By Sean Fernandez
If you've ever attempted to come up with a formula to rank the best college basketball programs in the country, you can stop trying. Eamonn Brennan and company at ESPN have you covered. This week, they ranked the top 50 programs of the last 50 years in their '50 in 50' series.
Things didn't really get going in Tucson until the '80s, but the Wildcats have been among the best programs in the nation since. The legendary Lute Olsen was at the helm from 1983-2007, making the tournament for 23 consecutive years and appearing in 4 Final Fours. Notable players to suit up for the 'Cats include Mike Bibby, Gilbert Arenas, Damon Stoudamire, and Sean Elliot.
The past 20 or-so years have been glorious for the Huskies. Three national championships have been brought back to Storrs since 1999, which is more than any other program during that tenure. Longtime coach Jim Calhoun has produced a plethora of talented NBA players, including Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, and Kemba Walker.
In his 36 years as Head Coach of the Orange, Jim Boeheim has won nearly 900 games and won a national championship in 2003. SU has consistently been among the best teams in the nation throughout the last 50 years, producing the likes of Derrick Coleman, Carmelo Anthony, and Dave Bing, to name a few. Syracuse is rated higher than Georgetown (12th), so all is right in the world.
If this ranking was compiled for the period of time between 1970-1990 (the Bob Knight era), the Hoosiers would be in the top 5 for sure. However, a difficult stretch during the 2000s and a few lost points due to NCAA sanctions have caused IU to drop to the 7th spot. Fans in Bloomington, IN have gone wild for three national championship teams and players such as Isiah Thomas, Steve Alford, and Kent Benson.
The Cardinals being ranked this high may surprise a few people, but L'Ville has appeared in its fair share of final fours and won a pair of national championships. They've done battle with Syracuse for a good portion of the 50 years, and have seen guys such as Wes Unseld, and Rodney McCray go through the system.
Rock Chalk Jayhawk! KU has always been one of the premier programs in the nation. Two national titles and eight final fours are just about as impressive as the list of players to play home games at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Paul Pierce, Danny Manning, and Nick Collison have all resided in Lawrence during their college days.
J.J. Reddick, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, and Christian Laettener are just a few of the Blue Devils that have been mentored by Coach K at Duke. The '70s weren't filled with success, but Cameron Indoor Stadium has been rockin' for the great majority of the past 50 years. Since 1990, the Blue Devils have the best ranking.
The Wildcats have won four national titles and 26 conference championships during this 50 year time period, so it's no wonder why they find themselves in the top 3. Adolph Rupp coached at UK for over 40 years, and John Calipari has also had success in Lexington. Notable players include Jamal Mashburn, Anthony Davis, John Wall, and Tony Delk.
11 national titles have been brought back to Westwood. Yes, 11. The Bruins have been incredibly successful over the past 50 years, and would be the #1 team if they weren't penalized for NCAA violations. John Wooden is among the best coaches in CBB history, without question, and is a major reason for the Bruins success. Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Bill Walton, and Reggie Miller have all played their college ball for UCLA.
1) North Carolina
The Tar Heels take the top spot in the rankings, and rightfully so. They've won a national championship in each of the past three decades, and have produced a boat load of NBA talent. Michael Jordan, James Worthy, and Antwan Jamison have each played home games in the Dean Dome. Dean Smith got the ball rolling in Chapel Hill, and they haven't really slowed down after he retired in 1997.
The full rankings (with an explanation for the scoring system) can be found here