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The Top 31 College Basketball Programs of the Last 31 Years (Part IV)

Posted by Neil Paine on November 8, 2010

With the 2010-11 NCAA basketball season technically commencing this week, let’s return to these rankings

15. Connecticut Huskies (+14.16 SRS)

Record: 682-312 (.686)
Prominent Coaches: Jim Calhoun
Best NCAA Finish: Won NCAA Championship (1999, 2004)

Two national titles in the last 12 years makes up for a mediocre first half of the 1980s under Dom Perno, as the leadership of Calhoun has transformed Storrs into an unlikely national hoops hotbed. And to think that it all started with Scott Burrell & Tate George

14. UCLA Bruins (+14.35 SRS)

Record: 678-297 (.695)
Prominent Coaches: Jim Harrick, Ben Howland
Best NCAA Finish: Won NCAA Championship (1995)

In Westwood, the legacy of John Wooden can be a burden as well as a source of pride. No matter what happens to UCLA basketball from now on, it will likely never come close to approaching Wooden’s feats of the 1960s and 70s. But even though the Bruins haven’t been able to replicate The Wizard’s magic touch, the program has still been among the nation’s elite over the past 3 decades. A national crown under Harrick revived UCLA’s powerhouse profile in 1995, and Howland took them to 3 consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08. It’s not 10 titles in 12 seasons, but it’ll do.

13. Georgetown Hoyas (+14.52 SRS)

Record: 708-309 (.696)
Prominent Coaches: John Thompson, John Thompson III
Best NCAA Finish: Won NCAA Championship (1984)

They may have only won one championship, but Georgetown hoops dominated the 1980s — not only in substance (26.9 wins per season), but also style (the “Hoya Paranoia” era popularized an intimidating flair that we still see today). The first Thompson took the Hoyas from an Independent afterthought to a national powerhouse, and while the team hit a lull under Craig Esherick, Thompson’s son John III brought the program back with a Final Four appearance in 2007.

12. Michigan State Spartans (+14.59 SRS)

Record: 639-342 (.651)
Prominent Coaches: Jud Heathcote, Tom Izzo
Best NCAA Finish: Won NCAA Championship (2000)

Heathcote is an MSU legend, but Sparty’s presence this high is really owed more to Izzo, who has cobbled together six Final Four berths in the last 12 seasons, including last year’s improbable run. There’s a reason the Cleveland Cavaliers turned to Izzo as part of their last desperate attempt to retain LeBron James’ “talents” — he might just be the best coach in all of college basketball. Not convinced yet? Let it sink in that Michigan State’s placement on this list doesn’t even include the Magic Johnson era, which ended the year before the cutoff for these rankings.

11. Maryland Terrapins (+14.75 SRS)

Record: 626-361 (.634)
Prominent Coaches: Lefty Driesell, Gary Williams
Best NCAA Finish: Won NCAA Championship (2002)

As far as coaching ability in a 30-year period goes, you can hardly ask for better than Driesell and Williams. Under the former, the Terps took the ACC by storm in the mid-80s (some guy named Len Bias helped), while the latter’s intense style has forged 14 NCAA appearances in the last 17 years — and broke the ACC’s Carolina stranglehold on the national scene when Maryland won their long-awaited first championship in 2002. It’s tough to match this program’s ability to churn out 20-win seasons.

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