In sports, sometimes the best teams on paper do not necessarily take home a championship year in and year out. In college basketball, it is no different as the wackiness of March Madness has ended the seasons of many teams who looked built to win a National Championship.
In this article, I am going to give my take on the Top 5 NCAA Division 1 basketball teams who never got the chance to cut down the nets and raise the trophy. Without further adieu, let's begin!
5) 2013-14 Florida Gators (36-3)
During my freshman year at the University of Florida, I was fortunate to witness the best basketball season in school history as the Gators went 36-3. They lost just two games in the regular season, won the SEC regular season and tournament championships, and became the first team in SEC history to go 18-0 in conference play.
This team was loaded with experience as the starting lineup consisted of four seniors and one sophomore. The starting five was: senior Scottie Wilbekin at point guard, sophomore Michael Frazier II at shooting guard, senior Casey Prather at small forward, senior Will Yeguete at power forward, and senior Patric Young at center.
After a record-setting regular season and a thrilling victory over Kentucky in the SEC Championship, the Gators went into March Madness as the #1 overall seed. Many picked them to win it all and bring Gainesville its third basketball National Championship overall and first since the 2006-2007 season.
Florida cruised through its first four tournament games and had a date with the UConn Huskies in the Final Four semifinal game. UConn had been the last team to beat Florida when star point guard Shabazz Napier hit a buzzer beater to win the game. In the rematch, Florida again had no answer for Shabazz as the senior had 12 points and six assists. The Gators lost 63-53 and their National Championship run was over. UConn would go on to beat Kentucky 60-54 for the National Championship.
I have one theory as to why the Gators choked in the semifinals. With Kentucky (who Florida had beaten three times that season) looming in the other semifinal game, Florida had to have been looking ahead towards their fourth meeting of the year with their arch rival. While doing that, they overlooked a very hot UConn team and ended the best season in school history without a championship.
4) 2007-08 Memphis Tigers (*38-2)
The Memphis Tigers became a virtually unstoppable force after recruiting a five-star point guard from Chicago, Illinois, named Derrick Rose. With Rose leading the way, the Memphis lineup was: freshman Derrick Rose at point guard, junior Chris Douglas-Roberts at guard, junior Antonio Anderson at guard, senior Joey Dorsey at forward, and junior Robert Dozier at forward.
The Tigers lost just one game (to Tennessee) in the regular season on route to both a Conference-USA regular season and tournament championship. They would be named the #1 overall seed going into March Madness and cruised to the National Championship relatively unchallenged (though they beat Mississippi State by just three points in the second round).
Memphis's opponent in the National Championship was the Kansas Jayhawks, led by guards Mario Chalmers and Darrel Arthur. The game was Memphis's to win, but poor free throw shooting in crunch time gave the Jayhawks one last chance to tie the game with ten seconds left. Down three points, Kansas moved the ball up the court and handed it off to Mario Chalmers who nailed a game-tying three-pointer with 2.1 seconds in regulation! Kansas would go on to win 75-68 in overtime.
In the end, it would not have mattered if Memphis had won the National Championship. As noted on their final record, I put an asterisk because Memphis would eventually forfeit all of its wins for the 2007-2008 season due to NCAA infractions. What was their offense exactly? Well, Derrick Rose had gotten somebody else to take his SAT for him in high school, so his SAT was voided and he was ineligible to play his entire freshman year.
It was as if the season had never happened for Memphis. Still, to come so close to the school's first ever National Championship with a team this stacked and not finish the job was still demoralizing for Memphis and its fans nonetheless.
3) 1982-83 Houston Cougars (31-3)
Known simply as "Phi Slama Jama" because they unleashed vicious dunks on everybody, the Houston Cougars were loaded with future NBA talent. Their starting five consisted of: sophomore guard Michael Young, junior forward Clyde Drexler, sophomore center Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon, senior center Larry Micheaux, and sophomore forward Benny Anders. All but Anders would go to the NBA. Micheaux was the only one not taken in the first round of the draft.
Houston tore through the Southwest Conference as it went 18-0 in conference play and won the SWC regular season and tournament championships. At 31-3 overall, Houston was the #1 overall seed once March Madness rolled around and they took care of business on route to the National Championship game.
Their opponent would be the underdog NC State Wolfpack, who had survived game after game in the tournament just to get to the championship. The game was an instant classic, as Houston's conservative play in the second half allowed the Wolfpack to come storming back. In the last 40 seconds (there was no shot clock back then), NC State held the ball for the final shot.
