Saturday, April 02, 2005

Compilation: Top 25 NCAA Tournament Champions and the 25 Best Who Didn't Win a Title

NOTE: This piece was published locally in Sports Talk magazine in 2005. Some of the factoids buried within may have changed since its publication (1991 UNLV as the last squad to enter the tournament undefeated, for example). Following the initial Top 25 list, you will find what I consider to be the best 25 teams that failed to win the title -- up until 2005, of course.

Here is a Top 25 list I have compiled of the greatest teams in NCAA Tournament history. I am only including tournament champions on the list, and several repeat champions are included as one team (UCLA 1967-69, 1970-71 and 1972-73 as three separate teams for example, and 1991-92 Duke as one team). This is based pretty much solely on my opinion and research, but I welcome any email with input or varying opinions. For the record, Indiana is slightly above the great UCLA teams on my list only because the 1976 IU schedule was substantially tougher than the Bruins during their great years.

1. 1976 Indiana (32-0)
No Division I team has completed an undefeated season since the 1976 Indiana team, which posted a 32-0 record. In 1975 and 1976 combined, the Hoosiers posted a 63-1 record, losing only to Kentucky in the 1975 Mideast Regional final. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that eleven of Indiana's 32 victories in 1976 came against teams ranked in the final Top 20 poll, and their average margin of victory was 17.3 points. Scott May and Kent Benson were consensus first-team All-Americans, with May winning national Player of the Year honors. All five starters from the 1976 Indiana team were drafted and played in the NBA.

2. 1972, 1973 UCLA (30-0, 30-0)
By 1972, people had begun referring to the tournament as the "UCLA Invitational," having seen UCLA win the last five and seven of the last eight. The dominance of the 1972 team, however, had to be somewhat surprising since the Bruins had lost all but one major contributor from the year before. Only Henry Bibby, an All-American guard, returned for the 1972 season. Bibby would be joined by a number of talented newcomers, including forward Keith Wilkes and center Bill Walton, who won National Payer of the Year honors in his first varsity season. This UCLA team posted a 30-0 record and averaged 95 points per game, while setting the all-time record for average margin of victory at 30.3 points. The Bruins average margin of victory during the tournament was 18 points.

In 1973, UCLA once again entered the tournament ranked number one, undefeated and expected to capture another title. The Bruins, in 1973, shattered the record for the most consecutive wins - previously held by San Francisco, who won 60 straight games from 1955-57. When the NCAA Tournament started, the Bruins had won 71 consecutive games, dating back to the 1971 season, and had also won a record 32 consecutive tournament games. UCLA's margin of victory during the season was 21.8 points and 16 points during the tournament. Forward Keith Wilkes joined Bill Walton as a consensus first-team All American. Walton once again earned National Player of the Year honors, and was once again named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after scoring a title game record 44 points.

3. 1967, 1968, 1969 UCLA (30-0, 29-1, 29-1)Although many would argue that the UCLA dynasty actually started with the 1964 team, it was the 1967 team which posted a 30-0 record and began what would become the most impressive streak of college sports championships in history, and the third longest winning streak in Division I history at 47 games. The 1967 squad was made up entirely of underclassmen; sophomores Lew Alcindor, who won National Player of the Year honors, Lucius Allen, Lynn Shackelford and Ken Heitz, and junior Mike Warren made up the regular starting five. The 1967 Bruins average margin of victory during the NCAA Tournament was 23 points, which still ranks as the most ever.

The 1968 UCLA team repeated as champions with virtually the same roster, but saw its 47-game winning streak snapped by Houston during the season. Regardless of the lone defeat, the Bruins average margin of victory during the regular season was 26 points and over 20 points during the tournament. UCLA avenged their earlier loss by defeating Houston 101-69 in the Final Four. Four of the five players named to the All-Tournament Team belonged to UCLA - Alcindor, Lucius Allen, Lynn Shackelford and Mike Warren.

The 1969 UCLA team had lost two key members from the previous year's squad, but had gained three newcomers who would each play a huge role in UCLA's third consecutive title. Gone were the second leading scorer, Lucius Allen, to academic suspension, and the third leading scorer, Mike Warren, to graduation. Sophomores Curtis Rowe and Sidney Wicks and junior John Vallely, along with defensive specialist Ken Heitz, became the key contributors around Lew Alcindor. Alcindor won National Player of the Year honors for the second time in three years, and became the only player to be named the tournament's Most outstanding Player three times. After UCLA's loss to Houston in 1968, which ended their 47-game winning streak, the Bruins then went on to win their next 41 straight games until losing only to rival USC in 1969. Over the three-year period of Lew Alcindor's varsity career, UCLA posted an overall 88-2 record.

4. 1955, 1956 San Francisco (28-1, 29-0)
San Francisco lost to UCLA early in the 1954-55 season, but they wouldn't lose again for nearly two years. The Dons started the season without much fanfare or expectations, but they had become the top-ranked team and favorite to win by tournament time. Even during such a high-scoring era, San Francisco's success was built around defense, and specifically, around All American center Bill Russell, who became only the second player to average over 20 points and 20 rebounds per game in a season. The Dons led the nation in defense, allowing only 52 points per game during the season and allowing 58 during the tournament.

