How many of these teams do you agree with? Is there a new crop of programs ready to crack the top-10, or are the same dominant programs from the past still clinging to their past dominance? UCLA, North Carolina, Villanova, and UConn are amongst the teams battling for No. 1…
It would be easy to put the Zags higher on this list, considering they might be the greatest mid-major program of all-time. The Bulldogs are on an improbable run having made the NCAA Tournament every year since 1999. Still, for all of Gonzaga’s dominance the past two decades, it’s only made two Final Fours (2017, 2021), and played for the National Title both seasons — coming up short both times…
The Badgers have reached the Final Four four times, with the last three appearances coming over the past two decades. Wisconsin is still looking for its first National Championship since 1941 — but it did play for one in 2015 after upsetting previously undefeated Kentucky in the Final Four. Still, Wisconsin remains a perennial power in the Big Ten.
There might not have been a more popular college basketball team in the late 1980s and early ‘90s than Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels. Led by Larry Johnson, the Rebels were fast-paced, flashy, physical and confident. Though the 1989-90 squad won the school’s lone National Title, the team that came the year after is considered the best not to win a title after Duke stunned the 34-0 Rebels in the Final Four. UNLV has played in four Final Fours.
22. Oklahoma State
Back when the school was known as Oklahoma A&M College, Henry Iba was the star among hoops coaches. Under Iba, the program became the first to win back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in ’45 and ’46. The Cowboys have been to a total of six Final Fours, but none since 2004, and have won more than 60 NCAA Tournament games over the years.
When we think Houston basketball it’s easy to picture Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon and “Phi Slama Jama” of the early 1980s. However, the Cougars program must start with legendary coach Guy V. Lewis, who won nearly 600 games and guided the program to all five of its Final Four appearances from 1967 to 1984. Lewis was also responsible for helping break the color barrier in the South by recruiting star African-American players like Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney. All that’s missing from this storied program is a National Title.
With more than 40 NCAA tournament victories and six Final Four appearances to its credit, Arkansas has plenty to be proud of on the basketball front. Perhaps none more than the 1993-94 Corliss Williamson-led Razorbacks, who topped Duke for the program’s only National Championship.
Patrick Ewing did not have the same success coaching the Hoyas as he did playing for them, but that has not tarnished the history of the program. With Ewing leading the way, Georgetown reached the Final Four in ’82, ’84 and ’85. However, only one of those teams produced a National Championship. In all, the Hoyas have made five Final Four appearances and posted three runner-up finishes.
18. North Carolina State
Often overshadowed by their fellow Tobacco Road basketball inhabitants, the Wolfpack have more than held their own over the years. They’ve made the NCAA Tournament 29 times, been to three Final Fours and won two National Championships. In 1974, it was David Thompson who guided the Wolfpack to the title while the 1983 “Cardiac Pack” pulled off what’s considered in many circles to be the greatest finals upset of all time.
The Wildcats have made four appearances in the Final Four – all since 1988. Arizona’s run to the 1997 National Championship was somewhat improbable, but the program has been one of the most consistently successful ones since the mid-80s. The program ranks among the top-15 with more than 1,900 victories and produced such notable stars as Steve Kerr, Richard Jefferson, Mike Bibby, Andre Iguodala and Gilbert Arenas.
16. Notre Dame
Though the Irish have reached the Final Four (1978) just once and are still searching for their first basketball National Championship, their 81 NCAA Tournament games and 37 overall appearances rank among the most in college basketball history. Notre Dame has also reached the Elite Eight seven times, including twice last decade. Austin Carr’s 61 points versus Ohio in 1970 are still the most for any player in a NCAA tourney game.
The Gators might not be the college basketball blue bloods like others on this list, but since 1987, they’ve been one of the best programs in the country. All 22 of Florida’s NCAA appearances have come since then. That includes five Final Four appearances and those memorable runs with Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Co. posting back-to-back National Titles in ’06 and ’07.
With more than 1,800 victories and better than a .630 winning percentage, plus two National Titles (’61 and ’62) and one of the greatest basketball players of all-time in Oscar Robertson calling Cincy home, the Bearcats have plenty to brag about. The school has also produced more than 20 All-Americans and been to six Final Fours, though none since 1992.
