Good morning, BBN! Today we are looking at college basketball’s most storied programs and their claims to fame—the records that make them the best of the best.
UCLA, Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina are the most storied and successful college basketball programs of all time, holding loads of records and statistics that fans everywhere enjoy boasting about. Yet some records are far more important than others. Does anyone outside the prairie care if Kansas was ranked in 232 consecutive AP polls until last season, or that Duke has been ranked #1 more weeks than anyone else (135)? Not really. These aren’t the stats that make a team a blueblood or get casual fans interested. People care about national titles, Final Fours, streaks, NCAA tournaments, and all that sweet stuff.
Here’s the point: Yes, we know that UCLA, Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina are the best. Other teams are knocking on the door of this blueblood status (like UConn and Villanova), but these six still stand above everyone else. But why are they the best? What have they done? What are their claims to fame? That is the question this article seeks to answer.
College basketball has three diamond trophies, six gold trophies, ten silver trophies, and ten bronze medals—distinctions that truly make a program stand out. Each of the six bluebloods has at least one of these. These records are what have defined the bluebloods as the best:
- Most National Titles
- Most Final Fours
- Most wins
- 2nd most National Titles
- 2nd most Final Fours
- 2nd most wins
- Most regular season conference championships
- Highest all-time winning percentage
- Most consecutive wins
- 3rd most National Titles
- 3rd most Final Fours
- 3rd most wins
- 2nd most regular season conference championships
- 2nd highest all-time winning percentage
- 2nd most consecutive wins
- Most NCAA Tournament appearances
- Most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances
- Most NCAA Tournament wins
- Highest NCAA Tournament winning percentage
- 4th most National Titles
- 4th most Final Fours
- 4th most wins
- 3rd most regular season conference championships
- 3rd highest all-time winning percentage
- 3rd most consecutive wins
- 2nd most NCAA Tournament appearances
- 2nd most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances
- 2nd most NCAA Tournament wins
- 2nd highest NCAA Tournament winning percentage
The most important records are the diamonds, of course. To be 1st in titles, Final 4s, or wins is far more important than being 1st in NCAA Tournament wins. We’ll also rank the bluebloods by their hardware with the following point system:
By the way, there is one trophy not owned by one of the six bluebloods. It’s 2nd most consecutive wins (silver), which belongs to the San Francisco Dons that won 60 straight at one point! They’ll probably keep it too; I don’t see a feat like that ever being done again.
Alright, without further ado let’s examine the six bluebloods and who has which trophies!
Diamond: Most National Titles (11)
Gold: Most consecutive wins (88)
Gold: 2nd most Final Fours (18)
Bronze: 3rd most consecutive wins (47)
Most prestigious trophy: Most National Titles (Diamond)
Thanks to the Wizard of Westwood, the Bruins have the biggest gem of them all: the most national titles. The 21st century hadn’t seen much action from UCLA in March until 2021’s crazy joyride through the bracket to the Final Four—something they’ve only done three times since the ‘90s. Unfortunately for us, 2021’s Final Four did lift the Bruins ahead of Kentucky into sole possession of the gold for most Final Fours. While they only have four trophies, the 11 titles will define their program until someone wins 12.
Duke Blue Devils
Silver: Highest NCAA Tournament winning percentage (.755)
Bronze: Tied with Indiana for 4th most National Titles (5)
Bronze: 4th most Final Fours (16)
Bronze: 4th most wins (2,214)
Most prestigious trophy: Highest NCAA Tournament winning percentage (Silver)
Interestingly enough, Duke has no gold or diamond records. As dominant as they’ve been under Coach K, they still haven’t caught up to Kentucky and UNC in most categories. Until they grab some gold, they’ll be looking up to the ‘Cats for a while. The only thing they can say they’ve really done better than any other team is win in the NCAA Tournament, but since they’ve only converted those into five titles they have the second lowest score of the bluebloods.
Bronze: Tied with Duke for 4th most National Titles (5)
Most prestigious trophy: The only one they have (Bronze)
Oof. IU’s trophy case looks like modernist architecture—less is...more? The Hoosiers, to put it bluntly, haven’t done anything in decades and it’s cost them. When they won their 5th title in 1987, they moved into a tie with Kentucky for the gold at five. Well, UK and UNC have left them in the dust since then and Duke has caught up as well. About all they have left besides the distinction of having won five titles is being the last undefeated team in 1976, which Gonzaga came within 40 minutes of taking too.
Gold: 2nd most wins (2,323)
Gold: 2nd most regular season conference championships (42)
Silver: Longest active (and ever) NCAA Tournament appearance streak (31 seasons and counting)
Bronze: 3rd highest all-time win percentage (.727)
Most Prestigious Trophy: 2nd most wins (Gold)
The Jayhawks only have three titles, the lowest of the bluebloods, but they’ve made up for it in the regular season. They’ve slapped their conferences silly with 42 regular season championships and accumulated 2,323 wins—yes, only four shy of Kentucky. If the Wildcats aren’t careful, the Jayhawks might take their most prized possession: the diamond distinction of being the winningest program of college basketball. The battle will be real in the next few seasons.
Diamond: Most wins (2,327)
Gold: 2nd most National Titles (8)
Gold: Highest all-time winning percentage (.765)
Gold: Most regular season conference championships (47)
Silver: Most NCAA Tournament appearances (59)
Silver: Most NCAA Tournament wins (131)
Silver: 3rd most Final Fours (17)
Most Prestigious Trophy: Most wins (Diamond)
No need to fear, BBN. The ‘Cats are numero uno thanks to SEC domination, eight titles, and the most wins. It’s a little close for comfort, though. North Carolina has been ganging up on them in recent years, and they were demoted from gold to silver in the most Final Fours category by UCLA as mentioned above. If they want to stay on top of UNC, they are going to have to (1) win more than Kansas and (2) make some Final Fours. Winning championships would obviously be great as well, but taking UCLA’s diamond will probably take a while.
It’s all about having the most wins for UK. Keep that diamond.
North Carolina Tar Heels
What they have:
Diamond: Most Final Fours (20)
Gold: 2nd most NCAA Tournament appearances (51)
Silver: 3rd most National Titles (6)
Silver: 3rd most wins (2,294)
Silver: 2nd highest all-time winning percentage (.735)
Bronze: 3rd most regular season conference championships (35)
Bronze: 2nd most NCAA Tournament appearances (51)
Bronze: 2nd most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (27)
Bronze: 2nd most NCAA Tournament wins (126)
Bronze: 2nd highest NCAA Tournament winning percentage (.724)
Most prestigious trophy: Most Final Fours (Diamond)
Yes, 19 points. I feel like the Tar Heels have been slowly executing a master plan over the decades to topple UK from the throne and are extremely close to succeeding. In 2017 they turned a bronze into silver by edging past Duke and IU with their 6th title. They also snagged the diamond that’s exchanged hands the most in 2016 and 2017 with back-to-back Final Fours. Kansas is their friend—if Kansas wins more than UK the Tar Heels take the lead. They also trail UK in NCAA Tourney wins by only three; fortunately they were ousted in the Round of 64 this year and blew a chance to catch up while UK was at home.
The battle in the blueblood pecking order is real. Will IU stay on the board? Will a diamond change hands in the next few seasons? Will UK hold off North Carolina? Next season should be full of intrigue—especially if UK and UNC face off in the CBS Sports classic this December.