In 1956, San Francisco posted a 25-0 record and shattered the all-time record for the most consecutive wins. When the tournament started the Dons had won 51 straight games, had nearly a 20 point average margin of victory, and once again led the nation in defense, allowing just 52 points per game. Bill Russell, the National Player of the Year, was the only USF player averaging over 10 points per game, but the Dons relied heavily on their pair of senior guards, K.C. Jones and Hal Perry. The only real shadow of doubt for another title was cast when K.C.Jones was declared ineligible for the tournament due to his fifth-year player status. Regardless, USF swept through the field, beating teams by an average of 14 points. San Francisco became the first undefeated NCAA champion.

5. 1974 NC State (30-1)
The 1973 NC State team posted a perfect 27-0 record, but was ineligible for the tournament due to NCAA probation. In 1974, the Wolfpack went 30-1, losing only to seven-time defending champion UCLA during the season. NC State avenged their only loss in two seasons by defeating UCLA in the Final Four in double overtime, effectively ending the Bruins unprecedented streaks of seven straight titles and 38 consecutive tournament wins. The Wolfpack featured the balanced and talented trio of forward David Thompson, the AP National Player of the Year, All-ACC center Tom Burleson and All-ACC point guard Monte Towe.

6. 1991, 1992 Duke (32-7, 35-2)
One of the biggest upsets in Final Four history took place in 1991, when Duke shocked the heavily-favored UNLV team in the national semifinals. UNLV, the defending champs who had trounced Duke 103-73 in the title game the year before, entered the tournament undefeated and ranked number one, riding the fourth longest winning streak in Division I history at 45 games. Duke, on the other hand, entered the tournament ranked sixth in the country, having lost seven games during the season. This Duke team, which had lost three starters to graduation, was much different from the one which had been beaten so badly by UNLV the year before. The 1991 team featured only one senior on the entire roster, with the main contributions coming from one junior, three sophomores and a freshman - all of whom averaged more than 11 points per game.

Unlike the 1991 Duke team, the 1992 squad was a heavy favorite to repeat as national champions. The Blue Devils, 34-2, making their fifth consecutive trip to the Final Four, became the first team in a decade to enter the tournament ranked number one and go on to win the title. Duke returned virtually every major contributor from the 1991 team, with the exception of guard Billy McCaffery, who transferred. The Blue Devils were led by the balanced trio of Christian Laettner, the National Player of the Year, point guard Bobby Hurley and forward Grant Hill. Laettner became the NCAA Tournament's all-time leading scorer in 1992, and Hurley became the all-time assist leader. Because freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity prior to 1973, a handful of players from the 1991 and 1992 Duke teams became the first to play in four Final Fours.

7. 1960 Ohio State (25-3)
Ohio State, under first-year head coach, Fred Taylor, posted an 11-11 record and finished in fifth place of the Big Ten in 1959. The following year, the Buckeyes inserted three sophomores into the starting lineup, turned their record around to 25-3 and captured the national title. All five OSU starters averaged more than 11 points per game, led by All American sophomore center Jerry Lucas, junior guard Larry Siegfried and sophomores Mel Nowell and John Havlicek. The 1960 Ohio State team became the first to lead the nation in scoring (90.4 ppg) and go on to win the title, and it also became the first to win all of its tournament games by more than 15 points. Considering their dominance during the tournament and the fact that three of the top four scorers were sophomores, the Buckeyes looked as if they might win two more titles. From 1960-62, Ohio State did become the first team to play in three straight championship games, but subsequently lost both of the next two to Cincinnati.

8. 1982 North Carolina (32-2)
North Carolina, in 1981-82, began ranked number one in preseason polls and stayed in that spot throughout the entire season - one of the few teams to go wire-to-wire. In 1980-81, the Tar Heels flirted with winning Dean Smith his first title, but lost to Indiana in the championship game. Carolina lost high-scoring Al Wood from the 1981 squad, but returned the nucleus, including the front-line All American duo of James Worthy and Sam Perkins. The Tar Heels 1982 championship team featured three players who would all be a top four overall NBA draft pick in separate years - Worthy, Perkins and freshman Michael Jordan, all three of whom were named to the 1982 All-Tournament Team.

9. 1984 Georgetown (34-3)
The 1984 Georgetown team was one of the youngest and deepest of all tournament champions. The Hoyas entered the tournament ranked second in the nation and ended the season with a 34-3 record. Led by All-American center Patrick Ewing, this team is considered one of the best defensive teams ever. Georgetown led the nation in margin of victory, at 16.4, and field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 39.5 percent. Only Ewing averaged over 12 points or 6 rebounds per game, but the Hoyas were stocked with a host of talented underclassmen.

10. 1970, 1971 UCLA (28-2, 29-1)
UCLA returned only two starters from their 1969 championship team, and would have to defend the title without three-time All American Lew Alcindor. For the only time during the Bruins seven-year title reign they would not have a consensus first team All American, but this squad seemed to be much more balanced than any of Wooden's nine championship teams. The 1970 UCLA team remains as the only tournament champion to have four players who averaged more than 15 points per game. Steve Patterson, a 6-9 junior, stepped in to replace Alcindor at center and did a formidable job, but the strength of the team was in the forward combo of Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe and the guard combo of John Vallely and Henry Bibby.

