Qualifications for consideration: Eligible teams are those teams that won an NCAA Tournament championship. The tournament has been played annually since 1939; hence, with the completion of the 2018 championship a total of 80 teams are eligible for consideration.
Methodology: Each team’s rating is based on the standard deviation of its points per game differential measured against the standard deviations of the point differentials of all tournament teams. If a team’s standard deviation is one-half point or more worse than the team immediately above it, the performance of that team and all teams below it are not factored into the rating. The example below shows the scores for each team during the 1966 tournament famously won by Texas Western (now UTEP) over Kentucky. That tournament featured 22 teams, 4 of whose performance standard deviations did not meet the minimum standard for qualification. The average point differential was +5.29; the group standard deviation was 0.56.
1966 Games PPG PPGA Diff. Std Dev.
Texas Western 5 81.00 74.60 6.40 1.10
Kentucky 4 79.50 76.75 2.75 0.41
Western Kentucky 2 92.00 83.00 9.00 1.60
St. Josephs 2 69.50 62.00 7.50 1.31
Davidson 2 86.50 79.50 7.00 1.22
Syracuse 2 87.50 84.50 3.00 0.46
Utah 3 77.00 74.33 2.75 0.40
Kansas 2 78.00 75.50 2.50 0.37
Duke 3 81.67 79.33 2.33 0.34
Houston 2 71.00 69.50 1.50 0.18
Dayton 2 68.50 68.50 0.00 -0.11
Oregon State 2 63.50 65.00 -1.50 -0.39
Cincinnati 1 76.00 78.00 -2.00 -0.48
Michigan 2 78.50 81.50 -3.00 -0.67
SMU 1 70.00 76.00 -6.00 -1.24
Colorado State 1 76.00 82.00 -6.00 -1.24
Miami (Ohio) 1 51.00 58.00 -7.00 -1.43
Pacific 1 74.00 83.00 -9.00 -1.81
Oklahoma City 1 74.00 89.00 DNQ
Providence 1 48.00 65.00 DNQ
Loyola (Chicago) 1 86.00 105.00 DNQ
Rhode Island 1 65.00 95.00 DNQ
Disclaimer: Our perceptions of the strength of teams (or individuals) can be colored by factors that are extraneous to their actual dominance: general familiarity, the presence or absence of attention-getting personalities, subjective opinions that become engrained over time, superiority in certain statistical categories being the most likely. This rating is based on an objective methodology, meaning that it is immune to influence from any of those criteria. That also means its findings may vary – in some cases substantially – from the historical consensus. As you scan this list, be prepared to have your presumptions of relative greatness challenged. It is also worth noting that tournament formats such as the NCAA Tournament can yield debatable results. This is because the most reliable results are obtained in “closed-end competitions” – that is, when teams play each other – and that never occurs in single-elimination events.
T-24. 2005 North Carolina (1.75)
Tournament wins: Oakland 96-68, Iowa State 64-53, Villanova 76-65, Wisconsin 88-82, Michigan State 87-81, Illinois 75-70.
Coach: Roy Williams.
Starters and scoring averages: Sean May 17.5, Rashad McCants 16.0, Jawad Williams 13.1, Raymond Felton 12.9, Marvin Williams, 11.3.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored 84.17; allowed 70.33.
In a paragraph: North Carolina went 14-2 in the ACC, entered the tournament as a No. 1 seed, and never faced a seed higher than 5 until running into fellow No. 1 seed Illinois in the championship game. In the title game, May scored 26 points and the Tar Heels shot 52 percent.
T-24. 1978 Kentucky (1.75)
Tournament wins: Florida State 85-76, Miami (Ohio) 91-69, Michigan State 52-49, Arkansas 64-59, Duke 94-88.
Coach: Joe B. Hall.
Starters and scoring average: Jack Givens 18.1, Rick Robey 14.4, Kyle Macy 12.9, James Lee 11.3, Mike Phillips 10.2.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 77.2, allowed 68.2.
