There have been plenty of good college basketball teams throughout the years, but which of those teams deserve to be remembered as the greatest college basketball teams of all-time? It’s a difficult question that isn’t easy to answer, but it’s one we’re going to try to answer today.
The game of basketball was invented by James Naismith, an instructor at Springfield College. It didn’t take long for the game to be featured in YMCAs across the country. In fact, it only took two years for colleges to start playing games of their own — generally against local YMCAs.
The first intercollegiate game — between Hamline University and Minnesota State School of Agriculture — was played on February 9, 1895. Since then, college basketball has become one of America’s greatest pastimes. Today, it’s celebrated by millions of people every single year.
Who Are the Greatest College Basketball Teams of All-Time?
Over time, several universities have established themselves as pioneers in the basketball community. They’re the ones that all the top recruits want to play for, they’re the ones that consistently find themselves in March Madness, and they’re the ones everyone watches.
Some of those schools include Duke University, UCLA, University of Kentucky, University of North Carolina, Indiana University, University of Kansas, Villanova University, and UCONN. They’ve won the most national championships and developed some of the best players ever.
With that being said, it’s no surprise that you’ll find several of those schools in our list of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time. In fact, some of them might show up more than once — that’s how good these schools are. Without further ado, let’s start the countdown!
Honorable Mentions: Florida Gators (2007), Michigan State Spartans (1979), Ohio State Buckeyes (1960), Kansas Wildcats (2008), Louisville Cardinals (1980), Kentucky Wildcats (1978), Duke Blue Devils (1999), Houston Cougars (1968), Maryland Terrapins (2002), St. John’s Red Storm (1985)
20. Michigan Wolverines (1993)
Coach: Steve Fisher
Roster: Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, Eric Riley, Rob Pelinka, James Voskuil, Michael Talley, Jason Bossard, Leon Derricks, Dugan Fife, Sean Dobbins, and Ricky Guzman
The 1992-93 season was a special one for the Michigan Wolverines. While they were the NCAA March Madness runner-up for the second-straight year, they finished with a record of 31-5 — a school record at the time. Most of their success is credited to their blocking and rebounding.
The team’s starters — Webber, Rose, Howard, King, and Jackson — were known as the Fab Five. It was the second and final season the Fab Five were together (Webber was drafted in the 1993 NBA Draft). Rose, Howard, and King would all make their way into the NBA eventually.
Michigan ended up beating 7 ranked opponents in the regular season. They’re four regular season losses came to opponents ranked in the top 11. They entered the NCAA tourney as a No. 1 seed. They beat No. 2 Kansas in the semifinal, but lost to No. 1 North Carolina in the final.
19. North Carolina Tar Heels (1957)
Coach: Frank McGuire
Roster: Lennie Rosenbluth, Ken Rosemond, Bob Young, Roy Searcy, Gehrmann Holland, Bob Cunningham, Danny Lotz, Pete Brennan, Tommy Kearns, Joe Quigg
Before the 1956-57 season, there had only been one college basketball national champion to go undefeated and no ACC team had ever won the title. That all changed when the North Carolina Tar Heels went 32-0 and were eventually crowned National Champion at the season’s end.
After going 24-0 in the regular season, North Carolina beat Clemson, Wake Forest, and South Carolina in the ACC Tournament. They cruised their way to the NCAA National Semifinal, defeating Yale, Canisius, and Syracuse along the way — but things got tough from there on out.
Both the semifinal (vs. Michigan State) and final (vs. Kansas) went into triple-overtime, but North Carolina came out victorious in both games. Lennie Rosenbluth (forward) was named the Consensus Player of the Year and the Tar Heels haven’t had an undefeated season since.
18. UCONN Huskies (1999)
Coach: Jim Calhoun
Roster: Khalid El-Amin, Kevin Freeman, Richard Hamilton, E.J. Harrison, Rashamel Jones, Antric Klaiber, Ricky Moore, Albert Mouring, Edmund Sanders, Ed Tonella, Jake Voskuhl, and Souleymane Wane
The UCONN Huskies claimed their first ever national championship during the 1998-99 season. They were led by Richard Hamilton, who was named the Most Outstanding Player and was eventually drafted 7th overall in the 1999 NBA Draft. It was their first of four championships.
The Huskies finished the season 34-2, with their only losses coming against No. 16 Syracuse and No. 15 Miami. They defeated seven ranked opponents during the regular season and went on to beat No. 10 St. John’s in the Big East Tournament before entering the NCAA Tournament.
