Technically everyday is the end of a ten-year period, but this is when the numbers look the nicest so it’s looked at as the end of a decade. This is used as an excuse to make a bunch of lists and save any real analysis of what is currently happening in the sport being covered. Well that sounds like fun. Here is a list that can’t be proved, and will give no real perspective to what will happen as we enter 2010. At the very least they can be debated.
Top Ten Championship Teams
1. ’05 North Carolina (33-4)
Defeated Illinois 75-70 to give Roy Williams his first National Championship. The only team with four lottery picks in one year (Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashard McCants, and Marvin Williams) couldn’t be stopped. This Heels squad was arrogant and had plenty of swagger, rightfully so.
2. ’01 Duke (35-4)
Defeated Arizona 82-72 to win the title and solidify Coach K as the best coach of our era. Stacked roster included Jay Williams, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Chris Duhon, and Carlos Boozer, all future NBAers. Three of the four losses were by a combined 5pts with the only bad loss coming at Maryland by 11. They had an unbelievable comeback in the semifinal versus that same Terps team, rallying from 22 down to advance.
3. ’07 Florida (35-5)
Defeated Ohio St. 84-75 to become first repeat Champion since ’91-’92 Duke. Led by three lottery picks; Johkim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer. Five losses may seem like too many, but as the defending champ they got everyone’s best shot and still rolled to the title. It’s hard to see a defending champ at three, but the talent of the teams above trumps a two time run.
4. ’ 08 Kansas (37-3)
The best record among our teams of the decade and they won their first Championship since ’88 beating Memphis in one of the most exciting finals of the span. Jayhawk fans were disappointed when Brandon Rush tore his ACL the year prior, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Rush, forced to return because of the injury hurting is draft position, combined with Mario Chalmers, Sharron Collins, Darrell Arthur, and a slew of others dominated the next team on the list in the semifinals.
5. ‘09 North Carolina (34-4)
Defeated Michigan St. 89-72 and were never really challenged on their way to their second title of the decade. Led by first round picks Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansborough, and Wayne Ellington. Not only did they annihilate MSU in the title game, it was the second time smacking them around in the Spartan’s backyard at Ford Field.
6. ’02 Maryland (29-4)
Beat Indiana 64-52 to win a title that could’ve been their second straight had they not choked the year before in the semifinals versus Duke. One of the deeper teams on the list led by Jaun Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Chris Wilcox, Byron Mouton, and Steve Blake. Unexpectedly, Blake has gone on to have the most successful pro career of all the members on that team.
7. ’04 Connecticut (33-6)
Defeated Georgia Tech 82-73 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate to give Jim Calhoun his second national title. Led by versatile guards Taliek Brown, Rashad Anderson, and Ben Gordon, this team also had a fantastic front line with Emeka Okafor, Charlie Villanueva, and Josh Boone. While the championship game wasn’t close, they had to rally from 8 down in the final four minutes in the semifinals against a strong Duke team.
8. ’03 Syracuse (30-5)
The Carmelo Anthony’s won the most exciting championship game of the decade, topping Kansas 81-78. Hakeem Warrick’s block of Michael Lee’s potential tying three-pointer, with less than a second to go, stopped the furious Jayhawk comeback in the second half. Along with Anthony and Warrick, the Orange also had Gerry McNamara hitting threes for them as a frosh. Anthony is still the most impactful freshman, in my opinion, to ever play considering the way he carried the team to this kind of height.
9. ‘06 Florida (33-6)
The first title team snuck up on some people destroying UCLA 73-57 in the final, winning Florida’s first basketball title. Led by the same group as above they were only tested once in their title round in a second round matchup with Georgetown. This team inexplicably lost three games in a row during the regular season, so it wasn’t surprising the Billy Donavan’s team was an afterthought going into the post season.
10. ’00 Michigan St. (32-7)
Knocked off Florida 89-76 to win Sparty’s first Championship since Magic was running the show. The first team of the decade was led by a trio of Flint, MI products in Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell, and Morris Peterson, who came together at the end of the year to make a run. One of the feel good stories of college basketball in recent memory, with the hometown kids, who came from nothing to win it all.
The best team to not win it all? This is a tough one with ’05 Illinois and ’03 Kansas competing for that illustrious prize. The Jayhawks were a veteran team led by Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich while going 30-8. They beat #1 seed Arizona in the regional finals, avenging an earlier loss in the season, and sent Dwyane Wade and Marquette home in embarrassing fashion. The Illini, meanwhile, went an astounding 37-2 behind Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Roger Powell Jr. Their only regular season loss came in the finale at Ohio St by 1 and if not for the huge hole they dug for themselves late in the first half and early in the second they would probably be on the list above. They were able to come back and tie the championship, but were never able to regain the lead. In the end, the ’03 Kansas team was really good, but the ‘05 Illini team was great, and were probably a better team than half of the champions listed above.