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The 25 Most Successful College Basketball Programs Of The 64-Team Era, Scored By NCAA Tournament Bracket Rules

When the Connecticut men's basketball team cut down the nets at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, April 7, it was the fourth time since 1999 that the Huskies' program won the NCAA Tournament championship. Led by senior guard Shabazz Napier, Kevin Ollie's squad defeated freshmen-laiden Kentucky, 60-54. 

Where does UConn rank among the most successful men's college basketball programs since 1985? Let's find out. 

First, how do you determine "success"? How much weight do regular season and conference tournament championships hold? Should success just be based on performance in the NCAA Tournament? 

We ran a project using solely NCAA Tournament data along with typical NCAA Tournament bracket scoring, to determine the most successful college basketball programs since 1985. Again, we're scoring each school based on how most bracket pools are tabulated:

Round of 64 loss = 0 points
Round of 32 loss = 10 points
Sweet 16 loss = 20 points
Elite Eight loss = 40 points
Final Four loss = 80 points
Championship Game loss = 160 points
National Champions = 320 points

Here are the schools ranked No. 25 to No. 11. The top 10 starts on the next slide.

25. Texas - 360 points
24. Georgia Tech - 380 points
23. Butler - 390 points
22. Illinois - 440 points
21. Memphis - 450 points
20. Oklahoma - 470 points
19. Georgetown - 500 points
18. Ohio State - 520 points
17. Villanova - 580 points
T-15. UNLV - 590 points
T-15. Maryland - 590 points
14. Arkansas - 700 points
13. Indiana - 750 points
12. UCLA - 890 points
11. Michigan - 970 points

Next: Programs Ranked 10-6 >>

10. Arizona - 990 Points

Interestingly enough, Lute Olson took over at Arizona before the 1984-1985 season, the first year that the NCAA Tournament expanded its field to 64 teams. Olson made the tournament that year, but was bumped in the first round as a 10-seed. Arizona would not make it out of that first round until 1988, when the Wildcats made a Final Four run, losing in the semifinals to Oklahoma. ‘Zona added another Final Four in 1994, and won a National Championship in 1997. The Wildcats have only been back to the final weekend of the tournament once since, but they’ve been an Elite Eight fixture, and look to be on the upswing under Sean Miller.

9. Syracuse - 1,020 Points

Many criticize Jim Boeheim for his team’s play in the NCAA Tournament, but in reality, Syracuse has been a consistently successful tournament team, despite only having one championship. Boeheim has guided Syracuse to Final Fours in each decade since the 80s (as well as a berth as assistant coach in 1975), and won a ring in 2003. Orange fans often wonder how much better Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament legacy would be if not for the injury to Arinze Onuaku in 2010 and Fab Melo’s late season ineligibility in 2012, but they have a lot to be proud of already. Syracuse made a surprising Final Four run behind top point guard Michael Carter-Williams and one of the stingiest Syracuse zones to date in 2013.

8. Michigan State - 1,040 Points

“Don’t pick against Tom Izzo in March” is a common bracket axiom, and for good reason. Izzo’s Michigan State teams missed the NCAA Tournament in his first two seasons in 1996 and 1997, but have made the Big Dance in every season since. Michigan State averages just under 2.5 wins per NCAA Tournament, which is not surprising considering the program’s six Final Fours, one runner-up finish, and 2000 National Championship. Michigan State fans were obviously disappointed by this year’s loss to Connecticut in the Elite Eight after earning such high expectations going into the tournament, but most fans would take being “upset” about an Elite Eight berth on a regular basis.

7. Louisville - 1,080 Points

Louisville won the second 64-team tournament with its 1986 championship under Denny Crum, and Rick Pitino has only added to the Cardinals’ success since taking over the program in 2001. After an NIT berth in his first season, Pitino has led the Cardinals to the NCAAs in 11 of his next 12 seasons, with two Final Fours and a National Championship in 2013. With Louisville heading to the ACC, they are poised to only get better, which is a scary notion for the rest of the country.

6. Florida - 1,160 Points

Billy Donovan is regarded as one of the top coaches in the country, and for good reason. Not only did he lead Florida to back-to-back National Championships in 2006 and 2007, but he has two other Final Fours in 2000 and 2014, and is currently on a run of four straight Elite Eights. Kentucky is the most prestigious program in the SEC, but the Gators have been the league’s best and most consistent program for a decade.

Next: Programs Ranked 5-1 >>

5. Connecticut - 1,670 points

If we were ranking these teams solely on what they've done since 1999, the Huskies would likely be closer to the top. No program has been more successful in that time period, as UConn has won four national championships. Most of that was done under the leadership of Jim Calhoun, but it doesn't seem like the Huskies will skip a beat with their new coach, Kevin Ollie, who won a title this year in his second season at the helm of the program. Still, most of the credit here goes to Calhoun, who coached UConn from 1986-2012. In that time period, the Huskies made 18 NCAA Tournaments and reached the Final Four four times. Under Ollie, they've made one NCAA Tournament and won one national championship. 

4. Kansas - 1,740 points

The Jayhawks have won the least amount of national championships of any team ranked in the top five, and they won those two titles exactly 20 years apart (1988 and 2008). Recently, no program has been more consistent than the one in Lawrence. Since 1985, Kansas has made eight Final Fours, 12 Elite Eights, and 19 Sweet 16s. This year was the first time since 2010 that Bill Self's team failed to reach the Sweet 16, and just the third time since 2010. But because it has only won it all twice, Kansas is not ranked in the top three. 

3. North Carolina - 1,830 points

The Tar Heels aren't going to like to see who is No. 1 on the list, but No. 3 isn't a bad spot to land. Since 1985, North Carolina has won three national championships, reached nine Final Fours, 15 Elite Eights and 19 Sweet 16s. Most impressive, potentially, is a streak of nine consecutive Sweet 16 appearances from 1985-'93 (and the streak is actually from 1981-'93, but we're only counting data since 1985). The Tar Heels have had two elite coaches during that time in Dean Smith and Roy Williams.

2. Kentucky - 1,850 points

The team UConn beat in the national championship game this season checks in a few spots higher than the Huskies. Since 1985, Kentucky has won three national championships (1996, 1998, and 2012) under three different coaches: Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and John Calipari. The Wildcats have reached seven Final Fours, 14 Elite Eights, and 17 Sweet 16s. If not for the five-year dry spell from 2005-'09, Kentucky would likely be ranked even higher. And if Calipari decides to stick around in Lexington for the long haul, the Wildcats have a great chance to climb to No. 1. 

1. Duke - 2,440 points

The name next to the "1." should probably say "Mike Krzyzewski" instead of "Duke." The 67-year-old coach has been leading the Blue Devils' program since 1980, and since that time, he's built a juggernaut. The list of accomplishments since 1985 reads as follows: Four national championships, 11 Final Fours (the most since 1985), 13 Elite Eights, and 21 Sweet 16s (most since 1985). Duke has been a No. 1 seed 12 times. Krzyzewski can't coach forever though, and he'll probably be retiring within the next five years. Can Duke continue to be the most successful college basketball program once he departs from Durham? 

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