They cruised their way to the Elite Eight, defeating No. 16 UTSA, No. 9 New Mexico, and No. 5 Iowa along the way. After beating No. 10 Gonzaga by five points and No. 4 Ohio State by six points, they overcame a last-second thriller against No. 1 Duke with a 77-74 victory for the title.
17. Duke Blue Devils (2001)
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Roster: Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Andy Borman, Andre Buckner, Ryan Caldbeck, Matt Christensen, Chris Duhon, Mike Dunleavy, Nick Horvath, Nate James, Dahntay Jones, Reggie Love, Casey Sanders, J.D. Simpson, Andre Sweet, and Jay Williams
Just a couple years removed from their loss to the UCONN Huskies, the Duke Blue Devils found themselves back in the National Championship and they were better than ever. It was their third national title and their 35 wins that season is tied for the third most in campus history.
The team was stacked from top to bottom. Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, and Chris Duhon made up one of the best rosters of all-time. Battier went on to win multiple end-of-year awards, including the AP Player of the Year and Wooden Award.
The Blue Devils only lost four games during the 2000-01 season, all of which were against ranked opponents. They made the NCAA tourney look easy, defeating each of their opponents by 10+ points — including an 82-72 victory over No. 2 Arizona in the championship final.
16. UCLA Bruins (1968)
Coach: John Wooden
Roster: Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Lucius Allen, Mike Warren, Lynn Shackelford, Mike Lynn, Edgar Lacey, Kenny Heitz, Jim Nielsen, Bill Sweek, Gene Sutherland, and Neville Saner
The UCLA Bruins had the greatest 12-year stretch by any basketball team ever under John Wooden. The 1967-68 team is just one of four teams in that span that made their way on our list of greatest college basketball teams of all-time. They were special year-in and year-out.
Led by the Hall of Famer himself, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar finished the season with 26.2 points and 16.5 rebounds per game. Their only loss that season came against No. 2 Houston, a loss that ended UCLA’s 47-game winning streak. It was a tough loss, but they quickly bounced back.
UCLA got their revenge against Houston in the NCAA Tournament semifinal. Despite losing to them 69-71 earlier in the season, UCLA won 101-69 to advance to the final — where they beat North Carolina by 23 points. It was their second-straight and fourth overall championship.
15. UCLA Bruins (1973)
Coach: John Wooden
Roster: Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, Larry Farmer, Larry Hollyfield, Tommy Curtis, Dave Meyers, Greg Lee, Swen Nater, Pete Trgovich, Vince Carson, Gary Franklin, Bob Webb, Casey Corliss, and Ralph Drollinger
Speaking of UCLA, let’s talk about their 1972-73 season. It was their second-straight (and fourth overall) undefeated season under John Wooden. It also marked their seventh-straight National Championship, which is unheard of for any college basketball team. This team was unreal.
Led by Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, and Larry Farmer, the 1972-73 UCLA Bruins set an NCAA record of 75-straight wins during their 30-0 season. They beat all but 5 opponents by more than 10 points. Walton averaged 20.4 points and 16.9 rebounds per game and won several awards.
The Bruins went on to beat Arizona State by 17 points in the first round of the tourney. They then held San Francisco to 39 points before beating Indiana 70-59 in the semifinal. Despite being tied at 39 points in the final, UCLA outscored Memphis State 48-27 in the second half to win the title.
14. Arkansas Razorbacks (1994)
Coach: Nolan Richardson
Roster: Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Alex Dillard, Corey Beck, Dwight Stewart, Clint McDaniel, Roger Crawford, Darnell Robinson, Davor Rimac, Lee Wilson, Ken Biley, Elmer Martin, John Engskov, Ray Biggers, and Reggie Merritt
The 1993-94 season was a special one for the Nolan Richardson-led Arkansas Razorbacks. They finished with a 31-3 record — the third-most wins in a single season in campus history. It was also their seventh-straight NCAA tournament appearance under Nolan Richardson.
Despite losing to No. 10 Kentucky in the SEC Tournament semifinal, the Razorbacks kicked it up a notch when the NCAA tournament started. They cruised their way to the Elite Eight, defeating North Carolina A&T by 15 points, Georgetown by 12 points, and Tulsa by 21 points.
Things got harder as the tournament went on, but Arkansas never stopped winning. They beat No. 11 Michigan by 8 points, No. 9 Arizona by 9 points, and No. 6 Duke by four points to win their first championship ever. They were led by Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman.
13. Houston Cougars (1983)
Coach: Guy Lewis
Roster: Michael Young, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Micheaux, Benny Anders, Alvin Franklin, Redi Gettys, Dave Rose, Eric Dickens, Derek Giles, Renaldo Thomas, Dan Bunce, David Bunce, Gary Orsak, and Bryan Williams
The Houston Cougars started the 1982-83 season with five-straight wins, but things started going downhill when they lost back-to-back games to Syracuse and No. 1 Virginia. They went on to win their next 20 games — including two ranked teams — finishing the regular season 25-2.
