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Hoops scoops special: Top 5 programs of the decade

Coming up with the top 5 programs of the 2000s wasn’t the easiest thing to do, which means there will be a lot of complaints. But hey, it’s all in fun. The criteria is simple, regular season greatness coupled with great NCAA Tournament play. The following five programs did it better than any other program.

1. North Carolina gets the nod as the top program of the 2000s. The reason? Simple. Aside from winning national championships in 2005 and 2009 and making two other Final Four appearances in 2000 and 2008, the Tar Heels have been as consistent as any elite program in the country. Yes, they missed the NCAA tourney in 2002 and 2003, but the Tar Heels have five Elite Eight appearances and five ACC regular season titles under their belts.

2. Surprise! Michigan State is number two. Tough choice? Hardly. Few coaches have gotten as much out of their players as Tom Izzo has. The Spartans don't have a stable full of first-round NBA picks, but they are consistently 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.

3. Consistency has been the middle name for Kansas. With three Final Four appearances (2002, 2003, 2008) and a National championship in 2008, the Jayhawks belong. Kansas made the NCAA Tournament every year in the 2000s and won seven Big 12 regular season titles and three conference tournament championships. Kansas has become a machine and the way Bill Self recruits, there’s no reason to think the Jayhawks won’t be a force in the next decade.   

4. Florida –  Winning consecutive national titles in 2006 and 2007 and making a Final Four appearance in 2000 puts Florida in the top 5. Remember, this is a top-5 decade thing. Sure, the Gators haven’t dominated the national headlines like the three programs ahead of them have, but eight NCAA Tournament appearances, three conference regular season and tournament titles is enough. Billy Donovan has turned Florida into more than just a football school

5. Connecticut won it all in 2004 and advanced to the Final Four last season. The Huskies have squandered a couple of opportunities, though, which puts them fifth. Losing to George Mason in the Elite 8 in 2006 was a huge blow to their national profile. But the Huskies still have five Sweet 16 berths, four Elite Eight appearances and four Big East regular season championships to boast.

Near misses:

Duke – The Blue Devils were a great regular season program in the 2000s, but too many NCAA tournament flameouts kept them out of the top 5. Duke’s last National title was in 2001 and their last Final Four appearance came in 2004. Their last Elite Eight appearance was also in 2004. Not being a top-5 program this decade shouldn't be viewed as a slight for Duke, which has eight Sweet 16 appearances.  

Syracuse – The Orange have quietly emerged as a premier program, worthy of inclusion in any top program debate. With a national title in 2003, four Sweet 16 appearances and seven NCAA tournament appearances in the 2000s, the Orange have been great. But having just one Elite Eight and Final Four appearance in the decade kept them from being a top 5 program.  

 UCLA - Not winning a National Championship in the 2000s keeps UCLA out of the top 5 and behind Duke and Syracuse. But the Bruins have been consistent. Ben Howland led the Bruins to three straight Final Four appearances (2006, 2007, 2008) and eight tournament appearances in the 2000s. Had the Bruins won a title, they might have bumped UConn.


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