Top 10 Best College Basketball Teams to Not Win the National Championship

March Madness is one of the most exciting sporting events of the year. Teams fight for the right to climb the podium and inscribe their name in the history books of college basketball. However, just because a team has a stacked roster doesn't necessarily guarantee they'll win the championship or even make a deep run for that matter. It's the beauty of March Madness: absolutely anything can happen. All it takes is one off night, and the season is over.

Usually, it's not the best teams that win. These teams made history for the wrong reasons. There's a saying that goes, "It doesn't mean a thing without the ring." Here is a look at some of the best teams in college basketball that ultimately came up short of ultimate glory.
The Top Ten
1 1990-91 UNLV Rebels

That 1990-91 UNLV Rebels squad might still be the greatest college basketball team ever. Led by lottery picks Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, and Greg Anthony, this team was loaded and poised to go back to back. Most of their games weren't even close. They averaged an astonishing 97.7 points per game, with only 2 games decided by less than 10 points.

The Runnin' Rebels dominated their way through the regular season, riding a 45-game winning streak and looking to win a second consecutive National Title. UNLV was the undefeated, undisputed favorite to win it all again. They were an intimidating bunch that could score at will. However, they would fall short to Coach K's Duke Blue Devils in the Final Four in a rematch after humiliating them the season before in the National Championship. Duke won by slowing down the game to accommodate their own style of play. To this day, many consider this UNLV team the best team in college basketball to not win a National Championship.

2 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats

This Kentucky team might honestly be the most talented team in the modern era. Coach John Calipari's Wildcats consisted of 9 total NBA players, including Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns. Not to mention the intimidating big man Willie Cauley-Stein and Andrew and Aaron Harrison, who kept the backcourt humming like a bird. They had a stifling defense and arguably the most depth of any team.

The Wildcats cruised through the regular season for the most part, their games weren't even close. They reached the Final Four sitting at 38-0, looking to become the first team to reach the 40-0 mark and be the first team to win a national championship undefeated since Bobby Knight's Hoosiers in 1975-76. Unfortunately, they would meet their match in the Final Four, losing to Frank Kaminsky and the Wisconsin Badgers 71-64.

3 1982-83 Houston Cougars

The famous Phi Slama Jama era of Houston basketball made it to three consecutive Final Fours. Of those three teams, this was the best of them, headlined by two future NBA Hall of Famers in Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. But the leading scorer of the bunch was Michael Young, who was the conference player of the year and averaged 17.3 points per game. The squad was known for their dunks, but their biggest strength was on the defensive end. Olajuwon averaged 5 blocks a game, and Drexler averaged 3 steals.

What's incredible is how this team averaged scoring just over 80 points per game in the regular season, only to put up 52 points in the national championship game against Jim Valvano's N.C. State Wolfpack, which to this day remains one of the most impressive Cinderella runs of all time.

4 1974-75 Indiana Hoosiers

Led by the likes of Scott May, Kent Benson, Steve Green, and Quinn Buckner, Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers were seemingly destined to win the National Championship. Undefeated, winning 31 straight games, they dominated nearly every opponent they faced. They were on a whole different level than everyone else, posting an average margin of victory of 23 points.

The All-Big Ten team that year was 80% Hoosiers, including Scott May, Steve Green, Kent Benson, and Quinn Buckner. This just goes to show how dominant that team was. Some claim that this team was better than the following year's team, which would go down in history joining the exclusive group of teams to win the National Championship undefeated. They are still the most recent team to win the National Championship undefeated, even to this day.

But back to the 1974-75 team. They would narrowly lose to Kentucky in the regional final, or what we know today as the Elite 8, by a score of 92-90. Scott May, who was named a Consensus All-American, suffered a broken arm earlier in the season. Despite still playing through the season, only missing two games, he wasn't the same player and only scored 2 points in that game against Kentucky. Had May been healthy, this team likely would have won the National Championship that season.

5 1992-93 Michigan Wolverines

After being blown out by Duke in the National Championship game the previous year, the Fab Five were determined to win it all, and they were so close to winning. With 11 seconds left in the National Championship game, Chris Webber called a timeout that Michigan didn't have. That resulted in a technical foul on Michigan, and instead of a chance to tie or take the lead, UNC would seal the game with free throws. The "Chris Webber Timeout" will always stand out as an infamous moment in college basketball history.

This team featured a dynamic trio of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and Juwan Howard, all three of whom enjoyed long and successful careers in the NBA. The sophomore season for the Fab Five recruiting class ended the same way as the season before. According to analytics, that Michigan team was the best team in college basketball that year, yet they couldn't get the job done in the end, losing to a North Carolina team with a bit more veteran experience.

