Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2010 NCAA Basketball Rankings, part 5: #5- 1

#5: Arizona

(No wonder Lute Olson hung around as long as he did.)

Points: 71
NCs: 1(1997)
Final Fours: 4(1988, 1994, 1997, 2001)
Made the NCAAs: 96.15%

Lute Olson was the NCAA metronome: put together a solid team, make the tournament every year, & get bounced well before they should. The 71 points here is due in no small part to him recording a couple points a year every single year since 1985, but his teams underachieved more often than not. Their 10 1st round exits is by far the most of any program in the top 10 and speaks to the difference between Arizona and the top 4 teams in this list. The top 4 are in a class by themselves and will be for a few years barring a major collapse.

#4: Kentucky

(OK, there's a $100 under one of these sugar packets, so pick the right one, son. Just kidding, there's $100 under every one of them.)

Points: 83
NCs: 2(1996, 1998)
Final Fours: 4(1993, 1996, 1997, 1998)
Made the NCAAs: 84.62%

Here's where we start really getting into basketball royalty. None of the last 4 names should surprise you, they're all synonymous with college basketball's history & traditions. Kentucky's the closest thing to a 'surprise' in this group due to not making a Final Four from '99 - '10, the longest such stretch for any of the top 4 teams. Now that Coach Cal is on the scene to bring Kentucky a Final Four appearance that will be vacated by the NCAA in 2014, they're on the rise again. It will take some work to catch #3 though, as they're 13 points behind the Jayhawks prior to the 2011 tournament.



Points: 96
NCs: 2(1988, 2008)
Final Fours: 7(1986, 1988, 1991, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2008)
Made the NCAAs: 96.15%

It's hard to call a team that's this high on the list 'underachieving', but I feel like Kansas could be pushing UNC for #2 if they didn't succumb to the upset as often as they tend to. A team of this caliber should have a NC more than once every 20 years, much less keep from getting bounced in the 2nd/3rd round by double digit seeds(as Kansas seems wont to do some years). They're a fantastic program and at this point I'm probably nit-picking, but they could be higher on this list.

#2: North Carolina

(Even their cheerleaders are barefoot.)

Points: 102
NCs: 3(1993, 2005, 2009)
Final Fours: 9(1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2009)
Made the NCAAs: 88.46%

Tarheels fans aren't likely going to be happy to see themselves behind their rival in this list, but they're going to have to get used to it. It's going to take a couple of seriously down Duke years(like missing the tournament entirely) coupled with UNC winning it all those years to make up this gap. They can take some measure of solace in knowing there's no way they drop out of the top 3 anytime soon, especially if they keep making it to the doorstep of the Final Four on a regular basis. They're slowly making up ground on Duke; since '04 they've made up 5 points - hey, I said slowly - and at that rate they'll pass Duke in, oh, 2032. So, uhm, congrats? Still, being #2 on this list is nothing to sneeze at, and unless Kansas goes on a tear they're going to keep their hold on the second spot.

#1: Duke

(This is what happens when your kid doesn't have to watch his team lose much.)

Points: 117
NCs: 4(1991, 1992, 2001, 2009)
Final Fours: 11(1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2009)
Made the NCAAs: 96.15%

When it comes to this list, there's Duke and then there's everyone else. Their NCAA dominance is as impressive as it is annoying; they really are the Yankees of college basketball over the last 26 years. They have more NCs, more Final Fours, & more Sweet Sixteens than anyone in this list, and it's all due to Coach K. Making this list has had an unintentional side-effect; I now have no choice to admit that Coach K is arguably the best NCAA coach of all-time. (Don't tell me Wooden; UCLA's salary cap was bigger than the Lakers when he was destroying the NCAA tournament & there wasn't nearly the depth of talent around the country when he was coaching. Wooden was very good, but there needs to be a gigantic asterisk next to his name.) It's bad enough that Duke's #1 on this list now, but there's no way anyone else will pass them in the next 3 lists unless K dies in this off-season & they replace him with a Rhesus monkey...which would be awesome, BTW. I'd love to see if a Rhesus monkey-led Duke squad could beat Georgia Tech on a neutral court. I think it could.

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