In a paragraph: Kentucky spent all but a few weeks in February atop the Associated Press poll, and never fell lower than third. The Wildcats’ only two losses came to SEC foes Alabama and Louisiana State, the latter by one point in overtime.
- 2016 Villanova (1.80)
Tournament wins: North Carolina-Asheville 86-56, Iowa 87-68, Miami (Fla.) 92-69, Kansas 64-59, Oklahoma 95-51, North Carolina 77-74.
Coach: Jay Wright.
Starters and scoring average: Josh Hart 15.5, Kris Jenkins 13.6, Ryan Arcidiacono 12.5, Jalen Brunson 9.6, Daniel Ochefu 10.0.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 84.17, allowed 62.83.
In a paragraph: Ranked outside the top 10 both in the pre-season and as late as early January, the Wildcats won 16 of 17 between Dec. 31 and Feb. 20. In the tournament, their only two close calls were with Kansas in the regional final and North Carolina in the championship game. In that title game, Phil Booth came off the bench to provide 20 points.
- 1961 Cincinnati (1.81)
Tournament wins: Texas Tech 78-55, Kansas State 69-64, Utah 82-67, Ohio State 70-65 OT.
Coach: Ed Jucker.
Starters and scoring average: Carl Bouldin 11.7, Bob Wiesenhahn 17.1, Tom Thacker 12.3, Paul Hogue 16.8, Tony Yates 7.4.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 74.75, allowed 62.75.
In a paragraph: Playing without their graduated star, Oscar Robertson, the Bearcats won their final 18 regular season games. Still they entered the tournament as a decided underdog to the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes. The championship game was close throughout, Cincinnati’s defense holding Ohio State star John Havlicek to just one field goal and two points. Jerry Lucas offset that with a 27-point performance, but the deeper Bearcats prevailed.
- 1974 North Carolina State (1.84)
Tournament wins: Providence 92-78, Pittsburgh 100-72, UCLA 80-77 2OT, Marquette 76-64.
Coach: Norm Sloan.
Starters and scoring average: David Thompson 26.0, Tom Burleson, 18.1, Monte Towe 12.8, Mo Rivers 12.1, Tim Stoddard 5.5.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored 89.50, allowed 72.75.
In a paragraph: With a 30-1 record and No. 1 national ranking, the Wolfpack posed the most serious challenge to UCLA’s reign in nearly a decade. The teams met in the national semi-final ranked 1-2, the nationally televised contest pitting Wolfpack star Thompson against Bruins seniors Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes. Concluding his illustrious career, Walton produced 29 points and 18 rebounds. But Thompson responded with 28 points, and center Tom Burleson threw in 20 as the Wolfpack outscored UCLA 13-10 in the second overtime to end their string of seven consecutive national championships. In the title game, Thompson and Towe dominated Marquette, holding star Warrior forward Bo Ellis to just 12 points in a 76-64 Wolfpack victory.
- 2002 Maryland (1.88)
Tournament wins: Siena 85-70, Wisconsin 87-56, Kentucky 78-68, Connecticut 90-82, Kansas 97-88, Indiana 64-53.
Coach: Gary Williams.
Starters and scoring average: Juan Dixon 20.4, Steve Blake 8.0, Byron Moulton 11.1, Lonny Baxter 15.2, Chris Wilcox 12.0.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 83.50, allowed 69.67.
In a paragraph: The Terrapins came into the tournament having lost only once since mid-January, and were never seriously threatened. In their championship-game victory over Indiana, Maryland led by six at halftime and built that advantage to 12 by game’s end. Dixon led the offense with 18 points, but he got strong support from Baxter (15) and Wilcox (10).
- 2001 Duke (1.92)
Tournament wins: Monmouth 95-52, Missouri 94-81, UCLA 76-63, Southern California 79-69, Maryland 95-84, Arizona 82-72.
Coach: Mike Krzyewski.
