50 Greatest Programs of All-Time

dukedevilz

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I was hoping to create a system which ranks the all-time programs while minimizing subjectivity as much as possible. That being said, conference champions is very subjective. But, I also feel it's important to include. Here's how my scoring system is based.

1 point- Round of 64 (labeled R64)
2 points- Round of 32 (labeled R32)
3 points- Sweet 16 (labeled S16)
5 points- Elite 8 (labeled E8)
10 points- Final Four (labeled FF)
20 points- Title Game (labeled CG for Championship Game)
30 points- NCAA Champion (labeled NC)

5 points- Conference Champion (labeled CC)

The NCAA Tournament didn't start until 1939. So I'm only including conference champions from 1939 to present day. Sorry, Purdue. I know you guys are probably getting the shaft in that regard. Just want to make the years as comparable as possible. I'm calculating the points based on a tiered scoring system.

So, a conference champion + Sweet 16 is 5+ 1 + 2 + 3 = 11
That is the equivalent of a non-conference champion making the Elite 8 (1+2+3+5). You could argue that a conference champ/Sweet 16 team should be valued more. However, we must consider that many of the conferences Pre-1980 were 6-8 teams. Not exactly equivalent of a conference title nowadays.

Also, in 1975, roughly 1/3 of D-1 basketball schools were independent. When the NCAA decided to allow additional bids for a conference, everyone started to jump on the conference affiliation bandwagon. Schools realized quickly that the number of bids would be shrinking when the ACC-Big Ten-Pac 10, etc. would be taking multiple bids. So, for all of the schools that were independent, I'm giving credit for a conference championship, provided they finished in the top 10 of the final AP Poll. The AP Poll began in 1949, so anyone that made it to the tournament before 1949 would also be given credit.

Also, I realize that not all conferences are created equal. I'm allowing five points for those that win in power conferences. To receive the full five points, non-power conference champions must be nationally ranked - and have at least 1 other conference member ranked in the final poll. If that requirement is not met, then they are rewarded four points, instead of five.
 
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dukedevilz

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Independents granted a conference title for finishing in the top 10:
12- Notre Dame
10- Marquette
8- DePaul
4- La Salle
3- Syracuse, UConn, Providence, Loyola Chicago
2- Louisville, Temple, UNLV, Houston, Dayton, UTEP
1- Temple, Utah, St.John's, San Francisco, Seton Hall, Florida State

Conference Champions that weren't nationally ranked, and didn't have another conference member that was also ranked (1 point deduction):
28- Western Kentucky
22- Gonzaga
21- Saint Joseph's
20- UConn
19- BYU
17- Utah
16- Butler
15- Temple, San Francisco, Xavier
13- Louisville
12- West Virginia
11- UTEP
10- Cincinnati, Memphis
9- Wyoming
8- Arizona, Arizona State, UNLV, Wichita State
6- Loyola Chicago
4- Houston
3- Villanova, Dayton
2- Florida State, Baylor

@WeAreDePaul Sorry bud, your team actually came in at #51 with 171 cumulative points, just 5 points behind Stanford.
 
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dukedevilz

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The tournament field was only 8 teams from 1939-1950. Those schools aren't giving credit for the Round of 32 or Sweet 16. But, I give every tournament appearance credit for the Round of 64. So they miss out on 5 points from the R32 and S16, but you could easily argue that it's way more beneficial to start at Elite 8 status than to begin your path in the Round of 64.

I evaluated 74 teams in this process. Every team with 13+ NCAA Tournament wins + Wyoming. I saw that Wyoming had a national title and five Elite 8 appearances. Good thing I included them, as they finished 45th in my rankings.
 

dukedevilz

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And here's how it breaks down by the current conference alignment.

