So where does Jim Calhoun and his Connecticut program stack up all time? We've compiled a list of the all-time top 10 programs. The Huskies checked in at No. 7. Don't worry, we'll explain everything.
1. Kentucky – With eight NCAA championships, 15 Final Four appearances and 34 Elite Eight appearances dating back to 1942, Kentucky has become one of the bedrocks of college basketball and is the all-time top program. What’s most impressive about Kentucky is that its success has been long lasting. Four coaches –Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith, John Calipari– have won national titles since retirement Adolph Rupp. It’s also worth noting that Hall led the Wildcats to Final Four appearances in 1975 and 1984. Calipari also led the Wildcats to the Final Four in 2011. Kentucky is a at point where it almost doesn’t matter who is coaching (save for Eddie Sutton and Billy Gillispie). Just the Wildcats name is enough to draw the top high school recruits in the country.
2. North Carolina - North Carolina comes in at number two. Under Dean Smith (1961-1997), North Carolina won 17 ACC regular season titles and 13 tournament championships. Under Smith, the Tar Heels made 27 NCAA tournament appearances, 11 Final Fours and won two national championships in 1982 and 1993. The Tar Heels also won the NCAA title in 1957 and was runner up in 1946, 1968, 1977 and 1981. The key is what this 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.
3. Kansas – Consistency has been the middle name for Kansas. The Jayhawks have 14 Final Four appearances and three national titles dating back to 1940. Phog Allen got things started back in 1909. Since then five coaches have led Kansas to the Final Four and or national titles, including Dick Harp, Ted Owens, 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 four in the 2000s, with Self leading them to the national championship game in 2012. Not many programs can boast that kind of consistency over that long of a period
4. UCLA – No team has come close to accomplishing what the Bruins have as far as championships go. 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 three spots. The Bruins have stayed relevant in the post-John Wooden era, though. 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.
The Best of the Rest
Duke not in the top 4 all time? It was actually an easy decision. This list is about top programs, not top coaches. 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.
5. Duke – Duke is without a doubt the best current program in the country. Under Krzyzewski, Duke has won four national championships and has made 11 Final Four appearances. Duke’s last Final Four appearance came in 2010. Only Jim Calhoun and Connecticut, the next team on this list, comes close to that. Krzyzewski, who set the NCAA record for most coaching wins 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.
6. Michigan State - The Spartans check in at number six. This wasn’t really a difficult choice. Connecticut and Syracuse fans may moan about this, but few programs have been as consistent as the Spartans in the NCAA Tournament. Tom Izzo has never had a stable of first-round NBA picks, but he has kept his squad in the national mix. Michigan State made the Final Four in 1999, won the National Championship in 2000 and followed that up with four more Final Four appearances (2001, 2005, 2009, 2010). The Spartans also have six Elite Eight berths and seven Sweet 16 appearances in the 2000s. Prior to that, Jud Heathcote led the program to a national championship and two Elite Eight appearances. Overall, the Spartans have won two championships, made eight Final Fours and 11 Elite Eights. It’s hard to argue with that level of consistency.
7. Connecticut – Jim Calhoun, who is set to retire, has turned Connecticut into a machine. Four Final four appearances and three national titles under Calhoun puts Connecticut at No. 7 on this list. And we can’t forget the nine Elite Eight appearances dating back to 1990 under Calhoun. The question is what happens in his absence. Kevin Ollie is taking the reigns. For Connecticut to move into the top all-time list and past Michigan State, the Huskies must thrive under Ollie or whichever coach takes over for the long term.
8. 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 29 NCAA Tournament appearances, three Final Fours and a national championship under Jim Boeheim, the Orange has become a model of consistency. Another Final Four appearance and or national title could move the Orange past Michigan State.
9. 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. Prior to that, Lon Kruger got the Gators on the map with a Final Four appearance in 1994.
10. 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 have Arizona a little higher on this list. The Wildcats’ 10 NCAA Tournament appearances over the last 12 years keeps them ahead of Indiana. During that span Arizona has made a Final Four, six Sweet 16s and four Elite Eights.
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 have made it past the second round just once, have fallen on hard times. In fact, Indiana made the NCAA Tournament last season under Tom Crean for the first time since 2008. Crean led them to the Sweet 16 last year. The Hoosiers have missed six of the last 12 NCAA Tournaments. It’s hard to justify keeping them in the Top 10.
Louisville - Denny Crum started something special at Freedom Hall, winning two national titles. Rick Pitino has kept things going with three Elite Eight and two Final Four appearances. The program has made nine Final Fours and a dozen Elite Eight appearances overall.