In 1971, UCLA entered the tournament top-ranked and was once again the favorite win. The Bruins, who hadn't lost to a non-conference opponent since the 1968 Houston upset, lost their only game to Notre Dame, ending their streak of 48 consecutive non-conference wins. Although not near as explosive or high-scoring as Wooden's other championship teams, the 1971 UCLA team was by far the most experienced. This was the only UCLA championship team which regularly used more than three seniors. The Bruins main source of production came from the front court trio of seniors Sidney Wicks, the USBWA National player of the Year, Curtis Rowe and Steve Patterson. The trio combined to average 51.7 of the team's 83.5 points per game.

11. 1948, 1949 Kentucky (36-3, 32-2)
Five key members of the 1948 Kentucky team were World War II veterans, but the starting lineup, known as "The Fabulous Five," featured only one senior. Three of the players had been starters on the 1946 team, which posted a 28-2 record and won the NIT title. Kentucky finished the season with 36 wins and three losses, a record for the most wins in a season which would stand until 1986. The Wildcats also set a record for average margin of victory, at 24.6 points, which still ranks as the tenth most ever. The Fabulous Five consisted of All American center Alex Groza, All American guard Ralph Beard, Wallace Jones, Cliff Barker and Ken Rollins.

In 1946, Oklahoma A&M coach Henry Iba became the first to win back-to-back NCAA titles. Only three years later, Adolph Rupp would become the second when he defeated Oklahoma A&M and Iba in the 1949 title game. Only Ken Rollins did not return from Kentucky's 1948 "Fabulous Five" championship team. The 1949 team was once again led by the All American combination of Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, and forwards Wah Wah Jones and Cliff Barker. The Wildcats won their sixth consecutive SEC title and had been unbeaten in league play for the third straight season, also becoming the only team to win 30 or more games in three consecutive seasons. Kentucky, in 1949, attempted to become the first team to win both the NIT title and the NCAA tournament title in the same season, but was upset in the NIT's opening round by the eventual runner-up Loyola of Chicago.

12. 1964, 1965 UCLA (30-0, 28-2)
Unlike the future UCLA teams, which would win seven consecutive titles built around dominating centers Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton, UCLA's first championship team, in 1964, was built around a pair of high-scoring guards and a quick, pressing defense. In fact, this team had no player taller than 6-5. Senior guard, Walt Hazzard, the USBWA Player of the Year, and junior guard Gail Goodrich combined to average 40.1 points per game, nearly half of the team's 88.9 average. The Hazzard - Goodrich tandem still remains as the only pair of guards to be the top two leading scorers for an NCAA Title winner. After defeating a much larger Duke team, and tournament favorite, in the final, the 1964 UCLA squad became only the third undefeated NCAA champion, joining the 1956 San Francisco and 1957 North Carolina teams.

Despite losing three starters from the 1964 championship team, including All American Walt Hazzard, UCLA posted a 28-2 record and entered the NCAA Tournament ranked number two in the polls. After losing badly in two early-season games, the Bruins began to get on a roll in the later part of the season and continued to sweep through the tournament, becoming the first team to average 100 or more points on their way to a tournament title. Much like the previous season, when Duke was the heavy favorite to win the title, Michigan was the team expected to win it all in 1965, but UCLA defeated both of those favorites in the consecutive championship games. High-scoring All American guard, Gail Goodrich accounted for nearly one-third of the Bruins offense, with key play also coming from a trio of forwards, Keith Erickson, Edgar Lacey and Kenny Washington.

13. 1957 North Carolina (32-0)
In 1956 San Francisco became the first undefeated national champion. The following season, Frank McGuire and North Carolina, 32-0, would become the second team to win the NCAA title without losing a game. Despite the perfect record, the Tar Heels were not the favorite to capture the title. One of the bigger upsets and most entertaining games in championship game history took place in 1957, when UNC defeated Wilt Chamberlain's Kansas team. This was only the second overtime title game and still remains as the only one which required multiple overtimes. North Carolina head coach Frank McGuire, who had previously led St. John's to the 1952 title game but lost to an earlier Kansas team, had recruited all five UNC starters from his hometown of New York City, using his famous "underground railroad" to Chapel Hill. Lennie Rosenbluth, an All American senior forward, was the Tar Heels leading scorer in all but four games the entire season.

14. 1961, 1962 Cincinnati (27-3, 29-2)
Given the fact that Oscar Robertson - arguably the greatest all-around collegiate player ever - had graduated, Cincinnati's back-to-back title seasons of 1961 and 1962 might be the most unlikely ever. Robertson, from 1958-60, became the first player to lead the nation in scoring three times and the first to win national Player of the Year honors three times. Cincinnati had reached the Final Four both in 1959 and 1960, but lost in the semifinals both times. Not only were the Bearcats faced with replacing The Big O and two other leading scorers in 1961, but they also had a new coach in Ed Jucker. Meanwhile, 100 miles away, Ohio State, the defending champ, looked invincible and entered the tournament undefeated. For the only time in tournament history, two teams from the same state played for the title, with Cincinnati defeating their instate rival in overtime and Ed Jucker becoming the only coach to win a title in his first full season. Cincinnati didn't feature a star player, but was defensive and team-oriented, balanced and rebounded well. In the forward-center-guard trio of Bob Wiesenhahn, Paul Hogue and Tom Thacker, the Bearcats had three players who each averaged 10 or more rebounds per game.

