One of the best aspects of college basketball is the passion of the fans.
From coast-to-coast, college basketball fans enter each season with hopes that the upcoming year will be a special one for their team.
Unfortunately, there are often times when that passion and excitement generates unrealistic expectations. Many fanbases also gain a sense of entitlement and arrogance because of a team’s success and assume that a high standard can be maintained every year without any challenges.
The following list, which was determined by evaluating fan expectations and mentality in comparison to the current state of the program, looks at the 10 most delusional fanbases in college basketball.
The Illinois program has struggled since reaching the 2005 National Championship game, where the Illini fell by five points to North Carolina in a thrilling contest.
While many Illinois fans think their team is still one of the elite programs in college basketball, the reality is that Illinois hasn’t even been one of the best teams in its own conference over the past few years.
Granted, being a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big Ten is still better than some of the best teams from other conferences around the country, but Bruce Weber was unable to keep Illinois at the high level Bill Self elevated the program to.
New head coach John Groce appears to have things going in the right direction again in Champaign, Ill., but it will take him longer than Illinois fans think to make the Illini great again.
New Mexico players, coaches and fans have been hanging their hats on the conference RPI of the Mountain West in recent years, but it hasn’t done the Lobos any good once the NCAA tournament begins.
New Mexico has reached the NCAA tournament three of the last four years, but they’ve failed to reach the Sweet 16 on all three occasions.
In 2010, the Lobos were a No. 3 seed but fell to No. 11 seed Washington in the second round. New Mexico was a No. 3 seed again in the 2013 NCAA tournament, but dropped its opening game to No. 14 seed Harvard.
For a fanbase that wants to be viewed as having one of the best teams in the west, the Lobos need to prove they can perform when facing tougher competition and have some postseason success.
As Brian Barbour of Tar Heel Blog recently wrote, Roy Williams is extremely underappreciated by his own fanbase.
Despite completely cleaning up the mess Matt Doherty left behind at North Carolina and guiding the Tar Heels to national championships in 2005 and 2009, Williams constantly has to deal with criticism from his own fans about not meeting expectations.
When the Tar Heels went through a rough period last season and Williams was forced to make adjustments to his lineup, fans said it was time for him to retire and for the program to pursue a younger coach like Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart.
Roy Williams is one of the best recruiters in the country and the Tar Heels enter each season with hopes of reaching the Final Four. And a portion of the UNC fanbase thinks that still isn’t good enough.
Know the last time Indiana won a national championship?
Bob Knight was the head coach of the Hoosiers and none of the current players on the Indiana roster were born yet. It was 1987.
It’s been over two decades since Indiana last won a national championship, but its fanbase still considers the program to be part of college basketball royalty. Ironically, Indiana hasn’t even been the best program in its own state in the past 10 years. That spot goes to the Butler Bulldogs.
Indiana fans can brag about one of the best venues in college basketball, but the team isn’t quite at the same level.
In many ways, Kansas fans are right about their program.
The Jayhawks are one of the winningest programs in the history of college basketball and there is really no such thing as a “down year” at Kansas. As Bill Self has said, “rosters change, expectations don’t.”
Their stretch of dominance in conference play with nine straight (and counting) Big 12 regular season championships is simply stunning.
However, that high standard also puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on the players and recruits who play for Bill Self. Whenever the team struggles or loses a game, fans question what’s wrong and what needs to be changed.
Based on Kansas’ record, it doesn’t look like anything needs to be changed.
Similar to Kansas, Duke is a program that is often a victim of its own success.
The expectation among many fans is that the Blue Devils should reach the Final Four every year and anything less is a disappointment.
And even though Mike Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in the history of Division I men’s basketball and a four-time national champion, he still gets criticized for how he uses his bench, develops big men and schedules too many neutral court games.
Many fans also expect each incoming freshman at Duke to become an immediate contributor, regardless of the other experienced and talented players already on the roster.
Duke fans are extremely passionate, but many of them confuse passion with ridiculous expectations.
A large number of Maryland fans have always had an inferiority complex about being in the ACC.
That will change after this season when the Terrapins move to the Big Ten, but they may end up feeling the same way in a new conference.
The inferiority complex towards the ACC, particularly the schools in North Carolina, was also something shared by former head coach Lefty Driesell, who used to say that when he won an ACC championship, he would put the trophy on the hood of his car and drive around North Carolina for all to see.
Many Maryland fans are always quick to blame the referees or some type of ACC agenda whenever their program goes through struggles. It might also help if the Terps could find a consistent point guard.
There is nothing quite like Kentucky’s fanbase.
Big Blue Nation is passionate about winning national championships and anything less is unacceptable, which Tubby Smith and Billy Gillespie both learned the hard way.
John Calipari quickly restored the program to a position of dominance, but even he caught heat last season when the Wildcats struggled, despite losing their best player to a devastating knee injury.
The intensity and delusion of some Kentucky fans often comes through most on the recruiting trail. The ignorant Kentucky fans come out in full force on Twitter when a recruit has Kentucky as a finalist but ultimately commits to another school.
Fortunately for Big Blue Nation, John Calipari usually doesn’t miss on many top recruits.
UCLA fans can take pride in having one of the best coaches in the history of sports in John Wooden.
Though it was a different era, Wooden’s 10 NCAA championships are an incredible accomplishment that will likely never be duplicated.
The problem many UCLA fans have failed to realize is that the John Wooden era is over.
Despite being a very good coach who kept the program at a high level, Steve Lavin never received the credit he deserved at UCLA before being fired in 2003.
Ben Howland took over after Lavin and faced the same unrealistic expectations in Westwood, which eventually led to his dismissal following this past season. Howland was fired despite leading UCLA to three Final Four appearances and seven NCAA tournament appearances during his 10-year tenure as head coach.
UCLA fans probably thought they could replace Howland with almost any coach in the country because of the rich history of the program. Instead, they missed on Shaka Smart at Virginia Commonwealth University and hired a coach, Steve Alford, who came from a position where he had little tournament success.
ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt was right when he called N.C. State fans the most delusional in the country. In looking at what the Wolfpack have done over the past two decades, it’s hard to argue with him.
N.C. State is a program with rich basketball history. Many people know about Jim Valvano and the 1983 national championship team, but the Wolfpack were also one of the best teams in the country in the 1970s. They also boast arguably the greatest player in ACC history in David Thompson.
However, those memories are far away from where N.C. State has been in the last 20 years.
Herb Sendek led the Wolfpack to five consecutive NCAA tournaments from 2002-2006, but he was always criticized for his style of play and inability to beat North Carolina and Duke on a regular basis. Sendek left to become the head coach at Arizona State in 2006 and Wolfpack fans thought the program would move to the next level.
Instead, Sidney Lowe took over after Sendek with no head coaching experience. He failed to get the team back to the NCAA tournament during his five seasons before resigning in 2011.
Now, N.C. State fans hope Mark Gottfried can lead the program to greatness, but his teams have also struggled with consistency.
Ironically, fans should be hopeful Gottfried can get the Wolfpack back to the standard Herb Sendek created when he was the head coach.
Who do you think are the most delusional fans in college basketball? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.