Houston went on to win the SWC Tournament, defeating SMU and TCU along the way. After beating Maryland to start their NCAA Tournament journey, they beat three straight ranked opponents to make it to the final — No. 17 Memphis State, No. 13 Villanova, and No. 2 Louisville.
They matched up with Jimmy Valvano’s No. 16 NC State. In what was one of the most intense championship games ever, Houston would end up losing 54-52 in the final seconds of the game. Despite the loss, they go down as one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time.
12. Texas Western Miners (1966)
Coach: Don Haskins
Roster: Willie Cager, Bobby Joe Hill, Dava Palacio, Jerry Armstrong, Louis Baudoin, Orsten Artis, Willie Worsley, Togo Railey, Dick Myers, Nevil Shed, David Lattin, and Harry Fluornoy
The 1965-66 Texas Western Miners changed the entire landscape of college basketball and left a lasting legacy in the basketball community. They were the first team to ever win an NCAA title with five African Americans in their starting lineup — all at the heart of the Civil Rights movement.
The team started the 1965-66 season with 23-straight wins, but lost to Seattle in their regular season finale by two points. Ending the regular season 23-1, they entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 2 seed in the nation. In their first game, they defeated Oklahoma City by 15 points.
They followed that up with a 78-76 overtime victory over Cincinnati and an 81-80 double overtime victory against No. 4 Kansas. After beating Utah by 7 points, they were matched up with the No. 1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats. They won by 7 points, marking their place in history.
11. Kentucky Wildcats (1996)
Coach: Rick Pitino
Roster: Tony Delk, Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty, Derek Anderson, Ron Mercer, Mark Pope, Anthony Epps, Jeff Sheppard, Wayne Turner, Allen Edwards, Nazr Mohammed, Oliver Simmons, Jared Prickett, Cameron Mills, and Jason Lathrem
The 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats had an incredible nine players (out of a total 15 players) go on to play in the NBA and they proved why with a 34-2 record. These players were known as ‘The Untouchables’ and they made up one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time.
They began the season with a 96-84 victory over No. 15 Maryland, but followed that up with a disappointing 92-82 loss to No. 5 Massachusetts. That was the only loss they faced in the regular season, winning the next 25 games — 16 conference opponents and 3 ranked teams.
Their second and final loss of the season came in the SEC Tournament finals against No. 25 Mississippi State. They opened the NCAA Tournament with four wins by an average of 28 points each. After a win over No. 1 Massachusetts, they defeated Syracuse 76-67 in the tourney final.
10. Georgetown Hoyas (1985)
Coach: John Thompson
Roster: Patrick Ewing, David Wingate, Bill Martin, Reggie Williams, Michael Jackson, Horace Broadnax, Perry McDonald, Ralph Dalton, Grady Mateen, Ronnie Highsmith, Kevin Floyd, and Tyrone Lockhart
The Georgetown Hoyas entered the 1984-85 season as a favorite to win it all. They started the season 18-0 with wins over No. 2 Depaul and No. 16 Villanova. Georgetown would drop their next two games against No. 2 St. John’s and No. 11 Syracuse, bringing their record to 18-2.
After winning seven straight games, they faced St. John’s and Syracuse to finish the regular season — getting revenge on both teams by 16 points and 27 points, respectively. They ended up beating them both again in the Big East Tournament before entering the NCAA Tournament.
With five straight wins in the tourney, including one more against St. John’s, they were matched up with their rival Villanova in the final. In what’s widely viewed as the biggest upset in NCAA final history, Georgetown was defeated by a mere two points, ending their 17 game win streak.
9. San Francisco Dons (1956)
Coach: Phil Woolpert
Roster: Bill Russell, Hal Perry, K.C. Jones, Carl Boldt, Mike Farmer, Gene Brown, Mike Preaseau, Warren Baxter, Bill Mallen, Bill Bush, Jack King, Harold Payne, John Koljian, Tom Nelson, Steve Balchios, and Vince Boyle
Earlier, we mentioned how the 1956-57 North Carolina Tar Heels became the second college basketball team to go undefeated and win the NCAA tournament in the same year. The year before that, the San Francisco Dons became the first team to do so — finishing the year 29-0.
Led by the legendary Bill Russell, who averaged 20.6 points and 21.0 rebounds per game, the San Francisco Dons defeated all but two of their regular season opponents by more than 10 points — they beat Marquette by just 7 and California by 9. They were dominant all year long.