In 1961, Cincinnati and Ohio State became the only teams from the same state to meet in the NCAA championship game. In 1962, the same teams met again for one of the most anticipated rematches in any sport. Indeed, what developed between the two schools during the early-1960s ranks as one of the great sports rivalries of all-time. Ohio State still had the nucleus of talent from their 1960 championship team and considered the loss to Cincinnati in the 1961 title game purely a fluke. Just like the year before, the Buckeyes entered the 1962 tournament ranked number one, with the Bearcats ranked number two, and just like the year before, Cincinnati pulled the upset - this time by a more comfortable margin of 71-59. The 1962 Cincinnati squad was built the same as the 61' team, strong rebounding and solid defense, allowing only 55 points per game. Paul Houge, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, and Tom Thacker were the key returning players, joined by talented newcomers George Wilson and Ron Bonham. The Bearcats, in 1963, would come very close to becoming the first team to win three consecutive titles, but ended up losing to Loyola-Illinois in overtime.

15. 1996 Kentucky (34-2)
Although Kentucky's 1996 team entered the NCAA Tournament ranked second nationally, they were the overwhelming favorite to win the title. Massachusetts, which handed Kentucky one of their two losses on the season, was the nation's top-ranked team entering the tournament. The Wildcats, who became the first SEC team in 40 years not to lose a single conference game, avenged their early-season loss when they defeated UMass 81-74 in the national semifinals. That seven-point victory would be the Cat's closest call of the tourney, as they swept through the field by a 20-point average margin of victory. Kentucky led the nation in margin of victory during the season, at 22.1 points, and ranked second in scoring, with a 91.4 average. Rick Pitino's 1996 Kentucky squad might well have been the deepest team to ever win the title, with as many as nine players regularly getting significant minutes. Tony Delk, the team's leading scorer, earned a First Team All American selection and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

16. 1951 Kentucky (32-2)
In 1951 Adolph Rupp and Kentucky won their third NCAA championship in four years, becoming the first school to capture three titles. The Wildcats, who won their eighth straight SEC title, ranked third nationally in scoring, at 74.7 points per game, and first in scoring margin, at 22.3. All the remnants from Kentucky's "fabulous five" title winners in 1948 and 1949 were gone, but this squad was perhaps just as talented and had even more depth. Led by their seven-foot All American center Bill Spivey, it certainly had more size than and UK team to date. Along with Spivey, the Cats featured two future early NBA stars in sophomores Frank Ramsey and Cliff Hagan. The only senior on the entire roster and the lone contributor left from the '49 team was Walt Hirsch, who was ruled ineligible for the tournament due to his fourth-year varsity status. Six players from the Wildcats 1951 team averaged more than nine points per game during the season. The only other NCAA champion to accomplish that feat was UCLA's 1995 team.

17. 1945, 1946 Oklahoma A&M (27-4, 31-2)
As with many schools during the time, World War II, completely dismantled the Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) team in 1944 and 1945. With all but one player being called up for active military duty, the Aggies (now Cowboys) were left with just one returning letterman in '45. Despite this, A&M captured the NCAA title in its first ever appearance. The Aggies opened the tournament by crushing Utah, the defending champ, 62-37. Because A&M's title seasons came before poll rankings were kept, and team statistics were only scarcely kept, it is somewhat difficult to gauge where this team ranks in best-ever lists, but few teams, if any, played better defense. Defense was a trademark with Iba-coached teams, as his squads regularly led the nation in that category once the NCAA began keeping stats in 1948. The 1945 squad allowed an average of only 41 points during their first three NCAA Tournament games. A&M was led by Bob Kurland, a seven-foot All American center, and forward Cecil Hankins, a first-semester senior. Kurland, one of the very first dominant big men, left a lasting legacy with the game other than his two-time All American status - the NCAA rules committee instituted the goaltending rule as a direct response to him.

In 1946, Oklahoma A&M became the first team to successfully defend its NCAA title and repeat as national champions. Five lettermen returned from the 1945 championship team and five more former players, returning from the war, joined the team as well. This, coupled with the continued dominance of All American center Bob Kurland, made Oklahoma A&M seem completely invincible. Defense was once again the strongest part of A&M's game. During their three games in the 1945 tournament, the Aggies allowed a record low 41 points per game average. In 1946, the Aggies defense got even stingier and allowed only a 34.2 average. Kurland's dominance, in terms of what he meant to his team, is almost beyond comprehension compared to today's game. On the season, Kurland averaged 20 points per game, while the team only averaged 50. During the 1946 tournament, Kurland scored 72 points in three games, for a 24 point average, while the team as a whole scored 139 points for a 46 point average.

18. 1963 Loyola - Illinois (29-2)
The 1963 Loyola team was significant in a social context in that it was the first NCAA champion to feature a majority of African Americans in its starting lineup. The Ramblers were significant in a basketball context for a number of reasons as well. This was only the second time, and last, that the NCAA champion would lead the nation in scoring. The Ramblers also became the only NCAA champion to feature five players with scoring averages of 13 points per game or better. The 1963 NCAA title game matchup was notably similar to the one which had taken place three years earlier. In the 1960 title game, Ohio State, the nation's top scoring team, faced the defending champion California, who was the nation's top defensive team. Although Loyola had led the nation in scoring in both of the last two seasons, a lack of depth seemed to be the glaring weakness for the Ramblers, who entered the tournament ranked third. Somehow, all five Loyola starters were able to play the entire game, including a five minute overtime period, and end Cincinnati's quest to become the first team to win three straight titles. This game marked the biggest comeback in championship game history, as the Ramblers trailed by eight points at the half. Jerry Harkness, Loyola's lone starting senior, earned a spot as a consensus First Team All American.

