Now that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has taken the top spots for most wins and has established himself as one of the greatest coaches of all time, what about the best programs? Which program is No.1 all time? What are the top programs now?
After a ton of research, here is the Hoops Scoops list of top programs, both current and all time. You’ll be surprised which programs made the all-time top 4 and which programs didn’t.
Top four programs all-time
1. North Carolina - North Carolina is the top program of all-time under Hoops Scoops’ scenario. Under Dean Smith (1961-1997) North Carolina 17 ACC regular season titles and 13 tournament championships. The Tar Heels made 27 NCAA tournament appearances, 11 Final Fours and won two national championships in 1982 and 1993. But the key is what the program has done since Smith’s retirement. Longtime assistant Bill Guthridge took over, went 80-28 in three seasons and took the Tar Heels to two Final Fours. The Matt Doherty reign was short (2000-2003) and far from sweet, but Roy Williams hit the ground running. Under Williams the Tar Heels had won two national titles (2005, 2009) and made the Final Four in 2008. Few programs can say they have been as consistent as the Tar Heels have been in the last three decades.
2. UCLA – No team has come close to accomplishing what the Bruins have. With 18 Final Four appearances and 11 championships, you’d think the Bruins would be No.1. Unfortunately, the Bruins haven’t won a title since 1995 and that keeps them out of the top five. Make no mistake about it, the Bruins have managed to stay relevant in the post-John Wooden era. Since the late Wooden’s retirement in 1975 eight different coaches have led the Bruins to five Final Four appearances, seven Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights and 28 overall NCAA Tournament appearances.
3. Kentucky – With seven NCAA championships and 14 Final Four appearances (including 2011) dating back to 1942, Kentucky has become one of the bedrocks of college basketball. And did we forget to mention that the Wildcats have 33 Elite Eight appearances since 1942? Not winning a championship since 1998 keeps Kentucky from moving up on this list. Like UCLA and North Carolina, what’s most impressive about Kentucky is that its success has been long lasting. Three coaches –Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith– have won national titles since retirement of the late Adolph Rupp. It’s also worth noting that Hall led the Wildcats to Final Four appearances in 1975 and 1984. John Calipari led the Wildcats to the Final Four last year and has the horses to make a repeat appearance.
4. Kansas – Consistency has been the middle name for Kansas. The Jayhawks have 13 Final Four appearances and three national titles dating back to 1940. Phog Allen got things started back in 1909. Since then several coaches have led Kansas to the Final Four and or national titles, including Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self. The Jay Hawks had two Final Four appearances in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, two in the 1990s and three in the 2000s. Not many programs can boast that kind of consistency over that long of a period.
Top Current Programs
Duke not in the top 4 all time? It was actually an easy decision. We’ve seen what North Carolina (Dean Smith), Kansas (Phog Allen), UCLA (John Wooden) and Kentucky (Adolph Rupp) look like without their chief architects. The aforementioned schools have all thrived under different coaches over the decades and have remained household names.
We have no idea what Duke, Connecticut, Michigan State or Syracuse will look like without their current coaches. The one season Duke didn’t have Krzyzewski (the coach had hip surgery in 1994-1995) the Blue Devils went 13-18 (2-14 ACC) and missed the tournament. This isn’t to say Duke couldn’t thrive without Krzyzewski, but we’d like to see it happen.
1. Duke – Duke is without a doubt the best program in the country. With four national championships and 11 Final Four appearances, it doesn’t get any better. No program comes close to that. Even Connecticut, the next team on this list, can’t match that. Krzyzewski, who set the NCAA record for most coaching wins (903) has flirted with the NBA, but that this stage in his life, we don’t see him making a change. As long as he is healthy and motivated, Duke will stay on top.
2. Connecticut – Jim Calhoun has turned Connecticut into a machine. Four Final four appearances and three national titles under Calhoun puts UConn at No.2 on this list. And we can’t forget the six other Elite Eight appearances dating back to 1990 under Calhoun.
3. Michigan State - The Spartans check in at number three. This wasn’t really a difficult choice. Syracuse fans may moan about this, but few programs have been as consistent as the Spartans in the NCAA Tournament. Tom Izzo has never has a stable of first-round NBA picks, but he has kept his squad in the national mix. Michigan State won the National Championship in 2000 and followed that up with three more Final Four appearances (2001, 2005, 2009). The Spartans also have five Elite Eight berths and six Sweet 16 appearances in the 2000s. It’s hard to argue with that level of consistency.
4. Syracuse – The Orange might be the most underrated great program of this era. Sure, Syracuse has come up short on more than one occasion. With 28 NCAA Tournament appearances, three Final Fours and a national championship under Jim Boeheim, the Orange has been a model of consistency. Another Final Four appearance and or national title could move the Orange past Michigan State.
5. Florida – The Gators, who won back-to-back titles in 2006-2007, are certainly a threat to move up a little. Under Billy Donovan, the Gators have made three Final Four appearances, four Elite Eights and five Sweet 16s. If Florida wasn’t a football school, the basketball program would get much more respect.
6. Arizona – The Wildcats had a great run under Lute Olson. Olson led Arizona to the national title in 1997. The program made four Final Fours and eight Elite Eights dating back to 1976. Another championship or two and another couple Final Four appearances would’ve have Arizona among the all-time great programs.
Indiana – The Hoosiers haven’t been relevant on the national stage since Mike Davis led them to the NCAA Final in 2002. Since then the Hoosiers, who haven’t made it past the second round since that season, have fallen on hard times. In fact, Indiana hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2008 and has missed the tournament six of the last nine seasons.
Louisville - Denny Crum started something special at Freedom Hall. Rick Pitino has kept things going with three Elite Eight and one Final Four appearance.