It's great for a college basketball team to be able to put the ball in the basket.
History has demonstrated that, if you cannot get stops and cannot prevent your opponents from scoring, you will only go so far. Defense doesn't guarantee championships or even wins, but it will put you in position on a game-by-game basis to compete.
Here are the 10 best defensive teams in college basketball history.
Some of these teams had swagger and style. All of these teams knew what it was to keep whomever they were playing from scoring and winning.
Team information provided by Sports-Reference.com
The 1956-57 North Carolina Tar Heels not only ran the table in the ACC (14-0) but their entire schedule, going 32-0 on their way to winning the 1957 NCAA championship.
This Tar Heel team was tough and gritty, working hard to win games throughout the season.
Coached by the Frank McGuire and led by national player of the year Lennie Rosenbluth, the Tar Heels had to pull off an exhausting pair of back-to-back triple-overtime games to cut down the nets in Kansas City.
Can you imagine? UNC needed three OTs in the national semifinal against Michigan State. They had to play just as long the next night against a young Wilt Chamberlain and the Kansas Jayhawks.
Holding Chamberlain in check was an enormous accomplishment. Carolina forced him to get most of his points at the free-throw line.
Even with a smaller lineup, UNC limited the Big Dipper to just two points in the final 10 minutes.
The 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers were the last undefeated D-1 national champions.
Coached by Bob Knight, IU had an excellent group of all-around players who shined on both ends of the court.
This Indiana team is the perfect example of a squad that was stingy on defense without having any one superstar player that carried their defensive efforts. All five of their starters were skilled defenders.
Knight stated at the time that Scott May, who was the team’s best offensive threat, was “the best all-around player I have ever been associated with.” May still holds the single-game school record for steals with nine.
Kent Benson was a force in the middle, clogging the lane, blocking shots and controlling the boards.
IU’s floor general, Quinn Buckner not only ran things on the offensive end, but he set the pace for the team's defensive pressure by consistently locking down his opponent.
Bobby Wilkerson had the length and athleticism to defend just about any position on the court.
Indiana’s fifth starter, Tom Abernathy, was a steady performer whose versatility and under-the-radar skill set made him an invaluable member of the IU frontcourt.
The 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats were a young, athletic squad that had not been together for very long.
Three of the 2012 NCAA champion’s starters were freshmen and two were sophomores.
What they lacked in experience the 'Cats made up for in getting after it and shutting down opposing teams on the defensive end of the court.
Props to head coach John Calipari for getting this inexperienced group to buy in from the beginning of the season that defense wins championships.
This Wildcat team did not just break the NCAA season blocked shots record (315 by UConn in 2004); they destroyed it by throwing back 335 of their opponents’ attempts.
freshman power forward Anthony Davis, the Naismith Player of the Year Award winner, blocked more than half of those shots (186) on his way to breaking the UK school record and posting one of the ten best single seasons in NCAA history for shot rejections.
But these 'Cats were more than historic shot-blockers. They also led the nation in field-goal defense, holding their opponents to 37.4 percent shooting
The 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats were one of the most talented and deepest teams in college basketball history.
With seven first-round draft picks and ten players who went on to play in the NBA, this exceptional squad was known as "The Untouchables."
Talk about an incomparable 10-man rotation.
As skilled as they were offensively, these 'Cats were tough-as-nails on defense. They were relentless, applying suffocating pressure from start to finish, from baseline to baseline.
Opponents mistakes quickly turned into Kentucky buckets.
Going 34-2 on the year, they had a 22.1-point average margin of victory. They also recorded 435 steals and a turnover margin of plus-6.81 (NCAA D-1 Records Book). Almost as dominant as it was during the regular season, Kentucky won its NCAA tournament games by an average of 21.5 points.
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish pointed out that, “One of the teams Kentucky eliminated in the 1996 NCAA tournament was Tim Duncan's Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The future NBA champion was just 2 for 7 from the field with five turnovers against the Wildcats' smothering defense.”
The 1989-1990 UNLV Runnin' Rebels didn’t just beat teams, they destroyed them.
In their march to the 1990 NCAA championship, the Rebels beat three teams (Arkansas-Little Rock, Loyola Marymount and Duke) by 30 points each.
UNLV’s drubbing of the Blue Devils in the championship game (103-73) was the most lopsided win in NCAA title game history.
The Rebels had a unique collection of athletic players who loved to pressure their opponents until they surrendered.
Larry Johnson didn’t just score points in bunches, he forced his will on whoever got in his way. Even at 6’7”, Johnson was a beast on the boards.
