Despite four Finals Fours and a National Championship in his tenure at the University of Kentucky, John Calipari underwent a good bit of criticism for not living up to season expectations. While the preseason expectations are set by the media, it seems a little silly for the media to be so up in arms when their very own predictions were wrong. I covered that in depth here.
While I think that Calipari has been great for Kentucky, I was curious as to what, if any program, has been better since he arrived at Kentucky. I took a look at the success of the top teams in college basketball to determine which team was the most successful. I came up with the top 16 teams in college basketball since 2009.
Here are the points criteria that I used to come up with the Top 16 teams.
- NCAA Championship - 10 points
- NCAA Runnerup - 8 points
- Final Four - 6 points
- Elite Eight - 4 points
- 35+ wins in a season - 3 points
- Sweet Sixteen - 2 points
- 30 win season - 2 points
- Conference Championship - 2 points
- Conference Tourney Champs - 2 points
- Bonus for conference title/tourney same year - 2 points
It would be easy to do a listing of just the top 16 teams and make it an easy, one and done post, but where is the fun in that? What I have done, is taken the top 16 teams and seeded them in a tournament style bracket and I will reveal the brackets over the next few days.
Today's bracket is the #4 seed bracket, which consists of the #4, #5, #12 and #13 teams. Let's go ahead and yank the band-aid off this now, reveal the teams and start the arguing now.
There will be arguing.
#4 - DUKE BLUE DEVILS (48)
We start right off with controversy. Yes, the Duke Blue Devils have two national titles in this span (2010, 2015) and an Elite Eight appearance (2013). However, the Blue Devils have been a "boom or bust" team when it comes to the NCAA tourney. They failed to advance to the Sweet 16 in 2012, 2014, and 2017 and for my purposes, not making it out of the opening weekend is not point worthy.
You can argue that playing in the tough ACC has affected the point totals but the Blue Devils have not won a regular season ACC Title since 2010. They do have three conference tourney titles (2010, 2011, and 2017) but I did want to give the regular season more credibility rather than just focus on the tournament seasons.
This will probably enrage the Duke fans, but the last two years have not been up to the level of the first part of the decade. The Blue Devils have just one Sweet 16 appearance and have gone 53-20 and are just 22-14 in the ACC. This is good for most teams, but compare that to the two national title seasons and you can see it has been an inconsistent decade so far.
#13 - WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS (33)
You can debate the Shockers inclusion as one of the Top 16 programs due to the fact they do not play in a Power Five conference, but Wichita State has something that a lot of big name programs do not have: a Final Four appearance (2013).
For the most part, Wichita State emerged on the national scene in that 2013 season. Only 2 of their 33 points came before then. Since then, they have four straight Missouri Valley Conference titles and two conference tournament titles. Even though the overall NCAA Tournament resume is not overly impressive besides the Final Four (just a Sweet 16 appearance in 2015), it should be noted that is not for the efforts of Kentucky, the Shockers would be a few spots higher. And for their part, they showed they belonged on the same court as the Wildcats.
It will be interesting to see if the Wichita State success continues as they move to the tougher AAC next season.
#12 - WISCONSIN BADGERS (33)
In the end, I think the NCAA tournament is a better determiner of a program’s success and for that reason, Wisconsin gets a higher seed than Wichita State as they finished tied with 33 points.
The Badgers have been a very successful tournament team with a NCAA runner-up finish (2015), a Final Four (2014) and four other Sweet 16 appearances (2011, 2012, 2016, and 2017).
On the opposite spectrum of a team like the Shockers in that the Badgers do not have a lot of success in the Big 10 with just a regular season title and conference tourney title in 2015.
#5 - NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS - (46)
The Tar Heels are a desperation three-pointer from being back to back National Champions and there is not a conversation of elite programs that do not include them. Their tournament resume is solid with two Elite Eights (2011, 2012) to go with their Sweet 16 in 2015 and the runner-up and championship from the last two years.
What has hurt them in this, like Duke, has been the "down years" in the program. This was a NIT program in 2010 and this is a team that had three ten loss seasons in a row with just one Sweet 16 appearance between 2013-15.
When the Tar Heels are good, they are very good and they have four ACC conference titles. As for their down years, you can argue if that is subpar teams by UNC or just an ultra strong conference.
We still have twelve more teams to go through so let's just see how the rest of the bracket plays out. Here is a look at the bracket that we just completed.