College Basketball Teams That Shattered Backboards With Their Greatness
Every year, the college basketball season culminates with March Madness, and one team is crowned the best in the nation. From the Hoosiers’ iconic story to the pure dominance of UCLA teams long past, glory lasts forever. These incredible teams, no matter how many years separated, now live together in history as the greatest college basketball teams of all time. Can you guess who else joins them on our list?
The Duke Blue Devils soared high during the 2000-01 college basketball season. Averaging 90.7 points per game, they went 35-4, beating Arizona in the National Championship 82-72.
The team was headlined by forwards Mike Dunleavy and Shane Battier and guard Jay Williams. And of course, legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski drew up plays on the sideline.
North Carolina 1981-82
Can you guess what legendary NBA player was a freshman on the 1981-82 North Carolina Tar Heels? Averaging 13.5 points per game, Michael Jordan was still an unknown when UNC won the National Championship.
The road to glory wasn’t easy, but the players hit all the right shots at all the right times, with strong forward James Worthy garnering MOP honors.
Houston Cougars 1982-83
Perhaps the greatest team in college to never win a title, the 1982-83 Houston Cougars came so close. They reached the National Championship game that season only to lose on a last-second put-back dunk by Lorenzo Charles.
Players on the Cougars who went on to play in the NBA included Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
Ohio State 1959-61
In 1960, the Ohio State Buckeyes won their first college basketball National Championship in program history. The next season the team stayed mostly intact, and returned to the title game, but failed to repeat as winners.
The Buckeyes of this era were loaded with talent, led by Bobby Knight and Larry Siegfried.
Duke Blue Devils 1990-92
Few players in the history of college basketball have left the impression that Christian Laettner did. He starred for the Duke Blue Devils in the early nineties and became one of the sport’s most popular – and most hated players.
Laettner cemented his legend when he sunk a buzzer-beater in 1992 to beat Kentucky in the Final Four.
Indiana Hoosiers 1975-76
The last undefeated champions in college basketball history are the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers. It’s been four decades since their miracle run, and no one has ever touched their brilliance.
Bobby Knight was the coach of the team and taught his players to be efficient and hard-nosed. Several players including Quinn Buckner and Scott May would enjoy long careers in the NBA.
The team that set the tone for UCLA was easily the 1963-64 squad. They were the first team to win a title under John Wooden – the first of four undefeated titles.
Gail Goodrich and Walt Hazzard led the Bruins, scoring a combined 401 points per game before having successful NBA careers.
San Francisco Dons 1954-56
The University of San Francisco basketball program didn’t miss a beat after winning the National Championship in 1955. The team returned its entire lineup, including future NBA legend Bill Russell, and won 60 consecutive games.
Russell spent his time with the Dons averaging 20 points and 20 rebounds per game. In the NBA he would go on to win 11 titles with the Boston Celtics.
Loyola Marymount 1989-90
Overcoming the tragic loss of Hank Gathers was no easy task for the 1989-90 Loyola Marymount Lions. The team rallied around each other to an Elite Eight finish, losing to eventual champions UNLV.
During the tournament, Bo Kimble average more than 35 points a game and always took his first free throw left-handed in honor of Gathers.
Houston Cougars 1967-68
The 1967-68 Houston Cougars ended UCLA’s 47 game undefeated streak and refused to lose a game of their own. The big matchup with the Southern California powerhouse was called the Game of the Century, and more than lived up to the hype.
Elvin Hayes was the star for Houston and averaged 36.8 points per game before going onto a Hall of Fame NBA career.
Michigan Spartans 1978-79
Led by Magic Johnson, the 1978-79 Michigan State Spartans were an absolute powerhouse of a team. During March Madness, they beat their opponents by more than 20 points per game.
And in the title game, the school faced Indiana State and Larry Bird. This was the year that March Madness became must-see television.
UNLV Rebels 1989-1991
Loaded with talent led by 1991 Wooden and Naismith Award winner Larry Johnson, the 1989-91 University of Nevada, Las Vegas Rebels were special. In 1990, the school won the National Championship game by 40 points.
The next season they continued rolling, winning 34 straight games before losing to Duke in the Final Four.
