Decade's Best NCAA Basketball Champions: Objective Rankings

Brett LissendenSenior Analyst IJune 25, 2008

OK, so I know we still have two more years to go until the end of the decade, but I wanted to rank all of the tournament champions for the past few years.  At first I wanted to give my opinions on each team, but then I thought of a simple formula that would be much more accurate and relevant.

I only looked at each team's performance in the NCAA tournament, and my main barometer of success was margin of victory throughout the tournament.  Because some teams may have tougher roads than others, I then weighted the average margin of victory by the average seed number defeated. 

For example, the 2008 Kansas team defeated (in order) 16, 8, 12, 10, 1, 1 seeds and won by (in order) 24, 19, 15, 2, 18, and 7 points.  Note that I decided to ignore overtimes for simplicity, and also Kansas had the only overtime game that I knew of.  Kansas' average margin of victory was 17 points and average seed defeated was 9.6.  Thus their rating is 17/9.6 or 1.77.

I generally agreed with the rankings, but numbers can never be 100 percent accurate.  I'd be interested in hearing everyone's feedback. 

Here are the complete rankings, from 2000 to the present, from top to bottom:

1.  2001 Duke Blue Devils—rating: 2.50

Duke's closest game was 10 points.  They were a one seed and beat Arizona in the finals.  Their average margin of victory was boosted significantly by a 43-point first round victory over 16th seeded Monmouth.

Average Margin of Victory—20 points, Average Seed Defeated—8

2.  2007 Florida Gators—rating: 2.36

Florida's closest game was seven points and also had a 43-point blowout in the first round over a 16th seed.  They became the first team to repeat as National Champions since Kentucky in 1998 by beating Ohio State in the finals.

Average Margin of Victory—17 points, Average Seed Defeated—7.2

3.  2002 Maryland Terrapins—rating: 2.33

First-seeded Maryland's closest game was eight points and helped their average victory margin by beating eighth seeded Wisconsin by 30 in the second round.  They played the lowest seed possible in every round until the championship, where they defeated fifth seed Indiana.

Average Margin of Victory—16.8 points, Average Seed Defeated—7.2

4.  2000 Michigan State Spartans—rating: 2.14

Michigan State's closes game was 11 points and they defeated Florida in the finals.  Their average seed defeated was hurt by playing an eighth seed and then a fifth seed in the Final Four.  They were a one seed.

Average Margin of Victory—18.4 points, Average Seed Defeated—8.6

5.  2006 Florida Gators—rating: 2.09

Florida won the first of their two consecutive National Championships as a number three seed by defeating second seeded UCLA in the finals.  They recorded double-digit wins over every team except seventh seeded Georgetown in the Sweet Sixteen.  Their average seed defeated was raised significantly by playing 11th seeded George Mason in the Final Four.

Average Margin of Victory—19.2 points, Average Seed Defeated—9.2

6.  2004 Connecticut Huskies—rating: 2.00

Second seed UConn had only one close call against Duke in the semifinals.  They defeated number three seed Georgia Tech in the finals.  Before the Final Four, their closest game was 16 points.

Average Margin of Victory—16 points, Average Seed Defeated—8

7.  2005 North Carolina Tar Heels—rating 1.98

UNC was a number one seed and gave fellow number one seed Illinois only their second loss of the season in the finals.  Their closest call was a one point game against Villanova in the Sweet 16.

Average Margin of Victory—16.6 points, Average Seed Defeated—8.4

8.  2008 Kansas Jayhawks—rating 1.77

Kansas was one of the number one seeds to create the first Final Four of all one-seeds, and won the final game in dramatic fashion over Memphis in overtime.  They also had a close call against 10th-seeded Davidson in the Elite Eight.  Their average seed defeated was hurt severely by playing Davidson and also 12th-seeded Villanova in the Sweet Sixteen.

Average Margin of Victory—17 points, Average Seed Defeated—9.6

9.  2003 Syracuse Orangemen—rating 1.53

Third-seeded Syracuse led by Carmelo Anthony defeated second seed Kansas in the finals by only three points and also survived a one-point scare from 10th seeded Auburn in the Sweet Sixteen.  They did however, beat two number one seeds by an average of 13.5 points.

Average Margin of Victory—10.4 points, Average Seed Defeated—6.8