Big Ten (9):
6. Indiana
10. Ohio State
11. Michigan State
12. Michigan
26. Illinois
28. Wisconsin
34. Purdue
35. Maryland
47. Iowa

ACC (7):
3. North Carolina
5. Duke
7. Louisville
14. Syracuse
22. NC State
30. Notre Dame
31. Virginia

Big 12 (6):
4. Kansas
16. Oklahoma State
23. Kansas State
24. Oklahoma
27. Texas
39. West Virginia

Big East (6):
9. Villanova
18. Georgetown
21. Marquette
38. St.John's
44. Butler
49. Xavier

Pac-12 (6):
2. UCLA
15. Arizona
19. Utah
41. California
43. Oregon
50. Stanford

American (5):
8. UConn
13. Cincinnati
29. Memphis
36. Houston
37. Temple

SEC (4):
1. Kentucky
17. Arkansas
20. Florida
42. LSU

WCC (3):
25. San Francisco
33. Gonzaga
48. BYU

Mountain West (2):
32. UNLV
45. Wyoming

A-10 (1):
46. Saint Joseph's

Con-USA (1):
40. Western Kentucky
 

WeAreDePaul

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The NCAA Tournament didn't start until 1939. So I'm only including conference champions from 1939 to present day. Sorry, Purdue. I know you guys are probably getting the shaft in that regard. Just want to make the years as comparable as possible. I'm calculating the points based on a tiered scoring system.

For me, a big flaw in this system is that you don't account for NIT wins back in the 30s and 40s when it was still considered just as big a tournament as the NCAA if not bigger.

DePaul as an NIT title in 1945 which at the time was considered a better accomplishment than winning the NCAA, or at least on par. Yet, we get no points for that in your system.
 
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WeAreDePaul

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@WeAreDePaul Sorry bud, your team actually came in at #51 with 171 cumulative points, just 5 points behind Stanford.

if you account for NIT success back in the day when the NIT was considered on par with NCAA where would we finish? NIT champs with George Mikan in 1945.

I think you should add NIT success to this, at least till the 50s when San Fran won the NCAA. I would call that the tipping point on when the NCAA surpassed the NIT in terms of worth.
 
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dukedevilz

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if you account for NIT success back in the day when the NIT was considered on par with NCAA where would we finish? NIT champs with George Mikan in 1945.

I think you should add NIT success to this, at least till the 50s when San Fran won the NCAA. I would call that the tipping point on when the NCAA surpassed the NIT in terms of worth.
I don't doubt MSG was a bigger stage in terms of audience and atmosphere. But the NCAA Champion played the NIT Champion 3x in the 40's, after they both wont their respective tournaments, and the NCAAT Champ won all 3 times. And you often see teams playing in both the NIT and NCAAT in the same year, so we'd be double-dipping for points. As it was, it seemed like the NIT Champs never performed as well in the NCAA Tournament.
 

dukedevilz

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Upon further thought, I might consider adding NIT points. I would most likely just throw the numbers in with an existing column. The NIT Champ could get 10 points, for example, which is the equivalent of a Final Four team. Just not a fan of double-dipping for points in the same year. But, I understand the argument when some teams chose to be in the NIT instead of the NCAAs. What do others think about scoring the NIT?
 

Villian07

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Yea hard to say, and three years is a small sample size to assume the NCAAT winner was always better than the NIT winner in those days, but it’s an impossible task and kudos for taking it on. I think the NIT wins should be worth something but like I said impossible task, I do like ur idea of adding a few points but not as much as a ncaa championship. But You would have to gauge a time frame for when the ncaaT took control as being THE tournament.
 

Villian07

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Nvm I misunderstood ur argument some teams played in both, maybe it was fatigue lol.
 

Villian07

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I wonder how diff ur list is than the rank of total number of tourney wins. Obv to win a lot I have to advance a lot. I’d say UConn would be a huge outlier though.
 
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dukedevilz

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I wonder how diff ur list is than the rank of total number of tourney wins. Obv to win a lot I have to advance a lot. I’d say UConn would be a huge outlier though.
Relatively similar. It's schools that had most of their success in the 40's and 50's that really see a boost (i.e. Wyoming and San Francisco).


 

dukedevilz

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Nvm I misunderstood ur argument some teams played in both, maybe it was fatigue lol.
I think if I include the NIT, I might go with a 10-5-3-2 scoring system. Teams from the 40's and 50's also didn't have the Round of 32 and Sweet 16. They are losing points there. So maybe I will include them. And I'll cap teams at 71 postseason points (equivalent of a NCAA Championship). I'll have to research this a little more before deciding what time period to include - and how many points.
 
