Sorry for the month long delay between posts, but I will make up for it with the best researched post in the history of this blog. This is a list of the best college basketball programs of this decade (2000-2009).
The point structure:
2 points for every NCAA Tourney appearance
5 points for every regular season conference title
5 points for every conference tourney title
5 points for every Sweet 16 appearance
10 points for every Elite 8 appearance
20 points for every Final 4 appearance
30 points for every Finals appearance
50 points for every National Championship
(The tourney points are cumulative ex. 2009 UNC team won 117 points for its tourney run and 2009 MSU won 67)
20. Xavier (91)
A very consistent team throughout the decade that has taken advantage of a weakened A-10 with 5 regular season conference titles. They have made the NCAAs 8 times in 10 years, but have only advanced to the Sweet 16 3 times. They are 2-1 once they get to the Sweet 16, but failed to make a Final 4. It will be interesting to see if they keep this up if they continue to lose good young coaches (Thad Matta, Sean Miller).
19. Kentucky (93)
A very down decade for one of college basketball’s premier programs. Tubby Smith got them to the tourney every year, but only made 2 Elite 8s and no Final 4s. Billy Gillespie missed the tourney in his 2nd year and was quickly escorted from the state. Look for them to take back their rightful place among the game’s elite with great recruiter/probable cheater John Calipari at the helm.
18. Wisconsin (100)
Consistent and consistently boring, Wisconsin made the tourney every year. They only had 2 regular season conference titles and 2 conference tourney titles, but they were helped by 2 Elite 8 appearances and a surprising Final Four run in 2000 as a 8 seed.
17. Oklahoma (103)
I am still bitter at Oklahoma for not winning it all when I picked them as my dark horse in the Hollis Price year. Anyway, they haven’t been great in conference play (1 reg season, 3 conf tourney), but they have taken advantage of good tourney runs by going 3-0 in Sweet 16 games and advancing to one Final Four.
16. Louisville (104)
They have come on strong with two straight Elite 8 appearances after a weak start to the decade. Expect to see them near the top all next decade with Rick Pitino constantly bringing in talented athletes with questionable motors and basketball IQs.
15. Texas (105)
Texas has been helped by its consistency and ability to play up to its seed by making the tourney every year and advancing to 5 Sweet 16s. Once you make it to the second weekend, though, coaching usually matters, thus explaining why Texas has only made it to 1 Final Four.
14. Ohio St. (107)
They only made it to the tourney 6 times. They only made 1 Sweet 16. Still, they are #14 because they did really well in their conference (4 reg season, 2 conf tourney) and turned that Sweet 16 appearance into a Finals appearance. They will probably be higher next decade if Thad Matta can ever get a big guy to stay longer than one year.
13. Gonzaga (125)
Playing the WCC does have its advantages (9 reg season, 8 conf tourney), but the lack of NCAA success keeps Gonzaga out of the top 10. Gonzaga does have 4 Sweet 16 appearances and should have an Elite 8 appearance if JP Batista was strong with the ball, but look for them to be a dark horse next year now that team cancer Austin Daye is gone.
12. Illinois (126)
(Note: I am a Jazz fan) Deron Williams is so awesome. That game against Arizona in the Elite 8 when they were down 15 and he simply refused to lose is probably my favorite NCAA tourney game. Anyway, they have been solid the rest of the decade, but Bruce Weber needs to recruit better players than Jeffrey Jordan if they want to get back to this level.
11. Arizona (145)
Is there anybody out there who likes Arizona? The way Lute Olsen handled his retirement was pretty despicable and unfair to nice guy/Hoop Dreams guest star Kevin O’Neill. They benefited from making the tourney every year as well as making it to the 2001 championship game.
10. Memphis (157)
They would be #6 if only they learned, like I did as a youth basketball player, that you have got to make your easys. And not give them easys, of course. Alas, brilliant scholar Derrick Rose couldn’t make his FTs and they are #10. They took advantage of C-USA once all the other big boy schools left (the last 4 reg season and conf tourney titles) and have made it to 3 out of the last 4 Elite 8s. Also, thanks for ruining my bracket by losing to Missouri. Tyreke Evans, why hast thou forsaken me?
