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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 10 College Basketball Teams of All Time: Which Team was the Greatest?

Top 10 College Basketball Teams of All Time: Which Team was the Greatest?

The greatest ballers of all
Publish Date: 02/03/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Today, we look back at the all-time greatest teams in College basketball history. This is a tough list to quantify as the tournament each year has become harder and harder to win as more teams have been added to the game, and the mid-majors seem to get tougher and more challenging every year.

Criteria

You will not make this list without winning a National Championship. A team like the 1991 UNLV Runnin Rebels may be number one on this list as they went undefeated to the Final Four; they came up short against Duke, though, knocking them out of consideration for the greatest team of all time.

How tough was the competition the year that team won it all, how dominant was the team that season. How many legendary players were on that team.

10) 1982 North Carolina Tar Heels

Center Sam Perkins (14.3 points and 7.8 boards a night) was a long-range sniper who became an outstanding three-point shooter as a pro, while star SF James Worthy (15.6 points per contest) earned MOP honors in the tournament and moved on to a Hall of Fame career with the Showtime Lakers. By the way, they also had a freshman named Jordan.

Worthy was the star of this team and would start earning his moniker Big Game James in the 1982 NCAA Tournament. They won a legendary championship game over Patrick Ewing and Georgetown.

9) 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats

Four starters hit 40 percent or better from long range, and all five grabbed at least one steal a night for a team that set an NCAA tournament record by racking up an aggregate margin of victory of 129 points over six games.

This was Pitino’s best team; they were great on offense and good on defense. They beat a tough field, including Wake Forest, with Tim Duncan, and finished it off by beating Syracuse in the National Championship game.

Video: 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats: The Untouchables

1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats: The Untouchables

8) 1983-84 Georgetown Hoyas

Patrick Ewing was the leader of the Hoyas, who just may have been the best defensive team in NCAA basketball history. The Hoyas were led by Ewing and Reggie Williams but guys like Michael Graham made these Hoyas one of the greatest defensive teams in College Basketball history.

Georgetown was almost beaten in the second round by Jon Koncak and the SMU Mustangs, the Hoys survived 39-37. The Hoosiers dominated the rest of the tournament beating Kentucky and Houston in the Final Four.

Video: 1984 NCAA Mens Basketball Final Four Highlights

1984 NCAA Mens Basketball Final Four Highlights “Georgetown Pressure”

7) 1963-64 UCLA Bruins

Guards Walt Hazzard (later Mahdi Abdul-Rahman) and Gail Goodrich combined for 40.1 points a game before outstanding NBA careers, with Goodrich going on to the Hall of Fame after starring on the legendary 1971-72 Lakers.

This was one of Wooden’s legit championships before Los Angeles Car dealer Sam Gilbert started helping Wooden get players illegally. Check out the truth about the relationship between Gilbert and Wooden and how it led to the Bruins dominance of college basketball.

Video: UCLA 1964 Champions

UCLA 1964 Champions

6) 1956 San Francisco Dons

Coach Phil Woolpert bucked contemporary prejudices with three black starters, including SG Hal Perry and PG K.C. Jones (a Hall of Famer for his stifling defense in Boston).

The third of those starters was the incomparable Bill Russell, a game-changing defender himself, who averaged 20 points and 20 rebounds a game for his college career as a prelude to the 11 titles he would win with the Celtics.

Video: USF Dons: How They Changed The Game

USF Dons: How They Changed The Game

5) 1973 UCLA Bruins

The heart and soul of this team, though, was the unstoppable Bill Walton, the Naismith Award winner in both seasons (and the next year as a senior), who averaged 20.3 points and 15.7 boards a game at UCLA before going on to a Hall of Fame pro career as a Blazer.

The 73 National Championship game win was highlighted by the greatest championship game a player has ever played as UCLA big man Bill Walton dominated the game, missing only one shot.

Video: UCLA Bruins Basketball - 1973

UCLA Bruins Basketball – 1973

4) 1990 UNLV Runnin Rebels

The very talented team who dominated almost everybody they played! The only competitive game that the Rebels played in the 1990 tournament was a razor-close win over the Ball State Cardinals in the Sweet Sixteen. In the Final Four, the Rebels rolled over the Duke Blue Devils by thirty points to win the National Championship game.