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RR30

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I like it. Maybe add something for overall wins too maybe. Like 10 points every 100 wins or something.
 
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dukedevilz

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The only think I disagree with is UCLA’s ranking. I get why they are there because they made the most out of a short period of time of dominance.
They're not a one-decade pony, however.

I mean, compare their numbers with UNC, the #3 program. They have almost twice as many national titles. They have two more championship games appearances. They're minus two in the Final Four column - but, 18 Final Fours is actually the second most of all-time. They have just as many Sweet 16 appearances as UNC, and they're only one bid short of matching UNC on total tournament appearances. 49 NCAAT appearances, 31 conference ships, and 11 national titles. That absolutely merits being the 2nd best program of all-time.
 

dukedevilz

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I like it. Maybe add something for overall wins too maybe. Like 10 points every 100 wins or something.
I thought about that originally. But, not all programs started in the same year. There would be a huge discrepancy, simply based on the number of games played. UNLV's first season was in 1970, for example.
 

dukedevilz

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Very nice, OP. Kentucky our front by quite a bit. Some will say UCLA or UNC, everyone knows who top dog is, though.

Duke at 5 was surprising
Yep, Kansas surpassed us simply by owning their conference. They were +20 in conference championships, which netted them 100 points over Duke. The gap actually could have been much wider. Kansas had 20 conference ships pre-1939.
 

KUhawks34

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They're not a one-decade pony, however.

I mean, compare their numbers with UNC, the #3 program. They have almost twice as many national titles. They have two more championship games appearances. They're minus two in the Final Four column - but, 18 Final Fours is actually the second most of all-time. They have just as many Sweet 16 appearances as UNC, and they're only one bid short of matching UNC on total tournament appearances. 49 NCAAT appearances, 31 conference ships, and 11 national titles. That absolutely merits being the 2nd best program of all-time.
True. The numbers certainly stack up to be where they are. Like I said I get why they are there. I’m 29 years old and for the most part they’ve been shit in my lifetime.
 

dukedevilz

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True. The numbers certainly stack up to be where they are. Like I said I get why they are there. I’m 29 years old and for the most part they’ve been shit in my lifetime.
They at least made it to the Final Four in 06, 07, and 08. But to your point, yes, they've been relatively disappointing from the past 20 years or so.
 

schoonerwest

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Yep, Kansas surpassed us simply by owning their conference. They were +20 in conference championships, which netted them 100 points over Duke. The gap actually could have been much wider. Kansas had 20 conference ships pre-1939.
I wouldn't say Kansas surprassed Duke. If you did this same thing in 1990 I'm guessing Kansas would be way out ahead of Duke. If anything Duke has just been gaining ground since then and has arguably passed them (except in your ranking).
 
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dukedevilz

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I wouldn't say Kansas surprassed Duke. If you did this same thing in 1990 I'm guessing Kansas would be way out ahead of Duke. If anything Duke has just been gaining ground since then and has arguably passed them (except in your ranking).
The conference championships is the main reason why Kansas is ahead of Duke. At the close of the '99 season, Duke jumped ahead of Kansas 609-595. In the past 21 years, Kansas has earned 368 points to Duke's 349 points. Even though Duke has won two more national titles than Kansas this century, the conference championships is very lopsided. Kansas is up 17 to 5 this century. That is what has put Kansas over the top.
 
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MGC_07

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I see Iowa on this list. Immediately not valid.

Kidding, nice job. OSU, MSU, and UM all back to back and really close in numbers. Cool to se.
 

brooky03

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I know numbers are numbers, but Cincy ahead of Cuse is weird as hell. I know they were good for minute, but c'mon. There are others I'd subjectively put Cuse ahead of, obviously, but they're all at least close enough where it's debatable. Cincy, though...


Again, yes, I'm aware this is just an aggregation of tournament performances (with subjective weighting).
 

dukedevilz

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I know numbers are numbers, but Cincy ahead of Cuse is weird as hell. I know they were good for minute, but c'mon. There are others I'd subjectively put Cuse ahead of, obviously, but they're all at least close enough where it's debatable. Cincy, though...


Again, yes, I'm aware this is just an aggregation of tournament performances (with subjective weighting).
They're +1 in national titles and +12 in conference championships. Only 15 of the 25 conference titles for Cincy were awarded the full five points. And yes, Cincy was a pretty dominant force in the 50's and 60's.