19. 1995 UCLA (25-2)
In 1995 UCLA won its 11th NCAA title, but its first since 1975. Since legendary coach John Wooden retired in 1975, five different coaches came and went trying to live up to the lofty expectations he left. It was Jim Harrick who finally brought the title back to UCLA. The Bruins began the 1995 season ranked sixth in the AP Poll, but climbed to number one just before the end of the regular season. The Bruins were led in almost every category by senior forward Ed O'Bannon, who earned National Player of the Year honors. With a starting lineup consisting of three seniors, a sophomore and a freshman, all averaging over 10 points per game, UCLA not only had experience, balance and a star player in O'Bannon, but also had considerable depth. The 1995 Bruins joined the 1951 Kentucky team as the only CAA champions to feature six players who averaged nine or more points per game.

20. 1990 UNLV (28-5)
The 1990 UNLV team started the season ranked number one in the polls, but lost a few early games and dropped to number 14 in December. Then, the high-scoring Rebels won all but one of their last 22 games and entered the tournament ranked at number two. UNLV averaged 93 points per game during the season and swept through the NCAA brackets averaging 95 points with an average margin of victory of 19 points. Three of the Rebels six NCAA victories were by 30 points, including their title game romp of Duke, in which they became the only team to reach 100 points in the championship and set the record for the largest margin of victory. Their 571 total points scored in 1990 still stands as the most ever in any one tourney. This squad also still remains as the only team in Division I history to feature four players who would each score over 1,500 career points, and along with UCLA's 1970 team, is the only other NCAA champ to feature four players who averaged at least 14 points per game. Larry Johnson, the All American junior forward, became the only player since Bill Walton in 1973 to average over 20 points and 10 rebounds for an NCAA champion. Johnson was joined on the All Tournament Team by Stacey Augmon and Anderson Hunt, who was named the Most Outstanding Player.

21. 1978 Kentucky (30-2)
The 1978 Kentucky team was one of the most experienced teams to ever win the NCAA title. For the most part, the starting lineup, consisting of four seniors and a sophomore, had been together since 1975, when the team lost in the championship game to UCLA, and then went on to win the NIT title in 1976. A NCAA championship seemed like the next logical step for Joe B. Hall and Kentucky. Hall had replaced the legendary UK coach Adolph Rupp in 1973, and in December of 1977, only three months before the NCAA Tournament, Rupp passed away. It would be Kentucky's fifth title overall, but its first since 1958. The Wildcats began ranked number two in the polls, but spent the entire rest of the season, except two weeks, ranked number one. The Wildcats were led by a big and talented group of senior front court players and were complimented well by sophomore guard Kyle Macy. The front court seniors, Jack Givens, Rick Robey, James Lee and Mike Phillips, had each been a contributor of the 1975 NCAA runner-up team, the 1976 NIT title team and the 1977 team which lost in the Elite Eight.

22. 1953 Indiana (23-3)
The 1953 Indiana team lost three games during the season by a total of five points, all on baskets made in the final five seconds of play. The Hoosiers were without a senior on their roster, but featured a talented and balanced cast of players who were perfectly suited for coach Branch McCracken's fast-break style of play. Sophomore center Don Schlundt carried most of the scoring load, while junior guard Bob "Slick" Leonard controlled the back court. Together, Schlundt and Leonard combined for more than half of IU's scoring average as a team, and both were named to the All-Tournament team. McCracken, who had previously led Indiana to the 1940 tournament title, represents the coach with the longest stretch of years between multiple titles. Among all coaches who have reached the Final Four at least twice, only McCracken is without a loss.

23. 1966 Texas Western (28-1)
The social significance of Texas Western's 1966 championship team, which was the first to feature a starting lineup of all black players, is well-documented and known by most all college basketball fans. Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) entered the tournament with the nation's best record at 23-1, but ranked third in the polls. The Miners only defeat came against Seattle, by two points, the day before their first NCAA Tournament game. The Front court trio of forwards Harry Flournoy and Nevil Shed and center David Lattin helped TWC lead the nation in rebounding and rank fifth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 63 points per game. The backcourt was manned by a pair of quick guards, Bobby Joe Hill and senior Orsten Artis. As a balanced team, built mainly on defense, seven different players led the team in scoring at least once during the season, and five of those were the top-scorer multiple times.

24. 1952 Kansas (26-2)In the more than sixty-year history of the NCAA Tournament, perhaps no player meant more to a championship team that Clyde Lovellete did to Kansas in 1952. Lovellete remains as the only player to score more than 30 points in both the national semifinal game and the title game, and is also still the only national scoring leader to play for the national champion. Having played for Dr. James Naismith and having later coached Adolph Rupp, Phog Allen was already considered a legend by 1952, but had yet to win the NCAA Tournament, which he had helped to create in the late-1930s. Although the Jayhawks had lost only three games all year, they entered the tournament ranked no higher than third in the national polls. After a close 68-64 win over TCU in the opener, Kansas easily won their remaining three tournament games by an average of 18 points to capture the title. While Lovellete, the senior two-time All American, carried most of the scoring load, fellow upperclassmen Bob Kenney, Bill Houghland and Dean Kelley also played key roles.

