Ranking ACC Basketball's 5 Greatest NCAA Tournament Champions
The Duke Blue Devils captured their fifth NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship on Monday night, besting the Wisconsin Badgers, 68-63.
The 2014-2015 Duke Blue Devils are an impressive collection of talent. But does the squad rank among the best ACC teams to win the national championship?
Let's look at the best national champions the greatest basketball conference in the country has produced.
The criteria followed is simple: Which team had the most dominant season?
It takes into account:
- Overall season record
- Conference play, both regular season and tournament accomplishments
- NCAA tournament play
- Sustained excellence (for the players and the coaches)
We're not talking about whether one team would beat another in a hypothetical matchup. We're looking at each team's individual seasons. So without further ado...
1982-1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack
"The Cardiac Pack" entered the NCAA tournament as a sixth seed after an up-and-down season. But for one shining moment, the team no one ever gave a chance marched through the tournament field, winning against a heavily-favored University of Houston team anchored by Hakeem Olajuwon.
1992-1993 North Carolina Tar Heels
Legendary coach Dean Smith earned his second national title this season. Ranking in the top portion of the AP Top 25 poll all season, the team featured great chemistry and ended the season with a 34-4 record. While it was the ACC regular season champion, it got tripped up in the ACC tournament, losing the championship game.
2000-2001 Duke Blue Devils
Possibly the toughest omission, this Duke team featured two All-Americans (Shane Battier and Jason "Jay" Williams) and two other first-round NBA draft picks (Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy Jr.). It rolled to a 35-4 record and an ACC tournament title but failed to win the conference's regular season.
2009-2010 Duke Blue Devils
Much like the Tarheels team just mentioned, there was great chemistry among a group that went 35-5 to end the season. However, while the team played one of the best national championship games in recent memory against a game Butler team, it was able to avoid many of the stronger teams in the field.
No. 5: 2008-09 North Carolina Tar Heels
Overall Record: 34-4 (13-3 in ACC play)
This Tar Heels team opened the season as every analyst's national championship favorite—and with good reason. The previous season saw the Tar Heels advance to the Final Four. Much to the surprise of everyone, the entire main roster from that team—Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green—returned to Chapel Hill.
This team was the unanimous preseason No. 1 by the Associated Press and was a Top 5 team all season. Featuring one of the best offenses in the country, the Tar Heels only real stumble was a loss to Florida State in the ACC tournament following an injury to Lawson.
In the NCAA tournament, the Tar Heels beat five ranked teams en route to the program's fifth national championship, including dominant performances against Villanova and Michigan State in the Final Four.
No. 4: 1973-74 North Carolina State Wolfpack
Overall Record: 30-1 (12-0 in ACC play)
After an undefeated season the previous year (but ineligible for postseason play), the N.C. State Wolfpack had one of the most dominating seasons in ACC history.
The conference featured two other Top 10 teams. Despite that, this team swept through both conference play and the tournament without a blemish. Its only loss came at the hands of another dominant team: John Wooden's UCLA squad that featured All-American center Bill Walton.
After thoroughly defeating Providence and Pittsburgh en route to that season's Final Four, the Wolfpack faced off against that same UCLA team. Led by player of the year David Thompson, the Wolfpack avenged their early season loss to advance to the championship game.
A win over Marquette two nights later gave the Wolfpack their first national championship.
No. 3: 1956-57 North Carolina Tar Heels
Overall Record: 32-0 (14-0 in ACC play)
Led by ACC Player of the Year Lennie Rosenbluth, the 1956-57 North Carolina Tar Heels are considered by some to be one of the all-time greatest NCAA champions. Much of that praise is due to the fact that these Tar Heels played two of the greatest NCAA Tournament games of all time, both in the Final Four.
The two games (both triple overtime affairs) came against two powerhouse teams—Michigan State and Kansas, which was led by All-American Wilt Chamberlain. The Tar Heels were able to outlast both to claim the title.
This was North Carolina's first of five national championships and was in an era of sustained success for the program. In nine years at the helm, coach Frank McGuire led the Tar Heels to six seasons ranked in the Top 25.
No. 2: 1990-92 Duke Blue Devils
Overall Record (two seasons): 67-11 (24-6 in ACC play)
This is cheating, I know. But the 1990-91 and 1991-92 teams were essentially one in the same. The two can't be separated since both sustained excellence over this span. That success essentially launched coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils' program into the elite of college basketball.
These Duke teams captured back-to-back national titles and overcame two of the game's greatest collections of talent—the 1990-91 UNLV Runnin' Rebels and the 1991-92 Michigan Wolverines—en route to those titles.
No. 1: 1981-82 North Carolina Tar Heels
Overall Record: 32-2 (12-2 in ACC play)
The hierarchy of ACC champions starts with this team. Ranked No. 1 by AP for most of the season, the 1981-82 North Carolina Tar Heels are the ACC's greatest college basketball champions.
Led by a trio of superstars—James Worthy, Sam Perkins and Michael Jordan—the Tar Heels won both the ACC's regular season and tournament titles, besting the Ralph Sampson-led Virginia Cavaliers to take those crowns.
In the NCAA tournament, North Carolina disposed of some of the era's best programs: Villanova, Houston (led by Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon) and Georgetown (which was led by Patrick Ewing)in one of the greatest championship games ever played.
This team provided legendary coach Dean Smith his first national championship and cemented the school among college basketball's elite—a designation it continues to hold today.