9. Syracuse (169)
Winning a title sure will ease the pain of missing 3 NCAAs this decade. While they have made 5 Sweet 16s, their title run in 2003 was their only foray into the Elite 8. They have also done decently well in the rugged Big East with 2 reg season and 2 conf tourney titles. They also have one of my favorite players of the decade in G-Mac.
8. Maryland (176)
Much like Syracuse, they would have no business in the Top 10 except for their 2002 title. They missed the NCAAs 3 times, they only won 1 reg season and 1 conf tourney title, and they only made the Sweet 16 3 times. Still, they turned those 3 Sweet 16 appearances into 2 Final Fours and managed to regroup in 2002 after choking away the Finals to Duke in 2001.
7. UCLA (201)
They really haven’t done as well as I thought in the Pac-10 (3 reg season and 2 conf tourney titles), but their 3 straight Final Four appearances make them a very worthy Top 10 entry. They still can’t get that elusive national championship as the curse of Steve Lavin lives on.
6. UConn (231)
Just a very solid resume for UConn this decade. 1 Title, 2 total Final Four appearances, 4 Elite 8s, and 4 reg season titles. Looks like Jim Calhoun earns every dime. Also, they are probably a bunch of paid cheaters who are coached by a complete asshole, but that’s just my opinion. And Rudy Gay is the softest player* in college basketball history.
5. Duke (255)
No matter how I messed with the numbers, I couldn’t keep Duke out of the top 5. I ran some of the numbers for the 90s and Duke blows everybody out of the water so it’s nice to see them fall this far. The recent tourney failures has shown that Duke no longer has elite talent and Coach K might want to spend a little less time on Team USA and more time telling John Wall that Durham homes are much easier to break into than Lexington homes (more homeowners have shotguns in Lexington).
4. MSU (310)
I am required by law to mention blue collar worker and rebounding when I talk about MSU. Now that the legal requirements are out of the way, it’s safe to say Tom Izzo is a pretty great tourney coach. They have made 6 Sweet 16s which led to 5 Elite 8s which led to 4 Final 4s. That is a sign of great coaching. Also, a sign of blue collar workers and great rebounding.
3. Kansas (325)
Is Bill Self a good coach? The question has tormented me. Unquestionably, he is a great recruiter. On the sidelines, though, I think I could have done a better job than him in the 2008 tourney. How a team that talented almost lost to Davidson, I’ll never know. They have dominated the Big XII (7 reg season and 3 conf tourney titles) and have 7 Sweet 16 appearances and 5 Elite 8 showings to go along with 3 Final 4s.
2. UF (336)
Outside of 2000, 2006, and 2007, this is a not a good program. Winning 2 titles and making another Finals appearance, though, will put you in the top 2. They actually only have 1 regular season conference title. I still don’t think Donovan is a very good coach. He had one fluky run in 2000 that should have ended in the first round to Butler, and a great recruiting class that led to 2 titles. Much more representative of his coaching skills are his losses to Manhattan and Creighton in the 1st round as well as the last 2 NIT teams.
1. UNC (366)
Philosophical question: If no one else was on the court, could Tyler Hansbrough still draw a foul? I say yes. He is simply that good. Not only is UNC the best program of the decade, they also have the best team of the decade (2009). For those of you who point out the 2007 Gators, I need only point out the Taurean Green-Ty Lawson matchup and you will be silenced. The Heels have 5 reg season conf titles, but only 2 conf tourney titles (because Roy knows when to keep his players fresh. He is so wise.) They have far and away my favorite player of the decade, Rashad McCants (who is inspiring my tattoos on both arms: “Born to be Hated” on one and “Dyin to be Loved” on the other). They have 4 Final 4s with 2 titles and one year we don’t talk about (thanks for the turnovers, Brian Morrison). They also completely owned Duke recently, and that should make everyone happy.
*Except for Austin Daye
The rest of the top 50 after the jump.