After nearly losing the ball, NC State's Dereck Whittenburg chucked up a shot from deep with three seconds left. The shot fell short, but Whittenburg's teammate Lorenzo Charles leaped up and dunked the ball as time expired to win the National Championship for the Wolfpack! It was one of the greatest upsets in sports history and Houston was left standing there shocked at what had just occurred.
The very next season, Houston would again return to the National Championship and again would lose. This time the victor was a Georgetown Hoyas team led by Patrick Ewing. With two superstar-caliber teams, Houston failed to claim the program's first National Championship in back-to-back years.
2) 1991-92 & 1992-93 Michigan Wolverines (24-8 & *31-5)
The Michigan Wolverines brought in what some call one of the greatest recruiting classes of all-time prior to the 1991-92 season. Known simply as the "Fab Five", Michigan's starting lineup would eventually consist of: freshman point guard Jalen Rose, freshman shooting guard Jimmy King, freshman small forward Ray Jackson, freshman power forward Chris Webber, and freshman center Juwan Howard. All of them would make it to the NBA.
Together, the Fab Five led Michigan to two consecutive National Championships which they both lost. The first go around was against the Duke Blue Devils. The game was 31-30 Michigan at half, but then Duke ran away with it in the second half. Star forward, Christian Laettner, got hot and scored a game-high 19 points as Duke routed Michigan 71-51.
The next year, Michigan went up against the North Carolina Tarheels. This game was much closer as Michigan trailed 73-71 with less than 20 seconds in the game. After a missed Tarheel free throw, Chris Webber nabbed the rebound and brought the ball up-court. Michigan was doomed from the get-go.
As soon as Webber took off, he traveled. Fortunately for Michigan, the refs had missed it. Then, Webber brought the ball up and ran into the corner. This was exactly what North Carolina wanted him to do. They trapped him with a double team and Webber tried to call a timeout. Only problem was that Michigan was all out of timeouts. Webber was assessed a technical foul and UNC was rewarded two free throws and the ball. They would go on to win the game 77-71.
To make things worse for Webber, he took improper benefits while at Michigan. As a result, the Wolverines' 1991-92 Final Four appearance was vacated and all their wins from the 1992-93 season were vacated as well. Similar to Houston, Michigan lost in back-to-back National Championship games and similar to Memphis, winning would not have mattered as all of their wins were eventually vacated.
1) 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats (38-1)
Coming in at No.1 is a team that I thought would be one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time. The Kentucky Wildcats brought in an insanely good recruiting class that featured four highly touted recruits in guard Devin Booker, forward Trey Lyles, center Karl-Anthony Towns, and guard Tyler Ullis. In addition to these outstanding recruits, Kentucky was returning key players like sophomore twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, sophomore center Dakari Johnson, junior power forward Willie Cauley-Stein, and junior forward Alex Poythress.
Kentucky was loaded at every position and looked absolutely unbeatable as it just stomped teams game in and game out. This team was so talented that head coach John Calipari had to use a first and second-team platoon system for substitutions. Kentucky won the SEC regular season and tournament championships and equaled Florida's 18-0 SEC record just a year after it had been set. They were 34-0 entering the tournament.
Indisputably the #1 overall seed going into the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky ripped through its opponents before pulling out a close 68-66 victory against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight. In the Final Four, Kentucky was pitted in a rematch of last year's semifinal game against Wisconsin. Led by senior power forward Frank Kamisky's 20 points and junior small forward Sam Dekker's 16 points, Wisconsin got its revenge and upset Kentucky 71-64 to end the Wildcats' pursuit of perfection. Wisconsin would go on to lose in the National Championship to Duke 68-63.
It was a heartbreaking loss for Kentucky and its fans to stomach as they could not fathom losing any games with such a talented team. Kentucky's Final Four loss had three ramifications. First, it ultimately showed how difficult it it is to go undefeated in college basketball. Second, it showed why games are played on the court and not paper. Finally, it knocked them out of consideration for the greatest collegiate basketball team of all-time and landed them right on my list. Now that might actually be the greatest honor of them all.
2013-14 Wichita State Shockers (35-1)
I hope you enjoyed this Top 5 article! My next article will be on the Florida/Miami baseball game in the College World Series in addition to some miscellaneous projects that I am currently working on. Until then, stay tuned!
*All stats accredited to www.sports-reference.com/cbb/, Wikipedia.com, & ESPN.com
*All pictures accredited to bleacherreport.com, zimbio.com, chron.com, usatoday, & usatoday.com
Post a Comment
Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.