They entered the NCAA tournament as the clear favorites and they proved why. They defeated No. 8 UCLA by 11 points, No. 18 Utah by 15 points, and No. 7 Southern Methodist by 18 points before defeating No. 4 Iowa by 12 points in the tournament final. Russell averaged 24 points.
8. UNLV Rebels (1991)
Coach: Jerry Tarkanian
Roster: Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony, George Ackles, Evric Gray, Elmore Spencer, Travis Bice, H Waldman, Melvin Love, Dave Rice, Bobby Joyce, Chris Jeter, and Bryan Emerzian
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels came very close to joining the short list of teams to go undefeated and win the championship in the same year. Under head coach Jerry Tarkanian, they finished the season 34-1, with their only loss coming against No. 6 Duke in the NCAA tourney final four.
The Rebels defeated five ranked opponents during the regular season, including No. 2 Arkansas for their 20th straight win of the season. They were a high-scoring team that scored above 100 points in 14 of their regular season meetings — despite not doing so in the NCAA tournament.
Speaking of the tournament, UNLV defeated Montana, Georgetown, No. 10 Utah, and No. 13 Seton Hall before earning a spot next to Duke in the final four. Despite beating Duke in the previous year’s tournament finale by 30 points, Duke got their revenge with a 79-77 win.
7. Kentucky Wildcats (2012)
Coach: John Calipari
Roster: Anthony Davis, Doron Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Darius Miller, Kyle Wiltjer, Eloy Vargas, Sam Malone, Brian Long, Jarrod Polson, and Twany Beckham
To this day, no NCAA team has won more games than John Calipari’s 2011-12 team (38 wins), etching their way into our list of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time. Of course, there were two other teams that tied that record, but they were both led by John Calipari.
The team included four freshmen — Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, and Kyle Wiltjr. Davis was named the consensus No. 1 overall player, Kidd-Gilchrist was named the consensus No. 1 small forward, and Teague was named the consensus No. 1 point guard.
They finished the regular season 30-1 with their only loss coming to Indiana. Their second loss came to Villanova in the SEC Tournament championship. Kentucky would go on to win six straight games in the NCAA tournament, defeating Kansas 67-59 in the championship game.
6. UCLA Bruins (1967)
Coach: John Wooden
Roster: Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Lucius Allen, Mike Warren, Lynn Shackelford, Kenny Heitz, Bill Sweek, Jim Nielsen, Don Saffer, Gene Sutherland, Neville Saner, Joe Chrisman, Dick Lynn, and Kent Taylor
We’ve already highlighted two of John Wooden’s teams on our list of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time — one of which being his 1967-1968 team that went 29-1. His 1966-67 team the year before was even better, finishing the season a perfect 30-0.
The 1966-67 season was Kareem Abdul Jabaar’s debut season at UCLA. He averaged 29.0 points and 15.5 rebounds per game and led the Bruins to a 79-64 victory over Dayton in the NCAA tournament championship. It was UCLA’s second perfect season and third NCAA title.
It was also the start of a seven-year run that saw UCLA win the championship each year. It’s known as the greatest stretch by any college basketball team in NCAA history and it all began with Kareem Abdul-Jabaar in 1966-67. There aren’t many teams that compare to this one.
5. NC State Wolfpack (1974)
Coach: Norm Sloan
Roster: David Thompson, Nate Burleson, Monte Towe, Morris Rivers, Phil Spence, Tim Stoddard, Steve Nuce, Mark Moeller, Greg Hawkins, Dwight Johnson, Bill Lake, Craig Kuszmaul, Mike Buurma, Bruce Dayhuff, Steve Smith, Ken Gehring, and Jerry Hunt
The NC State Wolfpack started the season with two huge victories — a 32-point win over East Carolina and a 52-point win over Vermont. Despite a disappointing 64-88 loss to top-ranked UCLA in the third game of the season, it would wind up being their only loss of the season.
The Wolfpack won six regular season games against ranked opponents, five of which were in the top six (three wins against No. 4 North Carolina, and two against Maryland). They defeated Maryland one more time to win the ACC Tournament before heading into the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA tournament was no easy task, but they prevailed. They beat No. 5 Providence and No. 13 Pittsburgh to start things off. They then defeated No. 2 UCLA in double overtime, ending their seven-year championship streak, before defeating No. 3 Marquette for the championship.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels (1982)
Coach: Dean Smith
Roster: James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Matt Doherty, Jimmy Black, Jim Braddock, Chris Brust, Buzz Peterson, Jeb Barlow, Cecil Exum, Lynwood Robinson, Warren Martin, John Brownlee, and Timo Makkonen
The North Carolina Tar Heels started the 1981-82 season 13-0, including wins against No. 9 Tulsa, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 2 Virginia, and No. 12 NC State. Their win streak came to an end against unranked Wake Forest and they would later lose to No. 3 Virginia, bringing them to 16-2.
