Tournament Champions: 9

    Regular Season Champions: 17

    Final Four Appearances: 7

    National Championships: 2

    As I mentioned in UCONN's slide, prior to moving Kansas ahead of Connecticut, Kentucky and North Carolina, this list had been based on number of national championships. Well, Kansas has won one less title than those three schools since 1987, winning in 1988 and 2008.

    The Jayhawks have also been to seven Final Fours in the past 25 years. The statistics that set the Jayhawks apart from those other teams though are their wins, regular season championships and NCAA tournament appearances.

    Kansas has won more games than any other team since the inception of the three-point arc with 764, an average of over 29 wins per season. Kansas has also made the NCAA tournament every year since 1989, an incredible span of consistency. On top of this, KU has won 17 Big XII crowns, including each year since 2005, the year after Bill Self moved from Champaign to Lawrence.

1. Duke

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    Wins: 734

    Tournament Appearances: 25

    Conference Tournament Champions: 12

    Regular Season Champions: 11

    Final Four Appearances: 10

    National Championships: 4

    Slotted at No. 1 is the only team to win more than three NCAA titles since 1987, none other than the Duke Blue Devils. Since the three-point arc was implemented, Duke only missed one NCAA tournament, that coming in 1995.

    The Blue Devils and Coach K won their titles in 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010, while making an additional six appearances to Final Four weekend since 1987. Although he never won a national championship, former Duke star J.J. Redick holds the NCAA career record for most three-point field goals made with 457.

    Whether you love or hate Duke, as well as other top teams on this list, it's hard to argue with the success that they've had as basketball programs over the past 26 seasons. Most of these teams' success will likely continue, and we may never truly know what bearing the three-point line had on their continued success. Overall though, I think we can all agree that the decision to add the three-point line in 1987 was a good one, no matter what team you root for.

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