Starters and scoring average: Jay Williams 21.6, Shane Battier 19.9, Carlos Boozer 13.3, Mike Dunleavy 12.6, Nate James 12.3.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 86-83, allowed 70-67.
In a paragraph: Ranked among the top 5 all season, the Blue Devils defeated North Carolina in their final regular season game, rolled through the ACC Tournament, and blew away five NCAA opponents by double digit margins. In the championship game against fifth ranked Arizona, Duke broke open a close game in the second half with Dunleavy (21 points) and Battier (18) leading the way. Battier was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
- 2013 Louisville (2.03)
Tournament wins: North Carolina A&T 79-48, Colorado State 82-56, Oregon 77-69, Duke 85-63, Wichita State 72-68, Michigan 82-76.
Coach: Rick Pitino.
Starters and scoring average: Peyton Siva 10.0, Gorgui Dieng 9.8, Russ Smith 18.7, Chane Behanan 9.8, Wayne Blackshear 7.6.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 79.5, allowed 62.83.
In a paragraph: Louisville’s championship has since been vacated by the NCAA for program improprieties.
- 1952 Kansas (2.11)
Tournament wins: TCU 68-64, St. Louis 74-55, Santa Clara 74-55, St. Johns 80-63.
Coach: Phog Allen.
Starters and scoring average: Clyde Lovelette 28.4, Bob Kenney 13.7, Bill Hougland 7.1, Dean Kelley 6.0, Bill Lienhard 5.8.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 74.0, allowed 59.25.
In a paragraph: Lovellette, who went on to a solid professional career, is the only player to have led the nation in scoring while also leading his team to a national championship. In the title game he scored 33 points and added 17 rebounds. For his tournament efforts he was named the Most Outstanding Player. For Allen, the victory was a capstone to a career that included 37 seasons at Kansas producing 590 victories against only 219 defeats plus 22 conference championships.
- 2006 Florida (2.19)
Tournament wins: Jackson State 112-69, Purdue 74-67, Butler 65-57, Oregon 85-77, UCLA 78-66, Ohio State 84-75.
Coach: Billy Donovan.
Starters and scoring average: Taurean Green 13.3, Lee Humphrey 10.3, Al Horford 13.2, Corey Brewer 13.2, Joakim Noah 12.0.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 72.67, allowed 56.67.
In a paragraph: On their way to the first of two consecutive NCAA championships, the Gators were ranked No. 1 in pre-season polls and again from mid-January through mid-February. Between Dec. 6 and Feb. 14 they won 17 consecutive games. In the championship games Florida’s superb depth – all five starters averaged in double figures — showed through. Horford, Green, Brewer and Humphrey all posted between 13 and 18 points.
T-13. 1959 California (2.21)
Tournament wins: Utah 71-53, Saint Mary’s 66-46, Cincinnati 64-58, West Virginia 71-70.
Coach: Pete Newell.
Starters and scoring average: Darrall Imhoff 11.5, Al Buch 9.2, Bob Dalton 7.5, Dick Doughty 3.4, Denny Fitzpatrick 13.3.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 68.00, allowed 56.75.
In a paragraph: The Golden Bears entered the tournament outside the top 10 rankings, but coming off a 14-2 conference season and featuring the nation’s best defense. They had allowed just 51 points per game. The tournament was more of the same. In the semi-finals, heavily favored Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson scored 19 points, but the Bears held everyone else down and Imhoff produced 22 as Cal pulled away in the second half. Facing West Virginia and star guard Jerry West in the championship game, they built a 39-33 halftime lead and held on at the finish. West scored 28 but Newell’s defense held everyone else in check.
T-13. 1958 Kentucky (2.21)
Tournament wins: Miami Ohio 94-70, Notre Dame 89-56, Temple 61-60, Seattle 84-72.
Coach: Adolph Rupp.
Starters and scoring average: Vernon Hatton 17.1, Johnny Cox 14.9, John Crigler 13.6, Adrian Smith 12.4, Ed Beck 5.6.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 82.00, allowed 64.50.