25. 2001 Duke (35-4)
In 1999, Duke went to the Final Four for the eighth time in the last 15 years with perhaps its best team ever. The 1999 team was already being talked about as one of the best ever even before the championship game. Subsequently, Duke was upset by Connecticut in the title game and almost every major contributor left the program either by graduating or early entry into the NBA draft. The one remaining piece of that team was Shane Battier, who by his senior year in 2001 was the consensus choice for National player of the Year. Battier, along with sophomore All American point guard Jason Williams, led Duke back to the title game and captured Duke's third national title. Duke's 90.7 points per game ranked second nationally in scoring, while their 20.2 average margin of victory easily led the country. The Blue Devils swept through the NCAA Tournament, winning all six games by double digits, for a 17 point average margin. The 2001 Duke squad joined the 1963 Loyola team as the only NCAA champion to feature five players with scoring averages over 12 points per game. The All American duo of Battier and Williams was complimented by sophomores Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy and senior Nate James.

Great Teams Without A Title, the Top 25
1.) 1991 UNLV -- Lost in Final Four.The defending NCAA champs, who had won the 1990 title game by the largest margin ever and hadn't been beaten since midway through the previous season, still remain as the last team to enter the tournament undefeated (30-0). The Rebels 45-game winning streak, before losing in the 1991 national semifinal, still remains as the fourth longest ever, and their 26.7 average margin of victory is fifth best ever, and the most since 1972. UNLV's 1991 squad was the first ever to feature four active players with 1,500 career points each -- consensus national Player of the Year Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Anderson Hunt and Greg Anthony. In the 1991 Final Four, UNLV was upset by Duke -- the same team which had been blown away by the Rebels in the previous year's title game.

2.) 1961, 1962 Ohio State -- Lost in Championship games (1961 & 62)
After winning the 1960 title with a lineup consisting of three sophomores, a junior and a lone senior, Ohio State got back to the title game in 1961 and 1962, but lost to state rival Cincinnati both times. The 1961 team entered the tournament 24-0, and the 1962 team entered the following year's tournament 23-1, both times ranked number one. As the defending champion in 1961, the Buckeyes were the nation's fifth highest scoring team (85 ppg), second in free throw percentage (.753) and first in field goal percentage (.498). Before losing to Cincinnati once again in the finals, the 1962 team won its first three tournament games by an average of 15.3 points. Jerry Lucas, a three-time All-American and two-time national Player of the Year, was joined by John Havlicek and Mel Nowell on both teams.

3.) 1999 Duke -- Lost in championship game.
Over the previous 15 years, since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, no other team had come close to the success that Duke had reached. The Blue Devils were playing in their eighth Final Four during that span, while no one else had seen more than five. The 1999 squad, however, was widely considered to be Coach K's best ever. Entering the tournament with a 32-1 record and a 24.7 average margin of victory during the season, Duke won its first five tournament games by an average of 25.6 points. Before the stunning upset loss to Connecticut in the title game, that 25.6 average margin of victory was the most in tournanent history. Four players from the 1999 team, including Elton Brand, the national Player of the Year, were selected in the first round of the following year's NBA draft.

4.) 1973 North Carolina State -- Ineligible for tournament.
The 1973 Wolfpack team averaged 93 ppg, led the nation in win margin (21.8 ppg), and posted a 27-0 record, but was ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA probation. David Thompson, a two-time national Player of the Year, and All-American Tom Burleson, led NC State to a 30-1 record the following season, losing only to seven-time defending champion UCLA. The Wolfpack avenged its only loss during the two-year period by defeating UCLA in the 1974 Final Four and winning the title.

5.) 1975 Indiana -- Lost in regional finals.
Indiana posted a 29-0 record during the 1975 season and entered the NCAA Tournament ranked number one, with an average win margin of 22.1 ppg. With consensus All-American Scott May injured and limited to only a few minutes during the entire tournament, Kentucky ended the Hoosier's 1975 season, defeating IU 92-90 in the Mideast regional final. But the Hoosiers did capture the 1976 title, becoming the last team to post an undefeated record. During the two-year period of 1975 and 1976, Indiana had a record of 63-1, without a single regular season loss. All five starters were selected in the NBA draft.

6.)1954 Kentucky -- Refused tournament invitation.From 1948-51, Kentucky won three national titles, and finished the 1952 season ranked number one before losing in the East regional final. Because of the now-infamous point-shaving scandals of the early-1950s, UK was forced to boycott its entire 1953 schedule. When the Wildcats resumed play in 1954, they posted a 25-0 record, but refused an invitation to the NCAA Tournament when it was ruled that three post-graduate players would be ineligible. La Salle, the eventual champion in 1954, lost to Kentucky by 13 points earlier in the season.

7.) 1974 UCLA -- Lost in Final Four.
Led by a pair of consensus All-Americans, Bill Walton --the three-time national Player of the Year -- and senior forward Keith Wilkes, The Bruins entered the 1974 tournament as the seven-time defending champion, with a 23-3 record and a 19.6 average margin of victory. During the season, UCLA saw its NCAA-record 88-game winning streak snapped, as well as its record streak of 50 consecutive conference wins, but still managed to defeat NC State, the eventual NCAA champion, by 18 points. The Walton gang had another record win streak snapped when NC State avenged its earlier loss to UCLA in the Final Four, ending the Bruins string of 38 consecutive tourney wins.