To make matters even worse, the entire season would later be vacated as part of the punishment for the Ed Martin scandal.

6 1984-85 Georgetown Hoyas

Coming off a National Championship victory in 1984, the Georgetown Hoyas looked destined to repeat in the 1984-85 season. They returned their top six scorers from the championship team, headlined by Patrick Ewing, who was named the AP Player of the Year and would be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. Reggie Williams was also very talented and respectable in his own right.

Georgetown had just two losses in the regular season and got revenge against St. John's in the Final Four. In the National Championship game, they were the overwhelming favorites to beat Villanova, whom they had already beaten twice during the regular season. In the end, they lost to one of the all-time greatest Cinderella teams in college basketball history. How this Georgetown team lost to a team they had no business losing to is beyond me.

7 1998-99 Duke Blue Devils

This Duke team entered the tournament with one of the most impressive regular seasons in NCAA history. The only loss was a two-point loss to Cincinnati. Otherwise, they cruised through everybody else who had the misfortune of being in the Blue Devils' path, which resulted in a 16-0 conference record.

Led by four future NBA lottery picks, including Elton Brand (who was the AP player of the year and would be drafted 1st overall), other talented players on that team included Corey Maggette, Trajan Langdon, and Shane Battier. To put into perspective just how loaded this Duke team was, Corey Maggette, a 14-year NBA veteran, didn't even crack the starting five lineup.

This team entered the National Championship game with a 27-game winning streak, with 25 of those games being decided by double digits. Unfortunately for Duke and Coach K, they ran into the UConn Huskies and could not contain Richard Hamilton, who scored an impressive 27 points in that game.

8 1996-97 Kansas Jayhawks

The 1996-97 Jayhawks are one of, if not the most, talented Kansas teams to not win a championship. This was undoubtedly one of the best teams under Roy Williams. It was a team that had it all on paper: Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard down low, surrounded by clutch shooters in Paul Pierce, Jerod Haase, and Billy Thomas, with Jacque Vaughn and Ryan Robertson at the helm playing point guard.

This team started the season winning their first 22 games in a row. They would finish the regular season nearly blemish-free, with their only loss coming on the road in double overtime against Missouri, 96-94. This Kansas team was poised to make a deep tournament run, especially after winning their first two tournament games convincingly.

Unfortunately, they lost to the eventual National Champions that year, the Arizona Wildcats, who, despite losing a few more games, were very resilient and respectable in their own right and featured NBA talent on their roster. That Wildcats team ended up beating 3 #1 seeds on their road to the championship.

9 1983-84 North Carolina Tar Heels

Led by legendary coach Dean Smith, this was arguably his most talented team on paper, and they backed it up on the court. They were stacked with talent, led by a core that included Naismith Player of the Year and John R. Wooden Award winner Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, and Kenny Smith. That North Carolina team was a dominant force in the regular season, with just one loss that came by one point, and finished with an impressive undefeated record in conference play. That is, until they lost to Duke in the ACC Tournament that year.

The Tar Heels easily won their first tournament game. Unfortunately, however, they fell 72-68 to Indiana in the next round, in what would be Michael Jordan's final game as a Tar Heel. Jordan had just 13 points in that game. The biggest difference was the freshman star for the Hoosiers, Steve Alford, who posted 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. He was a massive thorn in North Carolina's side that they were unable to overcome.

10 1956-57 Kansas Jayhawks

The way the game of basketball has changed over the years, and how players have evolved to be taller and more athletic, means this list will naturally be skewed towards the modern era. However, this team deserves a mention in its own right. The 1956-57 Kansas Jayhawks were notable for one man specifically, none other than Wilt Chamberlain. During his time, Chamberlain was literally considered a giant and would eventually become one of the all-time greatest players in the history of basketball. Imagining him playing in college, given how dominant he was in his era of the NBA, is astounding.

Wilt was averaging nearly 30 points and 20 rebounds per game. This team was pretty much carried by Wilt, with no other future NBA players and nobody taller than 6'6". The coach at the time was Dick Harp, who was in his first year taking over for Phog Allen, who had retired. They were consistently ranked either #1 or #2 throughout the season, finishing the regular season with a 20-2 record and an 11-1 record in the conference. They were the favorites to win the Championship game, despite North Carolina being undefeated heading into that game.

Unfortunately, Kansas ended up losing the National Championship game to North Carolina 54-53 in triple overtime. That Kansas team was unquestionably one of the best teams of that era.

The Contenders
11 2021-22 Duke Blue Devils
12 1987-88 Temple Owls
13 1999-00 Cincinnati Bearcats
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