Best Championship Team of the Past Decade

  • It seems that whenever this topic is discussed, most analysts consistently overlook the '08 team.

    Florida back to back years, North Carolina in '09, and Kentucky in '12 are the ones that are mostly thought to be the best.

    They never talk about how in '07 KU beat Florida and demolished Carolina in '08.

    After thinking about how the '12 KU team only lost to Kentucky by 7, I have a VERY hard time believing that Kentucky could take down the championship team.

    In my opinion, the best two championship teams of the past 10 or so years are the '08 team and the '04 Connecticut team.

    What do you guys think?

  • @DinarHawk The reason the '08 KU squad is over looked is becuase KU is West of the Mississippi river.

  • @JRyman we’re always overlooked! Fine w/me!!! Some day… Hopefully soon!

  • @DinarHawk

    I think it’s easy. Florida. Sure we beat them in a meaningless tourney in Vegas in November the year of their 2nd title, but winning two in a row clearly shows they’re the best really since the early 90’s when Duke did it.

    And if Florida wins another this year, which could happen, then Billy D’s name should be up there in lights as one of the top, if not the top, coaches in the USA. To do what he does at a football school is remarkable. I’m not sure why he doesn’t get more credit than he does.

    I’d like to say KU in 03. Seeing Kirk and Nick last night on the same court playing significant minutes and Gooden back playing significant minutes again shows what a devastatingly good team that was. 70-30 in the middle of the 2nd half of the FF against DWade and Marquette is proof positive of how good they were. If only they could have made some FT’s 😞 And to think they pretty easily could have been back to back champs had a few more shots dropped the year before against Maryland.

  • If I had to rank the champs of the last 10 years I think I would go something like this (the formatting may throw off the numbering, but the list is from 10-1):

    1. '11 Connecticut - Just not a super strong team. They caught lightning in a bottle for the tournament, but they weren’t thought of as a really great team. They gelled for a run in the Big East tournament and carried that through the NCAA’s. They were a 3 seed, so not terribly low, but pretty low for a champ.

    2. '06 Florida - Another 3 seed that was thought by many to be a year away. They proved that they weren’t, but it was a bit of a surprise that they won that tournament.

    3. '10 Duke - They were a 1 seed that appeared in a pretty weak Final Four field. I doubt most Duke fans would even consider this the best Blue Devil squad of the last ten years.

    I’d say those three squads are pretty clearly below the rest of the champs.

    1. '05 North Carolina - A really strong team, honestly. Not stacked like some of the teams ahead of them, but really strong. A great college basketball team.

    2. '13 Louisville - Very similar to the '05 Heels in that they are a strong collegiate team. They weren’t devastating in the same way that the teams above them were, but they could absolutely close you out.

    3. '04 UConn - They were the best of what I would consider the really good collegiate teams. They had a lot of great college talent. They are the only non #1 seed that I would put this high (they were a 2 seed).

    This last group of 4 is tough to rank, honestly. Some truly spectacular teams here.

    1. '09 North Carolina - I’m probably being a bit unfair to them here, in that I am punishing them for losing the '08 Final Four. Still, this team to me is very clearly better than the six teams already listed, but not quite as strong as the two listed above.

    2. '08 Kansas - They won the best championship game in what was probably the most talented Final Four we have seen in the last 20-25 years - every team had at least 2 pros on the roster. Just a loaded field. The knocks on them would be that they didn’t truly dominate the tournament. They pounded UNC and their early opponents, but squeaked by Davidson and needed OT to fell Memphis.

    3. '12 Kentucky - Dominated the tournament. Average margin of victory over 10, even though no game was a huge blowout (biggest win was by 16). Teams stayed with them, but honestly, there was never a “they might lose this game” moment in the tournament.

    4. '07 Florida - They did it with a target on their back. From the day the season started, everyone knew that Florida was the team to beat and ultimately, no one was able to do that. I agree with @wissoxfan83 , this was the best champ of the last decade.

    I don’t really see any team from this season with the ability to crack this top 4. WSU hasn’t had to play a tough enough schedule, Florida and Virginia don’t have the high end talent, and Arizona hasn’t shown that dominance. Maybe I’m wrong and 'Zona goes out and wins every game by 12 plus points. But I doubt it.

  • If defense wins championships, and it does, then there is no question that the 2008 KU Jayhawks were the best team of the last ten years. They were the best defensive team I ever saw in college ball by a considerable margin.

    The only teams that could have stayed with them were the two Florida teams of Bill Donovan with Noah and Horford. But the final addition of the '08 team had every thing Florida had inside, plus three great guards instead of only two, and a vastly superior 3 with Rush.

    Why didn’t the '08 team win two rings? Because Chalmers did not learn to shoot the trey until his last season. Had he learned to shoot the trey the previous season, KU would have had two rings, even without Collins, because the prior team had Julian. UCLA and Aflalo would not have hurt us had Chalmer’s been able to out gun him that game. In turn, KU would have turned Kaun, Julian and Shady loose on Noah-Horford and our depth inside would have shut down their inside game, and our superior perimeter would have kicked their asses back to Gainesville. But we were shy a trey gun and couldn’t get past Aflalo and UCLA’s hack’n’slap, which was new then, and so we had to wait a year.

