Top 6 Best Men's College Basketball Teams of All Time
Men’s college basketball is one of the most popular sports in America, especially when March Madness begins each year and the best teams in the country compete for the National Championship. Since the first NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament in 1939, a few teams have proven to be the best of all time.
What are the best men’s college basketball teams of all time?
- UCLA Bruins
- Kentucky Wildcats
- Duke Blue Devils
- UNC Tar Heels
- Kansas Jayhawks
- Indiana Hoosiers
1. UCLA Bruins
- 11 National Championships: 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1995
- Won more National Championships than any other Division I men’s basketball team
- 18 Final Four appearances
- 88-game win streak
- Four perfect seasons
The UCLA Bruins are the most successful basketball program in NCAA Division I history. The Bruins have won a total of 11 National Championships, more than any other college program. Much of the team’s success can be attributed to coach John Wooden, who won ten championships in 12 years and led a winning streak of seven straight years. Additionally, from 1971 to 1973, Wooden led the Bruins to an 88-game winning streak. After Wooden’s departure in 1975, UCLA did not win another National Championship until 1995, coached by Jim Harrick. Many famed players have competed for the Bruins, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich, Marques Johnson, and Reggie Miller.
2. Kentucky Wildcats
- Eight National Championships: 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998, and 2012
- Second most National Championships in Division I history
- Two Helms national titles: 1933 and 1954
- 8-4 record in National Championship appearances
The Kentucky Wildcats are often considered one of the best men’s college basketball teams of all time. The Wildcats compete in the NCAA Southeastern Conference (SEC). In the 1947-1948 season, Kentucky won its first National Championship, led by coach Adolph Rupp, defeating Baylor 58-42. The Wildcats went on to win another championship the following year, defeating Oklahoma State 46-36. Since then, Kentucky has won six other national championships led by coaches including Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith, and John Calipari. Throughout the program’s rich history of success, many star players have competed for the Wildcats, such as Cliff Hagan, Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza, John Wall, and Anthony Davis.
3. Duke Blue Devils
- Five National Championships: 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, and 2015
- 16 Final Four appearances
- Conference Champions 22 times
The Duke Blue Devils are one of the most dominant college basketball programs, especially in more recent years. The Blue Devils compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Duke won its first National Championship in 1991, led by coach Mike Krzyzewski (or Coach K) and star player Christian Laettner, by defeating Kansas 72-65. Since then, Coach K has led the Blue Devils to four more National Championship victories and is the second-most winningest coach in NCAA Division I history after John Wooden. A few of the most notable players to compete for the Blue Devils include Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Shane Battier, and J.J. Reddick.
4. UNC Tar Heels
- Six National Championships: 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009, and 2017
- 20 Final Four appearances
- Conference Champions 39 times
The UNC Tar Heels compete in the ACC and are known rivals of the Duke Blue Devils. The Tar Heels won their first National Championship in 1957, defeating Kansas 54-53 in triple overtime and becoming only the second undefeated team to win a national championship in NCAA Division I history. Often considered the best basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan competed for the Tar Heels for three seasons from 1981 to 1984. During his time at UNC, Jordan led the team in scoring in his sophomore and junior years, started his freshman year and led the Tar Heels to win the National Championship that same year, and had an overall record of 88-13 with the team. Other notable UNC coaches and players include Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, Roy Williams, Tyler Hansbrough, Phil Ford, and James Worthy.
5. Kansas Jayhawks
- Three National Championships: 1952, 1988, and 2008
- 15 Final Four appearances
- 49 NCAA Tournament appearances
- Conference Champions 62 times
The Kansas Jayhawks compete in the Big 12 Conference but originally competed in the Big 7 Conference when the program won its first national championship in 1952. The Jayhawks were coached by Phog Allen, who had previously led the team to the national championship game in 1940 but fell short. Following their first championship, Kansas made it back to the title game in 1953 and 1957 but did not win another national championship until 1988, when the Jayhawks became the first six-seed team to win the title. The team won its third title in 2008 and was led by coach Bill Self, along with star players Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, and Sherron Collins.
6. Indiana Hoosiers
- Five National Championships: 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, and 1987
- Eight Final Four appearances
- 39 NCAA Tournament appearances
- Conference Champions 22 times
The Indiana Hoosiers compete in the Big 10 Conference, alongside one of their biggest rivals, the Purdue Boilermakers. Indiana is one of the most historic college basketball teams, as it won its first national championship in only the second year of the NCAA tournament. In 1940, the Hoosiers, coached by Branch McCracken, defeated Kansas 60-42 to claim the school’s first title. After 13 long years, McCracken led the Hoosiers to another championship appearance against Kansas, where the team won a close game 69-68. Indiana would go on to win three more national titles in 1976, 1981, and 1987 led by legendary coach Bob Knight and players such as Steve Alford, Isiah Thomas, and Scott May.
Who was the best individual college basketball team of all time?
The 1972 UCLA Bruins are considered the best college basketball team of all time. The Bruins finished the season with an overall record of 30-0, going 26-0 in the regular season and winning all of their tournament games, including the National Championship against Florida State. Under the leadership of coach John Wooden and star player Bill Walton, UCLA defeated each of their opponents by an incredible average of over 30 points per game.
Have any college basketball teams gone undefeated?
Yes, seven college basketball teams have gone undefeated. The 1956 San Francisco Dons, led by legend Bill Russell, were the first team to go undefeated. In 1957, the UNC Tar Heels completed a perfect season, defeating Kansas in the national championship. Following the Tar Heels, the UCLA Bruins achieved four undefeated seasons in 1964, 1967, 1972, and 1973. UCLA is the only school in NCAA history to have multiple undefeated seasons. Finally, the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers were the most recent team to record a perfect season.
Which college basketball program has the most wins?
The Kentucky Wildcats have the most wins in the history of NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball. Following the Wildcats, the Kansas Jayhawks are a close second in total wins. Thanks to Coach John Calipari, who has led the Wildcats to four Final Four appearances and a national title in 2012, Kentucky has been able to remain the winningest program in the NCAA. However, the lead has been steadily narrowed by the Jayhawks, who began the 2021 season only four total wins behind Kentucky.