Consider the fact that Cincy has finished in the top 10 of the final AP Poll 14 times, whereas Syracuse has only made it 12 times. They're only slightly better, from a historical prospective. Just give it one or two more good years and I'm sure you guys will pass them.
 

dukedevilz

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Pretty cool. Nice job! Would like to see other categories implemented like all time wins, C-Tourney wins, winning %, etc.... My top 10 would be:

1. UK
2. UNC
3a. KU
3b. Duke
5. UCLA
6. IU
7. UL
8. Uconn
9. Nova
10. OSU
Would be tough to include conference tournaments where the Big Ten only implemented their tournament in 1998, and the Pac-12 just recently revamped theirs in 2002. Also, the fact that 1/3 of teams were independent just a little over 40 years ago. Look at the Final Four participants from the 70's. 13 of the 40 schools were independents. Then you had an additional 12 schools that didn't even play in a conference tournament (Pac-8/Big Ten/Ivy). Conference Tournaments would only make sense if I included it since 2002.

So, Idk. It's very, very tricky from a comparison's sake. The winning percentage might be able to be factored in. I'll need some time to consider some of these potential metrics.
 

Bert Higginbotha

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For me, a big flaw in this system is that you don't account for NIT wins back in the 30s and 40s when it was still considered just as big a tournament as the NCAA if not bigger.

DePaul as an NIT title in 1945 which at the time was considered a better accomplishment than winning the NCAA, or at least on par. Yet, we get no points for that in your system.
I don't believe that the NIT was more prestegous to go to the NCAA. I have heard that argument and I don't know of an old timer that believe it. Kentucky's Rupp wanted to go to the NCAA not the NIT. Plus UK has the 1946 NIT titles because they were not good enough for the NCAA.
 

Bert Higginbotha

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@dukedevilz your work is fantastic. While we could quibble and fine tune it I doubt that the answers would be much better. Great job.

I would think that Conference championships should on be counted after the implementation of the NCAA tourney, because they only took conference championships and a couple independents.

Also please don't let the Auburn or South Carolina folks see this. They will put out a hit on you.
 

dukedevilz

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@dukedevilz your work is fantastic. While we could quibble and fine tune it I doubt that the answers would be much better. Great job.

I would think that Conference championships should on be counted after the implementation of the NCAA tourney, because they only took conference championships and a couple independents.
Thanks, Bert. Yeah, it's a struggle to fit all of the possible criteria on there, simply because you need consistency across the board. And that consistency, which allows comparisons to exist, is almost impossible to find in any category outside of the NCAA Tournament. I might try to re-tweak this a little bit, but I don't think the results will change by a lot.
 
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Bert Higginbotha

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Thanks, Bert. Yeah, it's a struggle to fit all of the possible criteria on there, simply because you need consistency across the board. And that consistency, which allows comparisons to exist, is almost impossible to find in any category outside of the NCAA Tournament. I might try to re-tweak this a little bit, but I don't think the results will change by a lot.
Good choices on your part.
 

Villian07

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I’m not sure conference championships should be included bc not all conferences are equal in strength. Like Gonzaga for one, and to a lesser extentKU and UK, who has never had a program challenge them and maintain as national powerhouse. Sure every year one or two teams challenge UK and Kansas but it always seems to be a different school each year, when u look at the acc (duke, Carolina, cuse, uva(esp lately) and the big 10 (Indiana, sparty, osu,) all usually field pretty good squads. I just don’t think and sec/big12 conference title is as big of achievement as a acc/B1G conference title, but then again it’s not uk or Kansas fault they play in the conf they play in, but it’s a safe bet that if they played in the acc they would have fewer conf titles, but as would duke/unc/uva.

NC State was the biggest suprise for me, I remember the buzzer beating oop inder jimmy V but I didn’t realize Their all time status was so high. Oklahoma State surprised me as well, but I’m not old enough to remember their “hey day”
 

brooky03

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They're +1 in national titles and +12 in conference championships. Only 15 of the 25 conference titles for Cincy were awarded the full five points. And yes, Cincy was a pretty dominant force in the 50's and 60's.