Kentucky Wildcats 1995-96
A team that did everything right, the 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats were a pure joy to watch. Rick Pitino masterfully coached the team, putting together one of the best lineups in program history.
Four starters on the team from shot long range at 40 percent accuracy. And leader Antoine Walker would become a three-time All-Star in the NBA.
Michigan Wolverines 1991-93
One of the more surprising groups in college basketball history, 1991 Michigan Wolverines made headlines when they started five freshmen. They made even more headlines when they won back-to-back National Championships.
Three of the team’s stars, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose, would find success in the NBA to varying degrees.
Patrick Ewing became a national champion with Georgetown during the 1983-84 season. To get there, he and his team only had to overcome Hakeem Olajuwon – no big deal.
During the tournament, Ewing averaged 16.4 points per game and 10 rebounds. His success would continue with the Knicks in the NBA, where he became a hall of famer.
Florida Gators 2005-07
The Florida Gators won their first national title in program history in 2006, and then did what seemed impossible – convinced all five of their starters to return for the next season.
The strategy worked, as the school won it all again in 2007. Players that went onto the NBA included Al Horford, Corey Brewer, and Joakim Noah.
NC State 1973-74
Another team on this list that stared down the beast that was UCLA and won. The North Carolina State Wolfpack did what no one had done, become the first time team to beat UCLA in tournament play in nearly a decade.
David Thompson and Tom Burleson led the way, creating a challenging one-two punch for any school that got in their way.
During the 1987-88 season, Oklahoma won 35 games, and set a then NCAA record, scoring 4,012 points. Mookie Blaylock was the star, giving out nearly four assists and four steals per game.
Stacey King scored 22.3 points per game, leading the offense. The outburst was a sign of things to come for the future three-time NBA Champion.
How did Syracuse lose March Madness in 1987? The team was absolutely loaded with NBA talent and took down their college competition with ease. Until Keith Smart ended their dreams with a championship-winning buzzer-beater, of course.
Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, and Rony Seikaly all made it to the NBA and had impressive professional careers.
During the 1967-68 college basketball season, no team was more dominant than UCLA. Coached by John Wooden and featuring Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), the school went 29-1 and averaged 47.2 points per game.
Going up against North Carolina in the National Championship game didn’t even make them sweat. UCLA easily won 78-55.
Arizona Wildcats 1996-97
In 1997, the Arizona Wildcats became the first National Champions to ever find their road to glory by taking down three tournament number one seeds. The deck was literally stacked against this team and they came out on top.
Miles Simon was given MOP honors for his performance averaging 18.4 points per game. Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, and Michael Dickers all became NBA regulars.
Seven players from the UConn Huskies 2003-04 team were drafted by the NBA. In the two-round draft era, no school has produced more talent. It’s no wonder this team also won the National Championship.
known for their height advantage, the Huskies blocked 315 shots that year, an NCAA record.
Kansas Jayhawks 2007-08
The Kansas Jayhawks tied the NCAA record for wins in a season during the 2008-08 campaign. They also won a national title, powering through March Madness led by Brandon Rush.
Marion Chambers was the hero of the team, hitting a last-second three-pointer that forced overtime in the National Championship game.
North Carolina 2008-09
The 1981 Tar Heels may have featured His Airness, but the 2008-09 version had something better – a stable of talent. The team won every tournament match by a least 12 points, headlined by Ty Lawson.
Tyler Hansbrough was another star that couldn’t be dimmed. He finished his Tar Heels tenure with 2,872 points and 1,219 rebounds.
Indiana Hoosiers 1980-81
One of the most dominant teams on this list, the 1980-81 Indiana Hoosiers were unstoppable in tournament play. They first caught the nation’s attention in the Elite Eight, beating St Joseph’s by 32 points.
On their way to a national title, they never won by less than 12 points. They were just that good.
Illinois Fighting Illini 2004-05
One of the smaller-sized teams that made a big splash was the 2004-05 Illinois Fighting Illini. They won 37 games on their way to the National Championship, which they lost.
Dee Brown was the headline player, but others shined as well, including Luther Head, who scored 15.9 points per game. Oh yeah, future NBA all-star Deron Williams was pretty good, too.
