All-Time Greatest College Basketball Teams from Every Decade
LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds
Record: 200-39 (.837) Championship record: 0-0
Two undefeated seasons. A 200-39 (.837) record. Led by coach Clair Bee, who holds the best win-loss percentage of any college coach, with over 500 games. The Blackbirds have more than earned their right to be known as the powerhouse of the ‘30s!
Record: 163-34 (.827) Championship record: 0-0
Adolph Rupp’s notorious 41-year reign as coach of the Wildcats
kicked off in the ‘30s, kicking off the team’s success. Known as the “Baron of the Bluegrass” and the “The Man in the Brown Suit,” Rupp was an early innovator of the fast break and set offense.
Record: 181-40 (.819) Championship record: 0-0
St. John’s Redmen
started the decade off confident, having nailed a historic 85-8 record from ‘27 to ‘31. They then finished the decade off with the “Wonder Five,” the players that took the squad to national prominence, making the school the marquee team in New York City
Record: 239-42 (.851) Championship record: 2-2
continued to gain traction through the 1940s. In total, Kentucky
won 876 games under Rutt, with most of those wins coming out of the ‘40s. Notably, the Wildcats
took home back-to-back championships, being only the second program in NCAA history to do so.
Record: 237-55 (.812) Championship record: 2-3
Under the guidance of Harold Olsen, the Buckeyes
began to see success in the ‘20s and slowly rose to prominence as a national powerhouse, with four Final Four appearances and five Big Ten championship wins.
Record: 179-43 Championship record: 0-0
The Rhode Island Rams
, led by coach Frankey Heaney, saw a great deal of success in this decade at the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). They made four appearances at the tournament, reaching the semifinals twice and placing as runners-up in ‘46.
Record: 224-33 (.872) Championship record: 2-2
Although they had their ups and downs, Kentucky
under Rupp continued their dominance into the ‘50s. A point-shaving scandal forced the Wildcats
to cancel their ‘52-’53 season, but that didn’t stop the team from scoring a solid .872 record and winning two national titles in ‘51 and ‘58.
Record: 228-65 (.778) Championship record: 0-1
From ‘53 to ‘69, Seattle
saw the NCAA tournament 11 times. They started the decade off with a stunning 84-81 upset against the renowned Harlem Globetrotters, and closed the decade out as runners-up in the ‘58 NCAA championships.
Record: 240-65 (.787) Championship record: 0-0
After a bid by NC State
to rebuild their athletic teams after the end of World War II, the Wolfpack started climbing the records charts. From a Southern Conference title win in ‘51 to an ACC championship win in ‘58, the Wolfpack
were consistent contenders throughout the decade.
Record: 234-52 (.818) Championship record: 5-5
were always a solid team, but it wasn’t until their hiring of coach John Wooden in ‘64 that they’d become champions. Multiple times. With sophomore Lew Alcindor at the helm starting in ‘67 – who scored 56 points in his first varsity game, a UCLA record – the team became so popular that the school had to build a new stadium to house the overflowing crowds.
Record: 214-63 (.773) Championship record: 2-3
Although the Bearcats
have appeared in 32 NCAA championships
in their history, they only brought home gold twice – back-to-back in 1961 and 1962 (complimented by their first round and runner-up statuses in the ‘63 and ‘66 NCAA tournament).
Record: 204-64 (.761) Championship record: 0-0
Led by Providence
’s first basketball superstar and future Hall of Famer, Lenny Wilkens, the Friars
triumphed during the NIT championship of ‘61. Two years later, led by another future Hall of Famer, John Thompson, they won their second.
Record: 273-27 (.910) Championship record: 5-5
under John Wooden continued winning (and then some) into the decade of disco, taking home ten national titles in twelve season (from ‘64 to ‘75), and going undefeated (not for the first time) in both ‘72 and ‘73. All-in-all, the Bruins
of the ‘70s were the only team ever to win at least 90% of their games in a decade.
Record: 252-40 (.863) Championship record: 1-2
’s basketball history is full of golden moments, including 26 NCAA appearances. But with a NCAA championship win in ‘77, an NCAA appearance in ‘74, and an NIT Championship win in ‘70; the ‘70s were definitely the Golden Eagles’ golden era.
