The Top 25 Teams in the History of March Madness
In honor of the 75th anniversary of March Madness, the NCAA has chosen a list of the 25 greatest teams the tournament has ever seen.
Starting in January, fans will have a chance to whittle that group of 25 (NCAA champions all) down to one winner by voting at www.ncaa.com/marchmadness. The debate can begin today, though, because the full list of 25 has been released.
Unsurprisingly, Anthony Davis’ 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats are among the teams that made the cut. The ‘Cats won a record 38 games, but how will that achievement stack up against the greatest champions in history?
Read on for a look at all 25 of the NCAA’s picks, ranked not only according to how many games they won but also the competition they faced and the flair with which they climbed to the top of the college hoops mountain.
25. 1946-47 Holy Cross Crusaders
Star Power: Bob Cousy
Dominance Factor: Entered NCAA tournament on 20-game win streak.
Key Feats: Came back from 11 down to beat City College of New York in national semis, 60-45. Topped Oklahoma (led by national Player of the Year Gerald Tucker) for championship, 58-47.
Bottom Line: Undersized even at the time with a 6’3” center, Holy Cross used quickness and extraordinary depth to wear down its postseason opposition.
24. 1979-80 Louisville Cardinals
Star Power: Darrell Griffith, Rodney McCray
Dominance Factor: Held opponents to 66.7 points per game for the season.
Key Feats: Won back-to-back overtime games to open tournament, beating Kansas State and Texas A&M. Blew out No.3 LSU in the Elite Eight, 86-66.
Bottom Line: The explosive Griffith, aka Dr. Dunkenstein, keyed a small but hyper-athletic lineup that outslugged UCLA for an ugly 59-54 championship win.
23. 1992-93 North Carolina Tar Heels
Star Power: Eric Montross, George Lynch
Dominance Factor: Averaged a 17.8 point-per-game margin of victory despite four losses.
Key Feats: Triumphed in a stacked ACC that included Sam Cassell’s Florida State squad and Bobby Hurley-led Duke. Topped Michigan’s Fab Five in the championship game.
Bottom Line: Chris Webber’s ill-fated timeout call in the title game overshadowed a gutty tournament performance by Dean Smith’s second (and last) national championship team.
22. 1951-52 Kansas Jayhawks
Star Power: Clyde Lovellette
Dominance Factor: Became only national champion to include country's individual scoring champion (Lovellette, at 28.4 points a night).
Key Feats: Routed St. John’s in title game, 80-63.
Bottom Line: Hall of Fame center Lovellette also notched 12.8 rebounds a game for a team whose reserves included future coaching legend Dean Smith.
21. 2003-04 Connecticut Huskies
Star Power: Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon
Dominance Factor: Notched a then-record 315 blocked shots.
Key Feats: Beat J.J. Redick and No. 1 seed Duke in classic Final Four game, 79-78.
Bottom Line: With defensive ace Okafor leading a roster that boasted seven eventual NBA draftees, the Huskies overcame four Big East losses to run the table when it counted the most.
20. 2006-07 Florida Gators
Star Power: Al Horford, Joakim Noah
Dominance Factor: Led nation with .526 field-goal shooting.
Key Feats: Beat UCLA in Final Four for second straight season. Took down Greg Oden and top-ranked Ohio State to claim their second consecutive national title.
Bottom Line: With all five starters back from the 2005-06 champs, the Gators earned another title on the backs of their fleet-footed post duo. Horford and Noah combined for 25.2 points, 17.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.
19. 2008-09 North Carolina Tar Heels
Star Power: Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson
Dominance Factor: Won six tournament games by an average of 20.2 points apiece.
Key Feats: Beat Blake Griffin and Oklahoma in the Elite Eight. Crushed Michigan State 89-72 in championship game.
Bottom Line: Lawson and the fast-breaking offense were rarely even slowed, and Hansbrough closed out his record-setting Tar Heel career with 18 points in a title-game romp.
18. 1978-79 Michigan State Spartans
Star Power: Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser
Dominance Factor: Beat five tournament foes by an average of 22.8 points per game.
Key Feats: Beat fourth-ranked Notre Dame in the Elite Eight. Handed Larry Bird’s Indiana State team its only loss in the national title game.