Georgia Tech 1989-90
A team full of scoring gurus, the 1989-90 Georgia Tech Yellowjackets featured three stars who averaged more than 20 points per game. Those three were Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott, and Brian Oliver. Scott was the best of the bench, becoming an all-star in the NBA.
This squad was the first in school history to reach the Final Four.
Michigan State 1999-2000
Not a team filled with household names, the 1999 Michigan State Spartans were a true team. They played for each other, focusing their offense around the perimeter.
Mateen Cleaves ran the show with 6.9 assists per night, finding ways to get Morris Peterson and Jason Richardson plenty of wide-open looks.
The 2007-08 Memphis Tigers squad may not have won a national title, but they did do just about everything else. The team set a record for wins with 38, barely coming up short in their quest for glory.
Derrick Rose led the team before heading to the NBA where he would win MVP honors with the Chicago Bulls.
UNLV Rebels 1986-87
Point guard Mark Wade made an otherwise "just good" UNLV team a great one during the 1986-87 season. He set a then NCAA-record with 406 assists on the season. Armen Gilliam benefited the most, averaging 23.2 points-per-game.
The Rebels made it all the way to the Final Four, losing their title hopes to eventual tournament champion Indiana.
The Minuteman bruised their way to the Final Four in 1996 with physical play and superior defense. Marcus Camby brought the heat on the inside while standouts including Carmelo Travieso provided support.
Leading up to March Madness, UMass only lost one game – to George Washington. If they hadn’t come up against Kentucky in the tournament they probably would have won it all.
North Carolina 1992-93
National champions that many believed over performed, the 1992-93 North Carolina squad came together at the perfect time, making a historic March Madness run.
Underdogs every step of the way, UNC beat Cincinnati in overtime in a regional final battle, then faced off against heavy favorite Michigan to take the national crown.
Kansas Jayhawks 1996-97
One of the deepest teams on this list, the 1996-97 Kansas Jayahwks featured five double figure scorers including future NBA super star Paul Pierce. There’s really not a lot that went wrong with this team, until they made it to the National Championship.
Despite being considered the best team in the nation, Kansas lost the most important game of the year to Arizona.
The Blue Demons entered March Madness as the number one seed with one regular season loss. They had all the weapons to make it deep into the tournament, and quite frankly underperformed. Still, it would be criminal to a team this talented off this list.
DePaul’s ultimate undoing came at the hands of UCLA in the second round.
In March Madness 2018, no to team was more dominant than Villanova. The school made it look easy, blowing out nearly every opponent. The smallest margin of victory they won by was 12 points.
When you specialize in gaining and maintaining big leads, you’ve more than earned your spot on the list as one of the greatest teams of all time.
Indiana Hoosiers 1986-87
Led by Big Ten Player of the Yea Steve Alford, the 1986-87 Indiana Hoosiers were a spectacle to watch. Not only did Alford average 22 points per game, forward Daryl Thomas averaged nearly 16, making them a perfect pair.
It’s Keith Smart who stole the show, though, hitting a pair of jumpers, one with five seconds remaining in the National Championship, to propel the school to the take the crown.
Kentucky Wildcats 2014-15
The 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats captured Coach Calhoun his second NCAA National Championship title. The school was led by standouts Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, both of which were double digit scorers. The school faced off against Georgia Tech in the final, coming out on top.
The stacked roster included now NBA standouts Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Devin Booker.
After 25 years grinding away with Syracuse, head coach Jim Boeheim finally found the promised land in 2003. It helps when your team is led by Carmelo Anthony, one of the most electric scorers of all time.
The Orange beat Kansas 81-78 in the National Championship game, in no small part thank to Anthony’s double double.
North Carolina 2004-05
Another epic team for North Carolina, the 2004-05 roster were likely the best team in the tournament but fell to Cinderella story Illinois in the National Championship game.
NC State had multiple top-10 recruits on the roster including Raymond Felton and And Marvin Williams, both of whom became top 14 NBA draft picks.
St. Johns 1984-85
It’s impossible to deny the talent of St. Johns 1984-85 squad, led by Mark Jackson and Chris Mullin, both who would become legendary NBA stars. Mark Jackson retired as 2nd all-time in NBA assists.
This St. John’s squad might be the greatest college roster ever if they could have won it all instead of losing in the Final Four to eventual champions Georgetown.