8.) 1968 Houston -- Lost in Final Four.
Led by Elvin Hayes, the national Player of the Year, and Don Chaney, the Cougars snapped UCLA's 47-game win streak during the regular season and posted a 28-0 record entering the tournament. Houston led the nation in scoring (97.8 ppg) and rebounding, and also had a 25.3 average margin of victory. UCLA won the anticipated rematch, defeating Houston in the Final Four.

9.) 1985 Georgetown -- Lost in championship game.
The Hoyas, led by All-American Patrick Ewing, won the 1984 title with a lineup consisting almost entirely of underclassmen. Ewing earned national Player of the Year honors in 1985, leading what is considered one of the best defensive teams ever. Georgetown, 30-2 before the tourney, led the nation in scoring margin, rebounding margin and field goal percentage defense. In what remains as one of the biggest upsets ever, conference-rival Villanova defeated the Hoyas in the title game, despite losing both head-to-head games during the season.

10.) 1959, 1960 Cincinnati -- Lost in Final Four (1959 & 1960)
Oscar Robertson, perhaps the greatest all around college player ever, had led the nation in scoring and been selected as the national Player of the Year in both of his first two seasons, while leading the Bearcats to the 1959 Final Four as a junior. In the 1959 national semifinal, California, the nation's top defensive team, held Robertson to 19 points -- 13 below his average -- and won 64-58. In Robertson's final season, 1960, he was once again the scoring leader and national Player of the Year. Cincinnati entered the tournament ranked number one and the heavy favorite to win, but the Bearcats lost to California in a national semifinal for the second year in a row, with the Big O held well below his scoring average.

11.) 1984 North Carolina -- Lost in regional semifinal.
The 1984 North Carolina team featured two first team All-Americans in Michael Jordan, the national Player of the Year, and Sam Perkins -- both of whom had helped UNC win the 1982 national title. The Tar Heels, 27-2 and ranked number one entering the tournament, were second nationally in win margin (15.3), second in field goal percentage (.543) and second in free throw percentage (.783). Carolina was upset by Indiana in the East regional semifinals, with Jordan fouling out, scoring just 13 points.

12.) 1997 Kansas -- Lost in regional semifinal.
Roy Williams, by 1997, had already taken his squad to a title game and another Final Four as the Kansas coach, but he had also suffered two early exits as a number one seed. It was the 1997 Jayhawk team, however, which was considered to be Williams' best, and one of the best overall in recent memory. Led by All-American candidates Paul Pierce, Raef LaFrentz and Jaque Vaughn, Kansas entered the tournament as the heavy favorite, ranked number one with a 32-1 record, but was defeated by the eventual champion Arizona in the Sweet 16.

13.) 1983 Houston -- Lost in championship game.Houston's fabled "Phi Slamma Jamma" team entered the tournament with the nation's best average margin of victory at 17.4 points -- and they had beaten their first four tournament opponents by an average of 12 points. The Cougars, 27-2 before the tournament, carried a 26-game winning streak into the title game against a heavy underdog, NC State. Despite the presence of Hakeem Olajuwon, the only losing player since 1972 to be named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, one of the all-time great upsets (and most memorable moments) resulted as NC State won at the buzzer.

14.) 1957 Kansas -- Lost in championship game.
Wilt Chamberlain was only a sophomore for the 1957 Kansas team, but he averaged 30 points and over 20 rebounds per game by himself. After needing overtime in their first tourney game, the Jayhawks then destroyed their next two opponents, including an 80-56 Final Four win over the two-time defending champ San Francisco. The 24-2 Jayhawks, with the dominance of Chamberlain and the thrashing victory over San Francisco, seemed a shoe-in for the title. But Kansas lost a thrilling triple overtime title game to North Carolina.

15.) 1980-82 DePaul -- Lost in second round (1980, 81 & 82).
In 1979 DePaul reached the Final Four, led by freshman sensation Mark Aguirre. In 1980, Aguirre was joined by another freshman standout, Terry Cummings. The Blue Demons finished the 1980 regular season ranked number one, earning a top seed in the tournament, but lost in their opening game. The following season, DePaul once again finished the regular season top-ranked with a number one seed in the tournament, but became the first team to lose consecutive opening games while ranked number one. In 1982, the Blue Demons entered the tournament ranked number two, but did earn a number one seed for the third year in a row -- and lost in their opening game in just as many years.

16.) 1959 Kansas State -- Lost in regional final.
In 1958 Kansas State had posted a 22-5 record and reached the Final Four before losing to Seattle. In 1959 the Wildcats improved their regular season mark to 24-1 and entered the tournament ranked number one. Despite a number of great teams and talented players in the 1959 field, Kansas State was a favorite to win the title behind the leadership of two-time All American Bob Boozer. After a 32-point first round victory, the Wildcats were upset by Oscar Robertson and Cincinnati in the Midwest regional final.

17.) 1960 California -- Lost in championship game.As the defending NCAA champion, the Bears lost only once during the regular season and led the nation in defense for the second straight year, holding opponents to an average of only 49.5 points per game. Led by returning All-American Darrall Imhoff, California defeated Cincinnati and Oscar Robertson -- the NCAA scoring leader and Player of the Year -- in the Final Four for the second year in a row. After once again holding Robertson well below his average in the semifinals, the Bears were favored to win another title. However, in the finals, strong offense bested strong defense when a young Ohio State team -- leading the nation in scoring -- won 75-55.