The rest of the season went well for the Tar Heels, who were led by James Worthy, Michael Jordan, and Sam Perkins. They won the final eight games of the regular season and went 3-0 in the ACC Tournament — including revenge against No. 3 Virginia in the ACC tournament finale.
North Carolina wasn’t handed any easy victories in the NCAA Tournament, but they managed to fight their way to an NCAA Championship after beating James Madison, Alabama, Villanova, Houston, and Georgetown — a one-point thriller that ended with a Michael Jordan jumper.
3. Duke Blue Devils (1992)
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Roster: Christian Laettner, Thomas Hill, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Brian Davis, Antonio Lang, Cherokee Parks, Marty Clark, Erik Meek, Kenneth Blakenev, Christian Ast, and Ron Burt
The 1991-92 Duke Blue Devils started the season 17-0, including victories against No. 7 St. John’s, No. 18 Michigan, No. 14 Georgia Tech, No. 18 UNC Charlotte, and No. 23 Florida State. Their win streak came to an end against their longtime rival No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels.
Duke would go on to win four straight games before losing their second game of the season, bringing their record to 21-2. After four more wins to end the regular season, they went 3-0 in the ACC Tournament — including a revenge victory against North Carolina in the ACC Finals.
In the NCAA Tournament, Duke almost missed a spot in the Final Four, but managed to squeak out a one-point victory against No. 6 Kentucky in overtime. After a three-point win against No. 5 Indiana in the Final Four, they defeated No. 15 Michigan by 20 points to win the championship.
2. Indiana Hoosiers (1976)
Coach: Bob Knight
Roster: Steve Green, Scott May, Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner, John Laskowski, Bob Wilkerson, Tom Abernethy, Wayne Radford, Don Noort, Jim Wisman, Mark Haymore, Jim Crews, Steve Ahlfeld, John Kamstra, and Douglas Allen
The 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers defeated five ranked opponents in the first 12 games of the season — No. 2 UCLA, No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 14 Kentucky, No. 17 St. John’s, and No. 19 Michigan. Though they didn’t play another ranked team in the regular season, they never lost.
Ending the regular season 27-0, the Hoosiers were the top-ranked team heading into the NCAA tournament. They opened the tournament with a 20-point win against No. 17 St. John’s, followed by victories over No. 6 Alabama, No. 2 Marquette, and No. 5 UCLA on their way to the finals.
Indiana was matched up against No. 9 Michigan in the NCAA Tournament Championship. They dominated the Wolverines in an 86-68 victory that saw them finish the season 32-0 with a title to show for it. They were led by Steve Green, Scott May, and Kent Benson all season long.
1. UCLA Bruins (1972)
Coach: John Wooden
Roster: Bill Walton, Henry Bibby, Jamaal Wilkes, Larry Farmer, Greg Lee, Larry Hollyfield, Swen Nater, Tommy Curtis, Andy Hill, Vince Carson, Jon Chapman, Gary Franklin
It should be no surprise that the 1971-72 UCLA Bruins are featured at the top of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time. They were led by Bill Walton, who averaged 21.1 points and 15.5 rebounds per game and was named the Naismith and USBWA College Player of the Year.
The Bruins finished the regular season 26-0, but what sets them apart from all the other greatest college basketball teams of all-time is the fact that they defeated each opponent by an average of over 30 points per game. They didn’t just beat their opponents, they dominated these teams.
After a 32-point victory over Weber State to start the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins defeated No. 5 Long Beach State by 16 points, No. 4 Louisville by 19 points, and No. 10 Florida State by five points. It was their 45th straight win and sixth straight NCAA championship under Wooden.
Which Schools Are Destined to Join This List?
As many of us know, the college basketball world is dominated by a few select universities that find themselves at or near the top every single year. Many of those universities are listed at least once above. With that said, there are plenty of colleges that aren’t featured on our list.
Some of those universities you don’t see above that could find their way on it eventually include Kansas, Villanova, Louisville, Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Baylor, Virginia, Texas, Gonzaga, USC, Oregon, and Oklahoma. They seem to put together talented teams year-in and year-out.
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Of course, talent isn’t the only thing you need to be regarded as one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time. You need grit, determination, hard work, teamwork, great coaching, and a little bit of luck. That’s what you see from the greatest college basketball teams of all-time.
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