Bottom Line: Magic inaugurated his legendary rivalry with Bird to cap a season in which he averaged 17.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.4 assists a night.
17. 1996-97 Arizona Wildcats
Star Power: Mike Bibby, Miles Simon, Michael Dickerson, Jason Terry
Dominance Factor: Averaged 83.9 points per game, third-best in the nation
Key Feats: Became the only team to defeat three No. 1 seeds in the same tournament, taking down Kansas, North Carolina and defending champion Kentucky. Won two overtime games, beating Providence in the Elite Eight and Kentucky for the title.
Bottom Line: Simon had the best tournament of any of the Wildcats’ arsenal of perimeter scorers, capped by 30 points in the championship-game upset of Kentucky.
16. 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats
Star Power: Antoine Walker, Tony Delk
Dominance Factor: Won six tournament games by a record total of 129 points.
Key Feats: Knocked off top-ranked UMass (led by Marcus Camby) in Final Four.
Bottom Line: With a lineup loaded with athletic wings and sharp-shooting big men, Rick Pitino had the perfect personnel to run his high-pressure attack.
15. 1983-84 Georgetown Hoyas
Star Power: Patrick Ewing, Reggie Williams, David Wingate
Dominance Factor: Held their five tournament opponents to an average of 49.6 points per game.
Key Feats: Toppled Sam Bowie and No. 3 Kentucky in the Final Four. Beat Houston’s Phi Slama Jama squad for the title.
Bottom Line: Coach John Thompson Jr.’s bruising style reached its apex with this hard-hitting lineup. Ewing dominated the middle, outplaying three other 7-footers (Jon Koncak, Bowie and Akeem Olajuwon) in five tournament games.
14. 1968-69 UCLA Bruins
Star Power: Lew Alcindor, Lucius Allen
Dominance Factor: Averaged a 20.8 point-per-game margin of victory for the season.
Key Feats: Narrowly escaped an upset by Drake in the Final Four, 85-82. Crushed Rick Mount’s Purdue team by 20 for the national title.
Bottom Line: These Bruins didn’t quite have the depth of their predecessors and suffered one loss to a weak USC team. Of course, they also had Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in his senior season, which was more than enough to run away with the national title.
13. 1959-60 Ohio State Buckeyes
Star Power: Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek
Dominance Factor: Closest tournament game was 17-point win over Georgia Tech.
Key Feats: Won Big Ten by two games over Walt Bellamy and Indiana. Beat defending champion California by 20 in national title game.
Bottom Line: In their first year of varsity eligibility, Lucas and Havlicek (a combined 38.5 points and 23.7 rebounds per game) proved to be an unstoppable pair.
12. 1981-82 North Carolina Tar Heels
Star Power: James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins
Dominance Factor: Allowed just 55.4 points per game on the season.
Key Feats: Squeaked past Ralph Sampson and Virginia for ACC title. Beat Houston’s Phi Slama Jama team in Final Four. Outdueled Patrick Ewing and Georgetown for national championship.
Bottom Line: Jordan’s legend began in earnest with the game-winning jumper he hit to beat the Hoyas, but it was Worthy who led this daunting lineup. Even with Dean Smith slowing down the offense, Worthy and Jordan combined for 29.1 points per game.
11. 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats
Star Power: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Dominance Factor: Racked up an NCAA-record 344 blocked shots while winning an NCAA-record 38 games.
Key Feats: Stopped nation’s hottest team with 69-61 Final Four win over rival Louisville.
Bottom Line: The lack of an offensive star didn't make much of a difference with Davis (4.7 blocks per game to lead the country) anchoring an impenetrable defense.
10. 1972-73 UCLA Bruins
Star Power: Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes
Dominance Factor: Averaged 81.3 points a game for the season.
Key Feats: Beat Memphis by 21 for the national title behind Walton’s unparalleled 21-for-22 shooting effort.
Bottom Line: Walton won his second of three straight Naismith Awards with a team that tallied a major part of UCLA’s 88-game winning streak.
9. 1973-74 North Carolina State Wolfpack
Star Power: David Thompson, Tom Burleson
Dominance Factor: Scored 91.4 points per game, led by Thompson’s 26 a night.
