Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Ranking the last 25 NCAA Tournament champions

Mike Kryzewski, Duke Blue Devils. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/ALLSPORT
Mike Kryzewski, Duke Blue Devils. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/ALLSPORT /
1 of 25
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut Huskies
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut Huskies. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

National champions are crowned every year, but which NCAA Tournament champions are the best? Find out as we rank each of the last 25 title winners.

A new NCAA Basketball national champion will be crowned in Minneapolis on April 8, an accomplishment that will cement that team in the history books forever.

They’ll get their rings, the school will raise a banner to the rafters and the program’s national profile will be elevated to the highest level. You know, all the things that come with winning.

However, not all champions are created equal, particularly in college basketball, where the one-game sample size of the NCAA Tournament can create some unforeseen and unpredictable results. The upsets are perhaps the biggest reason so many people love March Madness, but it also means that the best team during the regular season doesn’t always end up crowned as such.

Sometimes, we’ll see those top teams exert their dominance and take care of business as expected. Other times, we’ll see teams go on the kind of Cinderella run that wouldn’t be believable even if it was in a movie script.

Many teams filling both molds have won national championships in recent years, but which of those title teams are truly the best of the best? Here’s how we rank all of college basketball’s national champions over the last 25 years:

25) 2014 UConn Huskies

Record: 32-8, 12-6 in AAC

The second of the UConn Huskies’ Cinderella runs was spearheaded by Shabazz Napier, who did his best Kemba Walker impersonation in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. He averaged 21 points per game in the Big Dance, upping his average by three points per game from the regular season.

Really, everyone on head coach Kevin Ollie’s roster raised their game, which is one of the reasons why this run was so improbable.

UConn was never ranked during the month of January, falling from the rankings after a loss at Houston on New Year’s Eve. They then lost by 33 points (!!!) at the Louisville Cardinals in their regular-season finale.

That loss dropped them into a three-way tie for third place in what was largely a down year for The American, yet they found their way into the tournament as a No. 7 seed. That should tell you something about the sport not having any dominant teams that year.

And, despite what you may think you remember, it’s not like they dominated their way through the bracket, either. The last four games UConn played were all decided by six points or less and they needed overtime to get past the Saint Joseph’s Hawks in the first round. That’s right – St. Joe’s almost ended The Legend Of Shabazz Napier before it even got going.

There’s no doubt this Huskies team remains one of the sport’s best Cinderella stories, but they simply don’t stack up to the other champions on this list.