Published June 23, 2010
Before I get started, I made this list based on the most recent quarter century of champions. Team records, strength of opponents, and overall dominance and impact are what I base my rankings on.
1) Florida 2007- the 2nd of back to back championships for the Gators, who ran through a stacked talent pool of players and teams. The Gators led by Corey Brewer, Al Horford, and Joakim Noah defeated UCLA in title game rematch in the Final 4 and the Ohio St. Buckeyes in the championship. The reason this team ranks so high is because their ability to handle the pressure all season long of being the top dog in basketball. Coming off a championship with mainly sophomores, the core of players decided to return for their junior years, posting a 26-5 regular season record and a perfect 9-0 postseason record. The only question this team didn't answer was whether they could have gone for three titles in a row had Brewer, Horford, Noah, and point guard Taurean Green not left college to play in the NBA.
2) Duke 1992- this edition of the Blue Devils may have been the best of all time. With a 34-2 record, Duke who was coming off a championship the previous season, found their way back to the championship after a much harder fought and tougher road. Led by Mike Krzyzewski, more commonly known as Coach K, and star players Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill, the Blue Devils defeated Michigan in the title game. It was their quarterfinal match up with Kentucky that everyone seems to remember however, as Laettner caught an out of bounds pass from Grant Hill on the opposite side of the court, and hit a turnaround jumper as time expired. This particular Blue Devils team has left a lasting legacy as a pedigree and measuring stick for all Duke teams to come after.
3) North Carolina 2009-this edition of the Tar Heels was a building process that started the season after their 2005 NCAA title. Led by star player Tyler Hansbrough and coach Roy Williams, UNC overpowered Oklahoma, Villanova, and Michigan St. in the final three rounds on their way to the championship. The title was a long time coming for Hansbrough who led the Tar Heels for four seasons, and a few heartbreaks along the way. With the help of a solid junior class of star guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, and forwards Deon Thompson and Danny Green, UNC was overwhelmingly stacked with talent, but they also played an excellent team that allowed them to post a record of 34-4 with their 4 losses coming by a total of just 16 points.
4) UNLV 1990- The Running Rebels led by coach Jerry Tarkanian, were a well powered offense with plenty of talent. With a roster that included Larry Johnson, Stacy Augmon, Greg Anthony, and George Ackles, the Rebels were heavy favorites from the beginning of the season, and rolled through the competition, finishing 35-5. Perhaps most impressive was their 103-73 beating of the Duke Blue Devils in the title game, which was their third 30 point victory in the tournament. The team the following season may have actually been better going 27-0 through the regular season, but coming up just short in the final 4 against eventual champion Duke. But the 1990 team was able to go all the way and lead UNLV to its lone title.
5) Indiana 1987- this Hoosiers team led by coach Bob Knight posted a 30-4 record on the way to a national championship. Led by star player Steve Alford, Indiana defeated UNLV in the final 4 and Syracuse in the title game. Despite some close games including the title game in which Hoosier Keith Smart hit a jump shot with just a few seconds to play, Indiana was clear cut best team of that season and proved it. This would end up being Bob Knight's last NCAA title and Indiana's last appearance in the title game until 2002.
6) Arizona 1997- The Wildcats who were coached by Lute Olson, won the championship as a 4 seed, defeating three #1 seeds along the way. Arizona's improbable run took off with a huge victory over the overall #1 seed Kansas, followed by victories over Providence, #1 seed North Carolina in the final 4, and #1 seed and defending champion Kentucky in the title game. Led by guards Michael Dickerson Jr., Mike Bibby, and Miles Simon Jr. the Wildcats run to the title was difficult and compelling as they made history along the way.
7) UConn 1999- the Huskies of 1999, were coached by Jim Calhoun, and led by star players Richard Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin, and Jake Voskuhl. Connecticut served as the class of college basketball most of the season being ranked at the very top or near the very top, although they were huge underdogs against a Duke team that may have been the best team to not win the NCAA title. UConn was able to fend of challenges from the likes of Gonzaga and Ohio St, before clashing with Duke in a much anticipated championship game between two championship teams. It was UConn who got the stops and made the plays down the stretch winning 77-74 in an excellent game pulling off the upset and being crowned champions. The Huskies would finish the year 34-2, a national champion, and the best Huskies' men's basketball team of all time.
8) Duke 2001- this version of the Blue Devils, also coached by Coach K, was supremely talented and dynamic on the court. Led by Shane Battier and Jayson Williams, Duke won with its excellent defense and three point shooting, and also got key contributions from Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Carlos Boozer. The Blue Devils ran through the ACC tournament defeating North Carolina in the finals, and the NCAA tournament as well going through Maryland in the Final 4 and Arizona in the title game. Finishing with a record of 35-4 and a national championship, this Duke squad could be considered to be one of the best teams ever. Perhaps the most memorable moments of Duke's season came against Maryland, in which they came from behind in two games. The first being a comeback from 10 points down with 54 seconds left to force and overtime where the Blue Devils would go on to win by 2. The 2nd comeback came in the final 4, after trailing by 22 points against Maryland the Blue Devils willed their way back into the game, turning the deficit into a lead and eventual victory, saving the game, their season, and their title hopes.
9) Syracuse 2003- The Orangemen led by superstar freshman Carmelo Anthony and coached by Jim Boeheim defeated Kansas in the title game to give the Boeheim his first title. In addition to Carmelo Anthony, the team had Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick by his side giving them an offensive threat at several positions. Syracuse would go on to defeat #1 seeds Oklahoma and Texas before beating the Jayhawks in the championship. The Orangemen's run to the title was impressive with a 30-5 record, big time victories throughout the season and postseason and a body of work that continued to get better and better as the tournament went along. This team despite being very young with mainly freshman and sophomores, was able to keep their poise and determination which guided them to the ultimate victory.
10) Kansas 2008- the 2008 Jayhawks squad, consisting of Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Darrel Arthur, and Darnell Jackson put together one of the more impressive runs in recent memory. Coached by Bill Self, Kansas defeated the Cinderella story Davidson led by Stephen Curry in the elite 8, followed by a crushing of perennial favorite North Carolina, and an overtime classic victory over Memphis which included Mario Chalmers' three pointer that forced overtime. With a record of 37-3, and a consistent ranking at the top or near the top, the Jayhawks dominated the 2007-2008 season, winning their first title in 20 years.