College basketball is full of excitement and drama. While winning a national championship is the ultimate goal for every team, there have been many loaded squads that came up short.
While the teams on this list didn’t win a title, they are still often mentioned among the best teams in the history of college basketball. Here are the best college-basketball teams that failed to win it all.
11. 1965-66 Kentucky Wildcats
The 1965-66 Kentucky Wildcats were coached by Adolph Rupp and their talented roster included future NBA stars Pat Riley and Louie Dampier. The Wildcats finished the season with a record of 27-2 and advanced to the national championship game, where they faced the Texas Western Miners. In a game that would later be immortalized in the movie "Glory Road," the Miners upset the Wildcats, 72-65.
10. 2006-07 Ohio State Buckeyes
Led by future No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden and longtime NBA point guard Mike Conley, the Buckeyes were hoping to win their second national championship in program history. Ohio State, traditionally a football school, finished the season 35-4 and ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. The Buckeyes advanced to the national championship game, where they faced a loaded Florida Gators squad that was led by future NBA All-Stars Joakim Noah and Al Horford.
In the national championship game, Oden avoided the foul trouble that had plagued him earlier in the tournament and put up a dominant 25 points and 12 rebounds. However, it wasn’t enough, as the Gators defeated the Buckeyes 84-75 behind Horford's 18 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. Four players from the Buckeyes' roster would go on to play in the NBA: Conley, Oden, Daequan Cook and Othello Hunter.
9. 2004-05 Illinois Fighting Illini
The 2004-05 Illinois Fighting Illini were a dominant force in college basketball. Coached by Bruce Weber and led by Dee Brown and Deron Williams, the Illini won their first 29 games of the season and finished with a 37-2 record.
Illinois advanced to the national championship game, where they faced the North Carolina Tar Heels (who were led by Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants and Marvin Williams). Despite a valiant effort, the Illini fell just short, losing 75-70. Five of their players would go on to play in the NBA: Williams, Brown, Luther Head, Roger Powell and James Augustine.
8. 2007-08 Memphis Tigers
Yes, John Calipari has back-to-back teams on this list. Coach Cal’s 2007-08 Memphis Tigers were absolutely loaded and they were led by Derrick Rose, who would go on to be the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft and the youngest MVP in NBA history in 2011. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey and Antonio Anderson were also key contributors who eventually had stints in the NBA.
The Tigers finished the season with a record of 38-2 and they advanced to the national championship game, where they faced the Kansas Jayhawks. Despite a strong effort, the Tigers were unable to overcome the Jayhawks. Memphis missed a number of late free throws, which opened the door for Mario Chalmers to hit one of the most memorable buzzer-beaters in modern NCAA Tournament history and force overtime. Kansas would go on to win, 75-68.
7. 1974-75 Indiana Hoosiers
Led by head coach Bob Knight, the 1974-75 Indiana Hoosiers finished the season with a record of 31-1 and advanced to the Final Four, where they faced the Kentucky Wildcats. Despite a strong effort, the Hoosiers were upset by the Wildcats, 92-90.
The Hoosiers would have eight players who would go on to play in the NBA: Scott May, Steve Green, Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner, John Laskowski, Bob Wilkerson, Tom Abernethy and Wayne Radford.
6. 1996-97 Kansas Jayhawks
The 1996-97 Kansas Jayhawks featured a pair of future NBA stars (Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz) and one of the best coaches in college-basketball history (Roy Williams). The Jayhawks finished the season with a record of 34-2 and advanced to the Final Four, where they faced the Arizona Wildcats.
Pierce put together a monster performance — 27 points, 11 rebounds, 3 threes, 2 blocks and 2 steals on 69.2/60/100 shooting splits — but it wasn't enough to defeat Mike Bibby’s Wildcats. The Jayhawks lost 85-82 in overtime. In addition to Pierce and LaFrentz, Kansas had four other players go on to the NBA: Scot Pollard, Billy Thomas, Jacque Vaughn and Ryan Robertson.
5. 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats
The 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats, coached by John Calipari, featured quite the collection of young, high-upside talent. Led by future NBA superstars Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker, the Wildcats finished the season with a perfect record of 38-0.
Kentucky advanced to the Final Four, where they faced the Wisconsin Badgers and were ultimately upset 71-64. In total, a whopping nine Wildcats would go on to play in the NBA: Towns, Booker, Trey Lyles, Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Tyler Ulis, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress.
4. 1984-85 Georgetown Hoyas
The 1984-85 Georgetown Hoyas, coached by John Thompson, were a powerhouse team that featured future NBA star Patrick Ewing. The Hoyas finished the season with a record of 35-3 and advanced to the national championship game, where they faced the Villanova Wildcats.
In one of the biggest upsets in college-basketball history, the Wildcats defeated the Hoyas 66-64. In addition to Ewing, Georgetown had four other players who went on to play in the NBA: Reggie Williams, Bill Martin, David Wingate and Michael Jackson.
3. 1992-93 Michigan Wolverines
The prior season, the Fab Five took college basketball by storm, with bald heads and baggy shorts. They started five true freshmen and had a great season, making it all the way to the national championship game, where they were handled by a veteran Duke squad that was led by Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley, losing 71-51.
In the 1992-93 season, the Wolverines were widely regarded as the most talented team in the country and they were the favorites to win it all. Unfortunately, they fell short to North Carolina in the national championship game in one of the most memorable endings in sports history. Future No. 1 pick Chris Webber called a timeout that Michigan didn’t have, as they lost 77-71. Michigan had five players who would later play in the NBA: Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Eric Riley (plus Rob Pelinka would go on to run the Los Angeles Lakers' front office).
2. 1982-83 Houston Cougars
Led by future Hall-of-Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, the 1982-83 Houston Cougars were known as "Phi Slama Jama" for their high-flying style of play. The Cougars were a dominant force on both ends of the court. They advanced to the Final Four, where they faced the N.C. State Wolfpack. Despite a 20-point lead in the second half, the Cougars were upset by the Wolfpack, 54-52. In addition to the superstar pairing of Olajuwon and Drexler, Houston also had two other players who would go on to play in the NBA: Michael Young and Larry Micheaux.
1. 1990-91 UNLV Runnin' Rebels
The 1990-91 UNLV Runnin' Rebels are one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time, despite not winning the national championship. Coached by Jerry Tarkanian, the Rebels had an incredible season, finishing with a record of 34-1.
Led by Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony, the Rebels played an up-tempo style of basketball that was both thrilling and effective. In the Final Four, they lost a close game to the Duke Blue Devils, who would go on to win the national championship. Johnson, Augmon and Anthony would go on to thrive in the NBA, and two other Rebels would also make it to the league (Elmore Spencer and Eyric Gray).
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