College basketball’s last couple of seasons have brought us some of the ugliest uniforms in the history of the game, so as an antidote, it’s time to take a look at some of the best. There aren’t a lot of noteworthy designs in a sport that leans heavily towards monochrome kits, but at least a few programs have figured out how to update their looks without disastrous results.
One such success story is the Duke Blue Devils, who have started adding black to their road uniforms. It may not be one of the school’s official colors, but it fits nicely as a way to keep the jerseys from being all blue, all the time.
Read on for more on Duke’s current look and the rest of the top 20 uniforms we saw in the 2012-13 NCAA season.
This spot is a virtual tie with Indiana and Michigan State, among others. If you’re stuck with a single-color scheme, one solid option is simply to embrace it and go for a classic look as the Wildcats do.
Of course, it helps to pull off that approach if you can lean on decades of tradition—as UK certainly can—to justify the monotony.
Although the Cyclones’ road uniforms are relatively generic, they get credit for a creative use of stripes. Rather than running straight down the side of the jersey and shorts, the stripe curves at the bottom to add a little more interest.
It also helps that the stripe isn’t a solid yellow, but has a slash of white in the middle to break it up.
Saint Mary’s manages to alleviate the monotony of its home whites by adding some color on the side. The red and blue stripes are thick enough to stand out and help the whole look, especially on the shorts.
The Gaels would be several spots higher if the lettering on these jerseys looked better, but the blue outline gets lost in the dark red.
Belmont is far from the only team trying to make dark red and dark blue work on its road uniforms, but the Bruins have actually found a viable solution.
The red stripe down the side works as a highlight—especially with a white outline—without making the jerseys too muddy.
Sadly, the feeble red outline on the lettering doesn’t succeed nearly so well.
Pitt’s blue-and-gold color scheme gives all of its uniforms an advantage to start with. The Panthers put that edge to good use on these home outfits, which feature just enough color to offset the sea of white.
Unlike so many attempts to use a second color to outline the lettering, Pitt’s gold outlines don’t entirely fade away into either the white backdrop or the blue text.
The Tigers opted for their all-yellow outfits as their primary road uniform last season, which is a shame. As popular as such looks may be at the moment (with teams if not with fans), Mizzou’s black road kit is definitely easier on the eyes.
The black background is especially good at highlighting the gold-and-white Tiger stripes on the sides.
One of the most promising new trends in jersey design is replacing the team-name lettering on the front with a logo. That approach adds some visual interest to the sameness of basketball jerseys, just as it does for so many teams’ helmets in football.
Gonzaga’s color scheme here isn’t great, but the distinctive snarling Bulldog makes a lot more of an impression than the “Zags” on its usual road uniforms.
The current Kansas jerseys wouldn’t look out of place on Wilt Chamberlain or Danny Manning, and that’s saying something.
KU's time-honored home kit has more history than histrionics, but sometimes simplicity has its advantages.
The red stripe along the side, while subtle, helps by adding a noticeable third color.
The Maize and Blue’s NCAA tournament road jerseys were way, way too much maize, but the regular-season version got it right.
The Wolverines’ classic blue road look is a no-frills approach, but (unlike many two-color uniforms) the colors actually work well with each other.
In the Big Ten tournament against Wisconsin, Michigan actually improved on this kit by changing the yellow player names on the back of the jerseys to an easy-to-read white.
Black and gold is an increasingly popular color scheme for road togs, and while Iowa is far from the best team using that approach, it has the best version.
The diamond on the shorts ties into the Hawkeye nickname while showcasing the logo (which, mercifully, isn't just a letter of the alphabet here).
The stripes themselves also show some imagination, with the gap at the waist helping keep the yellow stripe from getting too bright.
By darkening its classic powder blue a touch, UCLA really lets the gold highlights on these uniforms shine. The striped shorts aren’t particularly noteworthy, but the improved contrast between the lettering and the blue jerseys is a big help.
It’s also worth noting that these are essentially the same uniforms that John Wooden’s Bruins wore, a fact that helps excuse any number of minor flaws.
Baylor and Notre Dame take note: this is how to do a green-and-gold outfit without searing the retinas of the TV audience. Colorado State sticks with a basic, non-radioactive shade of green and uses the gold lettering to provide contrast.
The next step for the Rams is to redo the excessive gold-and-white striping on the sides, which doesn’t work nearly as well as the rest of the uniform.
Florida State’s gold home outfits provide a nice change of pace from having every home uniform everywhere based on white.
Even better, the Seminole feather down the side looks sharper here than in any of the team’s other color schemes.
The only thing these jerseys don’t do well is the lettering, as the “Florida State” vanishes into the background.
Duke’s latest road jerseys are a prime example of how to adapt a one-color scheme. The black side panels break up the blue background but aren’t big enough to make the whole thing too dark.
The logo-on-shorts option, though laudable in principle, does very little good for programs such as Duke or Michigan where the logo is just another letter anyway.
Orange is a very easy color to overdo, but at least there’s an excuse for it when your nickname is the Tigers.
Of several such programs in Division I, Princeton has the most effective uniforms, not least because these Tigers are actually (like their namesake) black and orange.
The stripes along the shorts are great—if anything, there ought to be more of them to help accent the very black jerseys.
FGCU is a relative newcomer to Division I, and the program brings with it a rarely seen color scheme. The teal-on-blue look isn’t perfect, but it’s distinctive and it suits the coastal overtones of the school’s name.
These uniforms would be even better for, say, the Jacksonville Dolphins, but the bright colors don’t really work as well with the Eagles nickname.
Cincy’s much-ridiculed postseason look notwithstanding, the program still has some first-class road uniforms. The claw marks on the shoulders and shorts are perfect for the Bearcat nickname, and the white text shows up nicely.
It’s a shame that the red trim gets lost, because a little more color would have this kit in contention for the No. 1 spot.
For a rarity, Temple introduced new uniforms for the postseason that actually improved on the regular-season look. The Owls’ red road kit is nothing special, but these three-color tournament outfits work exceptionally well.
The red side panels on the shorts are an especially nice touch, although again, the presence of the logo is kind of wasted on a simple “T”.
Kansas State broke out these outstanding uniforms for its visit to Kansas. They didn’t spark the hoped-for victory, but they were the best kit the Wildcats wore all season.
The purple lettering looks terrific on the black background, which is a major improvement over the muddy gray K-State has been favoring for road games.
The silver half of the Wildcat color scheme plays a far better role here, as an outline to help the text pop out.
Considering how much black is in these uniforms, it's a shame it isn't actually one of USC's colors. Even with a bit of cheating on the color scheme, though, the Trojans have the best-looking take so far on the logo-front jersey.
Missing from the above picture is the one notable mistake these jerseys make: the “Trojans” lettering on the back doesn’t have the same yellow outline as the numbers, making it largely invisible.