Key Feats: Held off Len Elmore and No. 4 Maryland in overtime in epic ACC title game. Ended UCLA’s string of seven consecutive national championships with 80-77 win in Final Four.
Bottom Line: With the high-flying Thompson leading the charge, the Wolfpack avenged their only loss of the year by edging UCLA in double OT, then KO'd Marquette in an anticlimactic title game.
8. 1956-57 North Carolina Tar Heels
Star Power: Lennie Rosenbluth
Dominance Factor: Averaged 80.6 points per game in the regular season.
Key Feats: Won consecutive triple-overtime games in Final Four, surviving Michigan State and then upending Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas for the title.
Bottom Line: Rosenbluth’s 28 points per game led a high-powered offense that barely survived the slow pace of the NCAA tournament. The title game ended at 54-53 after three overtimes.
7. 1991-92 Duke Blue Devils
Star Power: Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill
Dominance Factor: Scored 88 points per game for the season and 82.3 a night in six tournament games.
Key Feats: Edged Jamal Mashburn and Kentucky on legendary Elite Eight buzzer-beater. Demolished Michigan’s Fab Five by 20 in championship game.
Bottom Line: Hurley would go on to set the NCAA career assists record, but it was low-post star Laettner who defined this team. His iconic shot saved the day against Kentucky, and he outplayed Chris Webber to seal the title.
6. 1966-67 UCLA Bruins
Star Power: Lew Alcindor, Lucius Allen
Dominance Factor: Won every tournament game by at least 15 points. Averaged 90.2 points per game on the year.
Key Feats: Beat Elvin Hayes and Houston in the national semis, 73-58.
Bottom Line: Alcindor and Allen (both newly eligible for varsity ball) led a young, deep roster that cruised to an undefeated record without even being tested in the postseason.
5. 1989-90 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Star Power: Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon
Dominance Factor: Won title game by record 30-point margin. Scored over 100 points in three tournament games.
Key Feats: Outgunned Loyola Marymount (history’s highest-scoring team) in Elite Eight, 131-101. Took down Kenny Anderson-led Georgia Tech in Final Four. Slaughtered Christian Laettner’s Duke team in title game.
Bottom Line: Jerry Tarkanian’s squad was unrivaled for sheer athleticism, winning with an aggressive offense and a high-pressure defense. LJ's 20.6 points and 11.4 rebounds a night led the way.
4. 1955-56 San Francisco Dons
Star Power: Bill Russell, K.C. Jones
Dominance Factor: Average score for the season: San Francisco 72, opponents 52.
Key Feats: Whipped No. 4 Iowa in title game, 83-71.
Bottom Line: Coach Phil Woolpert’s pioneering lineup featured three black starters (Russell, Jones and Hal Perry), with Russell being the game-changer. History’s greatest defender averaged 20.5 points and 20.1 rebounds a game for the first-ever undefeated champs.
3. 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers
Star Power: Scott May, Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner
Dominance Factor: Held five tournament opponents to an average of 62.8 points per game.
Key Feats: Beat defending champion UCLA twice on the year, including a 65-51 Final Four win. Downed No. 2 Marquette (the 1977 champs) in the Elite Eight.
Bottom Line: The most recent undefeated champions won more games than any perfect team. May and Buckner were a perfect fit for Bobby Knight’s physical defense.
2. 1971-72 UCLA Bruins
Star Power: Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes, Henry Bibby
Dominance Factor: Averaged a margin of victory of 30.3 points per game for the year.
Key Feats: Beat fourth-ranked Louisville by 19 points in the national semifinals.
Bottom Line: With sophomores Walton and Wilkes complementing senior gunner Bibby, the Bruins had too much offense for any opponent to handle.
1. 1967-68 UCLA Bruins
Star Power: Lew Alcindor, Lucius Allen
Dominance Factor: Won four tournament games by an average of 21.3 points.
Key Feats: Avenged only loss of the season by pulverizing Elvin Hayes and Houston, 101-69, in national semifinals.
Bottom Line: These Bruins were the director’s cut of John Wooden’s greatest team. They returned every contributor from the 1967 champs and featured junior Alcindor at the height of his powers (26.2 points and 16.5 rebounds a night).