In a paragraph: The Wildcats entered the tournament ranked only 9th nationally. But lightly regarded Manhattan stunned top-ranked West Virginia in the tournament’s first round, second ranked Cincinnati fell to third ranked Kansas State in a regional semi-final, and Seattle took out fourth ranked San Francisco in the West Regional, then eliminated K-State in the national semi-final. That opened the door for Rupp’s Wildcats, who eliminated No. 5 Temple by a point in the semis. In the championship game, Hatton out-scored Seattle’s Elgin Baylor 30-25 and the Cats overcame a three-point halftime deficit to win going away.
- 2009 North Carolina (2.26)
Tournament wins: Radford 101-58, Louisiana State 84-70, Gonzaga 98-77, Oklahoma 72-60, Villanova 83-69, Michigan State 89-72.
Coach: Roy Williams.
Starters and scoring average: Wayne Ellington 15.8, Tyler Hansbrough 20.7, Ty Lawson16.6, Danny Green 13.1, Deon Thompson 10.6.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 87.00, allowed 67.67.
In a paragraph: Top-ranked much of the season, the Tar Heels opened with 13-straight victories, and won 10 more consecutively from mid-January to mid-February. The championship game against Michigan State was no contest: Carolina opened up a 21-point halftime advantage. Lawson, Hansbrough and Ellington were all named to the all-tournament team.
- 1972 UCLA (2.27)
Tournament wins: Weber State 90-58, Long Beach State 73-57, Louisville 96-77, Florida State 81-76.
Coach: John Wooden.
Starters and scoring average: Bill Walton 21.1, Henry Bibby 15.7, Jamaal Wilkes 13.5, Larry Farmer 10.7, Greg Lee 8.7.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 85.00, allowed 67.00.
In a paragraph: Undefeated and top-ranked all season, this iteration of the Bruins dynasty faced few challenges. The Bruins topped 100 points in each of their first seven games, and no regular season opponent came closer than six points. The tournament was more of the same, including eliminations of No. 5 Long Beach State by 16 points and No. 4 Louisville by 21. A hoped-for showdown between the Bruins and second ranked North Carolina evaporated when Florida State upset the Tar Heels 79-75 in their semi-final. In the championship matchup, UCLA grabbed an 11-point half time advantage and withstood a Seminole comeback. Walton scored 24 and Wilkes 23.
- 1962 Cincinnati (2.30)
Tournament wins: Creighton 66-46, Colorado 73-46, UCLA 72-70, Ohio State 71-59.
Coach: Ed Jucker.
Starters and scoring average: Paul Hogue 16.8, Ron Bonham 14.3, Tom Thacker 11.0, George Wilson 9.2, Tony Yates 8.2.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 70.50, allowed 55.25.
In a paragraph: Despite returning three starters from their championship team, the Bearcats were rated behind the Ohio State Buckeyes all season. The much sought-after championship game materialized when Cincinnati scraped past UCLA in the semi-final. In the first title game ever to pit the nation’s two top-ranked teams, the Bearcats held Buckeye stars Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek to 11 pints each and breezed to their repeat championship.
- 1979 Michigan State (2.31)
Tournament wins: Lamar 95-64, Louisiana State 87-71, Notre Dame 80-68, Pennsylvania 101-67, Indiana State 75-64.
Coach: Jud Heathcote.
Starters and scoring average: Greg Kelser 18.8, Magic Johnson 17.1, Jay Vincent 12.7, Ron Charles 8.8, Mike Brkovich 7.0.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 87.60, allowed 66.80.
In a paragraph: The national championship game, pitting Johnson against No. 1 Indiana State’s Larry Bird, was every bit as looked-upon as their subsequent pro matchups would be. The Spartans showed the experience gleaned from their Big Ten championship, leading from the early moments. Johnson outscored Bird 24-19 and added 5 assists plus 7 rebounds. Kelser was the Spartans’ inside punch, adding 19 points and 8 rebounds.