Stacey Augmon was an extraordinary defender. He won the NABC Defensive Player of the Year three times in a row. Tim Duncan and Shane Battier are the only other players in NCAA history who also won the award three times.
Augmon could effectively guard just about any position on the court.
Greg Anthony was not only the trigger man for the Rebels offensive attack, but he also set the pace on the defensive end, leading the team with 100 steals.
Their sole loss of the season was to Houston (71-69) in the middle of the year, in a matchup that was billed "The Game of the Century."
UCLA flattened their opponents one by one. They posted an average margin of victory of 26.2 points.
Though they were known as a super-potent offensive machine—five players averaged in double figures—they also were a dominant defensive unit.
Obviously, having Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) on their back line sure helped the Bruins ability to protect the rim. But, John Wooden’s squad was far from a one-man wrecking crew.
The Bruins held their opponents to 38.4 percent shooting and had an plus-11.9 rebounding margin.
When UCLA faced Houston again in the national semifinal game, the Bruins got their revenge on the Cougars, beating them 101-69, holding star center Elvin Hayes to 10 points and the entire Cougars offense to 28.9 percent shooting.
One day later, UCLA did not take its foot off the accelerator. The Bruins beat North Carolina 78-55 in the championship game, holding the Tar Heels to 34.9 percent shooting.
This 23-point margin of victory was the most lopsided championship game up until that time.
The 1955-56 San Francisco Dons were one of the first dominating teams in college basketball history
After winning the NCAA championship in 1955 (28-1), the Dons came back and did it again in 1956. This time they finished the season with a perfect 29-0 record.
Bill Russell, arguably the best defensive player of all time, anchored USF’s defense. He not only shut down his opponents, but he was particularly skilled at providing help defense.
Russell was an excellent shot-blocker. He not only blocked a ton of shots, but he generally tapped the ball to one of his teammates, preserving the turnover and starting their possession.
He also pulled down 50 rebounds combined in the national semifinal and final games.
During this amazing two-year run, San Francisco won 55 consecutive games.
The 1988-89 Georgetown Hoyas had the best defensive big-man combination of all time: Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. Can you imagine having Mutombo coming off the bench.
They were both ferocious stoppers in the lane, and their game was blocking and challenging shots. The freshman Mourning led the nation in blocks that season with 169 rejections (No. 4 all-time among freshmen, behind Anthony Davis, Hassan Whiteside and Shawn Bradley).
On the year, the Hoyas blocked 309 shots, which is a 9.09 blocks per-game average. For those of you who are scoring at home, that was not only the highest per-game average for the season, but it was also the highest for a college team of all time.
The Hoyas held their opponents to 39.9 percent shooting from the field (No. 1 in the nation for 1988-89) and had a margin of victory of 14.6.
The 1971-72 UCLA Bruins won the NCAA championship, making eight national titles in nine years.
This Bruin squad doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves for its defensive prowess. With Bill Walton, Henry Bibby, Keith Wilkes and Larry Farmer each averaging double-figure scoring, many fans and opposing teams focused on the Bruins’ offensive abilities.
Why not? UCLA averaged a red-hot 94.6 points per game. Not too shabby at a time before the three-point era.
But, head coach John Wooden taught and emphasized proficiency at both ends of the court. The undefeated 1972 NCAA champs established the all-time average margin of victory at 30.3 points. Can you say "total dominance?"
And this didn’t just happen by UCLA scoring truckloads of points (which they did). The Bruins held their opponents to 38.2 percent shooting from the field that year.
Walton was not only a prolific scorer, he was also a beast on the boards. He averaged 15.5 rebounds per game.
Walton's back up was Swen Nater, an awesome defender and rebounder off the bench. While Nater did not start a single game in his two years at UCLA, he still was a first-round draft pick in the 1973 NBA draft.
The 1983-84 Georgetown Hoyas helped head coach John Thompson finally get his championship win.
Between 1982 and 1985, the Hoyas were in the finals in three of four years.
One of the big reasons that Georgetown was so dominant during this time was the overpowering post play of Patrick Ewing. He was easily one of the fiercest collegiate defenders of all time, blocking 493 shots and grabbing 1316 rebounds in his career.
Ewing did not do all of the heavy lifting himself. David Wingate was one of the best lock-down wing defenders in the mid-1980s. Bill Martin was a skilled frontcourt stopper and Michael Graham was an intense enforcer.
The Hoyas led the nation in scoring margin (plus-16.4) and field-goal defense (39.5) and were one of the top rebounding teams in the country, averaging 40 rebounds per game.
In their NCAA title run, Georgetown only gave up 49.6 points per game, even though they allowed 75 points in their title-game victory over Houston.