March 5, 2010, Newsletter Issue #439: 5 Greatest College Basketball Teams of the Modern Era

Tip of the Week

Now when I say “modern era”, I mean the last thirty years. Obviously Wooden’s Bruins would make any list of great college teams, but not this one, so all of you Cali-guys just calm down. This list is also not as much about performance(although all of these teams had great accomplishments), but more about which teams would win in a head-to-head match-up against all of the other great teams. Here it goes:

#5) 1992-93 Michigan Wolverines, “The Fab Five”. The starting line-up consisted of Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, Juwan Howard, and Chris Webber. This is the only team on the list that didn’t win a national championship, but it wasn’t from lack of being there. Their first two years together, first as freshman, then as sophomores, the Fab Five went to the national title game, first losing to the great Duke Bluedevil’s team in ‘92, and again losing in the championship in ‘93, this time to legendary coach Dean Smith‘s Carolina Tar Heels, where one of the more famous basketball plays in history occurred, “the Webber time-out”. Chris Webber would leave for the NBA the following year, breaking up what could’ve been the greatest starting five in NCAA history. They would leave their mark on the basketball world, winning over the youth of the nation with their shaved heads, baggy pants, and black shoes. In 2002 Chris Webber admitted to taking loans from then Michigan Booster, Ed Martin, and because of this, all of their accomplishments and victories during this two year span have been erased from the record books, but their mark on the game is undeniable.

#4) 1996 Kentucky Wildcats(34-2). Rick Patino’s Wildcats would  earn the #1 seed and would blow through  the  NCAA tournament with an unheard of  21 point average margin of victory. They would go on to defeat Boeheim’s Syracuse Orangemen in the championship, 76-67. The Wildcats boasted one of the deepest teams in recent memory, their line-up consisting of  5 first round picks: Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Derek Anderson, and Ron Mercer, along with second round pick, Mark Pope. After their ‘96 title, Patino would again lead them to the championship game, this time losing to the Arizona Wildcats. Still, this group of Wildcats would’ve given an NBA team a run for the money.

#3) 1982 North Carolina Tar Heels(32-2). Dean Smith had a lot of great teams, but was any better than his ‘82 Tar Heels, whose lineup consisted of  two future hall-of-famers in Michael Jordan and James Worthy, along with perennial All-Star Brad Daugherty, and NBA great Sam Perkins. The Tar Heels would go on to defeat Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas in one of the more memorable championship games in history. First Jordan’s famous baseline jumper, then the errant pass to James Worthy to run out the clock. At the time, this team may not have been in consideration for greatest team of all time, but with the emergence of Michael Jordan as one of the greatest players of all time, it’s hard to argue the '82 Tar Heels as one of the greatest teams of all time.

#2) The 1992 Duke Bluedevils(34-2). Mike Krzyzweski would finally get over the hump in ‘91, upsetting the great UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, on their way to Duke’s first National Title after many unsuccessful trips to the final four. The ‘92 squad, led by Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill would be ranked #1 throughout the entire season, never disappointing as they ran through the tournament, defeating the Fab Five, 71-51 in the title game. One could argue that the Bluedevils had the three greatest college players at their respective positions in Christian Laettner, center, Bobby Hurley, point guard, and Grant Hill, small forward.

#1) The 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels(27-0) The Rebels would be the first team since the ‘76 Hoosiers to go undefeated, averaging an eye-popping 97.7 points per game, along with an astounding 26.7 average margin of victory. With a starting line-up of Greg Anthony, Andreson Hunt,  David Butler, Larry Johnson, and Stacy Augmon, the Rebels would breeze through the tournament before facing the Duke Bluedevils in the final four. The same Duke team that UNLV had defeated the previous year in the most lopsided championship in history, defeating the Dukies by 30 points(103-73). This time, Duke would go on to defeat the Rebels in one of the greatest upsets in basketball history on their way to Duke's first national title. Three months after this monumental upset,  the Las Vegas Review Journal would print a picture showing three UNLV players drinking beers with reputed game fixer, Richard Perry. While an investigation was done, and Jerry Tarkanian was fired the following season because of these allegations, the NCAA was never able to prove their case and Tarkanian would later be awarded a 2.5 million court settlement for his wrongful firing. While nobody knows for sure if the fix was in, the fact is, the ‘91 Running Rebels were one of the most dominant and exciting teams in the history of the game.

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