18.) 1974 Notre Dame - Lost in regional semifinal.
The 1974 Notre Dame team will always be remembered as the squad which ended UCLA's NCAA-record 88-game winning streak, but this team already had quite a history of snapping streaks. In the previous season, the Irish ended Marquette's 81-game homecourt win streak, and in 1974 it ended Indiana's 19-game homecourt streak and South Carolina's 34-game homecourt streak. With All-American John Shumate and teammates Adrian Dantley and Gary Brokaw, Notre Dame led the nation in field goal percentage while posting a 25-2 regular season record. They were defeated by Michigan in the Mideast regional semifinal.

19.) 1971 Marquette -- Lost in regional semifinal.
Only two teams, Pennsylvania and Marquette, entered the 1971 NCAA Tournament undefeated, but neither reached the Final Four. Al McGuire's 1971 Marquette team -- the defending NIT champion -- began the tournament with a 39-game winning streak, and an 18.9 average margin of victory. Allowing opponents only 62.8 points per game, the Warriors were led by All-American guard Dean Meminger and center Jim Chones. Marquette was defeated by Ohio State in the second round.

20.) 1974 Maryland -- Didn't play in tournament.Hailed by many as possibly the greatest team to not play in the NCAA Tournament, the 1974 Terps failed to win the ACC tournament, and thus failed to receive a NCAA invitation. The eventual NCAA champs NC State defeated Maryland 103-100 in the ACC tournament final, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest games ever. At the time, only conference champions received NCAA Tournament bids -- a rule which changed the following season. The Terps, 23-5, were led by a trio of All-American candidates and future pro stars -- John Lucas, Len Elmore and Tom McMillen.

21.) 1986 Duke -- Lost in championship game.
The 1986 Duke team was only the second ever to feature three active players with over 1,500 career points -- national Player of the year Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie and David Henderson. This team also broke the record for the most wins in a single season, which had stood for nearly 40 years. Entering the tournament 32-2, top-ranked and riding a 21-game winning streak, the Blue Devils, in Mike Krzyzewski's first of nine Final Four appearances, were a heavy favorite to beat Louisville in the title game, but lost to a team who had won 16 straight games itself.

22.) 1952 Kentucky -- Lost in regional finals.Having won three of the four previous tournaments, and having just won its ninth consecutive Southeastern Conference title, number one-ranked Kentucky was once again the heavy favorite to repeat. Led by All American Cliff Hagan, the 1952 Wildcats, 28-2 before the tourney, became the first team to average more than 80 points during a season. UK's season, and 23-game winning streak, was ended when eventual runner up St. John's defeated the Wildcats 64-57 in the East Regional final. Earlier in the season, Kentucky defeated St. John's by 41 points in Lexington.

23.) 1985 St Johns -- Lost in Final Four.The 1985 St. John's team was Lou Carneseca's only Final Four team during his 24-year coaching career. This team, 27-3 before the tournament, featured both the 1985 and 1986 national Players of the Year in Chris Mullin and Walter Berry. St. John's was defeated by defending champion Georgetown in the Final Four. Three of the Redmen's four total losses came against conference rival Georgetown, but they defeated the eventual champion Villanova three times during the season. Despite being held to only eight points in the national semifinal, Mullin was the tournament's leading scorer.

24.) 1959 West Virginia -- Lost in championship game.
After its first three NCAA Tournament appearances, 1955-57, all resulted in first round losses, West Virginia busted onto the college basketball scene in 1958 when it ended the regular season ranked number one with a 26-1 record. Despite ending North Carolina's 37-game winning streak and defeating the eventual champion Kentucky during the season, the Mountaineers 1958 season ended with yet another first round loss. In 1959, behind two-time All American Jerry West, WVU was the nation's second best scoring team, averaging 85 points per game. The Mountaineers finally moved past the first round and advanced all the way to the title game, but were defeated by California in the final seconds.

25.) 1963 Cincinnati -- Lost in championship game.The 1963 Bearcats, playing in their fifth consecutive Final Four, came within four seconds of becoming the first team to win three straight NCAA titles. Led by consensus All Americans Ron Bonham and Tom Thacker, the two-time defending champion Cincinnati entered the tournament ranked number one, with a 23-1 record. Like the 1960 title game between Ohio State and California, the 1963 title game also featured the nation's highest scoring team (Loyola-Illinois, 91.8 ppg) against the nation's top defensive team, Cincinnati (52.9 ppg allowed). Despite leading by 15 points in the second half, the Bearcats were upset by Loyola, 60-58 in overtime, handing coach Ed Jucker his first, and only, NCAA Tournament loss in 12 career games.

1970 Kentucky -- Lost in regional final.
1959 North Carolina State -- Ineligible for tournament
1959 Mississippi State -- refused tournament invitation.
1997 Kentucky -- Lost in championship game.
1966 Kentucky -- Lost in championship game.
1976 Marquette - Lost in regional final.
1970 St. Bonaventure -- Lost in Final Four.
2002 Duke -- Lost in regional semifinal.
1969 La Salle -- Ineligible for tournament.
1987 UNLV -- Lost in Final Four.