- 1960 Ohio State (2.35)
Tournament wins: Western Kentucky 98-79, Georgia Tech 86-69, New York University 76-54, California 75-55.
Coach: Fred Taylor.
Starters and scoring average: Jerry Lucas 26.3, Larry Siegfried 13.3, Mel Nowell 13.1, John Havlicek 12.2, Joe Roberts 11.0.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 83.75, allowed 64.25.
In a paragraph: This was the first of three straight Buckeye teams to reach the championship game, and the only one to win the title. The Buckeyes won 13 consecutive games before a surprising late season thrashing at Indiana. It may have sobered them. Ohio State raced through four tournament games, winning all of them by 17 points or more. The title game against defending champion California was another blowout, Ohio State leading 37-19 at halftime. Lucas hit seven of nine field goals and the Buckeyes as a group made 31 of 46 shots, 67 percent. Lucas and Nowell were named to the all-tournament team.
- 1956 San Francisco (2.37)
Tournament wins: UCLA 72-61, Utah 92-77, Southern Methodist 86-68, Iowa 83-71.
Coach: Phil Woolpert.
Starters and scoring average: Bill Russell 20.6, K.C. Jones 9.8, Hal Perry 9.1, Carl Boldt 8.6, Mike Farmer 8.4.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 83.25, allowed 68.00.
In a paragraph: The defending champion Dons began the season ranked No., 1 and were never unseated from that perch. Only one team all season played them within 10 points, and that team – California – held the ball in a 33-24 defeat. They also overcame the loss of star guard K.C. Jones, whose eligibility expired just prior to the tournament. Even so, in the title game, Russell dominated, making 11 field goals and claiming 27 rebounds. Russell and Perry were obvious all-tournament choices. That summer, Russell and Jones led the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal.
- 1990 UNLV (2.46)
Tournament wins: Arkansas Little Rock 102-72, Ohio State 76-65, Ball State 69-67, Loyola Marymount 131-101, Georgia Tech 90-81, Duke 103-73.
Coach: Jerry Tarkanian.
Starters and scoring average: Larry Johnson 20.6, Anderson Hunt 15.9, David Butler15.8, Stacy Augmon 14.2, Greg Anthony 11.2.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 95.17, allowed 76.50.
In a paragraph: The hoped-for showdown between Tarkanian’s Runnin Rebels and top-ranked Oklahoma evaporated when North Carolina took out the Sooners in the tournament’s second round. That made Tarkanian’s Rebels, with only one loss since February, the prohibitive favorites. They validated that view with a 30-point victory over Loyola Marymount in the regional championship game, then outlassed Duke by 30 to claim the national title. The Rebels shot 61 percent in that game.
- 1970 UCLA (2.46)
Tournament wins: Long Beach State 88-65, Utah State 101-79, New Mexico State 93-77, Jacksonville 80-69.
Coach: John Wooden.
Starters and scoring average: Sidney Wicks 18.6, John Vallely 16.3, Henry Bibby 15.6, Curtis Rowe 15.3, Steve Patterson 12.5.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 90.25, allowed 72.50.
In a paragraph: This was the often-overlooked “team between,” the Bruins championship club that had neither Kareem Abdul-Jabbar nor Bill Walton. More remarkably, the Bruins starters were all iron men; no reserve averaged more than two minutes of playing time per game. Even so, the Bruins sailed through their first 21 games undefeated before losing twice late in conference play. The defeats steeled them in advance of the tournament, in which no opponent played them within 10 points. Facing a once-beaten Jacksonville team that started two 7-footers for the championship, Rowe, Wicks, Patterson and Vallely all scored 15 points or more and the Bruins led pretty much all the way.
- 1981 Indiana (2.67)
Tournament wins: Maryland 99-64, Alabama-Birmingham 87-72, St. Josephs 78-46, Louisiana State 67-49, North Carolina 63-50.