    Chalmers–two NBA rings. Rush–a solid NBA player derailed by injuries Shady–NBA journeyman DBlock–Euro pro, NBA fringe Kaun–Euro pro, who could probable ride an NBA bench Russell–Euro pro Aldrich–NBA bench Collins–the only bust, weight problems

    It was a great, great team. It fit together perfectly.

    The only reason it is not considered among the best is that it had to beat a team of illegals (Memphis) to win the ring it won and could only did so in overtime. The Memphis team was ridiculously talented. Probably no college team since has had that much talent on one squad. Calipari was 10 deep in ringers, plus he had DRose, CDR and the other huge lug. His great UK team only had six guys. Hell, our '11-12 team almost beat his UK team without our team having any OADs, or Mickey Ds on it. That UK team was lucky to come along in a weak year.

    '08 KU beat UNC in the semi finals and UNC was what many at the time thought was one of the best college basketball teams in a decade, or more. And in fact that UNC team came back and won it all the next year.

    No other national champion in the last decade, maybe ever, had had to beat two teams of the quality of UNC and Memphis that season in the Final Four. Those two teams would kick the shizz out of any of the other teams that won the national championships the last ten years except for Donovan’s two Noah-Horford teams.

    If KU had played any legitimate D1 college basketball team in the 2008 national finals after the Titanic game KU played against UNC, it would have beaten them by 15-20 points. If KU had played Memphis without having had to play the second best team in the tournament, UNC, in the semis, KU would have beaten Memphis by 15.

    As it was, no other champion of the last decade had to play and beat two such awesomely talented teams as UNC and Memphis were.

    And NO NCAA champion had to beat a bunch of blatantly ineligible ringers to win it national championship ring.

    Defense wins championships.

    The 2008 KU Jayhawks were the best defensive team of the last decade.

    They are the best team of the decade.


  • That’s what I have been thinking JB.

    To take this a step further, where do you think the '08 team stands historically? Top 10 all time? Top 15?

  • @jaybate 1.0

    JB take off the Jayhawk colored glasses for a second. You’ve got a lot of ifs there for a second championship. We didn’t get it done. I’m a Bears fan, I’d love to call the 85 Bears the best ever, but they fought each other instead of the opponents for the next couple of years and never won another trophy. Sure they had all the talent pieces still there, except the genius of Buddy Ryan, but they didn’t win another. I think that’s why FLorida deserves this recognition.

  • @wissoxfan83

    Didn’t KU beat Florida in Vegas the year before KU won it all?

    Or did Florida beat us?

  • @DinarHawk

    It gets very tricky to compare teams from different decades, because the game does change over time in many overt and many more subtle ways.

    And the farther back one goes the more anomalously great teams one accrues.

    That being said, I would have to go back to Tark’s great UNLV ring team to find as good of a defensive team.

    Then before that it would be Knights undefeated 1976 Indiana team.

    I believe the '08 KU team and those teams would be about 50/50 who would win. Very even. The one huge edge that 76 Indiana team had that few recall was 6-7 Bobby Wilkerson at the 2. Wilkerson could just lock anyone down at the 2. It is a kind of defensive edge NO team before, or since, has held at that position that I can recall. So, I might have to give that Indiana team a slight edge, but not I really think we were better at the other positions.

    To actually find a team that I think the '08 KU team could not guard, I would have to go all the way back to Walton’s best team and Alcindor’s best team at UCLA. Even our great '08 ring team would have had no answer for Alcindor and Walton and in their best seasons, those UCLA teams could guard ferociously. I know they were skinnier back in those days and our '08 team could probably have outmuscled them under 2008 rules, but under 1960s/1970s rules they would probably have taken us.

    Anyway, this is why I don’t like to compare teams across eras. But you asked and I was intrigued because so much of defense is want to, and so I took a stab at it. Further back than that you probably have to look at Bill Russell’s teams, though I didn’t see them. He alone was such a dominant defender who proved for his entire career that he could defend players like Wilt Chamberlain, so if Big Russ could guard Wilt Chamberlain, I have to figure he could put a real hurt on Shady, Kaun and DBlock.

    Anyway, thanks for asking and making me think, and please don’t hold me to anything here, because, as I said, comparing across decades is really tough.

    P.S.: Under the virtually unlimited butcher ball rules the way the game was called in 2000, Izzo’s Mateen Cleeves club might be the best defensive team of all time. They were like trying to score on a rotation of 7 Joes Fraziers. They just hit you and kept hitting you until you had nothing left. They couldn’t score a lick, but they didn’t need to.

  • @wissoxfan83

    I tried to answer the question as I understood it.

    If I had been asked what the best two time champion, well, then Florida was the only one.

    I don’t mean to disrespect Florida and Donovan’s most remarkable accomplishment in modern D1 history–winning two rings in a row. They were a great, great great team. If the question were asked differently, say, what was the greatest accomplishment by any NCAA champion, I would have said Florida and its two rings.

