Paper Champions: Top 10 Teams That Didn
Winning an NCAA basketball championship gets you into the history books. But sometimes teams are so historic, they’re remembered even without the title. We look at the 10 best teams never who didn’t win it all.
T-10. 1981 DePaul (27-2)
We could’ve picked any number of DePaul teams that should’ve won a title during the program’s glory years (they lost just three regular season games in three years!). But the 1981 team may have been the best one. Against the second toughest schedule in the country, the Blue Devils went 27-1 with wins over Louisville (defending national champion), UCLA, Georgetown, Syracuse and Notre Dame while led by Terry Cummings and Mark Aguirre. DePaul’s great run came to a stunning end when St. Joseph’s upset the Blue Demons in the second round of the ’81 tournament.
T-10. 1985 St. John’s (31-4)
The Red Storm will be hard pressed to ever have a roster as good as this one. You had a three-time Big East Player of the Year and John Wooden Award winner in Chris Mullin. You also had a future Big East Player of the Year and John Wooden Award winner in Walter Berry. And we can’t forget Mark Jackson or Bill Wennington. Only a force of unstoppable nature could’ve stopped this team. Oh yeah, they faced Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown team in the Final Four.
9. 1988 Oklahoma (35-4)
Did the Sooners face a defense in 1988? Oklahoma averaged nearly 103 points per game. But that’s what happens when you have three top 15 NBA draft picks: Stacey King, Harvey Grant and Mookie Blaylock, plus run-and-gun coach Billy Tubbs calling the shots. Near the end of the season the Sooners owned Kansas in a 95-87 win, which mattered since Oklahoma saw the Jayhawks again in the NCAA finals. We all know what happened.
8. 1983 Houston (31-3)
The Cougars weren’t just a good team; they were revolutionary. Thanks to Phi Slama Jama, players began playing the game above the rim a lot more and as fans, we are much better for it. Led by Michael Young, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, Houston went 31-2 leading up to the title game against NC State and were heavy favorites against the sixth-seeded Wolfpack. But thanks to a Lorenzo Charles dunk as time expired, the Cougars came up just short of a title.
7. 1997 Kansas (34-2)
The Jayhawks roster would’ve made a solid NBA team with a group of starters that included Jacque Vaughn, Paul Pierce, Scot Pollard and Raef LaFrentz. Heck, Roy Williams believed it was the best team he ever had in Lawrence. Kansas gave up just 66 points a game while putting up nearly 85 a game, second-best in the country. To this day Jayhawks fans still can’t understand how they lost to Arizona in the Sweet 16.
6. 1985 Georgetown (35-3)
History paints the Hoyas as the bad guys in the Cinderella story of Villanova. It’s unfortunate they were lost in such a historic moment because this team was historically awesome. A year wiser following a national title run, Georgetown was probably better in 1985. With a stud like Patrick Ewing it was hard to imagine anyone could beat the Hoyas. Not many did since the tea lost just two games heading into the national title game. And really, the only reason Georgetown ended up losing was because Villanova played a perfect game.