Record: 223-56 (.799) Championship record: 0-0
Despite scoring an excellent record in the ‘70s, the Quakers
made just one historical Final Four appearance in ‘79, where they lost to the Spartans
. It’s okay, though – the Spartans
were led at the time by Magic Johnson, and if you have to lose someone, it might as well be to Magic Johnson.
Record: 281-63 (.817) Championship record: 1-2
Having produced Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Bob McAdoo and James Worthy in their program, the Tar Heels
are no strangers to success. The ‘80s were a herald of that success, a time smack-dab in the middle of UNC
’s winning season streak (from ‘64-‘01) and championship streak (from ‘75 to ‘01).
Record: 228-86 (.726) Championship record: 2-2
of the Bob Knight era (‘71-’00) were undoubtedly talented, managing 24 NCAA appearances under Knight’s leadership, with 23 players receiving All-American and All-Big Ten honors. In the ‘80s (‘81 and ‘87), the Hoosiers
scored two of their historical five NCAA championships.
Record: 269-69 (.796) Championship record: 1-3
A longstanding program, the The Georgetown Hoyas
have been around since 1907. They’ve reached the NCAA 26 times, and the NCAA Final Four 5 times, but it was in the ‘80s (‘84, to be specific) that the team took home their national championship.
Record: 282-63 (.817) Championship record: 2-3
of the ‘80s, a squad of homegrown Kentucky
kids, became known as the “Unforgettables” for getting Kentucky
back on a path to success. The team started the decade in scandal, and were banned from play in ‘90-’91. The Wildcats
were soon back on their feet, however, heading to the Elite Eight for the first time since ‘86.
Record: 271-78 (.777) Championship record: 2-5
The ‘90s were the decade where Duke
saw what some call “the greatest college basketball game ever played” (ESPN). Playing against Kentucky
in ‘92, the Wildcats
seemed to have sealed the game – until Duke
’s Christian Laettner nailed a turn-around jumper at the buzzer, sending the Devils
through to the Final Four with a 104-103 victory.
Record: 258-64 (.801) Championship record: 1-1
Coming into the decade hot off a ‘87-’88 season where Arizona ranked #1 and placed in the Final Four, the Wildcats were ready to rule the ‘90s. On top of their excellent record for the decade, Arizona managed to take down three number one seeds on their way to winning the ‘97 NCAA championship, a feat never seen before or since.
Record: 261-85 (.754) Championship record: 2-3
Coach Billy Donovan’s arrival in the ‘90s took the Gators
of the 2000s to the next level. After a rough start to the decade, Donovan’s savvy recruiting and an innovative coaching style helped lead the Gators
to the top of the SEC in just a few years. They managed 8 championship appearances in a row, culminating in an exciting 2007 championship win.
Record: 291-60 (.829) Championship record: 1-1
No strangers to success, Duke
had the third-longest streak in history in the AP Top 25 throughout this decade. They made 200 consecutive appearances in 1996-2007 alone, a record that’s behind only Kansas’ 231 and UCLA’s 221.
Record: 282-69 (.803) Championship record: 1-2
Not only did the Jayhawks make it to the NCAA Tournament every single year of this decade; in 2008, they took home the NCAA championship and scored a coveted #2 spot on ESPN’s list of the most prestigious programs of the modern basketball era.
Record: 238-56 (.810) Championship record: 2-2
Ranked #1 in the nation for 235 weeks in their history, Duke
has always had a killer basketball team. But in the 2010s, the Blue Devils
took things to the next level, seeing two Final Fours, two championships, and ranking No. 1 in preseason top 10 polls three times.
Record: 249-53 (.825) Championship record: 1-2
Coming in hot off a ‘98 championship, the Wildcats
saw a lot of success (again) in the 2010s decade. Not only did they pull off a perfect regular season in ‘03, going 16-0, they also won several SEC titles and made appearances in the Elite Eight appearances in ‘03 and ‘05.
Record: 247-48 (.837) Championship record: 0-1
The 2010s took place right in the middle of the Jayhawks’ 14-title conference title winning streak that lasted from 2005-2018. Kansas is still the record holder for all-time consecutive conference title wins. Go, Crimson and Blue!