    But I really think KU’s '08 team would have cleaned the clock of either Florida team had their great seasons occurred the same season and they met in the Finals.

  • @jaybate 1.0 Thanks for answering a very tough question. I have always been fascinated with comparing modern teams with teams from past decades.

    I have to admit, a modern version of Bill Russell’s teams or the great UCLA teams would definitely mop the floor with any team today. They would make them look like high school teams.

  • I rated the teams the way I did based on the degree of difficulty, which team I thought would beat which, and the level of dominance displayed during the year.

    I think really the only question is who is the best among that top 4, really the top 3.

    Even though Florida has the most losses among the top 3 (5), I give them credit for repeating as champs. It’s so much more difficult going back to back that I felt like the hiccup at the end of the season didn’t take away from their dominance, especially considering they won each NCAA tournament game by at least 7 and overall just cruised through the field. Really, from the time the SEC tournament started, they just went to a different level. And that was for the repeat.

    With KU and UK, I had to really look because I have always considered those two teams very similar. The weird thing about that KU team is that they were never ranked #1 during the season. They were never lower than 7, and almost always in the top 5, but never 1, until the poll that mattered. That’s surprising, but it was also important in ranking them. UK, on the other hand, was never lower than 3 all year, and their only losses were a buzzer beater at Indiana and an SEC tournament loss to Vanderbilt - a team they had already beaten twice before. Less than a third of the games for UK that year were decided by single digits, and of those, only two of their wins the entire season were by less than 5 points. Simply put, teams weren’t staying with that UK team. That level of dominance is pretty impressive. They also won 3 rematches during the tournament, avenging the Indiana defeat and beating Louisville and KU for the second time. That’s pretty impressive as well.

    KU avenged all of their defeats in their title season, except the OSU loss (they only faced the Cowboys once that year). Only four of the Jayhawk wins were by less than 5 points. Like I said, these two teams were extremely similar. But UK seems to grade out just a bit better, so I ranked them ahead.

  • @justanotherfan

    Never consider national rankings by coaches or media in a comparison of this sort unless the KU coach has become a legend. In 2008 self was still the hick Okie that couldn’t win the big one. Once he won the ring and 7-8 titles they recognize him and KU. KU will always be rated low by other coaches in recruiting hotbeds, because KU has to recruit by poaching their backyards. And the national media until the last 3-4 years has tended to under report and under rank KU for the obvious revenue reasons. Any other EST team on a 25 year roll like KU gets preferred coverage and ranking.

  • @justanotherfan

    Also, regarding rankings, RUSH WAS REHABBING A KNEE and voters were waiting to see whether RUSH WOULD MAKE IT BACK TO FORM. without Rush healthy that KU team was NOT a great team. He did not really reach peak form till late January, even though he played back into shape early.

    No one, not even KU FANS thought KU could be great without Rush. But anyone that knew basketball knew that with Rush the team was the most remarkably athletic defensive team to come along in a very long time.

    Defense wins championships.

    KU could have and would have handcuffed the other champions. Florida had no one that could have out guarded and outscored Rush at the 3; that was their hole. Every where else KU WAS EVEN OR BETTER and DEEPER.

    UConn was very good but our guard depth would have worn them down.

    Rush, because he was older, would have eaten Kidd-Gilchrist for dinner.

    And again, not one other NCAA champ in that decade had to beat two teams of the caliber of UNC and the Memphis Ineligibles.

  • I would vote for the 2015 KU Jayhawks team, which had Embiid at center, and Cliff Alexander at the 4. They were a devastating team that flat annihilated all their opponents.

  • This is my opinion another one at that as to why the '08 Jayhawks get over looked.

    They were a balanced team, there was no stand out like an Anthony Davis on the team. They played like a team, it was 7 guys deep.

    I also think so much hype that year was about Rose and Memphis that KU got lost in it.

    Is it fair? No. Just reality.

  • @KUSTEVE I would agree. It was amazing how Selden took his game to the next level, and how Mason took over at the point. I was glad to see Greene and Oubre co-exist at the 3, as well. I’m surprised they went undefeated, but an undefeated champ had to happen sometime.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    From your keyboard to God’s ears…

  • @JRyman

    The '08 team gets over-looked because it is Kansas. I recently watched a program about great finishes in the big dance and they didn’t even show our '08 team and Chalmers shot heard around the world! I couldn’t believe it! But it must have had an hour long look at Laettner’s buzzer beater that beat Kentucky. And how relevant is that? 1992? None of those guys are left in basketball, whereas the players from 2008 are reaching their prime in the league!

  • @HighEliteMajor I mean, the fact they won their 2nd straight national championship was almost secondary to breaking IU’s undefeated record. I guess that’s why coach Self was voted into the Hall of Fame by unanimous vote.

  • but an undefeated champ had to happen sometime.

    @HighEliteMajor Yeah… it was especially fascinating given that Wichita State flirted with that amazing feat the year before, and everyone said a team wouldn’t enter the tournament undefeated again for 30 years.

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