Coach: Bob Knight.
Starters and scoring average: Isiah Thomas 16.0, Ray Tolbert 12.2, Randy Wittman 10.4, Landon Turner 9.5, Ted Kitchel 9.2.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 78.80, allowed 56.20.
In a paragraph: The Hoosiers enjoyed one of the game’s great comeback stories. In mid-January they were an uninspired 10-7 and unranked. They went 16-2 the rest of the way, reaching the top 10 and winning their first four tournament games by margins ranging from 15 to 35 points. Facing North Carolina in the championship game, Thomas scored 23 points and the Hoosiers broke open a 27-26 game at halftime to win by 13.
- 1973 UCLA (2.76)
Tournament wins: Arizona State 98-81, San Francisco 54-39, Indiana 70-59, Memphis 87-66.
Coach: John Wooden.
Starters and scoring average: Bill Walton 20.4, Jamaal Wilkes 14.8, Larry Farmer 12.2, Larry Hollyfield 10.7, Tommy Curtis 6.4.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 77.25, allowed 61.25.
In a paragraph: With Walton at his best, the six-time defending champion Bruins opened the season ranked No. 1 and were never dislodged. Their closest regular season challenges came in six point victories over Oregon State and Stanford. When second ranked North Carolina St. failed to make the tournament, experts essentially conceded the championship to UCLA, and with good reason. In the final game against Memphis, Walton played perhaps the greatest game in college basketball history. He hit 21 of 22 shots, scored 44 points and added 13 rebounds to carry the Bruins.
- 1963 Loyola Chicago (3.47)
Tournament wins: Tennessee Tech 111-42. Mississippi State 61-51, Illinois 79-64, Duke 94-75, Cincinnati 60-58.
Coach: George Ireland.
Starters and scoring average: Jerry Harkness 21.4, Les Hunter 17.0, John Egan 13.7, Vic Rouse 13.5, Ron Miller 13.3.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 81.00, allowed 58.00.
In a paragraph: Rediscovered due to the NCAA Tournament success of the 2018 edition of the Ramblers, the 1963 bunch deserves to be remembered for its own performance. This was one of the legitimately great teams in tournament history. Ranked second most of the season, Loyola chased the two-time defending champion Bearcats in the polls, and their tournament run was viewed in Chicago as a prelude to an inevitable showdown. That prelude included their widely recalled meeting with Mississippi State, a game laced with racial overtones given Loyola’s four black starters and the segregationist viewpoints of Mississippi’s governor at the time. The Ramblers won that won 61-51, and little more than a week later earned the right to face Cininnati for the championship. The more experienced Bearcats raced out to an early lead, but the Ramblers rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half and tied the game on Harkness’s jumper with four seconds left. Rouse tipped in the overtime winner at the buzzer.
- 1967 UCLA (3.54)
Tournament wins: Wyoming 109-60, Pacific 80-64, Houston 73-58, Dayton 79-64.
Coach: John Wooden.
Starters and scoring average: Lew Alcindor 29.0, Lucius Allen 15.5, Mike Warren 12.7, Lynn Shackelford 11.4, Kenny Heitz 6.1.
Tournament points-per-game differential: Scored; 85.25, allowed 61.50.
In a paragraph: The Bruins were ranked No. 1 all season, and only two teams came within 10 points of them. Both held the ball to keep down the score. Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor, carried a 29-point per game scoring average with 15.5 rebounds per game and a 67 percent shooting average. The team’s dominance was all the more remarkable since only one key player, Warren, was an upper-classman. The tournament’s outcome was never in doubt, especially when SMU took out second-ranked Louisville in a regional semi-final. Meanwhile the Bruins opened up double digit leads by halftime in every one of their tournament games. In the title game against heavy underdog Dayton, Abdul-Jabbar scored 20 points and added 18 rebounds, Allen scored 19, Warren kicked in 17 and UCLA nearly doubled up the Flyers by halftime, leading 38-20.