Consider the fact that Cincy has finished in the top 10 of the final AP Poll 14 times, whereas Syracuse has only made it 12 times. They're only slightly better, from a historical prospective. Just give it one or two more good years and I'm sure you guys will pass them.
Weighting the bad with the good could be a future enhancement to this. I think we'd all agree that 9 seasons below .500 and one national championship would be preferable to 10 seasons of .650 basketball and no title, so the weighting wouldn't need to be excessive, but it would balance out some of these programs that had extreme highs and extreme lows.
 
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dukedevilz

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I’m not sure conference championships should be included bc not all conferences are equal in strength. Like Gonzaga for one, and to a lesser extentKU and UK, who has never had a program challenge them and maintain as national powerhouse. Sure every year one or two teams challenge UK and Kansas but it always seems to be a different school each year, when u look at the acc (duke, Carolina, cuse, uva(esp lately) and the big 10 (Indiana, sparty, osu,) all usually field pretty good squads. I just don’t think and sec/big12 conference title is as big of achievement as a acc/B1G conference title, but then again it’s not uk or Kansas fault they play in the conf they play in, but it’s a safe bet that if they played in the acc they would have fewer conf titles, but as would duke/unc/uva.

NC State was the biggest suprise for me, I remember the buzzer beating oop inder jimmy V but I didn’t realize Their all time status was so high. Oklahoma State surprised me as well, but I’m not old enough to remember their “hey day”
Not all of the conference championships are valued equally. Recall that I stipulated that a team like Gonzaga would have to end the season ranked nationally - and have at least one other school in their conference ranked in the final AP Poll. As it stands, Gonzaga is only given full credit for 3 of their 25 conference titles.

NC State was a powerhouse in the 40's and 50's, winning 9 conference ships between 47-59. They, of course, also won the national title in 74 and 83. Not a whole lot since then.

Oklahoma State also has two national titles - and of the most legendary coaches of all-time, Henry Iba. The United States Basketball Writers Association even names their National Coach of the Year in honor of the former Oklahoma State coach.
 

dukedevilz

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Weighting the bad with the good could be a future enhancement to this. I think we'd all agree that 9 seasons below .500 and one national championship would be preferable to 10 seasons of .650 basketball and no title, so the weighting wouldn't need to be excessive, but it would balance out some of these programs that had extreme highs and extreme lows.
That's something to consider. I mean, hardly anyone would consider San Francisco an all-time great program. They do have two National Titles and seven Elite 8 appearances, however. So, yes, perhaps more metrics would be valuable to offset some of the anomalies.
 
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RR30

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I’m not sure conference championships should be included bc not all conferences are equal in strength. Like Gonzaga for one, and to a lesser extentKU and UK, who has never had a program challenge them and maintain as national powerhouse. Sure every year one or two teams challenge UK and Kansas but it always seems to be a different school each year, when u look at the acc (duke, Carolina, cuse, uva(esp lately) and the big 10 (Indiana, sparty, osu,) all usually field pretty good squads. I just don’t think and sec/big12 conference title is as big of achievement as a acc/B1G conference title, but then again it’s not uk or Kansas fault they play in the conf they play in, but it’s a safe bet that if they played in the acc they would have fewer conf titles, but as would duke/unc/uva.

NC State was the biggest suprise for me, I remember the buzzer beating oop inder jimmy V but I didn’t realize Their all time status was so high. Oklahoma State surprised me as well, but I’m not old enough to remember their “hey day”
More like the B10 is consistently mediocre year after year. Going back 3 decades the SEC has won 6 titles by 3 different schools. B10 has won one. They were probably the best conference in the 80's. Since then? Meh.
 

uncfan in ky

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Sorry but in order to have a all time greatest list you have to include the good & the bad.
There should point reductions for being put on NCAA probation.
 

MGC_07

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More like the B10 is consistently mediocre year after year. Going back 3 decades the SEC has won 6 titles by 3 different schools. B10 has won one. They were probably the best conference in the 80's. Since then? Meh.
The Big Ten has sent a lot of teams to the title game this century we can’t break through since 2000. There have been some really good Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, MSU, UM, Purdue, and Wisconsin teams that haven’t gotten it done.