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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The Grueling Truth's Top 10 Sports Lists / Top 10 College Basketball programs to never win a National Championship

Top 10 College Basketball programs to never win a National Championship

Publish Date: 04/16/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

It’s hard to win a National Championship, unless you were John Wooden and had all of the best players come to your program for over a decade, of course that was thanks to Sam Gilbert a car salesman who helped buy players for Wooden, we won’t get into that her though.


The Criteria is pretty simple, great program that has never won it all. It helps to get close a lot and always come up short, so I guess this is a nad list to be on. Purdue came one game from getting off this list this season, but fell short.

10) St. Johns Red Storm

Under Lou Carnesecca in the 1980s, The New York City private school Red Storm was an influential Big East force; however, they rarely managed to advance beyond the second weekend of NCAA tournament play; their last deep tourney run was in 1999 ended when Ohio State defeated them in the Elite Eight.

Rick Pitino is now at the helm of the Red Storm and they seem trending back in the right direction.

Video: 1985 #3 St John's at #1 Georgetown 1 of 1

1985 #3 St John’s at #1 Georgetown 1 of 1

9) Xavier Musketeers

Xavier burst onto the scene in the 80s behind Head Coach Bob Staak, but in 1987, they had their first NCAA tournament win over a heavily favored Missouri team, and in 1990, they upset Georgetown and advanced to their first-ever Sweet Sixteen.

Xavier has reached the Elite Eight multiple times and is still looking for that first final-four appearance. The program has struggled for the last five years, with only one NCAA Tournament appearance. Check out the Top Ten wins in Xavier history!

Video: 11 Xavier Musketeers 2017 March Madness Highlights

11 Xavier Musketeers 2017 March Madness Highlights

8) Memphis Tigers

The Tigers have made it to two National Championship games, losing a heartbreaker in 2008 and being dominated by UCLA in 1973. The 1985 version of Memphis advanced all the way to the final four before falling to Cinderella and eventual National Champion Villanova.

Memphis is not a consistently good program, but there is enough history to include them on this list. The 1992 team with Penny Hardaway made it to the Elite Eight before coming up short against Cincinnati.

Video: Memphis State Tigers: 1972-73 Season

Memphis State Tigers: 1972-73 Season

7) LSU Tigers

LSU boasts a rich tradition that boasts legendary players like Pete Maravich, Shaquille O’Neal, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Stromile Swift and Ben Simmons – however, they have never reached the Final Monday and last made it past the Elite Eight back in 2006.

The 1981 LSU team may have been their best team, but Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers ended that team’s dream. 1986 might have been the funest team as they upset the Kentucky Wildcats to advance to the final four where they would fall to the eventual National Champions the Louisville Cardinals.

Video: 86' National Semifinal 2 Louisville vs 11 LSU 1 of 1

86′ National Semifinal 2 Louisville vs 11 LSU 1 of 1

6) Kansas State Wildcats

No, they aren’t Kansas, but Kansas State has a solid Basketball history. The Wildcats have advanced to four Final Fours and one NCAA Championship game appearance. The Wildcats have been to an incredible 13 Elite Eights, but they have usually fallen short when they get to that stage of the tournament.

Their last series run at getting off this list was a loss to Loyola in the Elite Eight a few years ago.

Video: Game Rewind: Watch Kansas State upset Kentucky in 8 minutes

Game Rewind: Watch Kansas State upset Kentucky in 8 minutes

5) Gonzaga Bulldogs

The Zags could rank higher on this list, but they have not made a tournament appearance since 1995. That includes a championship game loss to North Carolina in 2017 and another Final Four a few years later.

Mark Few has done a fantastic job with this program, and a bad season nowadays seems to be losing in the Sweet Sixteen. In the last 25 years, the Bulldogs have had as many tournament wins as anybody.

4) Illinois Fighting Illini

The Fighting Illini had one of the greatest teams to not win a National Championship in 2005 when they came up short in the National Title game. In 1989 they lost a heartbreaker to Michigan in the Final Four. This year, they made it all the way to the Elite Eight until they ran into the buzz saw they were the UCONN Huskies.

The Illini have won over 40 Tournament games and appeared in five final fours and one National Championship game.

3) Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners have won more than 40 March Madness games and have been to five Final Fours and two National Championship games. In 1988, the Billy Tubbs-led Sooners looked poised to win a National Championship until they ran into Danny Manning and the Miracles. Their last final Four appearance was in 2016. The Sooners are always a good program and five Final Four appearances is nothing to sneeze at, but they will always be considered a Football school.

2) Houston Cougars

Houston’s legendary “Phi Slamma Jamma” teams of the early ’80s were icons, yet they ultimately fell to North Carolina State and Georgetown, respectively. However, Houston recently saw renewed success under coach Kelvin Sampson. Sampson has not been able to get over the hump yet, but he is trending in that direction.

The late-’60s Cougars, led by Elvin Hayes, did make it to the final four but came up short against the UCLA Bruins. Th 1983 Cougars seemed like a sure thing to win it all against the North Carolina State Wolfpack, but came up short at the buzzer.

1) Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue has been consistently the best program in the Big Ten since the late 1960s, winning over 40 Tournament games and advancing to three Final Fours and two National Championship games. They lost those two title games to two of the greatest teams in college basketball history: the UCONN Huskies and the Lew Alcindor-led UCLA Bruins.

Purdue has won more Big ten titles than anybody but even greats like Rick Mount, Glenn Robinson, and Zach edey could not led the Boilermakers to that elusive National Championship. Purdue has had some legendary players, check out our list of the Best Purdue Boilermakers ever.

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