The Rebels were as dominant as the UCLA teams of the 60s and 70s, and they did it against better competition. The following year would see the Rebels get upset in the semifinals against Duke to end the UNLV run of national prominence.

Video: UNLV 1990 Championship Game Highlights

UNLV 1990 Championship Game Highlights

3) 1992 Duke Blue Devils

Although future Pistons All-Star Grant Hill would become by far the best pro of the group, at Duke, he was a supporting player to two of college hoops’ all-time legends.

Immortalized for his buzzer-beater against Kentucky in the 1992 Final Four, Christian Laettner racked up career totals of 2,460 points and 1,149 rebounds, while PG Bobby Hurley dealt out an NCAA record 1,076 assists.

Duke beat a great Indiana team in the Final Four with a little help from the referees and then dominated the Fab Five in the National Championship game.

Video: 1992 NCAA Championship Duke vs Michigan

1992 NCAA Championship Duke vs Michigan

2) 1968 UCLA Bruins

7’2″ Lew Alcindor, the star center, would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar only after averaging 26.4 points and 15.5 rebounds a game in college and winning an NBA title (the first of his six) with the Bucks. Plus, you had John Wooden as a head coach, and that doesn’t hurt.

The Bruins were a dominant team at a time when the tournament was smaller and easier to win—having Alcondor made this team damn near unbeatable. They lost to Houston at the Astrodome with an injured Alcindoe. Alcindoe was healthy in the Final Gour, and UCLA destroyed Houston.

Video: Remembering the 1968

Remembering the 1968 “Game of the Century” Houston vs. UCLA | 1982 News Segment

1) 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers

The last undefeated champion! SG Bobby Wilkerson went on to a solid pro career in Denver, while center Kent Benson (the Final Four MOP) was no better than average in the NBA, but he was the perfect center in Coach Bob Knight’s offense.

Scott May—the Naismith Award winner and leading scorer with 23.5 points a night—became an excellent power forward for the Bulls, but the greatest pro success belonged to PG Quinn Buckner, a four-time All-Defensive selection who had his best years with the Bucks. In the Championship game, the Hoosiers lost star Bobby Wilkerson early in the game. Still, they pulled away in the second half to beat Michigan easily on their way to a National Championship.

No doubt a lot of the teams below Indiana on this list were more talented than the Hoosiers, but this was a perfect team that Coach Knight had built. Each player was brought in to fill a role, and every man on this team did just that.

Video: 1976 NCAA Mens Basketball Final Four Highlights

1976 NCAA Mens Basketball Final Four Highlights ” ’76 The Year Of The Hoosiers”

Honorable mentions

1973-74 North Carolina State Wolfpack

The Wolfpack became the first team since 1965-66 to defeat UCLA in NCAA tournament play, earning the first national title in school history with Final Four wins over the Bruins and the Marquette Warriors.

Center Tom Burleson would have been the hero of many other NCAA champions, as the 7’2” future Sonics standout averaged 18.1 points and 12.2 rebounds a night.

1960 Ohio State Buckeyes

Hall of Famer John Havlicek averaged just 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds a game in his college career because he was playing alongside Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas, who racked up 24.3 points and 17.2 points a night in a Buckeye uniform.

2000-01 Duke Blue Devils

All five Blue Devil starters averaged at least 12.3 points a game, and only point guard Jay Williams (who dished out 6.1 assists a night) failed to pull down at least 5.2 boards per contest.

1978-79 Michigan State Spartans

Magic Johnson was the driving force behind this team, but he wasn’t a one-person show. His classmate Jay Vincent (a future Dallas Maverick) was a solid complementary player as well. But the other key to MSU’s success was undersized PF Greg “Special K” Kelser and his team-leading 18.8 points and 8.7 boards a night.

1956-57 North Carolina Tar Heels

Led by scoring machine Lennie Rosenbluth (28 points per game), UNC triumphed in one of the greatest championship games ever played, a triple-OT marathon against Wilt Chamberlain’s Kansas Jayhawks that went to UNC by a single point, 54-53.

 

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