13. Ohio State
With five NCAA Championship Game appearances, Ohio State is right there with the best in the country. The Buckeyes went to the tournament final three-straight years from 1960 to 1962, but won only in 1960. Officially, the Buckeyes have played in 10 Final Fours (and had one taken away).
Sure, Michigan — like several other schools on the list — has had run-ins with the NCAA. It has ultimately cost the program recognition of two of its eight total trips to the Final Four. Still, the Wolverines have their 1989 National Title intact, four official runner-up finishes, and three NIT Championships to hang their hat on.
With more than 60 NCAA Tournament victories, Villanova is one of the most successful postseason teams in college basketball history. It ranks among the top-25 in career victories overall while closing in on 1,900 as a program. Of the Wildcats’ three National Titles, included are two of the most memorable title games in the history of the Big Dance – 1985’s stunning upset of Georgetown and the last-second thriller against North Carolina in 2016.
Jim Boeheim is one of the winningest coaches of all-time and helped the Big East get off the ground. The Orange rank among the top-7 all-time with more than 1,900 victories, and they’ve officially won more than 60 NCAA Tournament games. However, with six trips to the Final Four, Syracuse only has that Carmelo Anthony-led 2003 National Title to highlight all the program’s success.
9. Michigan State
Michigan State has failed to reach the NCAA Tournament just twice since 1997. Though the Spartans won their second and most recent National Championship in 2000, they’ve been to the Final Four 10 times, including three times last decade. Michigan State has struggled a bit in recent years, however.
Though the Cardinals program was rocked by controversy recently with Rick Pitino in charge, it’s still among the elite in college basketball history. Louisville is one of the winningest programs ever and has made 10 trips to the Final Four, though only eight remain official. The three-time National Champions (stripped of the 2013 title) are currently mired in a putrid stretch.
Regardless of what people think of the Hoosiers, and specifically former coach and legend Bob Knight, it’s hard to think of college basketball and not bring up this storied program. Indiana has won more than 1,900 games and is tied for fourth all-time with five National Championships – three won under Knight’s watch. The Hoosiers have also been to eight Finals Fours, however, none since 2002.
UConn has reached the Final Four six times in school history and brought home a National Championship in five of them (’99, ’04, ’11, ’14 and ’23). The Huskies didn’t make an NCAA Tournament appearance from 2016 to 2020, but they have three titles since 2011 — joining Villanova and Duke as the only schools to win two or more National Titles in that time.
Since the late 1970s, Duke has been an NCAA Tournament staple. However, the Blue Devils turned into a perennial national power under the guidance of former coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke is fourth all-time in victories with more than 2,200 and tied with Indiana and UConn for National Titles with five. Duke’s 17 Final Four appearances rank fourth all-time.
With names like James Naismith, Phog Allen and Wilt Chamberlain, does it get more historic when it comes to college basketball? Kansas oozes tradition and has been playing basketball at an elite level for well over a century. A four-time national champion, Kansas ranks second all-time in victories and has 16 Final Four appearances.
3. North Carolina
Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Phil Ford, Dean Smith, Roy Williams. College basketball does not get much more special than at Carolina. For those keeping score at home, the Tar Heels rank among the all-time leaders in wins, National Championships (six), title game appearances (12) and Final Four appearances (21). Now that’s pretty special.
Talk about blue bloods and thoroughbreds. That’s Kentucky basketball. The game’s all-time leader in victories with more than 2,300 and counting. The Wildcats trail only UCLA with eight National Championships. Kentucky has made 17 Final Four appearances and featured some of the greatest coaches ever in the likes of Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and currently John Calipari.
Even the most casual of hoops fans know that UCLA was basketball royalty for most of the ’60s and the first half of the ‘70s. The Bruins’ 11 National Championships are still a record, 10 of which were won under the guidance of the legendary John Wooden – often considered the greatest college basketball coach ever. Their last National Title was back in 1995, but UCLA has reached four Final Fours since then — most recently losing in overtime to Gonzaga in the ’21 Final Four.